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Mr. Forth: I do not know whether the Minister is reaching the conclusion of his remarks, but will he be able to answer my question on the cost of translationof getting the Welsh that may be used in the joint Committee proceedings properly into our Hansard in English?
Mr. Woolas: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. When the National Assembly for Wales meets, and when its Committees deliberate, it is automatic that interpretation and translation are provided. That is one of the advantages of the meetings of the Welsh Affairs Committee taking place in Cardiff and other parts of Wales. The Welsh Grand Committee, too, has that facility when it meets. That is not necessarily the case when the Welsh Affairs Committee meets in Westminster but, if advance notice of that requirement is given, it is facilitated. The right hon. Gentleman, who is ever vigilant about taxpayers' money, as are we all, especially the Government, need have no concern over his questionhe can relax.
Hywel Williams: I am grateful for the opportunity to make what is in some ways a rhetorical point. Using two languages is no problem for someone such as me. This is in fact a facility for people who are not bilingual, and some people would argue that the cost of such a facility should be borne by people who are not bilingual rather than by people such as me, who are.
That is an important point, but I would point out that currently, when the Welsh Affairs Committee takes evidence from witnesses who wish to speak in Welsh, the costs of translation fall to the House, so what is proposed would represent an economy and I would have thought that hon. Members would welcome that. That is not merely a debating point. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst furrows his brow and looks perplexed. He cannot cope with the idea that
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we can benefit from Welsh translation. I would have thought that he would welcome the extension of pre-legislative scrutiny. He fails to shake or nod his head.
I recognise that some hon. Members have concerns about involving non-Members in the formal proceedings of this House, which is why it is right that the Procedure Committee and the Welsh Affairs Committee have recommended a cautious approachthis is an experimentand the Government agree with that. This is a coming together of modernisation and cautious traditionalism, which surely must be right in improving the way in which we do our business.
That is why the Procedure Committee recommended this modest experiment before coming to its fully considered view, and I believe that this is a sensible approach, which incidentally extends the good facility of pre-legislative scrutiny, which even the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst supports. He did not say so today, but he has expressed that point of view before. It may cause some Government Members to have reservations about supporting the measure
Mr. Woolas: Despite that remark, the hon. Gentleman welcomed the proposal and said that it was "quite sensible", and I am grateful to him for that. I recommend the proposal, on behalf of the Committees, to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House approves the Third Report of the Procedure Committee, on Joint activities with the National Assembly for Wales, HC 582; and that the following Order be a Standing Order of this House until the end of the present Parliament:
'The Welsh Affairs Committee may invite members of any specified committee of the National Assembly for Wales to attend and participate in its proceedings (but not to vote).'.
That the Standing Orders be amended as follows
(1) In Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business), line 18, leave out from 'committees' to 'which' in line 20 and insert 'to which that paragraph applies'.
(2) In Standing Order No. 121 (Nomination of select committees), line 10, leave out from 'under' to ', or' in line 13 and insert 'the Standing Orders of this House (with the exception of the Liaison Committee, the Committee of Selection, the Committee on Standards and Privileges and any Committee established under a temporary Standing Order)'.
The motion was tabled at the request of the Committee of Selection and has the support of Opposition spokesmen. I see that the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) is nodding. The proposal is to extend the Committee's remit to make it responsible for proposing to the House nominations not only for the departmental and domestic Committees but for most of the other Select Committees established under Standing Orders.
An explanatory memorandum has been provided setting out clearly how the motion would amend the Standing Orders. The amendment to Standing Order No. 121(2) would provide for the Committee of Selection to propose nominations for all the Select Committees appointed under Standing Orders, with the exception of the Liaison Committee, the Committee of Selection, the Committee on Standards and Privileges and any Committee established under a temporary Standing Orderthe Modernisation Committee, for example. The Committee's remit would not extend to those Committees set up under Sessional Ordersfor example, Joint Committees on draft Bills.
The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) has tabled an amendment, which he will no doubt move, and I shall attempt to answer his points, but it may help if I explain to the House the thinking behind the exceptions. It would be inappropriate for the Committee of Selection to nominate itselfin fact, at the beginning of a Parliament, it would be impossible, since it would not exist. The Liaison Committee is largely a Committee of Chairmen, and its membership is established by temporary Standing Order. The Standards and Privileges Committee, as I am sure we would all agree, is very much one of a kind: the House has agreed that the normal rules of party balance should not apply to it. Its Chairman is here, and I hope that he will express his support for the motion. It is appropriate that the membership proposed to the House should be agreed by discussion through the usual channels. For Committees set up under temporary Standing Orders, as well as those set up under Sessional Orders, discussions on membership normally take place as part of the dialogue in the usual channels, so it is appropriate for current practice to remain in that case.
Standing Order No. 15(1)(c) provides that motions proposing nomination or discharge of members of departmental Select Committees, if first objected to, are
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debatable on a subsequent day for up to one hour after the moment of interruption. The amendment to Standing Order No. 15 would extend this provision to all the Committees that fall within the extended remit of the Committee of Selection.
I believe that this is an uncontroversial change. The Committee of Selection does its job well, as the whole House will agree, and it seems to make sense for it to take on the wider task. I urge the House to support the motion.
Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for his warm endorsement of the motion, because it has its origins within the Committee of Selection, of which I have the privilege to be a member. The Chairman very much regrets that he cannot be here, as he would have liked to contribute to our consideration of this important but modest motion.
I express genuine gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and to nationalist Members, because the only reason that we are having this debate is that they objected on four separate occasions to the motion going through on the nod. They are right to object to such a proceeding, as we should be able to find time for a short debate to enable the issues to be aired. The selection of the amendment shows the importance of having a debate on the motion's precise ambition. As so often, my right hon. Friend is the grit that helps to make the pearl in the oyster of parliamentary democracy. It may be uncomfortable for us, but often the result is better legislation.
I am wearing two hats today: I am a member of the Committee of Selection as well as spokesman for the official Opposition. I can confirm that the idea commends itself not only to the Committee but to the official Opposition. Indeed, it would be odd if it did not commend itself to me, because I am going to take the credit for having the idea. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Many people would like to take the credit, and many perhaps deserve to, but, in the formulation of a Hollywood film, it is from an original idea by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire with valuable research by the Clerk to the Committee
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