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The right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan)--or the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Island, as I like to call him--is indeed a senior and experienced Member of
My only reservation is that the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross obtained an LLB from Cambridge, which I regard as a distinct disadvantage. He then practised as a barrister, as did the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Thomas), who graduated from Aberystwyth. I leave it to the House to judge whether that is an advantage, but he also, apparently, is a barrister. I am happy that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne) is here. His presence indicates that at least those proposed for membership of the Human Rights Committee, unlike those proposed for membership of the Committee that we discussed earlier, show genuine interest and commitment. We should all be grateful for and appreciative of that.
I am delighted to say that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun is almost certainly the most highly qualified proposed member of the Committee because he has an LLB from the university of Glasgow. I can think of no higher qualification than one from Glasgow, and he has practised as a solicitor.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Like my right hon. Friend, I was encouraged by the presence in the Chamber of the Members who are seeking to sit on the Committee. However, is it not rather disturbing that they seem not to have speaking parts? They seem to have only a walk-on part in this Government-arranged drama. Would we not believe rather more if they told us of their views?
Mr. Forth: That is a matter for them to decide. I am still suspicious about why they all suddenly mysteriously resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretaries. That makes me wonder whether they will still effectively be members of the payroll and under some instruction from somewhere, but perhaps they will not.
Having taken account of the plethora of legal talent, I come to the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Jean Corston), who either is or is not, or is allegedly, to be the Chairman of the Committee. If the records are correct, she has an LLB from the London school of economics.
It is a matter of some importance whether the Government believe that the chairmanship of the Committee has been carved up in advance. It looks like that. There is circumstantial evidence, if I may use that rather legalistic term, that the hon. Member for Bristol, East has already been tapped on the shoulder by the Government and assured that the chairmanship is hers.
Mr. Forth: That is a pretty weedy undertaking. I suspect that simply to look into whether there has been a press release is not what most Members want. We want an assurance, a guarantee or an undertaking that the Government have not said to the hon. Member for Bristol, East, "You will be the Chairman of the Committee as and when the House sets it up." Knowing the Minister as we do, he should be prepared to tell the House--
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the motion dealing with the setting up of the Committee has already been dealt with. As I have said, we are now discussing the membership of the Committee.
We are left with the bare bones of what we know about the hon. Members being proposed for the Committee. It is for the House to decide. If we want the Committee to be packed with lawyers, that is one thing. If we expected a broader representation of the Members of the House, we will be disappointed. We have been told that the Committee will have a balance of Government and non-Government members, and for that small crumb I suppose we should be grateful.
We will all be watching very carefully to see whether the House agrees to the establishment of the Committee. It is one of those absurd deferred votes, so we cannot know until Wednesday whether the Committee has been set up. I therefore conclude that we cannot logically agree to the motion tonight, as the House has not yet indicated whether it accepts the substantive motion to set up the Committee.
I shall be guided by you on that, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I should be surprised if you told the House that we could deal with the matter now, when we have not yet dealt with the substantive matter, as a result of the ludicrous and absurd deferred Division procedure, to which we are now--I hope only temporarily--subject.
I need not express my view one way or the other on the matter at this stage, presumably. That will have to wait until Wednesday. I shall ponder the matter between now and Wednesday. I shall almost certainly vote against the substantive motion to set up the Committee, for reasons that my right hon. and hon. Friends explained. I shall want to think about the motion. I am rather grateful that I do not have to cast my vote tonight.
Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm whether the matter can be put to the House at this stage, as we have not yet indicated whether the House agrees to the establishment of a Committee for which the motion proposes the members?
Madam Deputy Speaker: There is nothing in the order of the House on deferred Divisions to prevent the motion on human rights being debated in the House this evening. We have already begun the process of coming to a decision on the motion on Human Rights (Joint Committee). When the motion to nominate members to the Human Rights Committee was not moved in the House last week, the House had already decided not to consider the matter of setting up the Committee. That was therefore an entirely different situation.
Mr. Forth: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If you are telling us that it is your view that there will be two deferred Division matters before the House on Wednesday, how will the House know whether it has approved the first one in a deferred Division, before they must decide how or whether to vote on the second one? Surely, as we anticipated long ago, the House is being put in a ludicrous, unacceptable and unworkable position by the fact that there will be two interrelated deferred Divisions on the Order Paper. I do not see how that can make any sense at all.