Mr Hague: Of course the expansion of settlements on occupied land, which is illegal and which I think we are all clear about in this House, does not assist Palestinian economic development, as the hon. Lady’s question implies. This again underlines the importance of the talks now taking place to resolve final status issues—to

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resolve the issues of borders and security and refugees. Their success would mean these problems could be brought to an end. So the current position does not help Palestinian economic development. Finding new ways to assist that development, alongside these efforts on the peace process, is worthwhile, but success in the peace process will be needed for that to have a lasting tangible effect.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): May I also thank the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) for his work at the Foreign Office and his professionalism and courtesy? I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the appointment of the chargé in order to help build relations, but we should try to minimise the preconditions when talking to the Iranians, as they can often get in the way. There were no preconditions—or very few—when we were talking to Sinn Fein and the provisionals in Northern Ireland back in the 1980s. We need to talk to our enemies in order to make peace, not to our friends. May I also suggest that every opportunity should be taken to explore the other conflicts in the region in which Iran has its finger, because it will offer up many opportunities for progress in the region if we can at least go some way towards normalising relations?

Mr Hague: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. We have not set preconditions, as he can see from the number of discussions I have had with the Iranian Foreign Minister already, but we do want concrete actions to go along with words, and we do want to proceed on an agreed reciprocal basis in improving the functioning of bilateral relations. I hope that improved functioning can lead to discussion on a wider range of subjects, and my hon. Friend has mentioned some of those that could be included. We will be exploring that over the coming weeks.

Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s detailed statement, and his efforts to resolve numerous world conflicts. The experts face a year-long mission of unprecedented danger to destroy Syrian chemical weapons that the Syrian President said he never had. How can we trust any other promises the Syrian President may make?

Mr Hague: These promises are very difficult to trust, of course. That is why it is so important that verification really takes place and that the OPCW is able to report any non-compliance to the Security Council, as provided for in the resolution, so that the Security Council can consider what action to take. Of course, we all have to approach this subject with a certain degree of scepticism given the previous behaviour of the regime and its use of chemical weapons—the chemical weapons that it denied having for such a long time. On the positive side, however, it has signed up to the chemical weapons convention. Russia has committed itself very strongly to this policy and therefore has a good deal riding on its success. That should give us some cause for optimism about the future.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Clearly, the best outcome of the peace conference planned for November would be an early resolution of the conflict in Syria. We should not give up all hope, but

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that is probably somewhat unrealistic and optimistic, and so we hope that a process will start to lead to that resolution. Given that, does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is essential that humanitarian access is also a major focus of that conference, so that even without a wider settlement coming into effect speedily, the international community provides the same pressure to ensure that the access required is given as soon as possible and is not left as part of a longer-term and wider process?

Mr Hague: The hon. Gentleman is right to think of Geneva II as the start of a process, rather than a single event. It will be difficult, of course, to make it a success, but it is certainly not something that will be over in a few hours or a few days; it is the start of an important process, if it can be brought together. I see no reason why that should not address, at an early stage, humanitarian access, so that the suffering of the people of Syria can be alleviated. I entirely accept his point.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) for his kind, thoughtful and reflective replies and briefings on all issues to do with Foreign Office matters. May I also thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, and ask him about refugees and the £100 million dedicated to humanitarian aid? What proportion of that money will go to help refugees, particularly those most in need and those with connections to the UK?

Mr Hague: The £100 million will be added to the £400 million we have already committed; the great majority of this goes through the international agencies. We will make subsequent announcements about where exactly the recipients of that will be. I mentioned in my statement some of the totals before the £100 million—for Lebanon and for Jordan, where a great deal has gone. But, as I have also said, a good deal of this aid is getting inside Syria. It is not sent on any discriminatory basis—those connected to the UK or not connected to the UK. It is sent to help people in need. It is providing medicine, sanitation, water supplies, blankets, tents and so on to people, wherever we can get these things to them. I know that my colleagues in the Department for International Development will have more detail that they could give the hon. Lady, and I will ask them to write to her with that.

Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): May I endorse the thanks from Members from across the House to the previous Minister and welcome the new Minister? As the Foreign Secretary may have seen, the chairman of the Charity Commission has said that money intended to ease the refugee crisis was “undoubtedly” going to extremist groups. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that in making these general comments the chairman of the Charity Commission needs to be very careful not to undermine the British people’s confidence in giving money to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal? It is undertaking significant humanitarian aid with the £20 million already raised in supporting those refugees from Syria.

Mr Hague: It is very important that we are able to continue to mobilise the immense British generosity we see in cases like this, where people are willing to give to

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these appeals. Clearly, we are one of the leading nations in this respect in what we provide from taxpayers’ resources, but many individuals and families also make a contribution, which helps to make a serious difference on the ground. I have not seen in detail the Charity Commission’s comments, but all of us will want to continue to urge people to give generously and responsibly to these appeals.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary and to colleagues. I hope that the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) will proudly preserve his own copy of the Hansard report of today’s proceedings for many, many years to come.

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Press Self-Regulation

4.44 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the progress regarding press self-regulation.

We all agree that what is needed is a workable and effective system of press self-regulation. Equally, I believe, we must protect our free press while striking the right balance between independence and redress for individuals. There can be no question of undermining the press’s ability to criticise or make judgments; that underpins our democracy and holds us to account. However, we are talking today about ensuring that the public has a fair system of redress through which to challenge mistakes and errors when necessary.

I have always echoed Leveson in saying that the success of a new system will be seen in an approach that offers justice and fairness for the public and clearly protects the freedom of the press. The House will be fully aware of the careful deliberations that followed the publication of Leveson’s report and the weight of responsibility that comes with implementing that system.

Significant progress has been made since I last updated the House, particularly by the press, which is well down the track of setting up its own self-regulatory body. All involved in the process now consider a royal charter to oversee that regulatory body to be the correct way forward. Just six months ago, that seemed impossible.

We are now talking about the differences of opinion about how a royal charter should be constructed. The committee of the Privy Council is unable to recommend that the press proposal for a royal charter be granted. Although there are areas where it is acceptable, it is unable to comply with some important Leveson principles and with government policy, such as those on independence and access to arbitration. A copy of the recommendation letter has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses so that right hon. and hon. Members have an opportunity to look at it in detail.

In the light of that fact, we will take forward the cross-party charter that was debated in this House. The charter will be on the agenda at a specially convened meeting of the Privy Council on 30 October. In the interim, I believe that we should finish making our charter workable so that it will meaningfully deliver independent and effective self-regulation.

We have already improved the drafting of the cross-party charter and we have worked with the Scottish Government to make sure that the press does not have to worry about complying with different frameworks on either side of the border. We have had discussions with the Commissioner for Public Appointments to clarify how his role will work. Those are all important improvements. Having considered the press charter, the committee has identified two substantive areas—access to arbitration and the editors code—where we could improve the 18 March draft.

The right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and I—indeed, all three parties—agree that those areas could benefit from further consideration. As such, all three parties will work together in the coming days and produce a final draft of the cross-party charter to place in the Libraries of both

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Houses on Friday. That will allow parliamentarians, the public, the press and whoever else to see the version we intend to seal. If any specific change cannot be agreed by all three parties, we will revert to the 18 March charter debated by Parliament.

We have an opportunity to take a final look at our charter and to bring all parties together and ensure that the final charter is both workable and effective. We have a responsibility to make sure that what we do will be effective and that it will stand the test of time, so we need to make it the best it can be. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right, and we all want to do that. To give individuals access to redress while safeguarding our country’s free press is a vital part of our democracy, as will be acknowledged on both sides of the House.

4.49 pm

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for her statement, for advance notice of it, and for her assurance to the House that the Conservatives remain committed to the charter that will introduce an independent complaints system for the press, which was put before the House by the Prime Minister, with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and unanimously approved by the House on 18 March and by the House of Lords. Will she reaffirm that the charter gives redress to victims when the press breach their code of conduct, while in no way interfering with the freedom of the press?

We believe that the charter should have been submitted for consideration at the Privy Council meeting tomorrow, but it will not be going to that meeting because the Prime Minister has chosen to delay its submission till the end of this month. We regret that, because it has been nearly a year since Leveson reported, and six months since the House agreed the draft charter. There has already been too much delay.

I therefore ask the Secretary of State to confirm to the House that the process that she, the Lib Dems and ourselves have agreed will be followed to ensure absolute transparency of the process and no further delay. That is, that the charter of 18 March will be completed by agreeing any matters that were still in square brackets on 18 March; that aside from that, the 18 March charter as agreed by this House will not be changed unless such a change has the agreement of all three party leaders; that the Secretary of State will this Friday place before the House the final version of the charter—that is, the 18 March charter including the issues that required to be completed, and only any changes if they have been agreed by all three party leaders—and that it will then be put forward to the Privy Council before the end of this month.

Will the Secretary of State agree that what is important for us is to get the charter sealed, to get the recognition panel established and for a regulator to be set up? We must ensure that there will be a fair and effective complaints system independent of the press and independent of politicians. As the Prime Minister said to the Leveson inquiry,

“that’s the test of all this. It’s not: do the politicians or the press feel happy with what we get? It’s: are we…protecting people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves”.

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So let us have no further delay. Let us get on and implement Leveson as set out by the House on 18 March.

Maria Miller: The right hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right that the proposal that we are discussing today is all about redress, and that it is also all about ensuring that we retain freedom of our press, which we all value so highly. It is important, though, that we also recognise that the press charter that was put forward had to have a fair hearing, that it had to have a robust level of scrutiny, and that it was only right that a piece of work that had been put before us was treated in that way. I am sure she would agree that the process we followed was the right way to achieve the right outcome.

Now we will move forward, as the right hon. and learned Lady has outlined. Just to clarify, we will agree any improvements that we, on a three-party basis, feel will make this charter more workable, because, as the right hon. and learned lady will agree, she wants to have an effective charter in place to provide the sort of oversight that we have talked about in recent months. Of course, any changes to that charter would have to be subject to three-party agreement and, as I have outlined, that final version of the charter will be available for all Members to see in the Library this Friday. Following on from that, there will be a specially convened meeting of the Privy Council on 30 October, for us to be able to finally ensure that the seal is put in place.

