It was fascinating to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins), who spoke of the horror of violence. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster), who has served in three wars in the past decade, pointed out that nobody who has served in them ever wants to be involved in one again. Hon. Members have wrestled with their consciences. The hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) said that he was debating with himself and for a moment he did, indeed, debate with himself in front of the whole House, which was quite a spectacle. The fact that he should be wrestling with his conscience illustrates the difficulty of the choices we face and the general unity that the House has come to, which is not an automatic or unthinking unity but is because we think it right to act in this situation. We are conscious that any military action can involve loss of life, but we are clear that when our armed forces take action they take the greatest care to avoid civilian casualties. When our pilots were on their mission last night and thought that civilians were in danger, they turned back—what a

21 Mar 2011 : Column 799

contrast with a regime that turns its guns on its own people and regards the lives of its citizens as mere shields.

We are clear that we are engaged in this action to protect the civilian population and we were clear, as last week went on, that we had to act with all possible speed. That is why we moved heaven and earth, diplomatically, to pass the UN resolution on Thursday night. Yes, we took a risk in doing that because nine positive votes are required in the Security Council and there can be no vetoes. To have been defeated on that resolution would have made it hard to take any subsequent action, but any later would have been too late. Once the resolution was passed, we had to move with all possible speed. As the House knows, the Cabinet met on Friday morning to consider the UN resolution at length, with the legal advice of the Attorney-General in front of us for all members to read, and the Prime Minister came to the House at the earliest possible moment to state our intention.

Some hon. Members have asked whether the House should have sat on Saturday to consider the motion; of course, in future instances, that can be considered, but they should be clear that to effect the situation, we had to give the orders for military action on Saturday afternoon. Other hon. Members have asked that there be no mission creep. I am happy to assure them that if the Government ever fundamentally change the nature of the mission that we have described to the House, we will return to the House for a further debate to consult it again. We will also enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) quite rightly asked—the shadow Foreign Secretary echoed this—what debate we would be having today had we not taken action last week. How many people would now be wringing their hands? How many would be lamenting the fate of a proud city and the lives of people who live there?

Jim Dowd: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Hague: I will mention the hon. Gentleman in a moment, so he can intervene then, but I am trying in a very short time to answer the questions that have been asked. How many extra tens of thousands of people would now be streaming to the borders? We should be proud that our forces were able to respond in time. One of the reasons—the main reason—why people have heard of forces from only the United States, France and the United Kingdom going into action is that they are among the few countries in the world with the capability to act so quickly. It is not necessarily that other countries are unwilling; their capability is not as great.

The reason why we were able to act in that way and win such support at the United Nations is that the support—the call—of the Arab League for a no-fly zone and the protection of the people of Libya was unprecedented. That has had an enormous impact. The hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) gave the other side of the argument, and asked why Britain should get involved. Given the background—we are one of the five permanent members of the United

21 Mar 2011 : Column 800

Nations Security Council, one of only three of those members who believed that it was necessary to take action, and one of the few countries with the military capability to do something about the situation—if we had not got involved in the resolution and the action, then such a resolution and such action would probably not have happened at all. That is our responsibility in the United Kingdom, as well as our clear national interest. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, it is not in our national interest for a dangerous dictator with a record of violent acts beyond his own country to run a pariah state on the very edge of the European Union.

Mr Allen: Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr Hague: I will not. I give way hundreds of times in other debates, but I am trying to answer the points made today.

It is not in our interests for Egypt and Tunisia to be destabilised. Of course, the action that we have taken is not without risks and dangers to our armed forces and the people we are trying to help, and many hon. Members have highlighted the risks involved, but as the Leader of the Opposition said in a powerful speech, the argument that we do not know the sequence of events to come is not an argument for inaction. As was said by the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Jim Dowd), who was trying to intervene, just because we have made mistakes in the past, it does not mean that we should not try to do something right; I absolutely agree with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) made a memorable and powerful speech, and I would love to hear the 60-minute version, not the six-minute version. He reminded us that our mission is to protect human beings, and that the temptation to dig ever deeper in all such situations must be resisted. We are conscious of that in the Government. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) pointed out, we are seeking to implement the United Nations resolution so that the people of Libya can determine their own future. We will make every effort to maintain and consult our broad coalition, closely consulting the Arab League and working with our NATO partners, including Turkey, as several hon. Members have asked us to do.

Some Members asked what the Arab League intended to say. I spoke to Mr Amr Moussa yesterday afternoon—the Prime Minister spoke to him today—and he made it clear to me that he did not mean to criticise the mission, and he supports the UN resolution and its enforcement. Others have asked if our approach is part of a wider approach to the region and a commitment to the middle east peace process; it certainly is. They asked whether we will make conflict prevention central to our policy; yes, of course we do, as we have shown recently in Sudan. They asked whether we will plan for different scenarios, including humanitarian assistance when it is necessary; yes, we certainly are doing so.

Some of my hon. Friends have asked whether this decision showed that an aircraft carrier should have been retained, but I can tell them that the Tornado aircraft that are most suited of all to perform these missions could not have been flown from an aircraft carrier. Other hon. Members have asked whether the

21 Mar 2011 : Column 801

costs will be met from the reserve, and I can tell them that they will. We have also been asked to look carefully at all legal advice on the meaning of the arms embargo of paragraph 4 of the resolution, and of course we are doing so.

In the case of Libya, the desire to be rid of a decaying dictatorship has run up against a regime that has shown itself to be one of the most ruthless, unprincipled and savage. The Arab world and the western world care about the civilians of Libya, but their Government do not. We are determined to stop violence, bloodshed and suffering—the very things that the Gaddafi regime is happy to unleash. When the Prime Minister said in the House three weeks ago that we should not just stand by if Colonel Gaddafi used military force against his own people, he was seen by many as being too bold. But he meant what he said, and we mean to stand by his words just as we are standing by the people of Libya.

With our allies and partners, we have carried through the United Nations Security Council a resolution that is clear, unequivocal and comprehensive, and that leaves the legality of what we are now doing not in the slightest doubt. We have acted at the behest of the Arab League, and are joined by Arab nations. We have taken every care to ensure that doubts about lawfulness and regional support, such as those that have dogged earlier decisions, do not apply in this case. As my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) said, we are right to act but right not to act alone.

This is not the west imposing its views on Libya; it is the world saying that the people of Libya should be allowed to express their views without their Government setting out to slaughter them. We are not trying to choose the future Government of Libya. That is a matter for Libyans, who must find their own solution to the mis-government that they have been subjected to, but this resolution, and our enforcement of it, gives them their only chance of being allowed to do so. This is not a legal fudge or a questionable interpretation of international law; it is the rigorous application of international law. Our actions are all the stronger for the breadth and determination of the international coalition, but they are also stronger for the breadth and determination of this House, which we have seen today.

The brave members of our armed forces who have patrolled the skies above Benghazi today or flown through the night to destroy the air defences of a regime that used air power against its own citizens can know that they do so armed not only with the weaponry that they are so well trained to deploy but with every advantage of knowing that what they do is legally warranted, morally necessary, internationally supported and, I hope, democratically agreed through a vote of this House of Commons. They can have the satisfaction of knowing that, in precipitating the retreat of Gaddafi’s forces from Benghazi, they have already averted a catastrophe and a new outpouring of human misery. In pressing our case at the United Nations, in insisting that what we do must be legal, in taking extreme care to protect civilians and in acting with a speed and precision that few armed forces on Earth can rival, this country is doing what it said it would do, doing what is absolutely right and joining in giving a lead to the world, and it should enjoy the united support of the House tonight.

21 Mar 2011 : Column 802

Question put .

The House divided:

Ayes 557, Noes 13.

Division No. 235]

[9.58 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Amess, Mr David

Anderson, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Austin, Ian

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barclay, Stephen

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Barwell, Gavin

Bayley, Hugh

Bebb, Guto

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berger, Luciana

Berry, Jake

Betts, Mr Clive

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blackwood, Nicola

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brennan, Kevin

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buck, Ms Karen

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burden, Richard

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burnham, rh Andy

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Cameron, rh Mr David

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Cooper, rh Yvette

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

Davey, Mr Edward

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Geraint

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Dromey, Jack

Duddridge, James

Dugher, Michael

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Eustice, George

Evans, Chris

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, rh Mr Frank

Field, Mr Mark

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fovargue, Yvonne

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francis, Dr Hywel

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Gapes, Mike

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glen, John

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goggins, rh Paul

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodman, Helen

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Damian

Green, Kate

Greening, Justine

Greenwood, Lilian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffith, Nia

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gwynne, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Havard, Mr Dai

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Mr Oliver

Healey, rh John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendrick, Mark

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Hosie, Stewart

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Mr Marcus

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kawczynski, Daniel

Keeley, Barbara

Kelly, Chris

Kendall, Liz

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Lavery, Ian

Laws, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Chris

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lloyd, Stephen

Lloyd, Tony

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Main, Mrs Anne

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McVey, Esther

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morden, Jessica

Morgan, Nicky

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, Grahame M.


Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munn, Meg

Munt, Tessa

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Osborne, Sandra

Ottaway, Richard

Owen, Albert

Paice, rh Mr James

Paisley, Ian

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Pearce, Teresa

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perkins, Toby

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Phillipson, Bridget

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pound, Stephen

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reeves, Rachel

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Rudd, Amber

Ruddock, rh Joan

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Sarwar, Anas

Scott, Mr Lee

Seabeck, Alison

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spellar, rh Mr John

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tami, Mark

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Thurso, John

Timms, rh Stephen

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Trickett, Jon

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walley, Joan

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Weir, Mr Mike

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Chris

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bill Wiggin and

Mark Hunter


Allen, Mr Graham

Baron, Mr John

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Durkan, Mark

Gardiner, Barry

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Lucas, Caroline

McDonnell, John

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Wood, Mike

Tellers for the Noes:

Katy Clark and

Yasmin Qureshi

Question accordingly agreed to.

21 Mar 2011 : Column 803

21 Mar 2011 : Column 804

21 Mar 2011 : Column 805

21 Mar 2011 : Column 806


That this House welcomes United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1973; deplores the ongoing use of violence by the Libyan regime; acknowledges the demonstrable need, regional support and clear legal basis for urgent action to protect the people of Libya; accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government, working with others, in the taking of all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya and to enforce the No Fly Zone, including the use of UK armed forces and military assets in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1973; and offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s armed forces.

21 Mar 2011 : Column 807

Members’ Salaries

10.18 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): I beg to move,

That the following provision shall be made with respect to the salaries of Members of this House—

(1) For the period beginning with 1 April 2011 and ending with the relevant day, the rates of—

(a) Members’ salaries, and

(b) additional salaries payable to Members under Resolutions of this House in respect of service as chairs of select or general committees, shall be the same as those salaries as at 31 March 2011.

(2) In paragraph (1) the “relevant day” means—

(a) the day before the day on which the first determination of Members’ salaries by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority comes into effect, or

(b) 31 March 2013,

whichever is the earlier.

(3) Paragraphs (9), (10) and (12)(b) of the Resolution of 3 July 2008 (Members’ Salaries (No. 2) (Money)) cease to have effect on the day this Resolution is passed.

(4) The remaining provisions of that Resolution cease to have effect on 1 April 2011.

We move now to MPs’ pay. [ Interruption. ] Mr Speaker—

Mr Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman. I fully understand that right hon. and hon. Members are not that interested in hearing speeches about their own pay, but I hope that as a courtesy to the Leader of the House those Members who are disinterested and inclined to leave the Chamber will do so quickly and quietly, so that those who wish to hear the Leader of the House can do so.

Sir George Young: The whole House will be keenly aware of the country’s difficult financial situation, and both sides of the House accept that we have a substantial structural deficit, which must be brought down. The Government have had to take difficult decisions throughout the public sector, including imposing a two-year pay freeze on public sector workers earning more than £21,000. Hon. Members must now decide whether their constituents would welcome Parliament exempting itself from that policy and thus insulating itself from decisions that are affecting households throughout the country, or whether, as I believe, the public expect their elected representatives to be in step with what is being required of other public servants. I believe that it is right for us, as Members of Parliament, to forgo the pay increase that the current formula would have produced.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I quite agree that Parliament should not exempt itself, but I was under the impression that we were never going to vote on our pay again.

Sir George Young: I will come in a moment to the point about whether we should overturn the decision that we took in July 2008. Let me briefly set out the background. On 3 July 2008, the House agreed a new formula for uprating Members’ salaries, which is what I think my hon. Friend was referring to. The annual percentage increase would be the median of a basket of public sector comparators, and this percentage would

21 Mar 2011 : Column 808

be calculated by the Senior Salaries Review Body and notified to you, Mr Speaker, in a letter from its chairman. That percentage increase would then take effect automatically from 1 April.

That system has considerable advantages. It provides a fixed uprating formula so that we do not determine our own salaries. It is transparent, as the formula and the SSRB’s determination are there for everyone to see. It is also fair in that it provides a link between the salary of a Member of Parliament and the salaries of others in the public sector. Those are the virtues that the Government usually believe should underpin any system for determining our salaries—independence, transparency and fairness. We have therefore not taken lightly the decision to set aside the pay increase and thereby abandon the formula.

As I said, the Government’s decision to invite the House to agree to a pay freeze is the product of the difficult fiscal situation in which we have to find significant cost savings across the public sector. As my predecessor as Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), said in the 2008 debate:

“given that MPs are paid from the public purse, we should show the same discipline in our pay increases as we expect from the public sector.”—[Official Report, 3 July 2008; Vol. 478, c. 1062.]

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman is a decent fellow, but this is not quite the full story. The full story is that no Government have ever resisted the temptation to poke their nose into this business. We have set up mechanisms, to which the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) referred, and said that they should be independent and we should go along with them, and then when it suits the Government of the day—not just this Government but any Government—they change the rules. That completely undermines any claim they make to believe in independent mechanisms. Either we come forward with what the independent review mechanism says, or we do not. This Government, like their predecessors, are poking their nose in where it does not belong.

Sir George Young: I should like to address very directly the hon. Gentleman’s point about the independence of the review that we are overturning. He rightly says that by bringing this motion before the House, a Government are once again asking Members to vote on their own remuneration—something that we believed we had put behind us. He asks the very good question as to why we are asking the House to reject the independent findings of the SSRB and whether the SSRB is unable to take on board issues of the kind that I have been talking about. The short answer is this: the system that was introduced in 2008 provided an objective mechanism for determining our pay, but it was a long way from being independent. The formula was devised by the previous Government and endorsed by the House, and in no sense could it be said to be independent.

For those, like the hon. Gentleman, who say that we are substituting our own judgment on this issue for that of the independent SSRB, I remind the House of what the chairman of the SSRB, Sir Bill Cockburn, said in his letter to you, Mr Speaker, on 19 January. He said:

“I should emphasise that the SSRB has no discretion in making this determination but simply applies the formula set out in the Resolution. We were not consulted when the Resolution

21 Mar 2011 : Column 809

was drawn up. The resulting figure is not what the SSRB would have recommended had we been able to have regard to all the circumstances including, this year, the Government’s pay freeze for public sector workers paid more that £21,000 a year.”

In a nutshell, the SSRB is saying that if its hands had not been tied by the House, it would not have recommended the 1% pay increase that came before us in January. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the pay recommendations for other professions published today by the SSRB and the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration, he will see that no uplifts are recommended for those earning more than £21,000.

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): The Leader of the House is making a convincing argument that the SSRB, or whichever independent body we choose, should be more independent, not less. What he is doing tonight, of course, is renationalising the terms and conditions of MPs’ salaries, which is going in exactly the wrong direction. Does he accept that this matter will go on and on, and that MPs will be undermined consistently by the media and the public until we have a wholly independent authority that does not come back to this House or to the Government for a final decision?

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): We do not want IPSA.

Sir George Young: I say to the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen) that that is exactly the process that we are moving towards, although it will disappoint the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell). I will now come to what happens next.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What I do not understand from the Leader of the House is, if this increase is based on an average of public service salaries, are we not simply getting what the rest of the public services are getting?

Sir George Young: If my hon. Friend looks at the comparator, he will see that it includes a number of people who earn less than £21,000 and that, crucially, it includes settlements that were made before the last election. To that extent, it lags behind the public sector pay freeze that we announced in the Budget.

To answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham North, the 2008 resolution also requires the SSRB to conduct a review of Members’ salaries in the first year of each new Parliament. By rescinding the resolution in its entirety, the motion removes the requirement for the SSRB to conduct such a review this year. The review of Members’ salaries will instead take place following the commencement of section 29 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which will transfer the determination of our salaries to IPSA on a statutory basis. As I said at business questions last week, the Government intend to commence that section shortly. If, in future, the House wants to overturn any recommendations, it will require primary legislation, not a 90-minute debate such as we are having this evening.

Mr Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Given the self-denying ordinance that the Leader of the House is proposing today for salaries, will he give a commitment that he will bring in primary legislation to ensure that there will be no increase in allowances for the next two years under IPSA, or is this the same old

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story that we have had in the past of holding the salary in a blaze of glory, and turning around and seeing allowances increased?

Sir George Young: There is no intention of doing that.

The Government’s policy is to have a public sector pay freeze for those earning more than £21,000 a year. Members of Parliament clearly earn more than that. I think that it would be unacceptable for those earning just more than £21,000 to have no increase and for Members of Parliament earning three times that sum to get a salary increase of about £650. That is why I think it is right this evening to ask the House to freeze our salaries. I very much hope that the House will approve the motion in my name and that of the Deputy Leader of the House.

