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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the matter is covered by an Act of the House. If he wants to know the work load and the commitment, he should read the Act. We are considering only the six names before us.

Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful for that advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When some of my friends speak subsequently, I will have a chance to read the Act. After I have read it, it may be necessary for me to seek to intervene to clear up such matters. For the moment, I fully understand your ruling and I will therefore talk about whether it is right for us to approve the six names.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Does the hon. Gentleman object to the name of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill)? If he does not, to which members of the body has he taken exception?

Mr. Wilshire: If the hon. Gentleman can contain himself for a moment, I have it in mind to come to exactly that point. In due course, I will no doubt solve his worries. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene again?

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), I have noticed that only one of the six names was a Member of Parliament before 1 May this year. I wish to make it clear that I mean no criticism of individuals. I am sure that all the other five are deeply worthy Members of Parliament, but they lack any understanding of the working of the House before 1 May.

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We must understand that the people who will apply for help from the Members' fund are those who were Members in the past, not those who serve at the present.

Mr. Forth: Lest the House imagine that my hon. Friend is being uncharitable, I ask him to agree that one hon. Member from this year's intake would be appropriate--perhaps even two--to bring a fresh perspective on matters. I share his objection that so many new Members will mean that the body is unrepresentative and that that is taking an unnecessary risk with something as sensitive as the matter before us.

Mr. Wilshire: Like the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), my right hon. Friend anticipates some of the points that I wish to make as my speech progresses. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need a fresh view on these matters, and one would not object to one, two or maybe three new Members on the Committee.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): Does my hon. Friend accept that some new Members take the view that there is a world of difference between a fresh view and a view without foundation, and that many of us would not wish to see too many new Members on the Committee?

Mr. Wilshire: My hon. Friend is right, and he is exactly the sort of new Member that I would wish to see on the Committee. I commend him to the Government as a potential replacement for some of the names that they have put forward to represent the Labour party view.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): Can my hon. Friend explain the precedent for the matter? Has this body typically consisted of entirely new Members or has it been more balanced?

Mr. Wilshire: To the best of my knowledge, the fund was treated with the respect it deserves when there was a Conservative Administration. Trustees with experience and knowledge--and who could recall the service of those people who would be applying for help from the fund--were appointed. It is a poor show if the best that Labour can do is to put forward four very worthy people with no knowledge of the workings of the House before 1 May and no direct experience of the former Members who might be seeking help from the fund.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): Is my hon. Friend aware that three of the trustees during the last Parliament were Privy Counsellors, all of them distinguished Members with a long record of service? This is a departure from the precedent of the last Parliament, and my hon. Friend is right to insist on an explanation from the Government.

Mr. Wilshire: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. If the Labour Government cannot bring themselves to provide people with experience, understanding and compassion, it suggests that they have nothing but contempt for what happened before 1 May. That worries me greatly because of the nature of the fund, which is all about care and compassion for former Members from all parties. We now have a Labour Government who treat the care and compassion of former Members with contempt.

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If I am wrong, no doubt the Government will give me a good explanation of why these four new Labour Members are the right people to appoint to the Committee. If I receive a good explanation, I shall be happy to accept it.

It is not only the Labour party which has taken this view--we have one name from the Liberal Democrats. Before 1 May, there were one or two Liberal Democrat Members--perhaps they have a few more now. It is surely not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Liberal Democrats could show care and compassion to former Members by putting up the name of someone with long service in this House. I have no disrespect for the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), who I am sure is a worthy person who will do a first-class job. But why has the experience of the past been ignored by the Liberal Democrats?

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): At the serious risk of prolonging a particularly tedious and pointless debate, may I point out that the Liberal Democrat Member who has been nominated has wide experience outside the House, has knowledge of the issues to be dealt with by the Committee and is thoroughly suitable? When it comes to establishing a Committee--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Is this an intervention?

Mr. Stunell: Yes, it is an intervention, and the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) gave way to me.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Interventions must be very brief. The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) is verging on speaking about the qualities of hon. Members. As far as I am concerned, each and every individual in the House is a caring individual, so let us hear no more about qualities.

Mr. Wilshire: I understand your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We need to pursue the question of experience. I entirely understand the inexperience of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) and I was enjoying his intervention. I was rather disappointed that you cut him short, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I wanted to hear what he had to say. What he said--and it is important that we see it in Hansard in the morning--is that the Members' fund is pointless, and that it is pointless for us to consider the problems that arise for former Members of Parliament. If that is Liberal Democrat policy I am glad that I gave way and got it on the public record.

Labour Members are clearing out, either because they cannot face criticism or because they have gone to look up the answers--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I stated earlier that who is or is not in the Chamber is absolutely irrelevant and does not matter. The motion is very tight--it refers to six names--and I do not want to hear about anything else from the hon. Gentleman or anyone else who cares to make a contribution.

Mr. Wilshire: I was doing my level best to focus the attention of the House, or at least of the few Labour

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Members who are still here and the larger number of Conservative Members, on those six hon. Members. It is crucial that we are told why only one of the six has any experience of the workings of the House and of Members of Parliament before 1 May this year. It is a serious matter which calls for experience, and new Members, however well intentioned, do not have that experience.

Mr. Hayes: Much has been said about the new Members, but we have heard nothing about them specifically. Mr. Deputy Speaker has told us that the motion concerns six individuals. Could we hear some more, at some length, about their curricula vitae?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is not for the hon. Gentleman to direct another hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wilshire: My hon. Friend made a fair point. As I understand it, others of my hon. Friends want to address the detailed points about the individual trustees. It is for me to raise the general questions in advance. I believe that I have done that. I have set out the questions that the Government must answer to satisfy me. There are many other questions and I should be grateful if the Leader of the House could answer them all.

10.38 pm

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Ann Taylor): Conservative Members' contributions have been extremely interesting. They are obviously preparing to be former Members, or they would not be so interested in the provisions of the pension fund.

I treat with great seriousness the concerns expressed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). That is a new constituency for him. I remember talking to him when he was not so sure about his future in the House--we discussed redundancy payments--but that is not a matter for this evening. I know that he is concerned about these issues.

I take seriously any reservations that hon. Members have about the membership of such bodies. If Conservative Members have concerns, they could have raised them with their Front Benchers and the usual channels with whom such arrangements are made. For my part--

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