I think it is important that we make this charter workable, but I agree with the right hon. and learned Lady that it is also important that we get going and put all this in place.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept the first principle set out in Lord Justice Leveson’s report that any solution must be perceived as credible and effective by the press and the public? Does she agree that it would be infinitely preferable to achieve a system of press regulation that delivers the objectives of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, but which also commands the support of as many of the newspapers as possible, rather than a system which commands the support of none of them?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter when he reminds the House of Lord Leveson’s statement that whatever we take forward, to be effective it must also be credible, and we must take the press and the public with us. It is vital that we do that. Nobody would thank us for putting in place a system that was ineffective, did not work and did not attempt to make sure that self-regulation of the press in this country is effective.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Given that this House voted virtually unanimously seven months ago for this charter, will the Secretary of State say a little more about this further delay and reassure the McCanns, the Dowlers and the other victims that this will not mean a further watering down of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations or kicking them into the long grass, which has happened on every previous occasion?

Maria Miller: I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s question and he is right to say that we have been taking some time to make sure that our response to Lord

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Leveson’s report is well thought through and effective. I make no excuses for doing that. I think he would be the first to offer his own criticism if the process that was put in place were not effective. It may take some time for us to do this. We received from the press a press charter which, as I said to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham, it was right that we subjected to robust scrutiny to make sure that we looked at it in the correct way. We are now, as I have made very clear, moving forward with the cross-party charter, but there are issues that have been raised which bear further examination in the areas of the standards code, the editors code and arbitration. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear with us. I would rather get it right than just do it quickly.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I am on the wrong side of this argument as far as 530 colleagues in this place are concerned. The best protection and redress are provided by the courts, and does my right hon. Friend agree that the courts have an important part to play in this and will continue to do so?

Maria Miller: Of course, my hon. Friend is right to say that the courts continue to have an important role to play, but one thing that we identified through Lord Leveson’s report and more widely was the importance of access to redress. An integral part of Leveson’s report was that an arbitration system should be available, and the lack of that arbitration system within the press charter was one of the reasons that the Privy Council committee took the decision that it has.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): As someone who, throughout this protracted process, has made it clear that I prefer an irresponsible and pernicious press to a state-regulated press, may I nevertheless say that the procrastination by the press organisations has become unacceptable and that the timetable that the right hon. Lady put before the House must be adhered to? We cannot go on like this.

Maria Miller: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I would like to see a robust press, and I am sure the press would never want to be seen as irresponsible. He is right that it is important that we adhere to the timetable before the House, but, again, I make no excuses to the House today for getting this right. Working with the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and the noble Lord Wallace in the other place, we will make sure that we do everything that we can, particularly to address the issues of arbitration and the editors code, and make sure that everybody is aware of the additional changes that we have made, as we have highlighted before, with regard to Scotland. It is important that the Scottish press is able to have access to the charter in the same was as any other press.

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Further to the royal charter’s extremely swift passage through both Houses of Parliament, what legal advice has the Secretary of State subsequently received on whether exemplary damages and the allocations of costs would breach article 10 of the European convention on human rights, and will that form any basis for future discussions with the industry?

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Maria Miller: There is no issue, as my hon. Friend outlines, with regard to European law. We have had full legal advice on that and I am content that there are no problems.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): It feels like Groundhog day; we have been here before. You dragged us all here urgently in March to force us to look at a particular version of the charter, and we agreed almost unanimously. I do not know whether you have run out of sealing wax or quills or something—[Interruption.] Sorry, Mr Speaker; I mean the right hon. Lady, not you. Surely to goodness it is time we listened to the public, who have said in poll after poll that the self-regulatory system, which was completely and utterly bust, including the Press Complaints Commission, which did not stand up for victims and perpetuated the problems, must go. If she defaults on this timetable, surely this House, not just Ministers and shadow Ministers, should take the matter into its own hands.

Maria Miller: Oh dear, Mr Speaker; we hear it again. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not really implying that he did not want us to make the improvements we have made with regard to Scotland. Clearly, in his world he would exclude Scotland from the charter process, or perhaps he is implying that we should ignore the very real concerns of the local press about the costs of arbitration. He might want to ignore the local press, but I do not.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): The Liberal Democrats welcome the rejection of the PressBoF charter, which would have resulted in business as usual for the press, but the innocent victims of press abuse have been waiting a long time. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that there are no circumstances in which this process could be dragged beyond 30 October?

Maria Miller: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments, but I will pick him up on just one of them. I do not think that the press charter would have meant business as usual, because clearly it was written in the light of the Leveson report. However, he is right that there were some significant issues that we felt had not been addressed. I can give him a clear undertaking from the Dispatch Box that I have every intention of moving forward with the timetable I have outlined.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): How can the Secretary of State assure the millions of members of the British public who are not involved in the Hacked Off campaign that this will not be a slippery slope to reducing the freedom of the press, particularly with regard to the press saying things about people that nobody likes but that they must still have the right to say? Can she assure the public that this is not a slippery slope?

Maria Miller: The hon. Lady speaks a great deal of sense. She is absolutely right that we must ensure that it is not a slippery slope to state regulation. We believe strongly in self-regulation, and the charter simply sets out the framework within which that will be judged. It is of course incumbent on us all, as Members of Parliament, to ensure that no changes are made that might lead to the sorts of problems she outlines, which is why I believe the “no change” clause is so important, because

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it ensures that any changes to the process will be made only with a very significant majority in both Houses of Parliament.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): I am afraid that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), I am very much with the press on this matter. When all three parties agree on something, I am automatically concerned. As a former journalist, I think that the freedom of our press, for which millions of people died, is absolutely crucial. Will the Secretary of State advise the House exactly what role politicians will have in the new charter? To be precise, will we be able to interfere with the charter and potentially affect the freedom of the press?

Maria Miller: Politicians will have absolutely no role whatsoever.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Is it not a fact that the road to Leveson has been littered with many bodies: the News of the World, Brookes, Coulson and, who knows, it might even be Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail next? Instead of this prevarication, why does she not accept that it is refreshing that on occasions the Opposition are right? Get on with it and let us get this Leveson inquiry done and dusted.

Maria Miller: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has noticed but we are actually working as three parties together here, so it is not about anybody being righter than anybody else. I would gently point out to him that we need to make sure we have an effective charter for the long term, and that if we had simply gone ahead with the charter as set out on 18 March, we would have effectively blocked Scotland from being involved and ignored real concerns coming from the local press. I am sure that he would not have wanted anybody to do that.

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend understand, even if she does not agree, that there is deep suspicion among many elements of the press and that that is born out of how this charter came into being: in a meeting in the Leader of the Opposition’s office in the middle of the night over pizzas with messages to-ing and fro-ing to No. 10 and with Hacked Off present but the press deliberately excluded? Will my right hon. Friend state categorically at the Dispatch Box that it is her determination to have a charter that all the press can live with and sign up to? Will she also— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) really ought to calm down. We hear all the time about the two-thirds majority. The Clerks have made it clear that that is a parliamentary nonsense. It might well be the wish of this House of Commons that the charter cannot be changed except by a two-thirds majority, but we cannot bind a future House of Commons. It could be a simple majority in a future House.

Maria Miller: I understand my hon. Friend’s strength of feeling and I have to say that the optics around 18 March did not help a difficult situation. But I do not think we should let that get in the way of the importance of getting a self-regulatory process in place and ensuring that the charter that oversees that is as strong as it can

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be. As Leveson said in his report, we will be effective only if we take the public and the press with us. If we are going to have effective press self-regulation, that is exactly what we should do and it is exactly what I intend to do.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): We recognise the shameful abuses that rightly led to the Leveson inquiry but is the Secretary of State aware that although the proposals put forward by the press were inadequate on self-regulation, there is genuine concern among publications that were in no way involved with the abuses of the past about what is being proposed. I have considerable doubts about what is being put forward, and the concerns about the freedom of the press are by no means confined to those on the Tory Benches.

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman is right that we have to get the balance right between having a framework of self-regulation and making sure that we protect the freedom of the press. He can have my assurance that that is at the heart of all our thinking, but we cannot ignore the fact that the Press Complaints Commission approach has been discredited. I see the hon. Gentleman nodding; I hope that means that he agrees that we need to look at something to put in its place.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Will the Secretary of State make clear how flexible she is prepared to be in enabling an agreement that the press can sign up to? Without that, it would be a complete nonsense. Will she give a cast-iron guarantee that there will be no veto in this process for Hacked Off and its celebrity backers?

Maria Miller: I can absolutely guarantee that in view of the discussions on finalising the charter between me, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and Lord Wallace for the Liberal Democrats.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): My hon. Friends and I believe that there should be an end to self-regulation and, instead, truly independent regulation of the press. The Secretary of State said that all three political parties are involved in drawing up the charter, but there is no one from Northern Ireland; and she has consulted the Scottish Executive but not the Northern Ireland Executive. How is she going to ensure that the views of people in Northern Ireland, where this is a live issue, are fully reflected in the charter?

Maria Miller: I remind the hon. Gentleman that the whole premise on which we are putting forward self-regulation of the press is that it would be independent. Indeed, one of the reasons we are not pressing ahead with the press charter is that the Privy Council committee did not feel that it gave sufficient independence. I welcome his interest as regards the involvement of Northern Ireland. He is right that currently the charter would be in place for Scotland. However, we have not had interest from Northern Ireland in becoming involved. If he would like to effect that interest, I would very much welcome it.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): Already, in the past week, we have seen one shadow Secretary of State threatening to sue his counterpart; the powerful are a

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sensitive bunch. Is this regulation not far more about protecting the powerful than the public? Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that we are not going to see a slide towards self-censorship by the press in fearing litigation?

