I should not have to remind the hon. Lady that the experiment has caused such chaos
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because--for the first time ever--she and her Government have imposed on this House changes to the Standing Orders without the agreement of the official Opposition. When people flout the rules of the House and show no respect whatever for its precedents, this is the result. It is not any affront to any Chairman; it is a definite affront to this Government, who respect neither this House nor its procedures.
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington):
We have just heard what I can only describe as an astonishing speech by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning). My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was right to press her on these matters. I was involved in an incident such as this some years ago, and I want to draw to the attention of the House what happened on that occasion and the position taken by Conservative Members and, indeed, the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), who voted against me.
I was concerned about proceedings in the Select Committee on Members' Interests--the former Privileges Committee--in the case of an inquiry into Neil Hamilton. I was worried that a Conservative Whip had been placed on the Committee. I sought to obstruct proceedings because I felt that that Whip was interfering with proceedings and leading the Committee, with its Conservative majority, into taking partisan decisions. It was clear--this all happened prior to Nolan--that the Committee was being politically manipulated. I confess that I took a maverick position and obstructed proceedings.
What was interesting about that affair was what happened when the matter came before House. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, the Labour Opposition sought to protect the House and prevent the likes of me carrying out similar practices in future. I refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench in the debate on the motion that dealt with my conduct. He said:
"I see no case for disrupting Committee procedures, whether they be Select or Standing Committees held in public or in private. Hon. Members can always find a suitably convenient time and place to raise any issue that they want on the Floor of the House. I remember those long distant days when we had a Labour Government--those times will soon return--and, as a humble Back Bencher, I found that I could raise any issue that I chose whenever I chose to do so by using the procedures of the House."
That was the position we took in opposition. It was a thoroughly responsible position, but I had made my point.
The hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) also spoke in the debate. I shall watch with great interest which way he decides to vote tonight. He said:
"What the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has done is wrong. I appreciate that he holds strong opinions about the matter, but it must be wrong for any Member of the House to override the procedures of the House and take it on himself to decide the way in which the Committees operate. As a result of the hon. Gentleman's behaviour, the Select Committee has been obstructed."--[Official Report, 20 April 1995; Vol. 258, c. 404-06.]
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The hon. Gentleman might wish to intervene to tell me which way he intends to vote. Can we rely on him being consistent in the approach that he takes to these matters?
The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity of hearing my views later in the debate.
I will look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman's views. I shall take great interest in them.
There is another Member for whom I have particular affection this evening, as do many of my hon. Friends. I understand that we have all come with the same tracts and quotes. It does not surprise me that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton took upon herself the duty of speaking for the Opposition. The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) may have had great difficulty in doing so. He, too, participated in the debate in 1995, and he led for the Opposition in Standing Committee F. He is the one who made the complaint. He conspired with the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald to carry out their little dirty deed. He cannot deny it.
My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the hon. Gentleman's contribution when he opened the debate. The hon. Gentleman said:
"My understanding of the procedure set out on pages 703 and 704 of 'Erskine May' is that after the requests have been made, the position is reported to the House".--[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 8 March 2001; c. 675.]
He continued with that sort of stuff. He could never have known what pages 703 and 704 said. He does not have an encyclopaedic knowledge of "Erskine May"; he must have known in advance what would happen. I put it to him--he can deny it from the Opposition Dispatch Box--that he was party to the conspiracy.
In Committee, the Opposition were pushed to a point that was intolerable. We were pushed by a Minister who was so arrogant that he would not give the time that was needed for debate. There was no option left.
I have quite an encyclopaedic knowledge of "Erskine May", and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that.
Those were interesting words, and I think that we heard them correctly. The hon. Gentleman said that the Opposition were pushed to the point of opposition.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No. The hon. Gentleman can speak when I have finished. I have something to say about him, as well.
The debate is rather like the one that we had the other month on programme motions. The Conservatives leave so much dirty linen in their cupboard. There are so many opportunities for us to respond to their points--
I would like Opposition Members to hear what I am about to say because it is quite remarkable.
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I shall quote the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire, who speaks for the Opposition on these matters. In the debate on my misdemeanour in Committee, he said:
"Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Committee has its authority as a result of the resolution of this place, that it is therefore arrogant of him to say that its decisions, which are made with that authority, are wrong, and that he is entitled just to walk into the Committee and speak in breach of all the rules? What does that say about this place's powers and the Committee's authority? Is he not breaching it through arrogance?"
That is said of me--arrogance.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, no; there is a lot more to come, and I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the best come at the end.
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire said:
"If we invest a Committee with authority, especially an authority which . . . is absolute and exclusive in a certain area, it should be wrong for individual Members, whether they be the hon. Member for Workington or, indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery"--
that was Mr. Carlile--
"to say that their judgment is greater than that of the House, greater than that of the Committee, thereby abandoning an essential principle. If one sets up such a Committee, as we have in this House, we should not interfere with its authority."
That is the hon. Gentleman's position.
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire continued:
"That principle has been in this place for more than 150 years. In 1844, the Speaker observed in a similar issue"--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst):
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), but I must say to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) that it is fairly evident that the hon. Member for Workington is not giving way at present.
I return to the quote from 1844. The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire obviously felt passionately about the matter. The Speaker said in 1844 that
"no member who was not a Member of the Committee had any right to interfere with the proceedings . . . though he might be present in the room."
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire went on to say that
"we might just as well go back to having a Committee of the whole House with witnesses brought to the Bar of the House--if all Members were entitled to attend Committees and to interfere in the processes. There must be a remedy."
On the remedy, the hon. Gentleman said:
"The only remedy is that which the motion suggests--in fact, the traditional remedy. On other occasions when it has been necessary to exclude a Member from a Committee, a motion has been placed
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before the whole House and that person has then been told that he must not attend the Committee at the behest of the Chairman. If there is no remedy, such Committees will become meaningless."
The hon. Gentleman went on to say:
"I do not believe that it is right for an individual Member to put his strong views above those of the House. When this place has decided by resolution to give a Committee authority to deal with an issue, it is simply wrong for another Member to be there trying to interfere with the members of the Committee and with its deliberations."
The hon. Gentleman put a prolonged case. He clearly believed passionately in it, yet he sits on the Front Bench today, somehow justifying the actions taken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald. He continued:
"A more fundamental issue is at stake--the law of Parliament, which has set out those principles for more than 150 years, and which the hon. Member for Workington, aided and abetted by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, now wishes to break and to treat with contempt. That says something about the form of campaign with which they wish to associate themselves."--[Official Report, 20 April 1995; Vol. 258, c. 389-98.]
There is more. The House would get bored if I went on, but there are pages of such quotes.