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Mr. Lloyd: My hon. Friend makes an intelligent and valuable point which certainly commands support among Labour Members. We ought to strengthen Parliament's role in scrutinising the Executive. Select Committees are an important part, but not the only part, of that process. We should not seek to diminish their role, because they are often at the cutting edge of scrutiny, at least of Departments. We should therefore try to maintain and even increase their influence. My amendments make common-sense proposals and the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda is also sensible, because it allows for the fact that all Members, including newly elected ones, may make a contribution. If a Committee membership is rolled over a Parliament, it would be illogical to bar Members with several years' experience. Together, the amendments would greatly improve the Committee of Nomination, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for endorsing their spirit and practical effect.
Briefly, on the role of Committee Chairmen and the question of payment, I was intrigued by the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) that we engage in economic bargaining to attract the best people to serve as members and Chairmen of Select Committees. I do not espouse that philosophy in other walks of life, so I am not sure that I should espouse it in the House. Indeed, if we reversed the argument and said that ministerial office was open to competitive biddingwe would take on as Ministers people prepared to undercut othersthere would be no shortage of candidates and people who wield the knife behind their colleagues' backs would continue to do so. Members who join the Government or Opposition Front Bench do not do so for the salary. Similarly, some extraordinarily good Select Committee Chairmen have taken on the role with no thought whatever of economic reward. I shall therefore resist my hon. Friend's proposal unless I hear a more convincing argument about the money.
Mr. Forth: The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned them, but I am sure that he is aware of at least two other aspects of the argument, including, first, the issue of a career structure or path. I am sure that I do not need to point out that many people think that it is important to try to identify a distinctive career path other than the ministerial one. Secondly, the Modernisation Committee may be aiming at the wrong target: the Chairmen's Panel might be a much better candidate if we wish to acknowledge largely unsung and unseen heavy additional responsibilities and time commitments in the House, as its members undertake such duties for no extra pay.
Mr. Lloyd: As someone who, for reasons I do not fully understand, strayed from his initial career path, I agree that there are more ways of serving our constituents than climbing the ministerial ladder. If we are deluded into
I have some sympathy with the suggestion that we may be looking at the wrong group of people. I am not sure whether I am comfortable with special payments for extra work, as we could get into a work measurement system; after my advice bureau on a Saturday morning, I would produce, for fear that my bonus payments would be reduced, a time sheet to demonstrate that my commitment was as great as anybody else's. I therefore need further persuasion that the concept of special payment in the parliamentary system has genuine merit.
I know that many hon. Members want to contribute to our important debate, so I shall conclude. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) said, parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive is fundamental: it is the reason why we are here. The Select Committees are at the cutting edge of scrutiny, so we have got to make them work. The Modernisation Committee report is a serious contribution to achieving that, and those concerned deserve congratulations.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): I am pleased to contribute to our debate. I pay tribute to the Leader of the House for his leadership of the Modernisation Committee in this Parliament. He always seeks to achieve consensus, which is helpful in dealing with the matters under consideration. It is also beneficial that Members on both sides of the House are singing from the same hymn sheet and supporting the motions that he has included on the Order Paper.
I am wearing several hats in this debate. Not only am I a member of the Modernisation Committee but, because of my chairmanship of the Procedure Committee, I serve on the Liaison Committee, and have worked closely with its Chairman, the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams). I commend him again for his ground-breaking initiatives that will be of immense benefit to the House, both in holding the Government of the day to account and scrutinising legislation and Government policy. I am referring in particular to the Prime Minister's acceptance of an unwritten request, albeit one clearly in the offing, to appear before what may be described as the Chairmen's select committeethe Liaison Committee.
The report is long overdue. My name has been mentioned in our debate several times, but I do not wear the same rose-coloured spectacles as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) or my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor). I remind the House that both my colleagues have been members of the mafia, meaning the Whips Office or the usual channels, as they are affectionately known. I wanted to take the appointment of members of Select Committees out of the hands of the Whips long before my experience in 1992.
One such incident is more than enough, which is why I share the Government view that we need a new system of appointment. I therefore warmly welcome, as a package, the motions before us today. I shall support a majority of the motions on which the House is to vote. I strongly support the original motion relating to the Committee of Nomination but, like the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), I have some reservations about the amendment proposed by the hon. Members for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) and for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant). That adds broader membership in certain respects, but overall it does not help the nominations panel. I understand why it has been tabled and I shall not vote against it.