Maria Miller: I can understand why my hon. Friend might want to raise individual cases, but I certainly would not want to develop a piece of self-regulation based on individual cases. I assure her that we want the new system to be robust but fair and independent, and certainly not to end in the results that she talked about.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State truly appreciate that these repeated delays will be interpreted by the public and victims of press abuse as the Government continuing to kow-tow to powerful press barons, and that this currying of favour stands in complete contrast to the courage shown by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in taking on the malign behaviour and bullying of the likes of the Daily Mail? Given the delays, can she give the House the specific assurance that on 30 October at the Privy Council meeting the charter will take effect immediately on its being sealed and not at some delayed date in the future?

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman should consider this a little more carefully. We had put before us a charter from the press that, rightly, had to be carefully considered. That charter had important areas of consistency with Lord Leveson’s proposals. I think the hon. Gentleman might have been one of the first to jump up if it had not been dealt with correctly, because he would want to see the right process undertaken, not least because not doing so could have led to even further delay. I can absolutely say to him that we have a clear way forward, and I am very confident that we can stick to the timetable.

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con): I recognise the efforts of the Secretary of State in seeking to bring about agreement between the three main parties in this House, bearing in mind that many will have shifted their positions significantly since the initial debate following Lord Justice Leveson’s report. May I suggest that a fourth party also needs to agree, and that is the press? Will the Secretary of State not be rushed into any announcement or any decision without the agreement of the press, as Lord Justice Leveson demands?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is right that if we are going to have effective self-regulation, we need to take the public and the press with us, as Leveson pointed out. If we have a robust but fair process, we have more likelihood of being able to achieve that. I am sure that Members in all parts of the House would want to have a system that people felt that they could work with rather than one that they could not work with, so he can be assured that that is the approach we are taking.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Does not self-regulation almost inevitably mean no regulation? After three quarters of a century of strict charter control of broadcasters in this country, including a duty of balance, is it not true that the press has had a free for all whereby those who are weak and powerless have no chance of

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challenging it, and that the result is that the public, in overwhelming numbers, trust the broadcast media and do not trust the written press?

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman has a view on this, but many different industries have very effective self-regulation, so I do not think he can simply write off self-regulation as ineffective. Evidence suggests that he is not entirely correct about that. It is important that the new process includes a very clear way of redress though arbitration. This will be a real innovation. We need to make sure that it is used correctly and in a way that we intend it to be used. That is one of the areas that I hope we can explore further on a cross-party basis, particularly so that we do not leave our local press exposed to any undue costs.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): As this charter is being cooked up by the three party leaders, it is hard to see how my right hon. Friend’s answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) can conceivably be correct. Is she able to give any example of the arbitrary prerogative power of the Crown being used to impose a charter on an industry that has not agreed it?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend will know, of course, that what I am trying to do is make sure that we have a fair system in which people will want to take part. We have followed a good process and I think that the new system will improve demonstrably on the current one. I hope the press will find it straightforward to support it once we publish our final document on Friday.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Alongside the architecture of regulation, Lord Leveson commended consideration of proposals by the National Union of Journalists to include a conscience clause in journalists’ employment contracts. That was welcomed by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister on the day that Leveson was published. The last time the Secretary of State appeared before us she encouraged the companies and the NUJ to meet to consider the proposals for a conscience clause. Will she report on what progress has been made?

Maria Miller: I have nothing to add other than I am sure that employers will want to look at the proposal. It is important that I am focusing efforts on making sure that the charter is in place to oversee the self-regulatory body. That is my priority at the moment, but I will, obviously, pick up on the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): How will my right hon. Friend insist that the self-regulatory system that has already been set up by the press be morphed into the new system if the press refuse to do it?

Maria Miller: That is an issue for the press. The last thing I want to see is the Government becoming unnecessarily involved in the setting up of a self-regulatory system. That is very much for the press. As I said in my opening statement, I believe the press is making good progress. We have been clear in our response to Leveson and I am sure it will have taken that into account. It is for the press to deal with these matters.

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Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): As a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee I have long held the view that there are forces of darkness within and outwith the House that have a vested interest in keeping this process running up to as close to the next general election as possible so that they can claim that those who support legislation are in some way interfering with the free press, which is a total myth. However, I agree with the right hon. Lady on Scotland: the one thing that unites Scotland is that we do not want Alex Salmond anywhere near the press.

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman cites forces of darkness, but I am not sure how effective they are, given that we have already made provisions on damages in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and on the no-change clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. That shows a very clear intention, so perhaps the forces of darkness are not so dark after all.

Mr Speaker: I am sure the Secretary of State has noted the hon. Gentleman’s remarks in her little book. I do not suppose it will be published, but we are intrigued by the method she deploys. It may be imitated over a period—I know not.

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is the danger of a legal challenge to any process that the Privy Council adopts? That might delay the implementation of the Leveson principles, which, as she knows, I support strongly. What assessment has she made of the timetable for the process she is proposing? Is it robust enough to withstand any legal challenge from those who are determined to delay this much-needed change?

Maria Miller: I will keep my little book well and truly away from you, Mr Speaker.

I understand my hon. Friend’s point. It is important to follow robust procedures at all stages of a process such as this. I make no apology for considering fully the press charter that was put before us. As I have said, there were important areas of consistency with Leveson and it was clearly written in the light of Leveson. That must be acknowledged. I am confident that the timetable that we are following is robust. I have taken the necessary advice at every step of the way to ensure that I can be confident of that.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): I understand from information released by the Department today that the Secretary of State met the newspaper editors on nine occasions during the three months to the end of June, but did not meet the victims or the representatives of their campaigns on a single occasion. Does she not accept that the impression has been created today that it is those who own the media who are being listened to, rather than the public, the victims or the journalists and others who work in the media? Leveson has already been severely watered down. Will she assure us that no further watering down will take place?

Maria Miller: I am sorry that the hon. Lady chooses those words. I do not think that her party’s Front Benchers share her feeling that the response has been watered down. My meetings are a matter of public record through the Cabinet Office in the usual way. She

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will know that I and my officials meet regularly with all people who have an interest in this area, as she would expect. I hope that she will welcome that.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): I am slightly disappointed that the Secretary of State, unlike most women, does not appear to be able to multi-task. The period since March does not appear to have been used to best effect and more time is still needed to tidy up this matter. Other aspects of Leveson, such as the recommendations on the ownership of the press, appear to have been disregarded. There has been ample time for the Secretary of State to provide a response on such matters.

Maria Miller: Obviously, the hon. Lady may have her own view on this matter. My view is that we need to have a robust process by which we can stand. That is what the Government, working with Labour Front Benchers, have been doing. I am sure that she would not advocate rushing these things. When we agreed to the cross-party charter in March, it was clear that further work had to be done. The Scottish Government have understandably taken time to consider the matter and to debate it in the Scottish Parliament. I am sure that she would not want to suggest that that was unsuitable. Like her, I want Scotland to be involved in the process.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I am grateful to the Secretary of State for acknowledging the distinct cross-party initiative in Scotland and the joint work that has been done to meet some of the cross-border challenges that lie ahead. However, a lot of people in Scotland will be surprised to find that we are somehow responsible for delaying the process. Will she assure me that she will continue to work with Scottish Ministers to ensure that we get the best possible outcome for both Parliaments through the joint initiatives?

Maria Miller: I hope that the hon. Gentleman did not misunderstand me. I was not saying that any delay had been caused by Scotland—quite the opposite. I was saying that it was right to take time to do things properly. I welcome the involvement of Scotland in taking the proposals forward. As I have said to Northern Ireland Members, I would also welcome their interest.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): It is not just because of the Northern Ireland twilight zone that some of us have doubts about whether a three-party compact, sealed by the Privy Council, is the best way of enshrining the Leveson principles. The Secretary of State has today stressed terms such as “credible” and “workable”. If large sections of the press refuse to work with and credit this proposal, how does she envisage that the courts will end up possibly wrestling with that dichotomy, and what happens if that then reverts back to Parliament?

Maria Miller: I perhaps need to get back to the hon. Gentleman on the specific point regarding Northern Ireland. I think I am right in saying that publications issued in Northern Ireland are subject either to the Republic of Ireland’s regime, or to the existing Press Complaints Commission regime, but I am happy to consider the matter further. I feel that we have a strong way forward and I do not think we will end up with the sort of situation that the hon. Gentleman outlines.

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We have taken the time—rightly—to get this right, and I hope the new self-regulatory process that we put in place is robust and will not fall into the sorts of problems he outlines.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Further to the question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) on Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State indicate why, as this is a reserved issue, the Government did not initiate consultation and discussion with the Northern Ireland Assembly? Did they initiate consultation with the Scottish Parliament?

Maria Miller: My understanding is that we did ask for involvement of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but that has not been taken up at this point in time. I would be happy to get back to the hon. Gentleman with further details on that.

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Speaker’s Statement

Mr Speaker: Before we move on to the ten-minute rule Bill, I have two announcements to make to the House. The first concerns a matter of privilege. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) has written to me concerning a police information notice, addressed to him by Sussex police and dated 4 September 2013. Having considered the issue, I have decided that this is a matter to which I should allow the precedence accorded to matters of privilege. Therefore, under the rules set out in pages 273-4 of “Erskine May”, the hon. Gentleman may table a motion today for debate at the commencement of public business tomorrow, Wednesday 9 October. The hon. Gentleman’s motion will appear on tomorrow’s Order Paper, to be taken after any urgent questions and statements.

My second announcement concerns the election of a First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means in place of the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans). In accordance with Standing Order No. 2A, I am now able to inform the House of the detailed arrangements. Nominations to fill the vacancy must be received in writing in the Lower Table Office between 10 am and 5 pm on Tuesday next, 15 October. The rules concerning nomination will be set out in the announcements section of the Order Paper, and an information note for Members will be available from the Vote Office and on the intranet.

