Previous SectionIndexHome Page

5.11 pm

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): I should like to say a few words about the motion. In my last intervention on the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), in which I spoke about the name of the Committee, I may have inadvertently given the wrong impression about what could happen in future. It is right to say that the Committee recommended the name that is included in the proposed Standing Orders, but we did not say what it could or would be changed to. We said merely that it could be changed during the lifetime of the Parliament, so I want to correct any wrong impression that I may have given. We want deregulation to continue to be a main function of the Committee. The Government have said all along that they want to remove unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation that serves no useful purpose. I hope that hon. Members from all parties share that view.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes): As the hon. Gentleman is Chairman of the Deregulation Committee, of which I am a member, I think that it is right for me to refresh his memory. Only one order has been deregulated this year, and only one order last year. Are the Government genuinely committed to deregulation?

Mr. Pike: The hon. Gentleman has not been very noticeable by his attendance at our sittings, although I know that he has asked one or two questions in the House. Ministers have been most anxious for an increase. Indeed, the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 was introduced to increase the flow of activity and the pace with which matters are considered by the Committee.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire said that he could not recall whether the Committee had divided on any issues. The only matter on which there was a Division was the deduction of trade union subscriptions. It was debated and a vote was held on the Floor of the House, in accordance with Standing Orders. The Confederation of British Industry and all the employers who responded to the consultation strongly supported our recognition of the need to remove the bureaucracy that required everybody to sign the form every three years and to end the waste of time and money that was involved. If the Opposition had defeated the proposal, the main sources of concern would have included not only trade unions, but the employers throughout the country who wanted the change to be made.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire made a point about human rights.

Mr. Bercow: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pike: I shall finish the human rights point, which I have started.

We accepted the Government's comments as debates progressed and the Regulatory Reform Bill was enacted, but I assure hon. Members that the Committee will consider the human rights point. I do not know the identity of the members or whether I shall be Chairman, but I shall ensure that the Clerks know about the debate and that the human rights point is considered soon after the general election.

Mr. Bercow: In the light of the point about proportionality and the reference in proposed new

2 May 2001 : Column 883

paragraph (6)(A)(i) to European Union obligations, will the hon. Gentleman explain the connection between the principle of proportionality in the context of our debate and the principle of proportionality and its application under the protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality in the treaty of Amsterdam?

Mr. Pike: I did not mention proportionality and I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman referred to it. I have not reached that part of the proposed new Standing Order. I was responding to a few points that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire made in his opening remarks. I have not started to develop the main points of my speech. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is obviously anxious to serve on the new Committee so that he can examine every issue in detail in the next Parliament. Every item that we have to consider is listed on our papers and hon. Members ask questions about them.

Mr. Bercow: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's keen and continuing interest in my welfare. I do not want to poison the well of political debate or personal relations, and I therefore stress that I have no objection in principle to serving on the Committee. However, I would be in a position to do that only after I had been sacked from the Opposition Front Bench--or the Government Front Bench, as it will be in the next Parliament. I am therefore in no hurry to serve on the Committee.

Mr. Pike: The hon. Gentleman will not be on the Government Front Bench, but he may be sacked from the Opposition Front Bench a little sooner than he expects. I do not know what crime he intends to commit.

Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that membership of Select Committees is a matter for the House and that it should not be bandied about by hon. Members making countering offers?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Yes, that is true, but it would be a good idea to revert to the motion.

Mr. Pike: I was speaking about the motion; the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that I was not doing so is a misinterpretation of my comments.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire referred to the independence of members of the Committee. Since the Deregulation Committee was established under the Deregulation and Contracting Act 1994, there has been no evidence of its members displaying a lack of independence. Few measures have been approved in the exact form that the Government proposed.

Today's Votes and Proceedings outlines yesterday's proceedings and reports three items from the Deregulation Committee. They show that Government proposals were agreed, but with amendment. They state that the proposals,

Indeed, we recommended that the Government should not proceed with one of the proposals for the draft Deregulation (Bingo and Other Gaming) Order. We also recommended that the relevant Department should not implement the most important of the two proposals for the draft Deregulation (Restaurant and Licensing Hours) Order.

2 May 2001 : Column 884

All along, therefore, the Committee has shown its independence and carried out its judgments according to the criteria laid down under the present Standing Order. I am sure that it will continue to do that under the new Standing Order, once we have agreed it. Indeed, the Committee agreed yesterday that as soon as the new Committee is established, in the new Parliament, the first sitting would need to consist of a briefing with the officials of the Committee to ensure that everyone understood its workings and the differences in procedures resulting from the new Act. There are bound to be some new members on the Committee. Indeed, everyone could be new, because I fully accept the point that the House appoints the Committee. The first thing that the new Committee will do will be to get to know how it will carry out its business under the new Standing Order and in accordance with the new Act.

We have also made it clear to the Government that there should be a sensible flow of business in the Committee. After the original Committee was established, we recognised why, but thought it wrong, in one instance three items of business were tabled in the same week. Normally, there should be a sensible flow of business if the Committee is to be able to do its work in a sensible way. It cannot have a large number of items thrown at it all at once. That will be clearly stated in the report that we intend to publish this week.

There was agreement under the previous Government that there should be a forward report,, but because there have not been many measures the forward report has tended to disappear. We are recommending that it should come back into being, to show what is on the agenda so that everybody knows what is in the pipeline.

Mr. Steen: I always enjoy listening to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not understand what he is talking about. Either these new arrangements are right or wrong. If they are right, we should let them go through; if they are wrong, will he tell us what he has against them? I do not understand what he is talking about. He must forgive me, but perhaps he could explain.

Mr. Pike: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman, who came in late to the debate, is just trying to waste time or is in one of those moods in which he fails to understand anyone speaking plain English--which is mentioned in the new Standing Order. I have spoken in simple terms. All that I am saying is that the new Committee wants to ensure that it has a sensible flow of proposals that ensures that it can deal with them; that there is adequate discussion so that all members of the Committee--including new ones--know exactly how it will work; and that a forward report will be published so that everyone knows what is on the horizon and what the Government have in the system.

Mr. Forth: The hon. Gentleman says, quite correctly--and very responsibly, given his current, highly elevated position as Chairman--that he hopes that there will be a regular flow of work for the Committee in the next Parliament. Will he tell us what control the Committee will have over the flow of work to achieve that aim?

Mr. Pike: That is an interesting point. We hope that the new Committee will have more power to be proactive, rather than just reactive, and that we shall be able to ask

2 May 2001 : Column 885

what is happening and get Ministers to come before us and answer questions if we do not think that the system is working. That option is available to us.

My final point on yesterday's proceedings concerns one of the issues that my hon. Friend the Minister referred to as being part of the Home Office consultation process, and relates to gambling proposals. We want to take evidence from the Home Office on the way in which it intends to deal with legislation and deregulation measures on bingo, one-arm bandits, the lottery and other related issues. There needs to be a sensible approach, rather than a piecemeal one in which provisions overlap. For example, there are cases in which people do not know the age at which one can gamble in a pub as opposed to on a pier at the coast. All those measures differ, and we believe that it is time that the Home Office got those matters organised.

Next Section

IndexHome Page