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Mr. Maclean: My right hon. Friend is right. I suspect that, initially, Ministers would have laid down certain criteria on the desired mix, including ethnicity. They failed quite badly on the sexual mix. I can see only one woman on the list, which is a critical failing of Home Office Ministers in this Government. Such criteria would help to stack the list. But I am concerned about what particular discussions Ministers may have had with the permanent secretary.
As I was saying, Sam, Pam, Neil, Glyn, Karamjit and Graham have as one of their prime tasks responsibility for promoting public awareness of electoral systems. That may be why, with the important responsibility of promoting public awareness and dealing with the media, two members of the commission are from the BBC. In other words, one third of them are from the BBC. But were these the best people to take from the BBC? One has heard of Glyn Mathias and has seen him on the television occasionally. I do not know of Sam Younger. But the Government could have picked someone more important or apparently more powerful. They could have recruited Greg Dyke himself to serve on the commission rather than Mr. Sam Younger.
Mr. Maclean: My right hon. Friend pre-empts me. Of course the Government could not have picked Mr. Greg Dyke for the task because he handed over cheques for £25,000 and £10,000 to the Government and was then made a director of the BBC, and that disqualifies him from replacing Mr. Sam Younger as one of the media people on the commission. But there are others who are equally qualified and have experience of the media. Melvyn Bragg in my constituency would have been an excellent choice, but he, too, is excluded because he
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Before we go much further down this road, I remind hon. Members that we are not here tonight to debate the suitability or otherwise of people not mentioned in the motion. We are here specifically to deal with the people mentioned on the Order Paper.
Mr. Maclean: I shall not go further down the road of mentioning characters from the media, but shall try to stick closely to the narrow debate on the suitability of Sam Younger, Pamela Gordon, Neil McIntosh--for the avoidance of any doubt, that is Sir Neil McIntosh, not Sir Cameron Mackintosh, of Labour funding fame, who gave the Labour party £50,000 and then got his knighthood. The people on today's Order Paper have been appointed for various periods of four, five and six years. How can the House judge whether those six people best fit the criteria in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and those set out by the Minister in his press release justifying their appointment?
The Minister has set out the criteria simply to justify the selection of the six people whom we have before us tonight. That was clear from his press release. I was not seeking deliberately to stray, but I had to ask whether, if the Government wanted to appoint media people, or people with experience in the media, such as Sam Younger, there were not better people.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Would not those be reasonable points for the Leader of the Opposition to place before the Government when he agreed to the list which, I suspect, was some time early in November?
Mr. Maclean: The hon. Gentleman can suspect that it was any time he likes. I have no idea what was discussed between my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Government party. No one else in the House does. I am not sure whether the Minister was there. I am not sure that the Minister has read any letter that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition may have sent in. However, whatever was discussed in private and whatever other parties submitted are irrelevant. There is a motion before the House, and it is for the House to decide. For all I know, my right hon. Friend may have had reservations about those people, or he may think that they are the best thing since sliced bread. The leaders of political parties may have commented to the Government selection machine in private, but I am not privy to those discussions. Even if my right hon. Friend were content with Neil McIntosh, Pamela Gordon and Sam Younger, that would not be relevant. If the Government had given us the 16 names on the shortlist, or perhaps the 50 that they had before the Home Office whittled that down to 16, and asked for our choice from those 50 or 16, I suspect that my right hon. Friend--and perhaps the Liberal Democrat party as well--may have come up with a different six names for the shortlist.
When presented with a fait accompli--a list devised by the Government and selected by an apparently foolproof or impartial procedure--on what grounds could my right hon. Friend or anyone else object to those people? I have no particular objections to them, and think that they are excellent. They are probably better than the alternatives that I was suggesting earlier. I do not want the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) to lead me down a blind alley, as I want to get back to the merits of the six people before us and see whether they are the best ones for the job.
Mr. Karamjit Singh is a member of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I am not quite sure how useful that will be for the Electoral Commission, unless the Government have such a low opinion of politicians and political parties that they consider us all a bunch of criminals, in which case Mr. Singh may have particular skills. I suspect that it could be a good in-joke in the Home Office's selection committee to include someone on the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who has experience of dealing with the vilest criminals in the country, on a commission that oversees the workings of Parliament and politicians. I appreciate that joke myself.
The commission does not have any business experience. What a pity that Lord Paul was not eligible for selection. He is the Indian business man who sensibly waited for his peerage before giving the Labour party £46,000 for it, and £60,000 a year later. Someone with that business experience could have made a valuable contribution to the body, which is charged with trying to get its message across to the wider public. In that situation, someone with experience in communication other than the media would be excellent. I would have welcomed someone like Richard Faulkner, the managing director of Westminster Communications. [Interruption.] However, I will not welcome him any further.
Mr. Maclean: We must not go down that route, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have to consider whether Karamjit Singh, Glyn Mathias, Neil McIntosh, Pamela Gordon and Sam Younger are ideally placed to fulfil the tasks before them. I have no objection to them per se, but my concern is that because two of them have considerable experience of the BBC, they will bring to their job the institutional bias that all BBC staff have. As I said in the House on a previous occasion, if the Scottish judge Macpherson was to make an analysis of the BBC, he would conclude that it was institutionally Europhiliac. At present, the BBC is running a huge campaign to support the euro at every turn and do down our own currency. When challenged, it says that it is not biased, and that that is just reflecting normal run-of-the-mill middle-England thinking. Whenever it is challenged on bias, it genuinely does not believe that it has an in-built bias. It believes that its opinion and that of The Guardian is exactly the same as the mainstream opinion that is expressed in The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph.
Mr. Forth: Does my right hon. Friend concede that, even if it were acceptable for one person with an institutionalised BBC background to serve on the commission--at a stretch, that might just about be
Mr. Maclean: My right hon. Friend makes a good point. It is a pity that someone from Granada Television or the independent sector, such as Alexander Bernstein, has not been chosen. BBC individuals have an in-built bias that they do not perceive. One does not find that bias in some other media organisations.
No one from the print media has been selected to serve on the commission. One third of the commissioners will be from the BBC; they will bring with them an unwitting, institutional bias. Many BBC individuals are thoroughly decent, and do not intend to be biased; they simply do not understand that their attitudes, life style and beliefs are not those of the majority of the British people. They take an intellectual, Guardian-reading, liberal establishment view of life. Doubtless many Labour Members aspire to such a view. Many live in places such as Hampstead and Islington nowadays. The two proposed BBC commissioners may bring that bias with them and thus unwittingly diminish the integrity and importance of the Electoral Commission.
That applies especially if one of the commissioners' tasks is to comment on a referendum question on the euro or any other subject. How can the country have faith that the commissioners of the august organisation that we are considering will be impartial when their most recent employers--the BBC--will throw the weight of a multi-billion-pound corporation into a fanatical Britain must join the euro at all costs campaign?