Only members of a party represented in Her Majesty’s Government may be candidates in this election. If more than one nomination is submitted, the ballot will take place between 11.30 am and 2 pm on Wednesday next, 16 October, in the Aye Lobby, with time added on for any Divisions in the House, in the same way as it is for deferred Divisions. As soon as practicable after the votes have been counted, I will announce to the House the results of the ballot.

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Point of Order

5.29 pm

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am terribly sorry, but I should have drawn Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I write a column in The Independent, which people might think has a bearing on my views on press regulation. I am terribly sorry that I did not do it—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]—and I am glad to get some “hear, hears” from the Government side, which I do not normally get.

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his characteristic courtesy. That is on the record.

We come now to the ten-minute rule motion. I call Mr Grahame M. Morris. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is trying to hoodwink me into thinking that I should be calling the other Graeme Morrice, whose surname is spelt with a c and who does not have the middle initial M. He would expect that his attempted hoodwinking of the Speaker should fail, however, and it has failed. I call Mr Grahame M. Morris.

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Freedom of Information (Private Healthcare Companies)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

5.30 pm

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to apply to private healthcare companies; and for connected purposes.

The Bill would extend the provisions of the 2000 Act to all bodies, whether public, private or voluntary, bidding for NHS contracts and ensure that freedom of information legislation is applied equally in the implementation of any public contract.

Freedom of information is one of the Labour Government’s greatest achievements, ensuring transparency and accountability in modern government and allowing the public access to information on what is being done in their name and how their money is being spent. In recent years, we have witnessed an acceleration in the number of public services being outsourced, and today roughly £1 in every £3 that the Government spend goes to independent or private sector providers. Indeed, owing to the Government’s policy of opening up public services to the private and voluntary sectors, billions of pounds of NHS contracts are now being made available to the private sector, following the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Unfortunately, while more and more taxpayer money is being handed to the private sector, especially in the NHS, FOI responsibilities are not following the public pound. There is a big issue here about transparency, because the public should know what is happening in their name, as was brought home to me recently in a demonstration against NHS privatisation in Manchester that I attended, along with more than 50,000 other people, but which was barely reported on by our public sector broadcaster.

Private health care companies should not be permitted to hide behind a cloak of commercial confidentiality. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being awarded to private sector companies under barely transparent contracts. Meanwhile, private companies are free to benefit by gaining detailed knowledge of public sector bodies through their use and submission of FOI requests. The same information is then used by the private sector to undercut or outbid the very same public sector bodies when contracts are tendered or put up for renewal.

I understand that the Information Commissioner expressed concern to the Justice Select Committee that accountability would be undermined if FOI did not apply to private providers of public services. I also understand that in opposition the Prime Minister was convinced about this matter, having previously promised to increase the range of publicly funded bodies subject to scrutiny using section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act. The coalition agreement also promised to extend the scope of the Act to provide greater transparency, but unfortunately it would appear that nothing is being done to address the democratic deficit caused by the outsourcing of public services.

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The Government should be chastened by recent events. For example, the tagging scandal—involving Serco and G4S and uncovered by the Serious Fraud Office—showed that these companies had defrauded the taxpayer of more than £50 million. Perhaps we need a hard-hitting advertising campaign, with advertising hoardings on vans driven around the City of London warning off corporate fraudsters from bidding for public contracts. The danger for our NHS is that we are inviting convicted fraudsters into our health system.

HCA, which is the world’s biggest private health care company, recently won the contract to provide cancer treatment for NHS brain tumour patients, stopping patients receiving world-class treatment at London’s University College hospital. The Competition Commission has already caught HCA overcharging private patients in the United Kingdom. In the United States, HCA has had to pay fines and costs in excess of $2 billion for systematically defrauding federal health care programmes. The public are right to be concerned about these providers coming into the NHS. If that is to happen, it is essential that their operations and their contracts with the NHS should be open, transparent and subject to public scrutiny.

There is currently little we can do to ensure that private providers comply with freedom of information requests. Under the new NHS framework, clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but private contractors are not. From the outset, FOI regulations give private providers an unfair competitive advantage when bidding for contracts, due to unequal disclosure requirements. NHS bodies are forced to disclose any poor performance, but private providers bidding for a contract have no similar duty to disclose. They effectively start with a blank sheet. They could have

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spent many years treating private patients, but the public have no right to scrutinise their performance prior to their being awarded an NHS contract.

As private providers are not subject to FOI legislation, little can be done if they refuse to provide information or state that they do not have the information requested by a commissioning body. The Information Commissioner has no power to investigate a private contractor. He cannot serve information notices requiring a contractor to supply information for an investigation or take enforcement action if a contractor fails to comply with its contractual obligations.

The purpose of the Bill is to strengthen FOI legislation and to introduce vital safeguards so that the public can see how their money is being spent. I hope that Members on both sides of the House will support fair competition, a level playing field and the duty of equal disclosure throughout the bidding process for NHS services. The public have a right to know the record of public and private providers before contracts are awarded. Those safeguards can work only if the Information Commissioner has the same rights to seek information and carry out investigations, and to make all providers of public services comply with freedom of information legislation.

Question put and agreed to.


That Grahame M. Morris, Ian Mearns, Ian Lavery, John Cryer, Paul Blomfield, Mr. Kevin Barron, Mrs Mary Glindon, Pat Glass, Barbara Keeley, Rosie Cooper, Debbie Abrahams and Valerie Vaz present the Bill.

Grahame M. Morris accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 8 November 2013, and to be printed (Bill 109).

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Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

5.39 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Tom Brake): I beg to move,

That the Order of 3 September 2013 (Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill: Programme) be varied as follows:

Proceedings on Consideration

For paragraph (6) substitute–

“(6) Proceedings on Consideration–

(a) shall be taken on the days shown in the first column of the following Table and in the order so shown, and

(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.

ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings

First day


New Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 1; amendments to Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1, Clause 3, Schedule 2 and Clauses 4 to 25.

10pm on the first day

Second day


New Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 2; amendments to Clause 26, Schedule 3, Clauses 27 to 32, Schedule 4 and Clauses 33 to 35; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 3; amendments to Part 3; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 4; amendments to Part 4; remaining new Clauses; remaining new Schedules; remaining proceedings on Consideration”.

One hour before the moment of interruption on the second day.

The programme motion amends the programme motion of 3 September, with the effect that day one of the debate will focus on part 1 of the Bill, and day two will cover parts 2 to 4. This remains consistent with our intention that two days should be provided for the Report stage of the Bill. This was announced at business questions on 18 July and was not objected to by the Opposition at that time.

As we have seen, the Bill has been widely debated by hon. Members across the House. I recognise the breadth of views that have been shared on various measures within the Bill, and I believe it is important that this House is able to debate all parts of it. I therefore propose that the debate on part 1 concludes at the end of day one, so parts 2 to 4 can be debated on day two.

This programme motion also proposes that we debate each part of the Bill in turn, so that the discussion takes the following order: we first debate new clauses and new schedules for that part; then amendments to clauses and schedules for that part, with each schedule brought up so that it directly follows the clause to which it relates. This programme motion will enable a smooth and effective debate of all parts of the Bill. I therefore move this motion.

5.40 pm

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): I rise with some sadness to urge the House to reject the programme motion that has just been moved by the

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Deputy Leader of the House. I do so not because programmes are often inappropriate. When filibustering takes place, as often happens on a Friday, usually led by Conservative Members who sit at the very back opposite, meaningful debate often does not take place, so one can clearly see the case for having a programme motion. It would be fair to say that programme motions can often help to ensure that all topics are covered when a Bill is in Committee. In this case, however, much of the Bill has not been scrutinised in the way that the Deputy Leader of the House tried to suggest that it had been. Given how little time is set out in the programme motion, it is unlikely that we will be able to carry out line-by-line scrutiny.

Sadly, all this continues to be a bit of blot on the record of the Leader of the House and, indeed, his Liberal Democrat colleague, because they did not see the need for proper consultation with the third sector before the Bill was brought in. I accept that there was some consultation on what might be in the lobbying provisions, but there was certainly no pre-legislative scrutiny of either of the first two parts of the Bill. A proper amount of parliamentary scrutiny could have begun to have put this at least partly right. As regards part 3, the whole House is aware that the Government do not like anyone belonging to a trade union or standing up for themselves as work, so the lack of consultation over this part is hardly surprising. It is nevertheless still very disappointing.

What we have, then, is a Bill that is being rushed through Parliament. It has attracted huge concern from across the third sector about the chilling impact it will have on the perfectly legitimate campaigning activities of charities, so detailed line-by-line consideration could have begun to make up for that lack of consultation with charities before the Bill was published.

Indeed, consideration has been further delayed today by two major statements. Of course we would all have wanted those statements to be made, but as a result of them, unless the programme motion is resisted, the House will have even less time in which to consider the legitimate concerns put to many of us about part 1, let alone parts 2 and 3. If the Bill had been debated upstairs, it would have been far less disrupted by urgent business in this Chamber and more comprehensive scrutiny might—I say “might”—have been achieved.

What have we had so far? We have had one day for Second Reading, just three days for Committee and now just two for Report. Virtually every other piece of Government legislation will get more scrutiny than this Bill. I remember charities legislation during the last Session—a small Treasury Bill to amend gift aid provisions, yet that Bill was in Committee for two whole weeks, as well as having a full day for Second Reading and Report.

Most of the lobbying industry and its stakeholders think this Bill is little more than the emperor’s new clothes for the industry. It amounts thus far to a pretence of action: when so few will be covered, the damaging lack of transparency that exists in the industry at the moment will remain even after this Bill, as drafted, goes through. It is thus difficult to see how we will have time over the next two days to do justice to the concerns that have been put to hon. Members—on the Government side as well as on our side. I therefore urge the House to reject the motion and I encourage the Government to allocate more time for debate.

