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Fiona Mactaggart: Earlier in his speech, the hon. Gentleman welcomed the proposal for longer appointments. Although I disagree with him on the issue of proportional appointments, I agree with him that longer-term appointments would encourage independence. However, may I invite him to read carefully paragraph 57 of the White Paper—which suggests that the options for appointment length are five, 10 and 15 years, and that the Government are tempted to opt for five or 10 years? Perhaps he would like to encourage them to accept the longer-term option, to obtain the type of independence that he seeks.

Mr. Turner: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. In the light of it, perhaps I should say that the word "welcome" was overgenerous. I should have said that I note the Government's proposals and urge them to move in the direction of appointments for seven to 15 years or possibly for life.

I also believe the letters ML—Member of the Lords—are wholly inappropriate because there will be many Lords outside Parliament, and we are not even clear that the other place will be called the House of Lords. I was thinking of PPs, for Peers of Parliament, but then I thought that that might result in people being called "Peeps". I think that LPs, for Lords of Parliament, would be appropriate post-nominal initials for those appointed or elected to the other place.

The general point on public bodies is that their job is to implement policies made by those who are elected by the people. It is for elected government, at whatever level, to determine policy. One practice that I rather deprecate is the tendency to hand over to public bodies policy-making responsibilities rather than merely policy-implementation responsibilities.

There is also a danger of our passing policy-making responsibility to supranational bodies such as the European Community, in treaties, and into the realm of judge-made law. It is fine of course for judges to determine specifically what the law was intended to mean, but I deprecate the current tendency for judges to enter into pre-legislative debate on what the law ought to be. If judges set down what the law ought to be, there is danger that, once the House has made law that does not conform with what the judges think it should be, they will go on to make it what they had said it should be in the first place. Consequently, we would lose confidence in the judiciary's independence.

I also deprecate the type of job creation scheme for human rights lawyers that we have seen with the incorporation of the European convention on human rights in British law.

The question is whether we as Members of Parliament—I speak for both hon. Members and Members of the other place—have the power to put right the wrongs

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that are felt by our constituents. I have absolutely no doubt that the House and the other place are the greatest public bodies in our land. We should as far as possible seize back the policy-making power, and certainly the legislative power, from the onward march of judge-made and foreign law, not for ourselves but for those whom we represent.

Local government is another important category of public body, although we have failed so far to recognise it in this debate. I am speaking of local councils at county, district and town level. I should also like briefly to illustrate the possibility, indeed the actuality in my own constituency, of achieving greater representation of young people and ethnic minorities than ever before. In the past four years the Conservative party has achieved that goal in my constituency. Although I do not claim that my party is alone in achieving it, I nevertheless congratulate Drew Mellor, 21, on being recently elected to the Isle of Wight county council. He not only sits on the education committee, most unusually for a student, but has won a ward that was held by another party for more years than most of us can remember.

I also congratulate Cliff Huggins on being elected to the county council in 1998. He is the first non-white member of the Isle of Wight county council. I congratulate, too, Abdul Mateen on his election, in 1999, to Cowes town council. He is the first non-white member of that council. It is possible for local government to encourage the membership of ethnic minorities, women and young people. However, we have to encourage that to happen, and I do not think that we will do it through the appointments process.

I also do not think that we will encourage the representation of a wider cross-section of people by establishing more regional bodies, which by their very nature are distant. Unless one is unfortunate enough to live in Guildford, one will not think that the south-eastern regional assembly is very close. My electors find it difficult enough to have their police authority run from Winchester; they certainly do not want to be run from Guildford. Nor do we wish to see a greater range of regional bodies. Indeed, some of us would ask about the boundaries on which the Government are relying to create the regional bodies. There is no rhyme or reason to connect Hampshire with Milton Keynes and Kent rather than with Dorset, and there is certainly little rhyme or reason to connect the Isle of Wight with any authority on the mainland besides, perhaps, Hampshire.

Southern Arts and SouthEastern Arts are public bodies that do a very good job in their respective areas, but the Government are proposing to amalgamate them for no better reason than to achieve coterminosity with the wholly artificial south-east region. As I said, it is the truly local bodies, both public and private, that constitute the warp and weft of the fabric of our local society.

Earlier, I mentioned the danger of the Isle of Wight being run from Winchester. Brading is a town with a population of about 1,200, and St. Helens is a village with a slightly smaller population. They have not seen eye to eye since the Napoleonic wars, when a French raiding party came to St. Helens and the townspeople of Brading quite generously left them to get on with it. Although they feel it very unfortunate that they have the same county councillor, I am pleased to say that he is a Conservative councillor and manages to represent both disparate

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communities very well. Nevertheless, if two adjoining places on the Isle of Wight do not see eye to eye, it is hard to see how we can have regional government.

We want bodies, both public and private, that have an agenda that attracts the interest and involvement of local people, rather than asking how on earth we can get people involved in those bodies. The bodies have to do what the people want—give them the power and let them get on with it. Governing bodies of grant-maintained schools are a perfect example of that. I had a small part in creating many of those bodies, and they did such an excellent job that the Government, in "abolishing" them, have done their best to adapt the experiences of grant-maintained schools to Government education policy by giving as many schools as possible the same type of powers and responsibilities. The Government have of course not achieved that as well as the Conservative Government did, but they have sought to give as many schools as possible the same types of powers and responsibilities.

Mr. Oaten: There is a contradiction in the hon. Gentleman's argument. At the start of his speech he said that he disapproved of power and money being devolved to organisations and felt that Westminster should have more power; now he is arguing that those bodies will be effective only if they can take policy decisions, for which they will require money.

Mr. Turner: The hon. Gentleman misheard me. I did not say that I disapprove of devolving power and money. I said that it was fine to devolve power over policy implementation, but that the power to make policy should be held in this place. It is the duty of the elected representatives of the people to determine policy.

I welcome and I recognise, as I hope that the Government recognise—I am sure they do—the very important role of the many men and women who serve on governing bodies, town and parish councils, health authorities, primary care trusts and NHS trusts, harbour authorities and the whole host of local public bodies to which I fear the Minister hardly referred in his introductory remarks.

We must realise that not everything can or should be done by the Government or by the council. In his introductory remarks, the Minister said that we choose to meet through collective organisation, locally, regionally and nationally, many of the needs of our society. However, those local, regional and national organisations do not all need to be Government-inspired. For example, the Cowes Combined Clubs is a private association of three or four yacht clubs which organise Cowes week. In one week of the year alone, those who come to the island by yacht bring £60 million to the island's economy. That is a huge contribution, made with minimal Government interference, I am pleased to say, and certainly with little Government involvement either locally or nationally. That has been achieved by a private arrangement between private organisations.

I do not question the motives of the hon. Member for Slough in complaining about the unfair male, middle-age—although sometimes that applies to people of all ages and both sexes—dominated appointment process. I acknowledge that the people she described—the mums who can organise school runs and child care circles—need to be represented. I do not believe that we should have to

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adapt to a committee culture when we are appointed to public bodies; many of us have been able to do that, but many others find it difficult. However, I question whether any system—however detailed or robust—will ever represent people effectively through the nomination process to public bodies.

Perhaps the hon. Lady is an optimist and I am a pessimist; perhaps we approach the matter by different routes. I believe that the fewer public bodies that act between people and the services they require, the better; because then those bodies, however good, will not—sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally—form an obstacle to access to those services.

Do we really need all these public bodies? We should give as much power as possible back to the individual voter and the individual consumer of public services. We should always be on the lookout for ways to reduce—although we shall never eliminate—the number of public bodies.


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