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4.53 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): This matter arises directly from Madam Speaker's pronouncement on 22 March, in which she said:

That much seems absolutely clear, so we are now discussing what rights the people of Newark have against the background of the fact that the seat has been declared vacated with effect from 19 March. Surely no Member of the House can deny the importance of that issue. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot) for bringing the matter to the House.

The problem is that for some considerable time--arguably since shortly after the last general election--the people of Newark effectively have been unrepresented because they have not had the full range of representation in the House that voters in a constituency would normally

29 Mar 1999 : Column 754

expect from their Member of Parliament. An issue immediately arose because people who are in the unfortunate circumstances in which Mrs. Jones found herself cannot properly represent their electors when they have been subject to the sort of accusations that were made in Newark.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe): As a Nottinghamshire MP who has witnessed Mrs. Jones's work at first hand, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that her constituents were receiving a full service until the time of the court case. I suggest that we allow Mrs. Jones the chance to have her appeal heard on 12 April so that her constituents can benefit from her continuing service.

Mr. Forth: I shall leave the hon. Gentleman to make his judgment on how effective Mrs. Fiona Jones has been in the House. I cannot say in detail what she has been doing in Newark, but I suspect that her activities in this place have been somewhat limited. [Interruption.] Labour Members seem to believe that what they do in this House is of no consequence, but I take a different view.

Mr. Hogg: Will my right hon. Friend inform the House that such is the Labour party's confidence in the appeal of Mrs. Fiona Jones that it decided not to meet her legal costs?

Mr. Forth: I shall come to the appeal in a moment. The other point that I want to make--

Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you please point out to right hon. and hon. Members that they are not delaying Government business by conducting this debate? Instead, they are truncating a debate on a very serious issue that confronts the British people. The Stephen Lawrence debate is extremely important--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The current debate is perfectly well in order. There are many occasions in this place when there is competition between priorities as various matters are raised.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. For the convenience of right hon. and hon. Members, will you confirm that there is no reason why the next debate should not continue until a later hour than is scheduled at present? That would mean that the debate would not be truncated.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is nothing to do with the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Forth: I am pretty certain that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I would not oppose a 10 o'clock motion, were one to be moved, as we recognise the full importance of the next debate. I hope that Labour Members are not suggesting that simply because the next business is very important, the very important business that we are now discussing should be swept aside and ignored by the House. We must clarify the position when circumstances arise such as those in Newark. We must be clear, as a House of Commons, how we want to respond

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to them, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has given us that opportunity.

I wish to complete my reply to the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford). If Mrs. Jones had been the excellent representative in Newark that he claims, presumably the Labour party would have nothing to fear from having an early election involving either Mrs. Jones, if it were possible to do so, or her successor, reflecting in her glory.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): I have no wish to prolong the debate because I hope to speak in the next one, if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I speak as a former Nottinghamshire county councillor who knows Newark extremely well.

This issue in Newark is about faith in the proper democratic process and in adequate representation, and it bears some relationship to the next debate. Against that background, it goes way beyond party matters or issues. The issue is about restoring the faith of the people of Newark in their elected representatives. That is a more fundamental issue than anyone has mentioned in this debate so far.

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I am sure that we all suspect that the faith of the people of Newark in the political process has been shattered. It is important that we give them an opportunity to restore that faith at the earliest possible date.

The little argument that we have heard from Labour Members seems to revolve round the fact that, as there will be a relatively early opportunity for an appeal to be heard, there is no need to have a by-election at an early date. They seem to be saying that that is all right. However, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham has said that we do not know whether the matter will end on 12 or 13 April; it could go beyond it. In fact, it could continue for a considerable period beyond that. It is unacceptable for the Government to be arguing that the people of Newark should be patient and wait for what might be a very long and exhaustive process to be completed. It is entirely unreasonable to expect the people of Newark to wait, unrepresented, for an indefinite period before a by-election takes place.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): Are there not just two lowly, non-partisan points that need clearing up? Is not the first that the only relevance of the appeal is whether the former Member of Parliament will remain disqualified for five years, not whether there will be a by-election? Is not the second piece of information that the House deserves to hear from the Leader of the House--whether in an intervention or at the end of the debate--the earliest date, by her reckoning, that the by-election could take place?

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That reinforces the point that I was making a moment ago, and goes a stage further. After the appeal process is exhausted, however long that might take, there would have to be a further selection process by the Labour party if it stuck to the argument that we have heard from Labour Members--

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that if, at the end of the appeal process, Mrs. Jones were cleared of the conviction, she might well be considered as a candidate. That would further prolong the matter.

Mr. Hogg: As a Member who represents a constituency adjoining Newark, I can tell my right hon. Friend that the prospect of the Labour party in Newark selecting Mrs. Fiona Jones as its candidate is negligible, because the local Labour party is wholly split. Unless she is parachuted in by those on the Government Front Bench, under no circumstances will she be the candidate.

Mr. Forth: It is not for me, or even for my right hon. and learned Friend, if I may say so, to intrude on the Labour party's selection process.

If, as the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) said, Mrs. Jones has performed an excellent job in representing the people of Newark, in spite of her difficulties, and if the Labour party is serious in its belief that she is essentially innocent and will be declared so after an appeal process, I should think that Mrs. Jones would have to be considered a possible candidate in the Labour party's selection process after the appeal process has been exhausted.

All these matters are of the greatest importance and could give rise to the thought that the House might want to reconsider the procedures surrounding by-elections, even in these unusual and, I hope, never-to-be-repeated circumstances. Because such important issues are involved, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hampshire has done the House and the people of Newark a service in bringing the motion before the House today.

I hope that the Leader of the House will make it clear to the people of Newark that if the Government use their massed ranks to vote down the motion for an immediate by-election, the Government will at least have the decency to tell the people of Newark when they can expect to have a new Member of Parliament.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 97.

Division No. 132
[5.2 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Ward, Ms Claire
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Jamieson and
Mr. Clive Betts.


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Faber, David
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Woodward, Shaun
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Sir David Madel and
Mr. Stephen Day.

Question accordingly agreed to.

29 Mar 1999 : Column 759

Main Question, as amended, agreed to.

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