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5.44 pm

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): I never thought that I would see the day when I would be on my hind legs opposing a programme motion, because I am one of the strongest advocates of programming that anyone could find. Back in the distant days when I was in the Government Whips Office, Mrs Ann Taylor—the then Chief Whip—and I, along with a number of colleagues¸ worked very hard with the then Opposition to agree on a process of effective timetabling. Effective timetabling benefits the House, benefits its Members, and, above all, benefits those on the Back Benches, although it is not always to the benefit of the Government. That was, at least, the theory about programme motions, and I supported it strongly.

The whole concept of a programme motion is that it is part of the process of the House, and part of respecting our democracy. It is not a mere ceremonial, or a nod in the right direction; it actually means that we end up with better law. It means that the House goes through the processes of Second Reading, Committee and Report before sending a Bill to the second Chamber, but does so in a comprehensive way so that we all end up with much better law.

If that process is corrupted—which is what has happened in respect of this Bill—it means that the House cannot, across the party divides, help a Government of whatever colour to make a Bill more effective. That is precisely what has happened in this instance, and it has happened because, although for a long period the progress of this policy issue was characterised by lethargy, in recent days it has been handled with hyper-speed in the House. It is not appropriate for us to discuss the reasons for that during a debate on a programme motion, but we will discuss them as we proceed through the Report stage.

It took my Committee—the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee—a long time to consider the Bill, or rather to consider a consultative document. We did our job carefully on behalf of the House before submitting our report to the Government, who took the best part of a year to respond. They responded only when they were forced to do so, because, as a result of their own timetable, they were trying to rush the progress of the Bill, which was then subjected to the hysterically fast progress that has meant that it has not been considered properly by the House. Given the time that has elapsed between the issuing of the consultative paper and now, it would have been perfectly possible for us to engage in a proper process of pre-legislative scrutiny involving my Select Committee, to give the Bill a proper Committee stage, and still to have bags of time left according to the timetable that we have now set ourselves.

That is why, for the first time in over 20 years in the House, I am on my feet saying that this is an abuse. Parliament has been disrespected; Parliament has been abused. The timetable that we are now being asked to meet constitutes the exact opposite of the lethargy that caused the Government to take over a year to reply to my Committee. One day before the House rose for the summer recess in July, we were presented with this Bill. It is not a Bill that my Committee had examined, it is not a Bill that the House had considered, it is not a Bill that was referred to the Electoral Commission, and it is not a Bill that was referred to third parties such as charities—10,500 of them. [Interruption.] The Leader

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of the House was probably busy chattering away at that point and not listening to them, just as he is not listening to me now.

There is a price to pay for not listening. I do not know whether the Leader of the House has learned that price, but, although he has had a couple of experiences, he does not seem to have learned it. The price of not consulting people, and of treating the House with disrespect, is that one of the very few weapons that we can deploy to protest against a programme motion comes into play.

Having appeared one day before we rose for the recess, the Bill was given its Second Reading one day after we returned. Three working days: is that a world record for this Parliament?

We are going to ask our friends and colleagues in the second Chamber to look at the way we have scrutinised the Bill under this programme motion, and they will say, “What’s wrong with these clowns? Can’t they take most of the key issues and debate them?” No, we cannot. A number of important, serious issues in the Bill will receive virtually no consideration. A number of key issues are before us today and tomorrow, but a lot of stuff will fall off the agenda. A lot of stuff has already fallen off the agenda, because Mr Speaker must choose what is debated and what is not; a lot of good stuff has already been filtered out.

We are not even going to present the dog’s breakfast of this Bill in a proper bowl for their lordships—it will not be in the silver platter that they deserve. They are going to say that we are not capable of doing our job. Is it just my Select Committee, an all-party Committee, that feels that way? Is it just that I happen to be a Select Committee Chair sitting on the Labour Benches? Is it a partisan thing? Let us look at some other people who feel that this is not the way to do business, who will be hurt by the Bill or who will be given roles under the Bill and who have not been consulted.

I hope that all Members, on both sides of the House, feel that the Electoral Commission is one of the most valuable and impartial parts of our democracy. We undermine it at our peril. It sorts out the nuts and bolts of our democracy so that we can glide across the top and have the policy and political debates that the country expects us to have. It does a great job. On one of the earlier occasions when we were considering the Bill, I mentioned that it is very difficult to get the Electoral Commission to commit one way or another on the politics of these proposals—believe me, Mr Deputy Speaker, we have tried. The Electoral Commission said, “We are going to stick to our role. We are here to be impartial. We do see some things that are not very appropriate.” However, if we read between the lines, we see that the Electoral Commission is profoundly uneasy about the role in which it is being cast by the Government. Part of the reason it is uneasy is that it was not even consulted at the right time, at an early enough moment, on measures that change its terms of reference and the job it has to do, let alone on becoming the police of freedom of speech and intervening in election meetings, at hustings or at some other point. It is being put in that role without being properly consulted.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I commend my hon. Friend for the work that he and his Committee have done on the matter. He is right to say that there is a lot of concern out there, not only in the Electoral

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Commission about the role that it has been given, but among small community groups, which feel that they will have to seek advice from an organisation that may not itself be clear on how to deal with the issue or be resourced sufficiently. I have never had as many requests in objection to a Bill from community groups as I have on this Bill. Those people want us to take our time and get this right. They feel that at the moment it is an utter dog’s breakfast.

Mr Allen: My hon. Friend is right. There are more than 10,500 charities and voluntary sector organisations. Many of them are big beasts and have been around a long time. Those organisations can look after themselves, summon a barrister, get a brief and argue their corner—eventually, having been let in to see the Government. Many of the big organisations came before the Select Committee, some distinguished members of which are here. However, as my hon. Friend says, many groups are minnows. One court case—no, not even a court case; one legal intervention could bankrupt many of them.

I will not get into the substance of the Bill; you would call me to order if I did so, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, the role of those charities and their trustees is to defend the organisation. They do that not by going to court after a dog’s breakfast has been passed by the House. They do it by listening to debates in the Chamber that have been given adequate time under a programme motion, so that my hon. Friend and others can stand up for those small organisations and say, “Parliament has given me enough time to say why this is wrong.” He is not alone; I suspect that 650 Members in the House have received representations from organisations large and small. I am not referring just to the mass campaigns and the big beasts. I am referring to people who are genuinely worried about the Bill. We must let those arguments be heard and they are not being heard.

Dr Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): I share my hon. Friend’s deep concern about the timetable and on behalf of the Joint Committee on Human Rights I have written to the Government about the matter. We will only tomorrow be able to discuss our heads of report. I hope that by the end of next week we will be able to produce a report. Only then will our Committee’s view be heard.

Mr Allen: My hon. Friend describes my experience, too, as a fellow Select Committee Chair. We have been compressed in our consideration throughout the House. The Select Committee structure is meant to do a job for Members, so that we can discuss the issues properly under a proper programme motion. His Select Committee has been squeezed by the programme motion and by the Government’s haste at the wrong end of the process, and that means that we do not consider the Bill properly. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and Members throughout the House who are members of my Select Committee came back when the House was in recess to take evidence. I ask the Leader of the House: is that the way the Government want to be seen to be conducting the business and affairs of the House? That is why adequate time is needed, and the programme motion should provide that.

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Just this morning, ahead of this debate, I as Chair of the relevant Select Committee and the Electoral Commission convened a meeting, which was open to all Members, to discuss the Bill. One idea throughout the consideration came from the commission: if only we had had a little more time. Instead of being equivocal—perhaps this will work; perhaps it will not. Let us try it; let us have an open mind—the Electoral Commission could have been properly consulted. My Select Committee interviewed the commission, and I quote from our report:

“It is extraordinary that the Government did not consult the Board and Accounting Officer of the Electoral Commission about the change it is making to the Commission's role. We note also that the Commission has concerns about its ability to identify cases of potential non-compliance”.

That would impact on every Member of Parliament. What if we have a meeting attended by the League Against Cruel Sports and the Countryside Alliance and they start picking a fight with each other and complaining about each other on legal grounds? If we are going to ask the Electoral Commission all of a sudden to start policing that, we should at least have the good grace to consult it so that it can pick holes in the measure, we can get it right and, even with bad legislation, make it halfway workable. As this Bill leaves this House, we are still asking fundamental questions about whether it can be useful in practice or whether it is a minefield.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend recall that one of the most surprising bits of information we have heard as a Committee is that under the previous Government, 75 Bills went through all the stages in the House, including Royal Assent, and were never enforced. Is it his view that this Bill is so awful and impractical that even if it goes go through all its stages it will be unenforceable?

Mr Allen: I will not answer my hon. Friend’s question because I would incur your wrath, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, were we able to debate under a proper programme motion, my hon. Friend could make those important points at some length.

Leaving aside the Electoral Commission, the bodies that will be hurt most by any legislation of this sort were also not consulted. It takes a truly heroic effort in this place to get 10,000-odd charities up in arms. Members have been contacted by many such organisations over the past weeks and months, and I am sure that even today they will have received lengthy protests from key organisations such as the Royal British Legion and Oxfam who are saying, “We’ve not had our say. We feel we’re being railroaded.” It is not the role of Parliament to push people and push legislation through without a proper case being made by the Government.

Part 2 is the most sensitive part of the Bill, and if this programme motion is passed we may come to it tomorrow, but most of the bodies and people who will be most affected by it feel that the whole of part 2 should be withdrawn. If there had been a Cabinet reshuffle at the higher levels perhaps an incoming Leader of the House might have said, “I’m blowed if I’m going to be hung with this for the next two months,” and might have scrapped it. We are going to soldier on and try to make the best of it, however, but we can only make the best of it if we have the time to scrutinise properly some of the Bill’s key issues.

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People outside this House do not want us to play games. This is the first time in my political life that I have asked colleagues not to support a programme motion. I am generally a great advocate of programme motions, but I oppose this programme motion because of what charity after charity, and voluntary sector organisation after voluntary sector organisation, and third sector organisation after third sector organisation, are saying. Civil Society says in its briefing about the programming:

“There has been a lack of pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation with organisations that might be affected by the change which is in stark opposition to the supposed purpose of the Bill which is to increase transparency and oversight”,

not reduce it.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I have been very lenient, but we are in danger of repeating arguments by bringing different organisations into the discussion. I understand the frustration that the Chair of the Select Committee feels, but he will understand that our debate is purely about the timetabling and nothing else; it is not about the detail of what may or may not come.