Mr Speaker: I have not selected the amendment, so the Question is as on the Order Paper.

10.28 pm

Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab): I think that the House recognises why the Leader of the House has tabled this motion, especially at a time when many in the public sector face a pay freeze, as he pointed out. To put it starkly, the public would find it hard to understand it if we got a pay rise when they are not getting a pay rise. That is why we will support the motion.

As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, we face this decision because the Senior Salaries Review Body is currently responsible for determining MPs’ pay, and it sets the salary in line with salaries in the civil service, using a fixed formula. He was right to point out that the chairman of the SSRB hinted in his letter that it would have done something different if it had not been bound by the formula. However, as the Leader of the House will be aware from the interventions that he took, there is no hiding the unease that Members throughout the House feel at being asked once again to vote on their pay, just when we thought we had got rid of the responsibility following the decision taken by the House in 2008. I therefore welcome what he said at business questions last week when I asked him about his intention to initiate IPSA taking responsibility for MPs’ pay, as is required in the legislation that he mentioned. He said that he would do so “shortly”, and that must be right, because the sooner responsibility is transferred the better, not least because we should not be taking decisions such as this.

Finally, although the motion is only about pay, we will in due course have to consider the question of deferred pay, in other words pensions. It would be very helpful if the Deputy Leader of the House, if it is he who winds up the debate, could say something about how the Government intend to handle the matter in the light of Lord Hutton’s recent report, and about the likely timetable for pensions, too, being handed over to IPSA, subject of course to the House being fully satisfied about the protection of acquired rights.

10.31 pm

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): It is absolute agony that we are having this debate this evening after we have had such a fantastic and informed debate on Libya. It goes to prove that there is never, ever a good time to talk about MPs’ pay and conditions.

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However, the debate comes under the heading “Boring but important”. Let us cast our minds back to May 2009, when this House and this democracy that we love so much went through a period of enormous upheaval. I remember that there were great protests outside Parliament—nothing to do with pay and expenses, but enormously voluminous protests. I used to stand in the yard listening to the protests and imagine what it must have been like at the Bastille 220 years earlier in 1789, with the hordes outside. I would close my eyes and think, “Will I get the piano wire or will I get the guillotine?” I think my constituents were rather wishing I would get both and they would both be very slow. It really was an appalling time for this country—this proud democracy brought low by something as innocuous as pay and expenses.

We all vowed in 2009 that we had learned our lessons. Indeed, in 2008 we had started the process of repair by, on 3 July, voting to remove responsibility for pay from our hands. The process of reform was in train. I took great relief, during the debates in 2008 and 2009, from the fact that at last we were not going to have these agonising evenings in the House, but here we are again, having another agonising evening.

We, as Members of Parliament, are brilliant at not only setting our own bear traps but then jumping into them. I feel that that is what we are doing tonight, because the motion has been introduced by the Executive. I know that MPs, both those who served from 2005 to 2010 and our new colleagues, are much chastened by what happened in 2009. We are reforming ourselves from within, and we are not actually as stupid as some people would have us believe. I have absolutely no desire or ambition to accept a 1% pay rise. All that I sincerely wish is that the Back Benchers of this place had been allowed to propose their own motion.

I understood that there was cross-party agreement between the Opposition, the party of government and our colleagues in government, the Liberal Democrats, and I thought there was a real desire and move for a Back-Bench motion that would allow us, as Back Benchers, to do the right thing by this country and our constituents by postponing the pay rise for two years. I am therefore saddened that the Executive have brought forward tonight’s motion. Much play has been made of the new politics, which is not about expediency because expediency gets us into such trouble. The motion is expedient and it lays a future bear trap for us. I wish that we were not here, once again, discussing the tedious subject of our pay and conditions.

10.34 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): Here we are again. On 3 July 2008, the Speaker did not select my amendment. Last year, the same thing happened. Today, again, the Speaker has not selected my amendment. Democracy has not been the better for it. My amendment in 2008 would have prevented the practice of flipping homes. My amendment tonight would have reaffirmed the principle that we should not determine our own pay.

I will not vote for or against my pay tonight, and I urge others to do the same—not to abstain, but to refuse to vote. The motion removes the principle of our not determining our pay. It is not simply a decision on

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the SSRB proposals; it revokes the decision on independence without anything more than a vague promise that, at some stage, the Government will get around to tabling amendments to have IPSA set pay. The Government have had plenty of time in recent weeks to table such an amendment, and they have chosen not to do so.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): If everything is to go to IPSA, so be it, but I am in the position, as a new Member, of not knowing what will happen to my staff pay 11 days hence, from 1 April. That is a disgraceful situation in which to be. None of us can work out what will happen to our staff. I have to renew contracts in 11 days, and I do not know what to do.

John Mann: That shows the muddle that the Government and Parliament have got into. Instead of resolving those problems, whether one or other of us likes it or not, in a way that is crystal clear, within which we can work and that the public can see, we go round in circles. Here we go again.

Having been through the pain, which is not yet over, of the expenses scandal, and eventually decided that we should not determine our own pay, and having all allegedly agreed the principle, we are suddenly back where we started—deciding our own pay. The issue tonight is not the amount of the pay—that is a small part of the matter. Of course, it will always be important to Members and even more important to the general public. However, to breach the principle so unnecessarily and cack-handedly lays us open to ridicule. The House should get its act together on pay and expenses and say that we will not break the principle of not setting our pay, conditions or expenses, because that is precisely the problem that got us into the scandal in the first place. We must learn the lesson of putting it outside, keeping it there and not interfering with it. Whether it is comfortable or uncomfortable, whatever the level, whether we like it or the general public do not like, it should be determined independently, not by us.

I appeal to Members to refuse to vote either way on the pay, thereby not breaching the principle that it should be determined independently or agreeing that it should be brought back in-house because if we do that, we will rue the day, and pay and expenses will come back again and again to bite us. We should put that behind us.

10.39 pm

Mr Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): It is universally accepted by anthropologists that one sign of higher animal intelligence is the ability to learn from experience. As the Leader of the House moved the motion, one was inclined to ask, “Have we in the House of Commons learned nothing from the calamity of the expenses scandal?”

I agree with hon. Members who said that the general public must be dismayed at Parliament’s continuing inability to put its house in order in relation to such matters, especially in view of the tumultuous events out there in the real world. How can we earn public respect and work in the national interest to solve this country’s acute economic problems and to reform public services, let alone to assert Britain’s place in the world, which we debated earlier, when we have so abjectly and continually failed to sort out our immensely damaging internal difficulties?

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As the Leader of the House pointed out, after the expenses scandal, Parliament charged Sir John Baker, the then retiring SSRB chairman, to conduct a review. He was asked to make recommendations for a mechanism by which the pay and pensions of MPs could be independently determined—one that did not involve MPs voting on their own pay. His report, which was published in July 2008, recommended that MPs’ pay should be uprated annually in line with the public sector average earnings index, with a more general review of MPs’ salaries by the SSRB to take place in the first year of each Parliament.

That was supposed to be the end of the matter, with the embarrassing spectacle of MPs setting their salaries becoming a thing of the past—or so we thought. Of course, the unredacted receipts were published by The Daily Telegraph in May 2009, and suddenly the entire political class blissfully agreed on the root of the problem. Members and political commentators acknowledged that the widespread misuse by many MPs—I am afraid that it was many MPs—of second home and staff budgets, which as we all know helped to terminate several dozen parliamentary careers, came about largely as a result of Parliament voting down independently awarded salary increases.

For many years, the Executive have been overly concerned by the immediate public reaction to headline salary uplifts. As a result, subsequently, a blind eye was continually turned to the widespread misuse of the parliamentary expenses scheme, which became an income-enhancing allowance. Since the ground-breaking public revelations in The Daily Telegraph, the universal refrain from Parliament’s great and good—the Speaker’s Commission, the Members Estimate Committee and the Standards and Privileges Committee—was that the expenses system had been rotten for decades, yet those same MPs did their utmost to block meaningful reform of the now much-maligned expenses system, almost until the very day when The Daily Telegraph first published those receipts. Indeed, all the systematically suspect claims were defended resolutely by those distinguished, senior parliamentarians as being within the rules—which parliamentarians had made.

Small wonder that those parliamentarians waged such a disastrous, protracted campaign in the High Court between 2006 and 2009—in all of our names, I am afraid—to prevent the publication of expense receipts. They knew full well the public reaction that would follow.

I am particularly sorry to say that the Leader of the House, in his previous role as Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, was one such senior parliamentarian. That makes his attempt to drive through the motion tonight all the more regrettable. Of all people, he knows how we got here. On 30 April 2009, just two weeks before The Daily Telegraph balloon went up, the Leader of the House, in league with other politicians, put down a serious—

Mr Speaker: Order. I very gently say to the hon. Gentleman that I understand the issues that surround the motion, but we have a time-constrained debate, and it is incumbent on him to focus on the terms of the motion rather than ancillary matters.

Mr Field: I was coming to the end of this passage, Mr Speaker.

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At that juncture, however, the Leader of the House allowed the glaring loophole in relation to second home allowances for MPs in suburban seats to be overlooked, on the basis that the independent review that we are now awaiting should report first. I only wish that today he was such a keen supporter of independent reviews. I believe that the independent salary review that the SSRB and IPSA were due to commence in the next few months would also have provided a long overdue opportunity to rebalance and aggregate MPs’ remuneration away from the byzantine and almost corrupt allowances scheme, towards a more upfront and transparent salary, which is why it is particularly regrettable that the second part of the motion is being proposed tonight. I fear that that opportunity will now be lost.

For the sake of one day’s good newspaper headlines, Parliament has unwisely insisted that we set our own salary again and impose this two-year freeze. As I mentioned earlier, the calamitous expenses system began in just such a way by rejecting independent salary reviews and then boosting allowances as some form of compensation. In my view, even the mere suspicion that this was happening again would be totally unacceptable and disastrous, as we try to build public trust. Such a process of rebuilding will be difficult enough in the years ahead, given the constant backdrop of high-profile criminal cases currently going to the courts. I do not wish to prejudge any of the other expenses conflicts, but I suspect that potentially there are several more former and sitting Members whose affairs will move from police investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service and then the Crown court in the months ahead.

Mr Speaker: Order. The difficulty here is that the hon. Gentleman has got a prepared text, to which he is sticking closely. However, I have already advised him that he must not dilate on matters that do not relate directly to the motion. I feel sure that being an experienced parliamentarian he will now turn to the matters within the motion. If he does not wish to do so, he can remain in his seat.

Mr Field: I shall take on board what you say, Mr Speaker, although—

Mr Speaker: Order. May I make it clear that it is not a question of taking on board what I say? I am saying to the hon. Gentleman, without fear of contradiction, that I have given a ruling, and to that ruling he will adhere.

Mr Field: I shall adhere to your ruling, Mr Speaker.

If we pass the motion on salaries tonight, amidst a self-satisfied blaze of glory, it will be essential that we also resolve that, whatever changes are made to the IPSA allowances scheme, none will come into effect until April 2013. In short, it must be a two-year freeze on both salaries and all allowances.

Mr Bone: My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Does he agree that the best thing that could happen tonight would be for the Deputy Leader of the House to withdraw the motion? We have been talking about a really important matter tonight, and it is absurd that we start talking about Members’ salaries and expenses. It should be done on a different day.

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Mr Field: I am inclined to agree, but I accept that business has to go through and that we are heading towards the end of the tax year. It is regrettable, however, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Given the importance of what was discussed earlier tonight, this seems like very small beer indeed. It is regrettable that it has come to this pass.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): My hon. Friend feels that this is small beer. Some of us feel that we have asked public servants to take a cut in their salary and now we are offering to do the same. Can we not just vote on it as quickly as possible?

Mr Field: I suspect that it might not necessarily come to a Division, because we all feel this way. There are difficulties and concerns. I take on board the concern that we are telling many public servants that they should not have an increase. However, we have an independent review mechanism in place, and we should stick to it. I believe that the public need a guarantee from the Government that those strictures that apply to salaries will also apply to all other allowances. If the freeze over the next two years is to apply also to the level and nature of the allowances, we can at least look our electorate firmly in the eye and say, “We are all in this together”.

Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): Has not the hon. Gentleman contradicted himself? He made the appropriate point earlier that in the past MPs supplemented their salaries with allowances, but now he is suggesting that we freeze allowances and salaries. That means that people working for MPs and being paid less than £21,000 per year will be punished as a result of a decision in a matter unrelated to the motion.

Mr Field: I was referring to the allowances that are directly relevant to Members of Parliament, as opposed to the salary allowances.

Let me conclude, because others wish to speak and the hour is late on what has been a busy and momentous day in the House. The collective damage that has been done to the reputation of politics in this country is such that it is our duty to ensure that Parliament is never again silenced on these matters. I fear that the motion before us tonight is the very opposite of the leadership that we require if public trust is to be fully restored.

10.50 pm

Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con): I have never before spoken in a Members’ salary debate; I trust I will never have to again. Today we have been debating what the armed forces will be doing in Libya. As Chair of the Select Committee on Defence—albeit not speaking on behalf of that Committee—I have only one point to make. For the armed forces to receive no pay rise and for politicians to receive a pay rise would be just so unacceptable in the country that we could not possibly think of allowing it to happen tonight.

10.51 pm

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): Like the last speaker, I have never spoken in a pay and conditions debate in this place, and I do not think that I

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have voted in any of them either, on the basis that I did not think that it was ever correct that Parliament should set its own wages.

The problem I have is this. It may be a criticism of the Leader of the House—[ Interruption ]—who may be more interested in talking to the Whip—but I want to say how disappointed I am that this proposal is what he and his deputy have come up with. If this proposal is the best that these two intelligent men—both of whom I respect—have come up with, they must have been wasting their time doing other things of lesser importance. It is an embarrassment, because it is taking away independence—my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) is quite correct. The raison d’être is that the Senior Salaries Review Body was compelled to take into account a formula that led to this decision, when what was required was a motion to remove that condition on the Senior Salaries Review Body and then let it do its independent job without the constraints of that formula. That would still have resulted in an independent decision, but what all this has turned into is, sadly, an embarrassing decision.

I respect what was said on behalf of those who have taken a pay freeze, particularly those in the armed forces, who deserve to be paid much more, but really, this issue is about showing that a political decision has been taken to have a pay freeze, thereby garnering what I might assume would be some public applause, along with condemnation of those who might have wanted to take a pay rise. That is what this issue has turned into—a political decision—when it should have been about removing any constraints on an independent body to set the correct level. If that level was in line with a pay freeze for the public sector above £21,000, that would have been correct, but it would also have been independent.

However, to do what is proposed is to demean the House. If that means that the proposals have been drawn up in a short time scale, then what have the Leader of the House’s office and his deputy been doing all this time, if they knew that it would come to this? It is an embarrassment; therefore, I am sorry to say that the Leader of the House and his deputy have been found at fault. If they had any sense, they would withdraw the motion and bring forward a correct motion before the end of the financial year.

10.53 pm

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): I would like to make a couple of comments entirely on my own behalf, not on behalf of my colleagues. I have sat through these debates for over 25 years. This House has never been served by Governments of any colour interfering in a process that we had already agreed should be resolved independently.

There are five written ministerial statements today dealing with pay reviews—for the armed forces, school teachers, NHS workers and prison officers, and for senior salaries. As it happens, the Government are accepting the independent pay review recommendations in each of those reviews. In the past, we have regularly asked people to advise on teachers’ pay or prison officers’ pay, but then the Government have interfered. They have asked for a review, but then asked us to vote against what an independent adjudicator has said a

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certain group of public servants should receive. It really is not possible to justify having one rule for one group and one rule for another.

When the Government have asked me to interfere with an independent pay review body, I have never voted for the Government and against the independent pay review body. It seems to me that that would be entirely contradictory. I shall not support the Government tonight either, because I do not think it is possible to justify setting up an independent process and then not following it. The Leader and Deputy Leader of the House, whom I respect, know that in the last Parliament the Labour Leader of the House did not accept the independent Senior Salaries Review Body recommendation in its entirety but tweaked it, interfered with it, changed it, and came back with her own proposal. As a result, we have a half-independent recommendation. The independent body is not able to give its free and unfettered view—it chose a different basket of pay comparators—but even that tweaked version is now being interfered with by the Government.

I understand the politics. The politics are that tonight we would have been given a 1% pay increase when we are asking other people earning more than £21,000 a year not to have that pay increase. However, the problem would not have existed if the Government had always accepted that the independent pay review body should recommend salaries for us as public servants, as well as for ambulance workers, health workers and so on. In that respect I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and others. It really is not acceptable for us to set a rule one year and break it the next.

When we debated this matter, in 2008, the then shadow Leader of the House—now the Home Secretary—made the position quite clear. She said that more than a year ago it was proposed that MPs should stop voting on their own pay and start looking into ways in which that could be undertaken. One of the important things that we shall be able to do today is take this whole issue away from the House, which is crucial. It is no good presenting one argument when in opposition and then changing it in government.

This is not in the same league as our earlier debate. It is not in the same league as issues of war and peace to do with Libya and so on, which are far more important. However, I hope that in future the Government will take independent advice, that they will apply—above all, for people on low pay—the principle that someone outside this place should advise on salaries and pay, and that we will then take that advice. If we do not, we will undermine our case, and I am afraid that we will not assist the public sector, many of whose employees look to us to set an example to them.

10.57 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): The right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) was doing so well until he reached his peroration.

This is a classic case of an immovable object meeting an irresistible force. If there is a vote tonight, I shall go with the irresistible force, namely what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Arbuthnot), the Chairman of the Defence Committee. It is absolutely inconceivable that Members of Parliament

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should be given a pay rise at a time when the pay of other public servants, particularly members of the armed forces, is being frozen. That will determine my vote tonight.

Bob Russell: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: I will a little later, if the hon. Gentleman will be patient. I do not wish to be derailed from the other half of the equation, which is that the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark is also absolutely right. It is nonsensical to say that a process will become independent because interfering with it has led to desperately dire consequences in the past, and then to tear up that principle at the first opportunity.

I have only one positive suggestion to make, but I think that it is worth trying. I am not sure whether the Leader of the House will respond to suggestions, but if he does, I hope he will consider this one. I am sure that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority consists of very capable people, but we have heard from no less an authority than the Prime Minister that it may not be there for ever, and we would not wish to give this very important task to a body that may not be with us indefinitely.

I have a rather simple suggestion. Why cannot the pay of hon. Members be linked once and for all to an agreed level of civil servant, whatever that level may be, so that if they get a pay freeze, we get a pay freeze? [ Interruption. ] I hear whispers around the Chamber that we have done that already, but we evidently have not done it efficiently enough if the result is, as the Leader of the House has explained, that their pay is being frozen while ours is not. I simply say that we should be linked once and for all to an agreed rate of civil service pay that cannot be interfered with so that when the Government impose a pay freeze on public employees for right and proper reasons, we will be affected by it, and when they do not we will not. It is as simple as that and I cannot see the problem.

11 pm

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) was right to agree with what our right hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Arbuthnot) said. It would be impossible for the House to accept a pay increase in these circumstances. The recommendation for people in the national health service who earn below £21,000 a year is that they should receive an extra £250 in a year. For us to take 1% on our pay would not work in these circumstances.

I do not know why people are afraid of setting their own pay, but that is not the system we have decided on. We have decided that it will be done through independent determination by IPSA as we had previously decided that it would be done through independent determination by the SSRB, but that is not the subject of the motion. As has rightly been said, we cannot run both organisations, so which should we drop? Clearly, we have to drop the one that we set up first, which was the SSRB. If it does not do this work, IPSA will, but I do not have confidence that IPSA will get it right. Let me briefly make a recommendation to it: why not set a rate of pay that comes into effect after the next election and have no increase during the Parliament? That would solve an

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awful lot of problems. We would not have to compare ourselves with anyone else year on year and no one would get an increase during a Parliament.

On allowances, it is wrong that IPSA has left us waiting so long for the money that our staff are going to be earning in a month’s time, but again that is not an issue for today. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) about freezing all allowances, but he will not mind that. When remarks were made about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and second homes, I did not recognise the factual basis of what was said. Perhaps it would be possible for the person who made that remark to communicate it to my right hon. Friend and to me and then we will know what that was all about.

Essentially, the way to solve the problem raised by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) about not wanting to vote for or against the motion is not to force a vote and to let the motion go through.

11.2 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Following on from my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), I agree that we should not vote on this issue tonight, but from a different perspective. I do not think it is for the Executive to bring forward this motion. If such a motion is to be brought forward, it should be done by the Backbench Business Committee so that it is Parliament bringing it forward and deciding whether to accept the pay increase.

I have a second reason for thinking that the motion should not be proceeded with tonight, and I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will not force it to a vote and will instead come back with a different motion—or, better still, let the Backbench Business Committee bring forward a motion. We have had such an important debate today and I have been agonising over the weekend about which way to vote; in the end I did not vote at all. It seems absolutely absurd to the British public that we are wasting one and a half hours on this tonight when we could have continued with the main debate, which is what we should have done. I urge the Deputy Leader of the House to withdraw the motion.

11.4 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I am conscious that, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), all the speakers in the debate so far were Members of the House before the last election. I was not, so I bring a slightly different perspective.

In the run-up to the election, partly, for obvious reasons, because of the constituency in which I was standing—Bury North—the expenses scandal and the issue of Members’ pay were raised frequently. In light of the decision taken in 2008, I was able to say, “Well, Members voting on their pay is not an issue any more; I will not get involved in such matters.” That is what I was saying to my would-be constituents in the run-up to the election, so I have a dilemma tonight.

I have resolved that dilemma in this way. On the one hand, an independent review body has suggested a 1% increase, and on the other, public sector employees

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earning more than £21,000 are subject to a pay freeze. We should accept the motion for two reasons. First, it is common sense that the public would be amazed and astonished, no matter what excuses were given, if we somehow arranged—that is how they would see it; we would be arranging it—to be treated differently from the rest of the public sector. That is one reason why we should accept that we should be in the same position as the rest of the public sector and accept a pay freeze.

The other reason is that I believe in the sovereignty of Parliament, and constituents know that ultimately, whatever we may say about independence, we put those independent people in place, and he who gives can take away. Constituents will not be fooled if we accept the 1% increase and say, “It was all because of an independent body—nothing to do with us, guv.” They will realise that we put that body in place.

The main reason for accepting the motion is common sense, which is always my touchstone. What do the people out there want us to do? There is no doubt that they would not accept it if we agreed to a pay rise. For that reason, I support the motion.

11.7 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): I believe that the motion is a retrograde step. Many of us in this place have believed for a long time that we should not decide our own salaries and pensions, and have abstained in debates on them. We thought in 2008 that we were ensuring that a third party would, in effect, decide; we are now yet again bringing the matter back in-house.

The Government’s case has not been helped by the suggestion that the SSRB is in some way not really independent. Its recommendation is linked to a range of salary increases, but those decisions are made outside this place. It is as independent as we are going to get, so I really do not think that that suggestion helps the Government’s case at all.

For the avoidance of doubt, because there will be those outside this place who think that those of us who have spoken against the Government proposals speak from self-interest, let me make it clear that I for one would be happy to donate my increase to charity. The point is not the financial interest; the point is that a number of us fought long and hard to make sure that decisions on those subjects were made outside this place, yet we are once again bringing them into the Chamber. That is a retrograde step that we will regret. The idea of moving this forward through the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is not very welcome at all, given IPSA’s track record in certain areas.

We are losing the plot on this issue and have taken a retrograde step. Last year and the year before that we thought that we had solved the situation, but now we are bringing the matter back in-house. That will not serve the long-term interests of the Chamber or the reputation of this Parliament.

11.9 pm

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): I do not want to detain the House for long—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] That is clearly the best reaction I am going to get this evening.

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I detect throughout the House a real desire not to be having this debate at all. Having to debate our own pay is not good for the House at any time, and particularly not after the debate that we have just had. We are where we are, however. We are caught between a rock and a hard place. Last week, I went into my local hospital and members of staff there told me that they were genuinely worried about how they were going to pay their mortgages. A pay freeze for the armed forces has already been mentioned. I do not think that anyone here believes that MPs could take a pay rise in those circumstances.

Members have rightly said that the whole question of our pay needs to be taken away from this House and given to an independent body. If we are honest, we have to admit that Governments have always interfered in the recommendations of pay review bodies—that has certainly been the case in all the years that I have been in the House. We need finally to get away from that. The solution is not as simple as linking our pay to a grade in the civil service, as the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) suggested. We tried that, but the grade was abolished. That is how we got into many of the problems that we faced later.

We need to get this matter out of the House very quickly, and to establish an independent system for setting our pay. Having listened to the debate, I believe that that is overwhelmingly the view of Members. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will not simply tell us that that will happen “shortly”; I hope that he will tell us when it will be done, because no one wants to be in this position ever again.

11.12 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): Hear, hear to what the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) said at the end of her speech: I do not think that we want to be in this position again.

I want to pick up on something that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) said about pay review bodies. Yes, it is true that a succession of reports from such bodies has been accepted by the Government. They deal with teachers, the Prison Service and the health service. Every single one of them says that there should be no increase in pay this year for those who earn more than £21,000. Only one pay review body is proposing an increase for people who earn considerably more than £21,000, and that is the one that deals with Members of Parliament. Why is that happening? Because it is not an entirely independent review, as we have already heard from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons, and because it was pre-emptively interfered with by the decision of the previous Government and the previous House in setting the parameters for our pay, which has resulted in the anomalous position of the proposal of a 1% pay increase for MPs while everyone else in the public service gets a pay freeze. That is why we have had to come back to the House today.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): On a point of clarification, there has been a lot of disquiet in the debate about Members of Parliament having to vote on their own pay. Can my hon. Friend confirm whether there will be an annual vote on our pay when IPSA takes over this matter?

21 Mar 2011 : Column 822

Mr Heath: There certainly will not be—[ Interruption. ] My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) can scoff, but there will not be. It will be a genuinely independent process.

The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) asked why we had not tabled an amendment. There is no need for an amendment in order to transfer the matter to IPSA, an entirely independent body, because the legislation is already in place. All that we need is a commencement order. He went on to say that he would refuse to vote this evening. Let me tell him, and anyone who is minded to do the same, that if the House refuses to vote for the motion this evening, we will have a 1% pay increase, and those hon. Members will have to justify that pay increase to their constituents at a time of national constraint. I do not believe that that would be easy to do.

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): If the Deputy Leader of the House is so keen for an independent body such as IPSA to control MPs’ salaries, why does he not hand that over from 1 April this year?

Mr Heath: We shall do so when IPSA and the House are ready, and it will be done shortly. We have already given that reply, and I repeat it again. Incidentally, may I tell the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) that he will soon receive a reply on pensions, but we have made it clear that MPs’ pensions will be informed by the Hutton review in exactly the same way as pensions in the rest of the public service? It is a matter that the House will soon have the opportunity to discuss.

I was extremely disappointed by part of the contribution from the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) in which he appeared to impugn the integrity of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. That is entirely regrettable and unjustifiable, given his record in opposition and in government, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity to withdraw that suggestion.

Mr Mark Field: I was simply trying to inform the House of events that took place two years ago, and was in no way trying to impugn the integrity of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I was just pointing out that in his former guise he had made the case for independent reviews very strongly in amendments that he had tabled, and I hoped that he would do the same again.

May I briefly ask the deputy Leader of the House whether, if there is a salary freeze in the public sector from April 2013 to April 2014, he will do his best, once MPs’ salaries are in IPSA’s hands, to stop IPSA putting up those salaries, despite the fact that, by that stage, IPSA will be the entirely independent body that he believes the SSRB is not?

Mr Heath: I did not hear the hon. Gentleman say what he said that he had said about my right hon. Friend—I heard something quite different—but we shall have to look at the Official Report to be sure.

Once IPSA has control of Members’ salaries, it will be entirely independent and it will not be for me or for anyone else to tell it how to do its job. Independent assessment is right—we all agree about that. In principle, Members of Parliament should not vote on their own

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pay. But in a House that does not flinch from having an opinion on the remuneration of others, we cannot just ignore the perception or consequences of an increase of our own pay.

Mr Charles Walker: I do not think that a single Member of Parliament wants this wretched 1% pay rise. What we wanted was the chance as Members of Parliament to do the right thing and table our own motion to decline it. What we are getting, I am afraid, in a robust speech from the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, is Executive posturing at our expense and it does him no favours at all.

Mr Heath: The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion, but I think that the House has been given the opportunity to decide whether it wants that 1% pay increase, and it must make that decision.

Michael Connarty: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is approaching a response to the point that I made. Has it not come to everyone’s notice recently that there might be a problem with public sector expenditure? It has been parroted in every speech in the House since the election. Why did the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House not introduce something to free the SSRB from the formula in which it was trapped, enabling it to make an independent recommendation on our salaries and on which we would not have to vote? Where has the hon. Gentleman been sleeping?

Mr Heath: There are two answers to that. First, I am not a member of the SSRB, so I did not know what recommendation it was going to make. If we tried to adjust the so-called independent formula, would we not be having precisely the same debate about the Executive interfering with the will of the House, which had decided to give to that independent body the right to set our pay? It would be said that we were coming in with a formula of our own. I can just imagine the speeches that would be made, and they would be very similar to the ones that have been made this evening.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster talked about animal intelligence. It occurs to me that if there were a lemmings review body that independently came to the view that a headlong dash into a freezing fjord would be for the best, lemmings ought at least to have an opinion on the matter. What we are providing this evening is an opportunity for Members to consider the consequences before complying with the decision.

In this case, the review body has made it plain that it would not have made the recommendation that it did unless it was constrained to do so. It would have independently come to a view that there should be no increase in our pay this year. I find it difficult to believe that any Member of the House thinks we should be treated differently and significantly better than others working in the public sector.

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Nick de Bois (Enfield North) (Con): I am staggered that I should have to make this comment: no one in the House is suggesting that we should take that 1%.

Mr Heath: In that case I am extremely pleased, as it means that we will quickly move to a conclusion of this difficult matter. The commitment to independent review is retained. The anomalous position this year is recognised. We do to ourselves what others have had done to them. It is not a decision for Government; it is a decision for the House. Members must make up their own minds, but in my view— and I do not think I am alone—it is a no-brainer. I hope all right hon. and hon. Members will support the motion.

Question put and agreed to .

Resolved ,

That the following provision shall be made with respect to the salaries of Members of this House—

(1) For the period beginning with 1 April 2011 and ending with the relevant day, the rates of—

(a) Members’ salaries, and

(b) additional salaries payable to Members under Resolutions of this House in respect of service as chairs of select or general committees, shall be the same as those salaries as at 31 March 2011.

(2) In paragraph (1) the “relevant day” means—

(a) the day before the day on which the first determination of Members’ salaries by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority comes into effect, or

(b) 31 March 2013, whichever is the earlier.

(3) Paragraphs (9), (10) and (12)(b) of the Resolution of 3 July 2008 (Members’ Salaries (No. 2) (Money)) cease to have effect on the day this Resolution is passed.

(4) The remaining provisions of that Resolution cease to have effect on 1 April 2011.

Business without Debate

sittings of the house

Ordered ,

That, at the sitting on Tuesday 22 March, the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until he has notified the Royal Assent to Acts agreed upon by both Houses.—(Sir George Young.)

business, innovation and skills


That Gregg McClymont be discharged from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Dan Jarvis be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)



That Angela Smith be discharged from the Procedure Committee and Thomas Docherty be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)


Ordered ,

That Kelvin Hopkins be discharged from the Transport Committee and Jim Dobbin be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

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Cawston Park Hospital

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Miss Chloe Smith.)

11.22 pm

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for responding to the debate and for being present at this late hour. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Miss Smith) and I would like to raise with the House and the Solicitor-General the experiences of Mr Andrew Breeze, a former NHS worker and founding clinician of an independent and innovative psychiatric hospital, Cawston Park.

Mr Breeze’s experiences have been documented in both the regional and the national press, notably by my hon. Friend in an article in The Mail on Sunday on 2l November 2009. Although Mr Breeze is not one of my own constituents, his brother Paul is, and I have agreed to support this important matter, as it has wide-ranging consequences for independent health care and, indeed, many entrepreneurial projects requiring major capital investment.

In late 2003, Mr Breeze set up Cawston Park. He and the other founding clinicians had all previously worked within the NHS and had felt constrained in seeking to provide high-quality, effective care that provided value for money. They therefore seized the opportunity to move into the independent sector to achieve their vision.

The purpose of Cawston Park hospital was to provide specialist psychiatric care and treatment to severely mentally ill patients, many of whom could not be properly treated within the existing NHS structures. In November 2006, the hospital was recognised as having achieved outstanding clinical successes owing to its unique approach to patient care and treatment. Patients who had previously been in other hospitals for lengthy periods of time were being successfully discharged from Cawston Park hospital and it had become apparent that it was saving the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. Feedback from NHS primary care trusts was extremely positive and referrals extended across the whole of the UK.

However, that period of great accomplishment and acclaim quickly turned sour because of internal difficulties with a senior member of staff. I do not wish to inform the House of every sordid detail I have been shown, but the allegations range from theft to an extra-marital affair with another staff member, together with a range of other grievous matters. As a result there was an internal investigation, followed by disciplinary proceedings, which took place on 16 November 2005.

During this time, the staff member in question had decided to leave Chancellor Care to set up a rival facility to Cawston Park hospital. He had been found to be removing hospital property and recruiting Cawston Park staff to his new venture. A disciplinary hearing was duly set up by Mr Breeze, but the gentleman telephoned one hour before the hearing was due to take place to inform Mr Breeze that he was resigning without notice as he did not want a dismissal on his record when he applied to the Healthcare Commission for a licence to operate a rival facility.

Six weeks later, the Nursing and Midwifery Council wrote to the ex-employee to notify him that it was going to investigate the reasons surrounding his departure from Cawston Park. However, by not re-registering as a psychiatric nurse, which I understand he still has not

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done, he was able to prevent the NMC investigating further. Later that day he contacted the NHS Counter Fraud Service through its hotline to make what turned out to be malicious allegations.

A subsequent statement was made to NHS Counter Fraud by the female nurse who purportedly had personal relations with the ex-employee, which was considered to be an independent corroboration of the initial allegations. Contemporaneously, a patient had reported the ex-employee to the protection of vulnerable adults scheme, which is now under the auspices of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, for abusive behaviour towards patients. This might have served to illustrate further the character of the accuser.

What followed was a three-year investigation primarily involving three Government agencies and one private company, Lloyds Development Capital. More than 50 police officers were involved in a high-profile dawn raid, which I have learned today was leaked to the press. Some of them were drafted in from outside Norfolk. The defendants were interviewed three times for more than 20 hours. More than 80 witnesses were interviewed, some more than once, concluding in the commissioning of four expert witnesses and the production of four lengthy reports, most notably the Badcock report, whose author admitted that he was not an expert in the field.

NHS Counter Fraud worked on the case for six months before handing it over to the local police in July 2006. During that time, NHS Counter Fraud had concluded that fraud had occurred and Mr Breeze was subsequently charged with conspiracy to defraud the NHS of £2.3 million. The case alleged that the directors had charged the NHS for additional care that had never been provided.

Mr Breeze’s contention is that the police were misled by NHS Counter Fraud convincing them that a fraud had in fact taken place. His argument was as follows. First, in his meeting with NHS Counter Fraud on 16 November 2010 he was informed that it had come to the conclusion that fraud was occurring. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North was in attendance. Secondly, in an interview under caution the police made it obvious that they believed that that fraud had occurred. Thirdly, Norfolk police did not have a fraud squad so the case was handed to its major investigation team, which was more accustomed to dealing with murders. No one in that team was a fraud specialist. Fourthly, the police assumed that NHS Counter Fraud knew how a private sector psychiatric hospital operated clinically. That may seem reasonable, but it turned out to be incorrect. Fifthly and finally, NHS Counter Fraud did not advise the police which type of psychiatric expert they should go to, so they went to the wrong type and received factually incorrect and misleading information.

As a result of those events, Mr Breeze and his solicitor, Richard Smyth, came to the conclusion that the police were constructing a case from poor evidence rather than trying to detect whether a crime had been committed. I must ask the Solicitor-General if that is how the system should function.

When Andrew Breeze met NHS Counter Fraud on 16 November 2010, the only documentation that could be produced supporting the fraud allegations was several witness statements taken by the Counter Fraud team, which it had previously refused to disclose to Mr Breeze despite repeated requests to do so. One of those statements was from the original accuser; another was from the

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female nurse with whom he was in a relationship and setting up the rival project; and another was from a member of staff who had worked at Cawston Park hospital and been recruited for that new venture. Additionally, that individual had invested £10,000 in the new enterprise. There were three other statements taken from ex-staff who had left Cawston Park disgruntled in the past. One does not need a legal education to question the quality of those witnesses and the numerous vested interests that will have been at play.

In the light of those connections, perhaps the police investigations might have discerned something amiss in the accusations at an early stage. When asked by Andrew Breeze why the NHS Counter Fraud team had not carried out basic and obvious lines of inquiry that would have clearly showed fraud was not taking place, its response was that it did not have the resources in place to do that. Mr Breeze had that meeting taped and is having it transcribed.

The police then investigated from July 2006 to February 2008, at which point Andrew Breeze was charged with conspiracy to defraud the NHS. The police now refuse to disclose their case summary, which was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service prior to the decision to charge Mr Breeze. His freedom of information request has been rejected.

What is of significant interest is the 22 April 2009 computer forensic review prepared by James Coulthard from Stroz Friedberg. A summary of his conclusions are as follows:

“Computers relating to”

Mr. Breeze’s accuser

“appear not to have been examined…Norfolk Constabulary Computer Crime Unit have lost digital evidence from exhibits, which cannot be replaced. Norfolk Constabulary Computer Crime Unit supplied defective and incomplete digital evidence to the defence without verifying the integrity of the evidence on more than one occasion. The lack of key exhibits in this case makes it impossible for the defence to effectively investigate the claims of document falsification by BREEZE and WILSON.”

Does the Solicitor-General share my concern about the implications of those events?

The result was that Cawston Park’s financial backers, Lloyds Development Capital, exercised its increased rights under the terms of the management buy-out, which stated that, if allegations of fraud were brought to its attention, it then had the power to dismiss Andrew Breeze from his post of chief executive. It subsequently did so and brought in Lesley Reardon-Denton, someone who had no clinical experience in psychiatry, to run the business in Mr Breeze’s absence.

On the instructions of Lloyds Development Capital, Ms Reardon-Denton instigated an internal inquiry by bringing in what she described as an “independent” expert, Christopher Hird, to produce a report, which heavily criticised Mr Breeze’s management of Cawston Park and was used to dismiss him. It later transpired that Mr Hird was not independent, having been a long-standing employee of Lesley Reardon-Denton in a business of which she was chief executive in London. The prosecution subsequently ditched the report, when its independence was questioned, during the trial.

Lloyds’ resulting decision meant that Mr Breeze went on to lose his entire investment, which the police valued

21 Mar 2011 : Column 828

at £9.4m. That seems to me a grotesque injustice which is bound to deter other entrepreneurs.

A further point of note is the conduct of Zurich Insurance. Cawston Park had directors’ and officers’ liability insurance when it carried out the management buy-out. This was meant to cover all the legal costs if any member was accused of fraud. However, in a letter dated 9 October 2007, Zurich informed Mr Breeze that it was reneging and refused to pay. It deemed the policy null and void on the slightly odd grounds that Cawston Park did not inform it that the directors were involved in criminal activity when the policy was taken out some time previously. We should note that, at this point, Mr Breeze had not been charged. Zurich went on to say:

“Given that the criminal wrong doing appears on any view to pre-date the retro date in the policy, our clients do not feel able to continue indemnifying defence costs.”

Mr Breeze was unable to fight this decision privately, as the police had frozen all his assets, thus not allowing him to pay for legal advice. Legal aid eventually took over, but at an estimated cost of £2 million. Should not legal aid be persuading Zurich to honour its policy and pay what is due? Should the taxpayer even be liable?

Trial proceedings began in April 2009, but before the prosecution could complete outlining their case, the judge brought the trial to a close because they could not offer sufficient evidence. In his closing speech, the judge made complimentary comments about Mr Breeze, including:

“You entered this courtroom on the 20th April as a clinician of exemplary character. You leave it vindicated with your good name intact and your head held high”,


“I hope that no professional or other obstacle will remain to hinder your early return to work in the field of psychiatric healthcare, should you wish to do so. You are a talented man with much still to offer your peers and patients.”

Regrettably, Cawston Park hospital never recovered from the investigations by NHS Counter Fraud and Norfolk constabulary. It finally went into administration, with the investigation process being cited as the reason for its closure. Despite the judge’s comments, Andrew Breeze has had obstacles put in his way that have prevented him returning to the field of psychiatric health care.

This tragic story touches on numerous legal, social and political issues that need to be addressed. They have potentially far-reaching implications for entrepreneurs, particularly with respect to the Government’s programme of health reform. The first issue is the role of the three organisations, which, although independent of each other, failed to carry out basic lines of inquiry. Although the CPS clearly stated that there was no evidence to support the allegations and that the case should never have reached the stage that it did, it continued to assert that there were five indications of dishonesty. A letter from the CPS to Mr Breeze concluded:

“1. There are some factors that indicate dishonesty, which include a body of witness evidence to show a lack of understanding or knowledge of extra care by staff that one would expect to be involved in administering that type of care;

2. Evidence of low staffing levels to give enhanced care;

3. No clear audit trail to show what a patient received to justify the extra charges made;

4. There doesn’t appear to be file notes on the patients' files to cover the extra care aspect of their treatment;

5. In addition, some patients were charged extra care premiums whilst away from Cawston Park.”

21 Mar 2011 : Column 829

Mr Breeze argues that those assertions are based on inaccurate and incomplete information that was provided to the CPS by NHS Counter Fraud and subsequently to the police. The CPS refused to meet Mr Breeze to discuss the matter any further, and Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, stated that any further debate would not progress the matter, having written:

“Further correspondence from you which fails to raise fresh issues will be filed without response.”

Because of these rebuffs, regrettably, Mr Breeze’s reputation remains tarnished.

Furthermore, Norfolk constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission have denied any wrongdoing, even though the judge ruled that the allegations against Mr Breeze and his hospital’s finance director were unfounded, and even though the judge said that they left court

“exonerated and as innocent men”.

Both public bodies appear to have failed to take into account the very significant losses, both financial and reputational, suffered by Mr Breeze. Contrary to the judgment, the two men have not been exonerated and remain condemned in the eyes of the bureaucracy.

The next organisation is NHS Counter Fraud. A Parliamentary question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) revealed that over the previous three-year period, NHS Counter Fraud cost £32.4 million to operate and uncovered £10.1 million of fraud. The operation of NHS Counter Fraud had cost the NHS £22.3 million net over three years, which seems ridiculous.

NHS Counter Fraud has met Andrew Breeze and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North, but has not satisfied either of them that it carried out a competent and comprehensive investigation into the allegations of fraud. Additionally, the NHS Counter Fraud investigation has placed another burden on the taxpayer indirectly, due to the savings that Cawston Park hospital was providing to the NHS year by year. Considering that NHS Counter Fraud was set up in 1998 to save the NHS money, it is ironic that its actions through the course of this case have cost the NHS millions of pounds.

I dread to hear the total amount that this debacle has cost the taxpayer. It is clear that the cost to Mr Breeze, his family and the other individuals arrested or brought to trial goes far beyond quantitative description. What should be noted is that Mr Breeze does not want taxpayer-funded compensation. Despite losing a fortune, he wishes simply to see his name restored and to prevent future travesties of justice. The only reason Mr Breeze would contemplate legal action is to obtain the documents he has consistently been refused in his attempt to clear his name.

The second key issue is that a disgruntled ex-employee, masquerading as a whistleblower, was able to destroy a business and a facility for severely mentally ill patients that had become recognised as a flagship hospital for their treatment. He did so with a financial interest in that outcome. Such episodes are likely to discourage and inhibit entrepreneurial individuals, partnerships, and businesses from embarking on new ventures. This is critical at a time of NHS reform and increasing need. Good entrepreneurs should be encouraged by the state, not permanently condemned and ruined on false charges.

I am deeply concerned that there is still the possibility that exactly the same thing could happen to other

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entrepreneurs. There have been no external reviews across the organisations concerned, so no lessons have been learned. The state has ruined a thriving business, along with the lives of several committed individuals who have been financially encumbered. There seems to be no mechanism to hold any of the relevant public bodies to account. Each organisation has held its own internal review. The police and NHS Counter Fraud stated that all protocol was followed correctly. The CPS admitted that mistakes were made and that this should never have happened.

For Andrew Breeze to clear his name, it must be acknowledged that the allegations against him were based on inaccurate and incomplete information. The court judgment that fraudulent behaviour was not occurring within Cawston Park must be affirmed. Indeed, it should be stated that dishonesty was never a factor in any of the business dealings within the organisation. My hon. Friends the Members for North Norfolk and for Norwich North and I wholeheartedly want Mr Breeze’s name to be cleared by the relevant public bodies. That is the bare minimum he deserves after this pantomime. It would perhaps at least enable him to start again.

I finish with some questions for the Solicitor-General. Will he establish an independent inquiry into the actions in concert of the CPS, NHS Counter Fraud and Norfolk constabulary? Will he further investigate the questionable actions of Lloyds Development Capital, which was directly responsible for the sacking of Mr Breeze and the demise of Cawston Park’s outstanding service to the community? Such an inquiry could create far safer conditions for the entrepreneurs we so desperately need today.

Will the Solicitor-General give an assurance that, after nearly four years, Mr Breeze will receive clarification, along with the documentation he has requested, from NHS Counter Fraud on its role in the fiasco? Will he convene with the CPS to establish Mr Breeze’s innocence in the matter? Will he ensure that any independent inquiry that is set up allows access to all the documentation that Mr Breeze has been requesting for the past two years, particularly the police case summary? Mr Breeze is still waiting for a report from the senior fraud lawyer at the CPS who carried out a review of its decision to charge him initially. He is concerned that, like the recently rejected police case summary, the CPS report will not be made available.

Finally, will the Solicitor-General work to eliminate this Kafkaesque tangle of bungling bureaucracy? The state has ruined a great business, along with its founder, and that should be remedied. More broadly, the state continues to threaten honest entrepreneurs. The instruments of the state should not be allowed to do that in future.

11.45 pm

The Solicitor-General (Mr Edward Garnier): I will speak quickly, to get as much on the record as I possibly can in the short time available to me.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) on securing the debate and thank him for making it possible for my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Miss Smith), who is with me here on the Treasury Bench but who, as a Government Whip, is prevented from speaking, to bring before the House a matter that directly affects one of her constituents, Mr Andrew Breeze.

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The debate allows me to answer some important questions on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service, for which the Attorney-General and I are accountable to this House. I should also confirm that the interest of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe in this matter is not just altruistic, although it is that as well. Mr Breeze’s brother lives in his constituency, so he has a family interest in the debate.

Andrew Breeze was one of two defendants charged in February 2008 with conspiracy to defraud NHS primary care trusts by charging them for what was called “extra care” for mental health patients at a private hospital, Cawston Park hospital in Norfolk, which was owned by a company in which the defendants had a significant interest. Those activities were said to have taken place in the two years before August 2006. It was alleged by the prosecution that the charges for extra care were criminally dishonest, because that extra care was not in fact provided.

The trial began in April 2009 but was halted in June 2009 when the judge at Ipswich Crown court intervened, resulting in the prosecution bringing the case to a halt by offering no evidence. Mr Breeze was then acquitted of all charges. At the conclusion of the case the judge said to Mr Breeze and his co-accused:

“You leave vindicated with your good name intact and your heads held high.”

I wish to make it clear beyond doubt that that acquittal means that Mr Breeze was, and remains, not guilty of the criminal charges brought against him. On behalf of the CPS, and as Solicitor-General, I associate myself without reservation with the words of the judge, but I go further and say that in so far as Mr Breeze was prosecuted as a consequence of what the CPS did or did not do, I want to place on record for all to see my apologies to him. It has become clear that regardless of whether it was proper to investigate the affairs of Cawston Park in the first place, the prosecution should never have got as far as it did.

I am accountable for the CPS, which was responsible for deciding whether to institute and continue the prosecution in this matter. The police were responsible for investigating the case on the basis of a complaint from NHS Counter Fraud, but not for deciding whether to prosecute. The prosecution in this case should never have reached the stage that it did, and I repeat, without restating verbatim, the judge’s words and my apology.

I should also like to apologise to Mr Breeze for the failure to respond to his letters of complaint sent to the CPS after the trial finished. Mr Breeze eventually felt that he had no option but to present himself in person at the CPS offices, because of the repeated failures to reply to him.

In response to his complaint, the CPS did––very late––conduct a thorough review. It was conducted by a senior lawyer at the CPS, Elizabeth Bailey, who had no prior involvement in the case. She concluded that, in her view, the case should not have resulted in criminal charges. I endorse her conclusions. She found that there was material available in the evidence that could be seen as pointing towards dishonesty, but equally that there were issues, which were known about at the point of charge, that undermined the strength of the case. I will

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come to those in a moment. Different lawyers can quite properly take different views on the merits of any given case. Elizabeth Bailey in this case believed that, even if the charging decision could be seen as appropriate at the outset, the case should none the less not have been allowed to proceed to trial. She apologised to Mr Breeze by letter dated 26 July 2010 on behalf of the CPS both for the prosecution and for the lack of response to Mr Breeze’s complaint.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe complains that that letter leaves Mr Breeze’s reputation tarnished, whereas the judge in the case told Mr Breeze that he left the court with his reputation intact and his head held high. With respect, since it was a private letter, it cannot be said to have had any public effect and the judge’s words at the end of the trial in 2009 are what will have been publicly remembered. However, in so far as there is any doubt about Mr Breeze’s reputation, I trust that what I have said tonight will make the position abundantly clear.

I gather that Mr Breeze has been in touch separately with Norfolk constabulary, the Information Commissioner’s Office and NHS Counter Fraud. I understand that Norfolk constabulary undertook a systematic review of its investigation under terms of reference agreed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. NHS Counter Fraud has also undertaken its own internal review.

My hon. Friend asked for an independent inquiry. From what I have said, it must follow that I accept that this case raises several concerns. It has, however, been examined both inside and outside the CPS, and I do not believe that another inquiry would reach any new conclusions. The CPS has accepted responsibility for its failings in this case and they are now publicly acknowledged.

The case was not straightforward. There were some 84 witnesses and around 23,000 pages of evidence. The charging decision was approved by the then director of the fraud prosecution service. Both the barristers acting for the prosecution endorsed the decision to proceed. Miss Bailey was asked to consider the case in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors which is issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Her review of the evidence and the information that was available at the point of charge led to the following five conclusions.

First, there was in the hospital a lack of clarity about what the “extra care” charges were for. A better description might have been a “surcharge” for difficult-to-manage patients, but she commented, and I agree, that a lack of clarity is not necessarily indicative of fraud.

Secondly, several people, including Mr Breeze, his co-accused and other officers of the company were being sued by the board of the hospital. The other defendants in the civil action all later gave evidence for the prosecution. They had an interest in the outcome of the criminal case and, as Elizabeth Bailey found, that conflict should have been considered as a significant risk in the criminal case, but it was not. There should have been regular reviews as the case progressed.

Thirdly, in 2005 a due diligence report was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of Lloyds TSB Development Capital Ltd, which was due to invest—

11.52 pm

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).