The Leader of the House said that he would accept the amendments and I will go along with that, as I believe that they are part of a package. We need that package, so I shall throw my support behind it. I believe that it is good for the House and that, with no disrespect to the current Chairman of the Committee of Selection, the nominations panel will do a good job of ensuring that the right people, with experience and all the necessary commitment, which I believe is vital to an active member of a Select Committee, are appointed.
Mr. Bryant: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, despite the fact that he does not accept the premise of my amendment. He has referred several times to experience. I tabled my amendment because in the original motion setting up the Committee of Nomination, there seemed to be an overvaluing of experience only in the House. I therefore tabled a permissive amendment.
Mr. Winterton: The hon. Gentleman makes a point. I said that I would not oppose the amendments to the original motion that have been accepted by the Leader of the House. However, having been in the House for quite a long time, although as a Back Bencher for all those 31 years in this place, I believe that it is necessary for the members of the Committee of Nomination to know the Members when appointments to Select Committees are made.
I accept that I may be influenced by my own experience. I must tell the hon. Member for Rhondda that when I entered the House, it was very rare indeed for Members to be appointed to a Select Committee in their first term in the House. It was fairly rare even in the second term of office. Now it is much more commonplace. That is one of the reasons why, after some consideration, I have decided to support the motion, as amended.
I accept that the composition of the House has changed dramatically, and I am referring not just to the huge number of new Members who arrived in 1997 and the fairly substantial number who arrived in 2001. I say to the hon. Ladies on the Labour Benches that there has been a fairly substantial shift in gender balance in the House, and it is appropriate to take account of those changes. For that
I have been reading the debate that took place in 1992, when I had the experience to which I referred. Some very distinguished Members took part. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) intervened and made it clear that in his view, it was wrong for members of Select Committees to be appointed, as it were, at the whim of the Whips. That is how it was done then. Since then the Labour party has dramatically changed the way in which it puts forward the names of Labour Members for appointment to Select Committees. My party has not done that, but there is considerable discussion within the parliamentary party. Individual Members will be able to communicate with the Committee of Nomination and to put their own name forward, if they wish. Of course, the Whips will put forward, on behalf of the Labour party and the Back-Bench Labour party, the official Labour nominations.
I see the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) in his place. I pay tribute to the work that he has done, with many colleagues from all parts of the House, in Parliament Firsta group which, I think, wants to re-establish the sovereignty and integrity of the House. I know that he strongly supported the report produced in the last Parliament. There were in fact two reports, but I am referring to the better known one from the Liaison Committee, "Shifting the Balance"that is, from the Executive back to Parliament.
If we are to encourage the most able people to participate in matters relating to the House, not merely to seek to become Ministers and to do all that that requires, we need an alternative career structure. Here I depart from the views expressed by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central. The payment of Chairmen of Select Committees and perhaps, in due course, additional remuneration for those who spend considerable amounts of time chairing Standing Committees, Westminster Hall and occasionally the House would recognise such service to the House. That service prevents hon. Members from undertaking other tasks and jobs, including other jobs outside the House, from which they could obtain additional remuneration. Bearing it in mind that people's final pensions are based on their salaries, there is good reason to consider the matter seriously.
The Leader of the House has acted responsibly. He has not put a firm proposal before the House. He has presented the House with options, so that on a free vote the House can indicate what it thinks and reach a decision. I hope that the House will decide that there will be remuneration, and the matter can then be submitted to the Review Body on Senior Salaries.
In my view, this is a very important debate. As I said, I wish that it had taken place earlier. We need to restore the integrity of this place and to give hon. Members who are committed to this House and its institutions the opportunity to do a good job.
I should like to refer to one other matter: the core tasks that were a major feature of the speech of the Leader of the House. I say to hon. Members that those tasks are very important if Select Committees are to do the job that they are there to do. To my mind, the inquiries undertaken by the Procedure Committee, of which I am Chairman, show that the House's scrutiny of estimates and expenditure is inadequate. Until we take those tasks seriously, we will not be able to hold the Government of the day to account as I believe we should.
Once again, this is a very important debate and I congratulate the Leader of the House on all the work that he has done and the leadership that he has provided. I also congratulate all the members of the Modernisation Committee, who have participated fully to a man and woman in the many lengthy sittings that we have had. To say that we arrived at our conclusions lightly and without proper consideration would be to deny the very hard work that has been put in by every man and woman who serves on the Committee.