Mr Allen: I strongly support your view, Mr Deputy Speaker, so I will not repeat anything, and will instead move on to the very long list of brand new points that I can put before the House.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations makes a completely new point about the programming:

“We also have concerns about the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny and the lack of consultation with organisations that might be affected by the changes in order to ensure they are clear and workable. Government is committed”


“to the national Compact which states that ‘where it is appropriate, and enables meaningful engagement, conduct 12-week formal written consultations, with clear explanations and rationale for any shorter time-frames’”.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I know I am quite mature in years, but my hearing is still fairly acute and I think we are hearing about the programme of the Government. About 15 minutes have passed since we last heard about the programming of this Bill.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I shall repeat what I just said to Mr Allen: we need to get to the point. This debate is about the programme motion. I have allowed a little leeway, and he has used that leeway. I think he is now in danger of taking advantage of the Chamber, and I am sure he is about to finish.

Mr Allen: Since, sadly, I am accusing the Government of taking advantage of this Chamber, it is incumbent upon me not to do so, but I am not talking about the Government’s programme; I am instead talking about the programme motion, by which I mean the timetabling.

This timetable is an insult to those who work day and night in charities; it is an insult to Members of this House who are receiving representations about what is a very important matter but are unable to voice them in this Chamber; and—above all, perhaps—it is an insult to our legislative colleagues in the second Chamber who expect us to send them a Bill in halfway-decent repair.

8 Oct 2013 : Column 70

Speaking for my Select Committee, which has members from parties on both sides of the House, we have worked incredibly hard to try to fulfil our role for this House and for Parliament. Unless we are allowed to debate these issues properly and fully, I will ask my colleagues to vote against the programme motion.

Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided:

Ayes 317, Noes 249.

Division No. 91]


6.5 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, Glyn

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Stephen

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr David Evennett


Anne Milton


Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, Lyn

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Paisley, Ian

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Nic Dakin


Tom Blenkinsop

Question accordingly agreed to.

8 Oct 2013 : Column 71

8 Oct 2013 : Column 72

8 Oct 2013 : Column 73

8 Oct 2013 : Column 74

8 Oct 2013 : Column 75

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

[1st Allocated Day]

[Relevant documents: The Seventh Report from the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, on the Government’s Lobbying Bill, HC 601, and the First Report from the Committee on Standards, on the Government’s Lobbying Bill, HC 638.]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Committee

6.25 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I should say at the outset that I do not intend to move new clause 1, although I want to take the opportunity to raise matters that concern it and to support Government amendments 28 and 29. Similarly, I do not intend to press amendment 1 to a vote.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. May I advise the hon. Gentleman that he needs to move his new clause so that we can debate the amendments? When he replies to the debate, he can ask the leave of the House to withdraw it.

Mr Jenkin: I am rather appalled, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have had to be pulled up on that procedural matter in my 21st year in this House.

New Clause 1

Bill of rights

‘Nothing in this Act shall be construed by any court in the United Kingdom as affecting Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689.’. —(Mr Jenkin.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr Jenkin: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment 28.

Amendment 1, in schedule 1, page 51, line 6, leave out paragraphs 1 and 2.

Government amendment 29.

Amendment 78, page 51, line 15, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

Mr Jenkin: I want to use this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the report by the House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, which was produced only a month or two ago. I believe that it sets down the terms on which we should consider parliamentary privilege, its importance and its relevance. In particular, chapter 2, on general principles, draws attention to privilege’s continuing relevance and value and notes that parliamentary

“proceedings must be immune from interference by the executive, the courts or anyone else who may wish to impede or influence those proceedings in pursuit of their own ends.”

8 Oct 2013 : Column 76

The principle of parliamentary privilege rests on the concept of exclusive cognisance. That is referred to at the beginning of schedule 1, which quotes an extract from the 1689 Bill of Rights and refers to any matter that

“otherwise affects the scope of the exclusive cognisance of Parliament.”

The term “cognisance” might seem rather archaic, but it encapsulates what privilege is about. That is, as our report states:

“Parliament enjoys sole jurisdiction—normally described by the archaic term ‘exclusive cognisance’—over all matters subject to parliamentary privilege.”

That concept underpins parliamentary privilege. As we explain:

“Thus Article 9 of the Bill of Rights, the most important statutory expression of parliamentary privilege, states that ‘the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament’.”

We go on to explain that the most important part of that is that

“both Members and non-Members… are not legally liable for things said or done in the course”

of our parliamentary proceedings,

“nor are those outside who are adversely affected by things said or done in Parliament able to seek redress through the courts.”

6.30 pm

That causes a lot of concern in some people’s minds because it is, in fact, an exception to the rule of law, which seems to be a fundamental principle of our democracy. But as one of our witnesses, Adam Tucker, a lecturer in law, told us:

“The rule of law is not, however, an absolute principle. Its claims must be balanced against the competing claims of other principles. One of those competing principles is the separation of powers”.

It is even accepted by the European Court of Human Rights that the immunity of parliamentary proceedings is an important fundamental constitutional principle. Its only limitation is a doctrine that has been developed by the courts, known as the doctrine of necessity. That is the test that the courts apply. If Parliament claims privilege, the courts will apply the doctrine—is it necessary to allow Parliament this protection in order that it should be able to carry on its proceedings?

We are engaged in the possibility, in this Bill, of legislating on parliamentary privilege, and this is the most important part of our report in respect of this part of the Bill. As we learned in the Chaytor case, the extent of parliamentary privilege is ultimately a matter for the court, but the courts, as we say in our report, can only interpret and apply the law; Parliament alone can make the law. And as the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Judge, in oral evidence, said to us,

“ultimately it is Parliament that is sovereign”.

That was demonstrated in the Stockdale v. Hansard case, when Hansard was sued for reporting Parliament and we had to pass the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, which afforded the immunity of Parliament to the proceedings as reported in Hansard so that is on a statutory basis.

It is always a choice for Parliament whether to legislate in order to express what we hold should be immune from the courts, but there are significant disadvantages in legislating. First, parliamentary privilege has to evolve as Parliament evolves and as the law evolves. If we were

8 Oct 2013 : Column 77

to try and define what parliamentary privilege is in detail—well, all the advice that our Committee had was not to try and do so. Indeed, were we to try and do so in statute, we would be tempting the courts into limiting parliamentary privilege, perhaps far further than we intended.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): It seems to me that the kernel of the problem is that this is a Bill to regulate lobbying. An important part of an MP’s job is to lobby for his or her constituency and constituents, and we are paid salaries, so in that sense we are paid lobbyists; but surely that part of our role, like every other part of the role, must be immune from the interventions of the court and must not be in any way modified by the legislation before us.

Mr Jenkin: I hear what my right hon. Friend says, but it is not generally asserted that, for example, correspondence between him representing his constituents and a Minister is privileged, because it would be difficult to prove that that constituted proceedings in Parliament. I do not think, therefore, that we can seek to extend parliamentary privilege in the Bill. What we do as our job to represent our constituents is clearly not intended to be included in the regulation of lobbying. It would be intolerable if Members of Parliament had to register as lobbyists in order to represent their constituents, or indeed represent any other interests. I will return to that point later, if my right hon. Friend will forgive me.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman will recall that in the previous Parliament there was concern about the way that certain Members were behaving, and two were summoned to the Committee. One was receiving £75,000 to represent a company; the other was receiving £105,000. They received those sums entirely to lobby on behalf of a commercial organisation. One of their excuses was, “The organisation has employees in my constituency.” But surely it is the core job of an MP to lobby for his constituents, and if MPs are offered money to do it, that should be seen for what it is, which is a bung, an inducement or a bribe.

Mr Jenkin: I recognise the sentiment the hon. Gentleman expresses, and I share his outrage at any abuse that he suggests took place, but we have our own rules in this House. We adjudicate on these matters, and in fact we apply very harsh terms to people we believe to be guilty of paid advocacy. For many decades, since 1945 or even earlier, paid advocacy has been utterly abhorrent to this House. No longer do we have MPs sitting in the railway interest, as they did during the 19th century. The important distinction here is that we regulate that from within this House, as proceedings of this House. We do not need or require the courts to interfere in those matters. I do not think we are providing any leniency to Members that the courts would not also afford. Indeed, it might be far harder to obtain a prosecution in court for a matter such as that than to create in this House the right atmosphere of discipline and self-discipline that we expect from all hon. Members.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I am following my hon. Friend’s argument closely. Rather than my standing here in the railway interest, I stand in the anti-railway interest in respect of HS2, hoping that the Government will see sense and abandon the project.

8 Oct 2013 : Column 78

Will he confirm that there should be nothing in the Bill that would restrict my standing up on behalf of my constituents against HS2, or restrict my constituents in lobbying this place against that project?

Mr Jenkin: I wholly agree with my right hon. Friend. I just want to emphasise that the amendments I am speaking to deal with the narrower question of privilege, although I will return to the risk, which I think the Minister must address, of the wider drawing in of Members’ activities into the scope of the Bill.

Mr Redwood: Further to that exchange, does my hon. Friend not see my case, which is that if the Bill is in danger of restricting our privilege to write letters on behalf of our constituents as properly paid advocates for our constituents, we need to stop that happening? Otherwise, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) will not be able to campaign against something in her constituency by writing to a Minister without registering under the Bill.

Mr Jenkin: I will return to that matter, but when my right hon. Friend employs the word “privilege” in that context, he is not employing it in terms of parliamentary privilege. It is not a parliamentary privilege that protects our ability to write to Ministers on behalf of our constituents. That is not covered by parliamentary privilege.

