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Mr. Redwood: Were my right hon. and learned Friend to be a member of the Committee, would he not want to be present in good time for the next debate, which will provide a practical working example of how the tax reform process might work? Is it not rather strange that some of the nominated hon. Members are not present? They might have thought that we would have proceeded to the next business, as we all want to make progress.
Mr. Hogg: My right hon. Friend is correct. He raises the important issue of continuity, which was also mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. Study of the tax law involves continuing experience. It is a fairly boring and esoteric subject. No doubt the Paymaster General has begun to master it after three and a half years, but it takes an extremely long time to do so. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw will not be present in the next Parliament and it is likely that the same will apply to the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton. Consequently, hon. Members will serve on the Committee only for a short duration. Where possible, the names will be rolled over into the next Parliament, but I have a strong suspicion that some of the hon. Members will not be available for consideration next time round.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot made an important point about Select Committees, in respect of the general position of Parliamentary Private Secretaries. The motion describes the Committee under discussion as a Select Committee. Select Committees are expected to display a sense of independence. However, this Select Committee will not be independent of the Government. The Paymaster General will be on the Committee, and we shall be pleased to welcome her to it. However, there will also be two Parliamentary Private Secretaries, and you know as well as I do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what the conventions are: PPSs are the creatures of their ministerial bosses. They may carry messages, and they may even be allowed to carry the bag, but they will certainly vote as
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now not only repeating the arguments of his right hon. and hon. Friends, but repeating his own argument, which he made in an intervention. I must ask him to desist.
Mr. Hogg: It was a form of emphasis, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I think was worth making. It will be even more worth making when one bears in mind that there will be members of the Committee coming from the other place who may be tainted in a similar way. After all, there are to be two Labour nominees from the other place. We do not know who they are or what their competence or status will be. Let us assume--there is nothing improbable about this assumption--that they hold Government office or that they are former ministerial sidekicks all clad in ermine. At that point, one would have one Minister and four sidekicks. Is that really what one wants on a Select Committee?
As we are talking about sidekicks, we shall also have the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton on the Committee. He is a Liberal Democrat and therefore a Government sidekick. There will also be a Liberal Democrat from the other place, so there will be five or six Government nominee sidekicks, who will do precisely what they are told. Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that something that you and I, as old serving Members, really wish to see? I leave that question hanging in the air, lest you should suggest that I am being in some way improper. However, it takes me back to where I started.
Mr. Redwood: What worries me is that the Minister has not intervened on my right hon. and learned Friend to say that the two Committee members from the other place will definitely not be Ministers or Government representatives. That leads me to fear that my right hon. and learned Friend is right, and that we could have five members of the Committee all saying the same thing. I hope that the House would not want such a Committee.
This brings me back to the point with which I started, and the reason why this matter is important. A tax simplification committee is well and good if it simply tidies up anomalies. I do not mind that. However, I mind very much if the Committee extends itself and starts to change substantive law. I shall not be out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am never out of order if I can avoid it.
If there were a serious risk of the Committee acting in the manner I have described, one would have to address the question of its composition. If its membership were not genuinely independent, and its functions were as enlarged as I fear likely, substantive law could be changed at the dictates of the Government and their nominees. I suspect that that is what the House is being asked to agree to, and I am very much against this process.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: When I put the Question prior to the appointment of the Tellers, the Ayes were not challenged. Therefore, no Tellers were appointed and I decided the Question on taking the voices. It is as simple as that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The long-established practice of the House is that, after two minutes have elapsed, the occupant of the Chair puts the Question again and calls for Ayes and Noes. I called for Noes, there was silence. Therefore, the matter was decided in the affirmative.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I take your point that you call for the Ayes and Noes two minutes after the Division is called. I have just seen the clock change to two minutes. I wonder whether you might perhaps have been a little bit hasty on this occasion.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman should be extremely careful about challenging the Chair. These matters are governed by the Clerks of the House, using a precise timing mechanism. That is what guides the Chair.