With the indulgence of the House, I wonder whether I might quote the Lord Chief Justice when he made it clear that we should, if possible, avoid legislating on matters regarding privilege. He said:

“Parliament has to decide whether it has sufficient privilege to be able to conduct its business in the way that Parliament wishes. If you have reservations about that, you have to produce a system that enables you to have the conditions under which you can perform your responsibilities properly. If you had no real reservations about it, I would not go down the legislative route that defined, semi-defined, subdivided, allowed for, or exercised this and that, because you would end up in interminable discussions, and, in court, interminable arguments, about what that really meant. Unless you are dissatisfied with the way in which your privileges operate, I would leave this well alone.”

By that, I think he means that the courts are predisposed to defer to proceedings in Parliament, whatever statutes may say.

The 1689 Bill of Rights is one of those special statutes in our legal system that is implicitly present in every statute. We do not need to repeat what is in the Bill of Rights 1689 in every statute in order to immunise it for the purpose of parliamentary privilege. The one exception that we have made is in respect of the IPSA legislation—the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009—in which we inserted the words that I am proposing in my new clause:

“Nothing in this Act shall be construed by any court in the United Kingdom as affecting Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689.”

I submit that the House of Lords put that clause in the Parliamentary Standards Bill in rather extreme circumstances. When that Bill arrived in this House, it seemed that it was going to go into areas that were previously considered part of the exclusive cognisance of this House. It was going to refer to disciplining Members for what we did in this House, and that was going to draw parliamentary proceedings into the consideration of the courts in a way that was unprecedented.

8 Oct 2013 : Column 79

All that was eventually taken out by the House of Lords. In those exceptional circumstances, when the courts were under enormous public pressure to take more draconian action following the expenses fiasco, it was reasonable for Parliament to put that clause into that Bill, but generally we should try to avoid putting any reference to the Bill of Rights 1689 into legislation.

My amendment 1 suggested that we delete paragraph 1 of schedule 1. I note that the Government have now proposed that we remove both paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 of schedule 1. Paragraph 1 removes language which is lifted from the Bill of Rights 1689, without referring to the 1689 Act. Because there is no reference to it, paragraph 1 does not place the wording in the special category in which the Act exists.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): My hon. Friend is reaching the nub of the issue. With something as delicate as article IX of the Bill of Rights, there is nothing worse than trying to produce another version of what it is supposed to mean, which is bound to cause confusion and uncertainty and raise the question of interpretation, making it more likely to be adjudicated by the courts, whereas the Lord Chief Justice said that that should be left well alone.

Mr Jenkin: My hon. Friend has, typically, put more pithily than I could a complex legal argument. By drawing the courts into adjudicating on these words, we would be devaluing the 1689 Bill of Rights. That would be irresponsible. If the courts start arguing about all this, we will have to legislate on the matter and risk losing our historic immunity.

Our conclusions, clearly stated in the report, were:

“The extent of Parliament’s exclusive cognisance changes over time, as the work of Parliament evolves”

and it would be impractical

“to draw up an exhaustive list”.

We continued:

“Where there is uncertainty in a case brought before the courts, the extent of Parliament’s exclusive cognisance will be determined by the courts.”

We stated that

“if Parliament were to consider that its privileges had been reduced to the extent that it could no longer effectively perform its core work, it could in the last resort change the law”,

but finally that

“legislation should only be used when absolutely necessary, to resolve uncertainty or in the unlikely event of Parliament’s exclusive cognisance being materially diminished by the courts.”

Neither of those last two conditions exists. There is no uncertainty.

We made further recommendations about how our 1689 privileges could be clarified. It is fashionable to believe that over the years parliamentary privilege has been eroded by the courts. That is a two-way street. In certain circumstances, Parliament might exercise privilege in a manner that has recently been ruled to be subject to court proceedings. It would depend on the circumstances, and we need to hold out the prospect that in extremis we would exercise privilege in a way that the courts might not expect us to do, given the way that privilege has been exercised in the past.

8 Oct 2013 : Column 80

We no longer send out a posse of soldiers to arrest people on behalf of Parliament, and I do not suppose we will return to that in these democratic days, but who knows what will happen in the future? Parliament should reserve its right to assert its privilege in order to be able to conduct its proceedings immune from the courts, immune from the Executive, under any circumstances.

6.45 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): My hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) tabled amendment 1, which is exactly the same as amendments 28 and 29 tabled by the Government. Is my hon. Friend saying that he no longer thinks amendment 1 and therefore amendments 28 and 29 are appropriate and that new clause 1 should be the preferred way forward?

Mr Jenkin: I have moved new clause 1, but I shall wait to hear what the Minister says in response to the debate. I suspect that I will be greatly reassured by what he says in respect of parliamentary privilege, and that by removing any reference to the Bill of Rights or any wording thereof, the two Government amendments put this Bill back in the normal category of all Bills, that privilege applies and that the unstated presence of the 1689 Bill of Rights looms over this Bill as it does over any Act and our privileges are therefore secure, there is no ambiguity about that and it is accepted by the courts.

Indeed, I do not expect that the courts wish to be drawn into adjudicating on detailed matters of privilege. It remains uncomfortable and untidy that hon. Members might try to avail themselves of parliamentary privilege when they are not entitled to it and we end up with embarrassing court actions, but that is not an excuse for legislation in this area. The courts have demonstrated, as we saw in the Chaytor case, that they are capable of disposing of those cases in a manner that we would find perfectly acceptable.

Echoing the comments of my right hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) and for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), I still have concerns about the implications of the Bill. These measures were drawn up, presumably, to protect Members of Parliament. Paragraph 2 of schedule 1 states:

“A Member of Parliament who makes communications within section 2(3) on behalf of a person or persons resident in his or her constituency does not, by reason of those communications, carry on the business of consultant lobbying.”

How have we written a Bill that could possibly construe Members of Parliament going about their ordinary course of business as carrying out consultant lobbying? Yes, we are paid by Parliament and therefore we are paid, and yes, we are paid, in part, to represent our constituents, but is it assumed that any court might by accident include us in the definition of lobbying and therefore require us to register as lobbyists in order to represent our constituents?

I am pleased that that is being taken out because it was absurd to confine the exemption merely to representing residents in our constituencies, as defined by section 4 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. If I were representing a 15-year-old, I would be caught by the Act. It was an absurd piece of drafting. Why was it necessary to put it into the Bill? I hope the Minister will

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be able to give us an assurance that the Government are taking it out of the Bill now. That is the right thing to do.

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Gentleman has made an extremely interesting speech, which thus far has touched on issues surrounding Members of this House. Has he given any thought to the possible implications of the Bill as originally drafted, and as it will be without the offending paragraphs if the Government carry the House, for Members of the other place?

Mr Jenkin: I note the earlier debate on the guillotine. All I can say is thank God for the other place. The hon. Gentleman raises a point that Members there may want to address, though if the Minister can give us the assurance that we need that he has complete confidence and has had advice that no court could possibly construe a Member of Parliament as a lobbyist, I imagine that would also apply to a Member of the other place. But the hon. Gentleman raises a perfectly valid point.

The point, of course, is that we are paid by Parliament to serve the national interest, and to exercise our independent judgment on behalf of that interest, to represent our constituents and to play our part in proceedings as members of political parties, because without parties democracy would not function. Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that all the normal dealings of a Member of Parliament, whether or not he or she is paid or sponsored by outside interests in the usual legitimate way, will not fall within the scope of the Bill and that we will not be required to register as lobbyists? It is important that he gives that assurance so that the courts are clear that that was the intention of the Act.

Mr Thomas: It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), who made an extremely interesting speech to which I listened carefully. Like him, I am encouraged by the Government’s decision to table the amendments deleting the two offending paragraphs to schedule 1. We tabled amendment 78 as a probing amendment, but I do not intend to move it if the Leader of the House is suitably convincing when he comments on Government amendments 28 and 29. Nevertheless, there is a series of questions that merit asking about how we got to this point and whether the amendments will resolve all the concerns.

I will deal first with some of the context of these discussions. Until the Government tabled their amendments, it appeared that they were determined to write into legislation a set of paragraphs that would have meant more Members of Parliament being affected by the Bill than actual lobbyists being registered under it. Lynton Crosby and all those in-house energy company lobbyists to whom the Government listen will not have to register because the Bill is still so badly drafted, but Members of Parliament raising concerns, perhaps on behalf of people under the age of 18 or asylum seekers fleeing torture who are resident in their constituencies, might have had to register.

Mr Redwood: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is very important that a shadow spokesman should be able to represent any interest group, company or activity

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in the country as they see fit and still receive their parliamentary salary without falling foul of the lobbying rules?

Mr Thomas: The right hon. Gentleman and I do not agree on much, but we agree on that extremely valuable point.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking a second intervention so quickly. Will he add to his list the peculiar situation we have in Northern Ireland, where there are five absentee Sinn Fein Members? MPs who do take their seats receive communications from those five constituencies asking us to make representations to various Ministers. I would hate to be labelled a consultant lobbyist simply for acting properly on behalf of constituents who are not represented in this House by a sitting MP.

Mr Thomas: The hon. Lady makes a very good point and underlines the problems there would have been had the Government not listened to the concerns of Members on both sides of the House and tabled their amendments.

Mr Jenkin: The hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) has made an extremely valuable point. It shows how narrow a view some of the people who draft this legislation have of what Members of Parliament actually do. They think that we are simply a post box for our constituents. They do not understand that we are meant to exercise our judgment and represent interests from outside our constituencies as well as views and opinions, and indeed the national interest. They have no conception of that, which I am afraid is reflected in the Bill’s original drafting.

Mr Thomas: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I want to explain how those two paragraphs arrived in the Bill.

Paul Flynn: May I raise with my hon. Friend a question that he himself has raised? There is a difference between this House and the other House. There was a recent investigation into the conduct of a Member of the House of Lords who was behaving in a way that would be condemned in this place as reprehensible, but the Lords have not come to a final conclusion. It relates to a Lord who was campaigning and lobbying on behalf of the Cayman Islands. The excuse given was that there is a difference between the two Houses because Members of the House of Lords are not paid and so are entitled to go around making money by hiring themselves out to the highest bidder. Surely that is a matter of public scandal that must be addressed.

Mr Thomas: If my hon. Friend, who is an expert on these questions, will bear with me, I will come later to some of the issues relating to the House of Lords and the extent to which the Bill affects the performance of its Members.

I accept that it was probably not the intention of the Leader of the House that Members of Parliament should be affected in the way that I and other Members who have intervened have described and that that was a result of the Bill being so badly rushed. Had Members

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on both sides of the House not raised concerns, these sensible amendments would not have been put forward by the Government.

As I indicated, I want to ask a couple of questions about the impact of the Government’s amendments and whether any lessons have been learnt from the process by which the offending paragraphs ended up in the Bill. As several Members made clear on Second Reading, and as the standards committee spelled out, there was a series of concerns about the inclusion of paragraphs 1 and 2 to schedule 1 and their impact on parliamentary privilege. The Committee’s helpful report noted the evidence that had been received by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in March this year. The evidence from Lord Judge underlined the risk of including specific exemptions for MPs in this, or indeed any, Bill. It also underlined the concern that future legislation relating to Members without such an exemption might inadvertently affect parliamentary privilege.

Did the Leader of the House consider that report from the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, and if not, why not? Did he take any advice on the inclusion of those paragraphs before signing them off and presenting the Bill to Parliament? Does he now accept that pre-legislative scrutiny, and perhaps a further period of public consultation with the industry and its stakeholders, might have prevented such a considerable error?

A further concern the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege highlighted relates to the inclusion of a definition of who is resident in an MP’s constituency using the 1983 Act’s description of who can and cannot vote.

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): At least eight or nine major charities are headquartered in my constituency. Does he believe that I would be prevented from representing their interests because they, as corporate bodies, are not resident? How does he see that affecting my ability to represent those charitable interests?

Mr Thomas: I think that I did the hon. Gentleman an enormous service back in the 2005 general election, but I am happy to try to be of service to him now. He has rightly raised a concern about whether he would have been able to do the job he wants to do on behalf of those charities had the Government not finally brought forward their amendments.

7 pm

Mrs Gillan: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has been very generous in giving way. I have taken a great interest in autism and introduced a private member’s Bill that ultimately became an Act. I worked with the National Autism Society, which provided me with back-up, information and material for distribution among colleagues. I worry that the Bill would inhibit any MP in acting that way. I was acting not on behalf of a constituent but on behalf of the cause, and will continue to do so. I want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of that work of an MP.

Mr Thomas: I commend the hon. Lady for her work with the National Autism Society, not least because it does an excellent job but also because a former member

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of my staff works for it. Whether her work with the National Autism Society would have been called into question by the Bill is an extremely pertinent point. It is a worry that Ministers rushed out the Bill, and it appears—this is why I have asked the question of the Leader of the House—that not very much advice was taken from the House authorities before the Bill was published. As a result, considerable concerns have been raised by Members on both sides of the House, detracting inevitably from the House’s ability to look at other parts of the Bill.

Will the Leader of the House set out with whom he, his ministerial colleagues or others involved in drafting the Bill consulted before inserting the offending paragraphs? I ask because it has not always been easy to track which Minister and which Department was leading on this Bill and it would be useful to know whether the Leader of the House has considered whether a repeat of the error might be avoided in the future. I emphasise gently to the Leader of the House that the mistake might have been avoided had there been pre-legislative scrutiny, a further period of public consultation and a proper attempt to involve the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in particular.

I turn now to a question that I raised in an intervention on the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex: the impact of the Bill on the other place. As the Bill is currently drafted, a Member of Parliament’s pay could also be construed—a point the right hon. Member for Wokingham made—as payment for third-party consultant lobbying. In the other place, peers are given an allowance and are not paid a salary. There is an expectation that those in the other place can earn a living beyond their work there. The House of Lords code of conduct is currently being reviewed by a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege. It would be helpful to get a specific assurance from the Leader of the House, or his colleague the Deputy Leader, on the extent to which, if at all, the Bill as drafted, and as it would be if the Government amendments were carried, would affect the other place. These are clearly questions that members in the other place will want to explore, quite rightly. But we also have a responsibility to think through some of the issues around the other place. It would be helpful to hear from the Leader of the House on the extent to which he has considered this question.

Mr Cash rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): The Leader of the House.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Andrew Lansley) rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker: May I say to the Leader of the House that I did not realise that Mr Cash wished to come in? I call Mr Cash.

Mr Cash: I am sorry for inhibiting my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for a short moment.

I just want to endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) said and draw attention to the real reasons why this matter is so important. I have already made the point that the proposal would simply create confusion and the extreme likelihood that there would be interpretations by the courts

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as a result of a difference of language between what is contained in schedule 1 and the wording of article 9 of the Bill of Rights. It is best left alone; that was the essence of what the Lord Chief Justice said.

As someone who served on the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege with my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex, I want to make something absolutely clear. Curiously enough, the word privilege is almost a misnomer. It is not a privilege; it is a necessity. I would say that of any Member of this House. We cannot have freedom of speech to protect our constituents without having the right to be able to say whatever needs to be said in this House to protect them. That is whether in relation to HS2, on which I share the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan)—I am totally against it—or anything else. The absolute necessity for maintaining the right of an MP to speak within the framework of the rules of the House must not be interfered with by any court or any outside agency. We have to have that right as that is the essence of our democracy.

What we are really discussing here, apart from the very important question—I concede that it is important—of not getting into a conflict with the courts or having differences of emphasis or wording that could give rise to interpretations, is that it is absolutely essential to remember that these issues are for the benefit of our constituents and the national interest.

In 1999 the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege —our predecessor committee—said:

“Parliament makes the law and raises taxes. It is also the place where ministers are called to account by representatives of the whole nation for their decisions and their expenditure of public money. Grievances great and small can be aired regardless of the power or wealth of those criticised.

In order to carry out these public duties”—

I repeat the word “public”—

“without fear or favour, parliament and its members and officers need certain rights and immunities. Parliament needs the right to regulate its own affairs free from intervention by the government or the courts. Members need to be able to speak freely, uninhibited by possible defamation claims.”

The Irish Government argued recently at the European Court of Human Rights that

“parliamentary immunity has developed throughout the world not as a constraint upon the rights of the citizen but as a fundamental liberty.”

I could enlarge on this but I do not need to do so.

Mr Jenkin: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way at this point. He says “around the world”. It is often thought that parliamentary privilege is unique to our rather odd partly written constitution, where the fundamental principles are accepted and not written down. That is not the case. Every parliamentary democracy in the world grants its legislative authority some kind of immunity in order to ensure that it can carry on its function of holding the Executive to account, and legislating and discussing with impunity. It is not unique to us; it exists in America, Australia and elsewhere. They all wrestle with this problem of how to make it work.

Mr Cash: That is the very point I am seeking to make. I would also point out that a number of other countries have got themselves into serious turmoil and trouble

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where the right of the people to speak freely is inessential and incidental to the manner in which their constitution is construed. In many countries, whether dictatorships or quasi-democracies, the inhibitions on the freedom of their members of parliament to speak as they must on behalf of the national interest or on behalf of their constituents is constrained by a lot of activities which, in effect, put them in fear. It is precisely because this House as a whole ensures, through its own regulation of the behaviour of Members, that that freedom is maintained, that we can guarantee that we can serve our constituents in the national interest.

That is all I need to say, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I need to say something, just to help you, because obviously I know that you want to discuss the new clause and do not want to drift into the wider arena. I am sure you will have appreciated me trying to help you with that.

Mr Cash: Absolutely, Mr Deputy Speaker, and there is no wider arena than your remit. Having said that, this is not just about a simple, narrow point; it is about a broader issue that interacts with it. As far as I am concerned, that is all I need to say.

Mr Deputy Speaker: That is excellent news.

Mr Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): Tagged on to this debate is a report by the Committee on Standards and Privileges, which I chair, that we published on the day of the Bill’s Second Reading. It was all a bit of a hurry because of the Government’s haste to get these provisions into Parliament. On 18 July I wrote to the Leader of the House with some major concerns that we had about the Bill’s implications for Members of Parliament and the consequential implications for the codes of conduct—our own rules in relation to Members’ activities.

The House of Commons has long been concerned about lobbying. As early as 1695, the House resolved:

“The Offer of any Money, or other Advantage, to any Member of Parliament, for the promoting of any Matter whatsoever, depending, or to be transacted, in Parliament, is a high Crime and Misdemeanour, and tends to the Subversion of the Constitution.”

Successive resolutions have restricted what Members are permitted to do. The current code of conduct states:

“No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceedings of the House.”

Indeed, the “Guide to the Rules relating to the Code of Conduct of Members” makes it clear that prohibition on advocacy is not limited to proceedings in the House or approaches to Ministers but extends to approaches to colleagues and to any servants of the Crown. Consultant lobbying is usually understood to consist of the acceptance of money in direct return for lobbying activity. Under the code of conduct as currently written, this would almost certainly be a breach of the advocacy rule. We noted that the requirements for the registration of Members’ financial interests are far more detailed than the Bill’s requirements for entries in the register of consultant lobbyists. There was grave concern that had it remained as first published, there would have been major conflict between Members of this House and organisations outside.

We recognised that although Members are permitted to have outside interests, a Member who carried out consultant lobbying would be breaking the current rules

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of conduct of the House. None the less, we also recognised that that could change if the House changed its rules to permit such activity, though we considered that to be extremely unlikely. If that were the case, Members would then not be immune from the general, nor should they be. If the advocacy rule were ever rescinded, a Member who acted as a consultant lobbyist should be subject to the same rules as any other such lobbyist.

We had to draw up the report very quickly because of the timetable that we have had for the Bill. We brought up two major concerns in our conclusion. First, we said: