§ Mr. William Price
I beg to move Amendment No. 19, in page 5, line 27, at beginning insert'Subject to sub-paragraph (3) below,'.
§ Mr. Price
Under paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 as at present drafted all members of the Commission can remain Commissioners after a Dissolution until—in 1246 the case of ex officio members such as Mr. Speaker and the Leader of the House—other persons are appointed to their offices or, in the case of the non-ex officio members, for example, the nominee of the Leader of the Opposition and the three Back Benchers, other members are appointed or nominated in their places.
The purpose and effect of the amendment is to provide that, in the case of non-ex officio members of the Commission, they shall be required, following a Dissolution, to resign from the Commission "forthwith" if "it appears" that they have either not been nominated as a candidate at the ensuing General Election or, having been nominated, are not elected. The effect of the amendment, accordingly, is that such ex officio members of the Commission will not be entitled to remain Commissioners until their successors are nominated or appointed.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to the Government for tabling this amendment, which arises in response to an amendment which I moved in Committee when an assurance was given that the Government would stop this extraordinary likelihood that people who might even be in another place would be sitting on the Commission representing this House. I think that the Government have dealt with the matter, with one possible exception. I can see why the Government wish to continue with Mr. Speaker in office even if he is not standing again for Parliament or is not re-elected. He would continue in office, presumably, until his successor was selected. I can see why the same might apply to the Lord President of the Council who, again, would continue in office until his successor was appointed, if there was a change of Government.
I am not quite clear why this provision should apply to a Shadow Leader of the House. I think that it is extremely unlikely, but it might be that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) decided not to stand at the next General Election and took a peerage instead He would, apparently, still be entitled to sit on the House of Commons Commission. The amendment is nearly right but I wonder whether, on the way between here and another place, my hon. Friend will see whether a bit of tidying up is necessary.
§ Amendment agreed to.1247
Amendments made: No. 20, in page 5, line 29, leave out from "place" to end of line 30 and insert—
(3) Where at any time after Parliament has been dissolved it appears that a member of the Commission who is not an ex officio member—
§ No. 21, in page 6, line 6, leave out "rescindment" and insert "revocation".
§ No. 22, in page 6, line 7, leave out "presented in accordance with" and insert "under".—[Mr. William Price.]
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
I beg to move Amendment No. 23, in page 6, line 7, at end insert—(5) Notwithstanding any delegation under this paragraph, the Commission shall retain the ultimate responsibility for considering representations made in relation to matters affecting the interests, in connection with their employment, of staff in the House Departments by trade unions who are recognised by the Commission in respect of such staff, and for the conduct of consultations and negotiations about such maters with those trade unions.(6) In sub-paragraph (5) above "trade union" has the same meaning as in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 and "recognised", in relation to a trade union, has the same meaning as in Part IV of the Employment Protection Act 1975.".We have made good progress with the Bill so far and I hope that we can make equally good progress with this amendment. I hope to put the point to the House in a way which will win the general acceptance of bon Members.
The purpose of the amendment is to confirm the ultimate responsibility of the new House of Commons Commission for considering representations from recognised trade unions on behalf of the staff of the House notwithstanding any delegation of its staffing powers to heads of House Departments. Under the provisions of the Bill the Commission will become the employer of staff employed in the House Departments. The Com- 1248 mission will thus become responsible, as employed, in respect of matters arising from the body of employment legislation applied to the staff of the House by Section 122 of the Employment Protection Act 1975, as amended by paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 of this Bill. This includes rights in relation to trade union recognition and what follows from this, set out in Sections 11 to 15 of the Employment Protection Act 1975.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made it clear in Committee, when this question was raised, that staff representatives would already have the opportunity, without the need for an amendment of this kind, to make their case direct to the Commission on points which they had been unable to resolve through the usual consultative procedures. Since then, however, it has been strongly represented to me by a number of hon. Members and by union representatives that an explicit statutory confirmation of the position in the Bill would be welcomed.
I am aware that fears have been expressed to the effect that such a provision might lead to abuse and that unions might insist on their right of access to the Commission to an unreasonable extent. I do not believe that these fears are justified. The amendment makes it quite clear that the Commission's responsibility is an ultimate responsibility I am confident that the unions will recognise that their right of access must be used with discrimination and that they must recognise the existence of that word "ultimate" and that the normal channels for staff representations must first he fully utilised before such a step is taken.
As for non-union members of the stall —and I realise that there are considerable numbers of such people—this provision in no way restricts the Commission from considering their representations, as the Commission may decide. It is one of the principal aims of this legislation, as it was of the report of my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley), to foster the development of full consultative procedures among the staff of the House and in the working of the Whitley system. In confirming the Commission's responsibilities as a statutory employer in this forthright way the amendment will make an important contribution towards this aim. It is for that 1249 reason that I commend the amendment to the House.
I know that some concern has been expressed in the discussions that have taken place that in some way or other we were doing something different from that which I have sought to describe this afternoon. I can assure the House that that is not the case. What I should like to emphasise—and I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough will confirm this—is that one of the reasons for the establishment of this Commission is that we believe that it will make an important contribution to better relations in the House of Commons and in its administration generally. It is partly for that reason that I put the amendment forward. There are many other major reasons, concerning the whole administration of the House of Commons, which led to the establishment of my right hon. Friend's Committee and to its report, but one of the factors that we have had in mind has been the necessity to attempt to improve relations generally.
That is the sole purpose of this amendment. I believe that what we are doing is carrying out the general spirit of what we said in our Committee discussions. I had a report from my hon. Friend about the Committee proceedings and I read the report of those proceedings. What we have put forward is in full conformity with what was said in Committee. It is solely in that respect that we have brought forward this amendment. I very much hope that the House will agree to it. It is a modest improvement but none the less an improvement.
§ Mr. Pym
I rise to oppose this amendment and to say that I regret that the Government decided to table it. I do not think, and nor do many of my hon. Friends, that it will have the beneficial effect which the Lord President has said he hopes it will have. The amendment concerns the question of the access of the staff and its representatives to the Commission.
The first reason why I regret the amendment is that it is essentially unnecessary. By implication it indicates the possibility of a lack of trust, a lack of mutual confidence within this building, and I do not think that that is the position.
1250 Everybody knows that the staff side has direct access to the authorities in this House and, in the context of the Bill, has and would have access to the Commission. No one at any stage has suggested anything else. We all wish for that normal direct access to be available, and I think that all of us on each side of the House would see to it that that was so. Speaking for myself and my hon. Friends, I can say that we have received no representations of any kind which suggest anything else.
The Minister, in Committee, gave an assurance about direct access. Quite frankly, I do not think that that is in dispute. We all know and accept that what he said then is true. Nevertheless, as the Leader of the House said just now, some representations on the staff side have been made to some Members of Parliament. The weight of that representation, apparently, has been that the assurance given by the Minister, and the understanding that we have all had in the House about the importance of that assurance, was not good enough. If that is how they felt—and I think it is understandable—then in my view our response should have been that a reaffirmation of the assurance about direct access would have been adequate. The Government could and should have given that reaffirmation of the assurance. Certainly we on our side would also have given it.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
May I ask for clarification? The right hon. Gentleman said that the staff had made representations to some Members of the House. Will he not agree that representations have been made by the staff side to the Leader of the House officially, so that the Members of the Shadow Commission knew what were the feelings of the staff?
§ Mr. Pym
The Leader of the House indicated that. He said so just now, and that is so.
I think we are all agreed, and always have been, that we are extremely well served in the House by the staff in all departments. I would say that mutual trust most certainly exists, and has existed for a very long time. An assurance about access has been given by the Leader of the House. It was given, of course, privately, but also publicly, in Committee and on the Floor of the House. It comes from the Government for whom he speaks, 1251 supported by the Opposition of the day, and no doubt the whole House. I find it almost incredible that that assurance should not have been accepted. At any rate, that is the proposition, I think, that is behind the amendment, and what the Leader of the House has sought to indicate. But I think that those assurances, given in good faith and genuinely by right hon. and hon. Members, would be accepted by the staff.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The assurance was given to me. I interpreted the assurance to mean that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would go away and consider putting in the Bill a fairly innocuous statement such as we have in this amendment. That has been done. I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman is objecting to my hon. Friend carrying out the assurance he gave to me.
§ Mr. Pym
I am not referring only to the assurance that was given in Committee, with the usual Committee background. What I am saying is that an assurance to the staff of this House of direct access to the Commission, given in good faith on behalf of the Government, and on behalf of the Opposition and other Members of Parliament, would be adequate from the point of view of the staff, and that they would accept it. That is my first point.
I suppose that if a statutory provision of this kind were a normal and usual part of our legislative provisions, it could indeed be argued by the staff that a similar provision in this Bill would be appropriate. Indeed, the staff would have every justification for asking for it. But the fact is that a provision such as this amendment provides is not a normal part of our legislative process, or of our statute law. Indeed, it is unique. None of my right hon. or hon. Friends has been able to find any precedent for a provision of this kind. Certainly nothing like it has been required before for the Whitley procedure or the Civil Service procedure, and therefore we are breaking new ground here.
I was interested to see that the Leader of the Liberal Party had tabled an amendment in this area, but on a different basis. For some reason he withdrew it yesterday. He was trying to provide an alternative 1252 method of fulfilling the wish of the Lord President, but in a different way. In point of fact, he had taken a precedent from another Act of Parliament. My argument would not be valid in regard to his amendment, and I will not go into it because it is no longer on the Order Paper.
My view on the amendment before us is that it ought not to be passed, because I think that a precedent of this kind ought not to be set. Most especially, I think that it ought not to be set in a Bill about the administration of the House of Commons, which on all matters ought to be a non-party, non-controversial issue. Essentially, the Bill has been an agreed measure, without any controversy at all. I am sure that I am right in saying that there was consultation between the Government—and perhaps hon. Members as well—and the unions—before the Bill was ever proposed. It was known before the Bill was ever proposed that the staff side, whether the union or not, wanted the Bill to come on to the statute book. At no stage was any mention made, as far as I know, privately, and certainly not publicly, that there should be a provision of this kind included in it.
I appreciate that there have been representations since it was produced. I completely accept that, and it is quite usual for the House of Commons to make amendments of this kind in the passage of legislation. But I still think that it is a mistake to break new ground and create a statutory precedent in a Bill of this kind.
As the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) indicated, he raised the matter in Committee. It was very fully discussed and an assurance was sought not only by him but also by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley), whose report is the basis of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said:What we want… is that the staff side should have direct access to the Commission. If we could agree on that and give that assurance to my hon. Friends, we might avoid a Division.The Minister replied:I certainly give that assurance, I thought that I had done so. I gladly repeat it"—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 27th April 1978; c. 33.]But the Minister concluded the debate by saying that after what had been said 1253 he would go away and think about it again in the usual manner. That is what he has done, in the usual parliamentary manner. But I am still of the view that an assurance, given genuinely on our part and, of course, on the Government's part, would be and should be adequate.
I have a further objection to the amendment, and that concerns the terms in which it is drawn. I draw attention to the amendment, in which the proposed paragraph (5) refers totrade unions who are recognised by the Commission in respect of such staff.It seems to me that that is very much to particularise those representatives of the staff they represent who shall by this means have guaranteed statutory access to the Commission. It does not refer to all staff. It does not refer to all trade unions. It does not refer to those members of the staff who are not in trade unions.
I should have thought it reasonable to argue that if the assurances asked for by the staff are not enough and the Government think it necessary to write in a statutory provision such as this, it is curious that they should single out some trade unions and some staff instead of including the whole staff. I should have thought that by implication, if nothing else, it would narrow the right that members of the staff would have to appeal to the Commission, or to take their case ultimately to the Commission, if they were not represented by trade unions recognised by the Commission. It seems to me that there is a slight contradiction here in the case that was put by the Lord President.
If it is the position that any guarantee given by right hon. and hon. Members is not adequate for the staff, I should have thought that they all ought to have had in one way or another the same statutory right. I think it would be true to say that, notwithstanding this amendment, other members of the staff who were not perhaps trade unionists, or who were represented by trade unions not recognised by the Commission, would still have the right of access. I do not think that anyone has sought to pretend that they would not. But it seems to me to be very curious to make a statutory differentiation 1254 between the staff represented by recognised unions and all the rest of the staff. I think that it would have implications, and that is my third criticism of the amendment.
In opposing the amendment, I hope and believe that I have made it absolutely plain that the normal, ordinary access that any member of the staff would have to the Commission is and would be available in the case of any representations of the staff to the Commission, as asked for by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough in Committee. For that matter, in the last analysis any member of the staff could go to the Commission if the situation on a staff dispute matter reached that point.
The Leader of the House said that he thought the amendment would contribute to good and harmonious relationships, and I share that objective. But so far from contributing to these good and harmonious relationships between every one of us in this Palace, whether we are Members of the House or members of the staff, I fear that the end result may not be that. In any case, it is a departure from our normal legislative practice. It is controversial, which is the last thing which we ought to contemplate or engage in in any Bill which deals with the administration of our own affairs in this House. I think that we ought to avoid anything of that kind.
For all these reasons, I hope very much that it will be possible to proceed with the Bill, and without the amendment, in the full knowledge that there is, and will be, direct access for any member of the staff to the Commission if the normal procedures of discussion and negotiation require that that ultimate step should be taken by the staff concerned.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Black-ley)
If the Opposition welcome my right hon. Friend's assurance, I find it difficult to understand why they do not also welcome the fact that that assurance is actually written into the Bill and given statutory recognition. It seems fitting to me that the right of employees of this House and, therefore, of the new Commission should have the same statutory rights as those employed elsewhere. It 1255 was for that reason that on the Employment Protection Act I moved an amendment to include employees of this House. I am glad to say that that was accepted.
By analogy, the same proposition has been accepted on Report by my right hon. Friend with regard to this Bill. There is an argument for staff recognition on the Commission itself, for example. One could go that far, but that may be a little too revolutionary at this stage. Although I would favour that provision myself, I recognise, as I think do the unions themselves, that so advanced a stage is unlikely and would be particularly controversial. That controversy can be avoided.
Members of the House of Commons staff, and its recognised trade unions, attach a great deal of importance to the right of access to the Commission. A great deal of importance is attached particularly by the recognised trade unions among the staff of this House. At last, after one and three-quarter centuries, we have regularised the position of the employer in the shape of the new statutory employers, namely, the Commission. Until now no one seemed to know who the employer in this House was. Access, is, therefore, the necessary corollary to setting up the Commission. I understand that in the past it was emphasised that a public statement to the effect that there would be access was welcome. Therefore, if it was welcomed, I would say a fortiori that it should be even more strongly welcomed when it is actually written into the Bill and made a statutory provision.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), I was given to understand that an undertaking was given in Committee at least to meet the relevant trade unions in order to discuss this proposition. I understand that that discussion has taken place and has culminated in the tabling of Amendment No. 23. Therefore, it meets the wishes of the staff and adds to the mutual trust between the employer and the staff in that respect. Therefore, it cannot be said that in any sense this derogates from the mutual trust which has already been referred to.
There have been various precedents. I notice that Amendment No. 6, which has been withdrawn by the Liberal Party, took precedents from the Gas and Post Office Acts and similar Acts with regard 1256 to public employment. I may be wrong, but so far as I can remember the latest precedent comes from the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act. That was indeed a welcome Act. If I remember correctly, the form of words used in that Act was "the relevant trade union". That wording is acceptable in this amendment. I believe that the trade unions concerned should be the bodies with which the new statutory employer consults. That is not exclusive of any other organisations, but it safeguards the rights of those trade unions which by and large represent the members of the staff of this House.
I believe that the amendment embodies a valid and valuable principle in relation to consultation with the trade unions which represent the interests of staff. It should be recognised that in moving this amendment the Government themselves have recognised a very important principle. I am sure that the motivation behind the Liberal amendment, which has unfortunately been withdrawn—it was worthy of discussion—was that it included one point which is not emphasised in the form of words used in Amendment No. 23, namely, safety, health and welfare. Goodness knows, not only the staff but Members of this House have to put up with conditions in regard to safety, health and welfare which no one outside this Palace would accept. However, that amendment has been withdrawn and I make no further comment on it, following the precedent of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I note the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for Liberal amendments which are not before us. That is indeed a new form of debate in the House. However, the hon. Gentleman appears to be saying that the non-union members of the staff, who are I think about 50 per cent., should rest on the assurance given by all of us that they have the right of representation to the Commission and that they should be satisfied with that, but that somehow the organised trade union members are so weak and powerless that they must have a statutory provision. That appears to be the burden of what the hon. Gentleman is saying.
§ Mr. Rose
My follow-up to that is that it is the right of every one of those 1257 non-union members to join a trade union and become a member of a recognised trade union. That would immediately give them that statutory right. If they so choose, they can stand or fall by their non-representation, but if they are not organised in a trade union it is very difficult for them to consult my right hon. Friend or the employers on anything, because they are not organised so to consult. Therefore, the Leader of the Liberal Party advances a very good argument in favour of trade unionism.
All I would say is that the Liberal amendment—I do not really want to debate amendments which are not on the Amendment Paper—would have dealt with any organisations appearing to be appropriate. That could mean a breakaway organisation or any unrepresentative association. We do have a structure here of organisations which are recognised as being the trade unions—four of them—which by and large represent the interests of the members of the staff. They have consulted my right hon. Friend and have arrived at a form of wording.
We have been through all this argument before, not least when we discussed the Industrial Relations Act. I do not want to rehearse all that again. However, I believe that the wording of Amendment No. 23 is the appropriate form of wording. It is certainly acceptable to the trade unions involved. It is an amendment which is, therefore, acceptable to the organised staff of this House.
I therefore commend the amendment to the whole House, including the Liberal Party, notwithstanding the minor difference it may have with regard to this form of wording. It is, above all, the result of consultation. It does not set up any machinery or provide for any complex structure. It merely gives the right of access by statute to the trade unions, and takes nothing away from other members of the staff. On that basis it should not be contentious and should be accepted by all sides of the House.
§ Mr. Hal Miller (Bromsgrove and Redditch)
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) with regret. I found to my disappointment that as he went on I dis- 1258 agreed with him more and more, although we share a responsibility to a trade union association of civil servants.
The hon. Member spoke of "mutual trust". On every example that he cited in support of that proposition, he raised a picture of a great deal of controversy. He spoke of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act, but that got through the House in circumstances which did no credit whatever to the Government, and it was discussed in an atmosphere that was far from being one of mutual trust.
The hon. Member went on to say that of course those employees of the Commission who are not represented by unions have a right of access and consultation but those in unions have a statutory right. How does he expect to increase mutual trust and respect in that way among those who seek to serve us? He went on to say how greatly the proposed amendment had been welcomed, but it cannot have escaped his attention that that amendment has raised a great deal of discussion and controversy in some quarters among those who support us in this House. I do not think that the hon. Member gave a fair record. The longer he went on the more difficult he made it to support the amendment.
I still do not understand why this amendment is necessary. As I understood the Leader of the House, he referred to several sections of the Employment Protection Act and the schedules of that Act which apply to employees of the Commission. I understood that these were statutory rights of general application.
I sought to raise this point on Committee. I asked whether there were general rights to be applied, and why we should seek to go beyond that, especially if it aroused controversy. It is most unfortunate that we should reach a position where the House might divide on a measure for the administration of the House, affecting all those who help and support us in our work. The basis of mutual trust is that the help and support will be given indiscriminately without fear or favour to Members in all parts of the House. There is a grave danger of this being impaired if we are driven to a Division. I cannot see why it is necessary if general statutory provisions apply.
1259 5.15 p.m.
This is very serious and I cannot see how the Leader of the House has managed to get us into this position. I cannot see why it is not possible to resolve this matter in some other way—
§ Mr. Miller
The hon. Member comments from his usual position. The Leader of the House must be gravely conscious of his responsibilities. I was not clear whether the Bill would apply to the Refreshment Department. This is one of the most difficult areas and one in which a difficulty is expected in a short time —I believe from 6.30 p.m. onwards. Yet this Department is not yet included within the scope of the Bill. Therefore, one of the most difficult areas is not being touched either by the Bill or by the amendment that is proposed.
Not only is the amendment unnecessary, it is also irrelevant to the main source of difficulty. There is no valid reason for supporting it, and I cannot understand why there should be a better form of assurance for one section of the workers who help and support us and a lower form of assurance for the others. If there is not some distinction between the two forms of assurance, why is the amendment necessary?
I wish that the Government had found it possible to deal with the queries that I raised in Committee about the functioning of the Whitley Committee machinery. Some complaints have been made to me about the functioning of that machinery. There is no guarantee that the inclusion of the amendment will resolve these difficulties. The questions that I asked in Committee were how that machinery was functioning and whether it was functioning in a different way in the House from the way it functions in other Civil Service Departments. We have not received any replies on this point, yet this is the real substance of our argument.
The Government amendment does not meet the major difficulties to which I have referred, or the queries about the functioning of the Whitley Committee machinery. That is why I certainly will not support the Government amendment.
§ Mr. Arthur Bottomley
The hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) has already expressed the view that there has not been the happiest relationship in the past on the working of the Whitley machinery. I do not know whether the Government will answer that point, but I am certainly not in a position to do so. I have heard of these difficulties not only from the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch and my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), but from others.
As Chairman of the Committee I always said that it was our intention that legalisation should be kept to the minimum. We wanted that because we were anxious that the changes brought about should be made in a spirit of friendly co-operation. I did not want a reference in the Bill to the Speaker's staff, and for the same reason I would have preferred that this amendment had not been made. I had hoped that mutual understanding and trust could prevail.
In our report to Parliament we sought a solution drawing upon the present well-established and operating departments, their loyalty and experience, which we believed could provide greater flexibility for responding to the changing needs in the future.
By this means we felt that the quality of the staff in the House of Commons at all levels would be secured and more understanding attitudes might be taken. It was our aim that those with ability could rise to the top in every Department.
The amendment before us is in keeping with the spirit of the Bill. It arises out of discussions in Standing Committee where the majority—indeed, almost everyone—accepted that a move of this kind should be made. I am sure that the staff will recognise that the normal trade union procedure is that grievances and problems have to be settled with the management. It is only on a matter of principle which in the last resort protest should be made to the Commission.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that all the assurances sought in the amendment had been given, but I would remind him that it binds this House and not subsequent Parliaments. Therefore, if the House rejects the amendment, we shall do more harm than good. The staff will take 1261 the view that if Parliament intended that it should have the right of access to the Commission, it should be contained in the Bill. I believe that it will worsen relations with the staff if the amendment is opposed and I plead with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues not to oppose it.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful for the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley). I wish to support what he said.
Perhaps I should give a little of the history of this amendment. At the beginning of the Standing Committee I thought that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and his hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) were basically right. I thought that there was no reason or necessity for an amendment of this character. It was only subsequent events that pointed to its necessity.
I tabled in Committee Amendment No. 6, and I freely admit that I tabled that proposal somewhat tongue in cheek. That amendment provided that "three members of the staff" should be elected to the Commissionin accordance with such regulations as such staff may by secret ballot approve by a majority of those voting".Liberal Members will understand that I, as a Labour Member, consulted the trade unions and I found that they slightly objected to what I had tabled because it did not specifically say that the workers' representatives should be members of trade unions.
If we had been arguing here and now about that matter, I could well understand what the issue would have concerned. It would be about a matter which has been discussed all over Europe—in Germany, in the Brussels Commission and here—relating to whether workers' representatives on boards of management should be representative of all the workers inside and outside trade unions or only those who are members of trade unions.
The intriguing aspect was that when I consulted the trade unions on the premises about that matter, they made their point—the Members of the Liberal Party in the House may have disagreed with 1262 them—but they said "What we want is a simple amendment stating that we should be consulted about our pay and conditions—that is all." I said I would table that provision. I did so and it became Amendment No. 32. This debate springs from that amendment.
It will not surprise the House to learn that I did not obtain the total support of the Standing Committee for the idea that there should be workers' representatives on the Commission. Opposition Members did not support it, nor did many hon. Members on my own side. That latter point surprised me a little because many hon. Members on my own side would like to see worker representatives on the boards of other institutions. If hon. Members in any part of the House advocate the placing of workers' representatives on company boards, I suggest that it is not unreasonable that we should start in this place and have some staff representatives on our own Commission.
However, that is not the issue to be dealt with on this amendment. I am intrigued why there should be such argument about what is the issue here. The Minister, realising that I had received a little more support on the mere point of consultation with trade unions, sensibly and simply gave me an assurance that he would go away and consider the matter and he went away and did so. I do not think I am telling tales out of school if I say that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was perhaps a little surprised to learn how little in the last 20 years Ministers of any party had consulted trade unions—certainly how little the trade union representatives on the premises felt that they have been consulted by successive Ministers in successive Governments. Whatever the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire may think, the trade union representatives in the House of Commons feel that in the past they have been positively discouraged from even talking to Ministers of the Crown.
§ Mr. English
Possibly even to Members, as my hon. Friend says. If members of trade unions—who, as the Leader of the Liberal Party said, comprise some 50 per cent. of the staff on the premises—are discouraged from consultation and 1263 are told by their superior officers on the staff of the House of Commons that it is undesirable for them as trade unionists to approach Ministers of the Crown or Members of Parliament to consult on issues that concern them, how much more difficult is it for individuals who do not happen to be trade unionists to consult Ministers of the Crown or Members of Parliament whose decisions affect pay and conditions of the staff?
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman has reported, I am sure faithfully, to the House what was said to him about the possibility of trade union members being discouraged from talking to Ministers and heads of Departments, but is that true? I am not sure that it is true. I should be interested to know whether the hon. Gentleman has consulted heads of Departments or Ministers to see whether any kind of discouragement or encouragement was given. Is what he is saying accurate, because I am not sure that it is?
§ Mr. English
It would be very difficult to prove what heads of Departments in the House have said to their trade unionists but I have not the slightest doubt that if the right hon. Gentleman is consenting on behalf of the Opposition Front Bench to a breach of the "previous Administration" rule, I would accept his consent so that the Civil Service can reveal the precise number of occasions and the precise length of time that hon. Members in both parties—if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House would also consent—when Ministers of the Crown consulted trade union officers on the premises. I accept his assurance if he is saying on behalf of the Opposition that the "previous Administration" rule can be broken into so that we can ascertain the precise number of occasions when Ministers of the Crown consulted the trade unions.
§ Mr. Pym
I was making the point that the hon. Gentleman appeared to be saying as a matter of fact that there had been positive discouragement of the kind he indicated. I was questioning whether that was true. It might be a matter of opinion or a view held by such people that such discouragement was given—but was it? I do not think he should give the impression that there was such discouragement without giving much more positive evidence to that effect.
§ Mr. English
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to point out that I would not say something to the House that was not said to me—and, as he realises, it was said to me. If he wishes to prove or disprove the number of occasions over the last 20 years on which Ministers of the Crown have consulted trade unions in the House of Commons, if he thinks that what I have been told by the trade unions is untrue, all he has to do is to ask his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for permission to reveal the records of such discussions as there may have been. That cannot be done without the consent of the Opposition for the period when they were in Government. If he is prepared so to consent, well and good. If he is not prepared to do so, I think that we must legitimately draw the conclusion that what the trade unions have said to me may well be right.
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman also spoke of Departments in the House and of the senior people in this House under whom the staff work. I do not know what evidence there might exist in that respect. However, to proceed on the basis of an assertion—and of course he is reporting faithfully what was said to him—and to accept it without question might not be an accurate reflection of what had happened. That was the only point I was making.
§ Mr. English
We all suffer from the possibility that our informants may be telling us something that is not true. The point I was making was that Ministers of the Crown are constantly accompanied by private secretaries who make a note of conversations which take place with non-Ministers. Those conversations on this issue can be produced with the consent of the Leader of the Opposition and with the consent of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. The conversations involving Officers of the House and their subordinates are probably not so regularly and frequently recorded, so that they could not be produced as evidence of whether what the trade unions had said to me was true. There is, however, a price of evidence available and the right hon. Gentleman has only to consent to its revelation to prove or disprove what the trade unions are saying.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
Perhaps I may help my hon. Friend by telling him of an incident that occurred during discussions on the Bill when a trade union representative in the House was impeded in his access to me—I am the parliamentary adviser to the union that has the largest membership in the House—and when I attempted to make contact with that member of the staff, I had representations from our Deputy Chief Whip about why I was trying to do so. Certainly, the situation that my hon. Friend describes does exist.
§ Mr. English
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his assistance. Like all the hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I am a sponsored Member. I am a representative of the General and Municipal Workers' Union, the members of which are, alas, on the verge of taking industrial action in the House.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Member may say "Shame", but the reasons for the dispute which were given at Question Time by the Chairman of the Catering Sub-Committee were rational and sensible. Ultimately, all these reasons boil down to consultation.
I just fail to understand what the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire meant when he talked about our having almost perfect industrial relations in the House. He said that there was no trouble here and that the amendment was unnecessary. But we are almost in the middle of a strike. I understand that industrial action will take place and that it will not cease until 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith
As a member of the Catering Committee, may I advise the hon. Gentleman that negotiations have been taking place between the union and the Committee for the last seven days and that this has been able to happen without an Act giving the union access.
§ Mr. English
The Conservative Member who is Chairman of the Catering Com- 1266 mittee made clear that the negotiations were continuing and that he had some sympathy with the problem at issue. I begin to suspect that perhaps the dark hand of the Treasury is operating in the background of the Committee, and to judge from the nods that I am getting from the other side of the House, this is clearly true. I should be out of order to go into detail on the cause of today's industrial action. The point at issue is whether our industrial relations are so good that there is no need for the Government amendment. They cannot be perfect if the present situation has arisen, whatever its cause.
I have been told something that, conceivably, differs from what the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire has been told —though it is easily susceptible to proof with a measure of consent on his part. I am told that over the last 20 years, within the memory of members of the staff who are still here, there has been a lack of consultation with trade unionists and, it follows that there must have been an even greater lack of consultation with individual, junior members of the staff who are not in trade unions, because they do not have the same degree of power and authority as similar members of the staff banded together may have.
I started by thinking that the amendment was not necessary. I had put down an amendment about workers' representatives on the Commission. The trade unions said that they would be glad of even a small amendment saying that they should be consulted. I tabled such an amendment and the Minister gave me certain assurances. I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, who is an honourable man, should say that the Minister and the Leader of the House should not have carried out the assurance given in Committee.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire talked about this being an agreed Bill. I think that he meant a Bill agreed by people such as the members of the Shadow Commission and the two Front Benches. No Bill is agreed until the House has agreed to it, and the House will have to agree to the amendment and the Bill.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for tabling an amendment which carries out the assurance given by his junior in Committee 1267 and which will enable members of the staff, if they have real difficulties, to consult their ultimate employer. That is all it does. The surprising thing about the amendment is that we have on this side of the House the whole paraphernalia of a three-line Whip and the resources of one of the major parties of the State being rolled out because of the persistent opposition of the other major party in the State. Why is this so? It is because the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire is opposing mere consultation—not workers' power or workers' control. He is saying that there shall be no provision in the Bill requiring consultation.
Clearly, there should be such a provision. If it were not necessary, there would be no opposition to it. There is opposition because of the old, deep-seated, deep-rooted principle of the Tory Party. Whatever the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) may say, the truth and the reality is that Opposition spokesmen still have their old deep-rooted fear and frustration whenever presented with the thought that they should talk or listen to trade unionists.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith
My intervention will be brief, but I must say that the closing words of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) have made me even more suspicious of the amendment. There must be a reason for this sort of innocuous amendment having a three-line Whip on it. There must be a reason for the Government being so desperately anxious to carry through this simple, innocuous amendment which we are told does not really mean very much. We are told that it means only that a few trade union leaders can have the right of access to people serving on the Commission.
I must be blunt. It is time to put our cards on the table. Some of us suspect that this is an enabling amendment towards a closed shop for the staff of the House. When we hear about three-line Whips being put on, we begin to understand that the amendment has much greater significance than every speaker so far has suggested.
It has been said that the amendment represents normal procedure and hon. Members have asked why anyone should get upset about it. My party will not be pushed along any road that leads to a closed shop in the House. We shall require assurances from the Leader of 1268 the House that the amendment is not the thin end of the wedge. There are aspects of the amendment, such as the reference to recognised trade unions and so on, that lead us to believe that it might be the thin end of the wedge, and that worries us considerably.
§ Mr. English
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), like the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), said that there are certain aspects of the wording of the amendment, such as "recognised trade unions", that he did not like. If that is so, why did not the hon. Member for Rochdale, his colleagues or the right hon. Gentleman table an amendment to the amendment? It may be that many Labour Members share their dislike of certain aspects of the wording of the amendment, but we want to see the principle of consultation enshrined in the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman wanted an amendment to the amendment, why did he not table one?
§ Mr. Smith
We have not tabled an amendment because we doubt whether this amendment is necessary. We take the view that there are already adequate avenues for consultation within the House. Although I do not subscribe to the view, the House is supposed to be the most mature democracy in the world. If we cannot have proper trade union consultation and staff consultation without having to write that into the Bill, without having to have it pushed through as a point of law, there is something wrong with a place that claims to be such a mature democracy.
We believe that there must be adequate opportunity for consultation between trade unions, between staff who are not trade unionists, and between officers and members of the Commission. However, we question the need to do that by legislation. We view with some suspicion the reason for legislation and we doubt the need for it. Unless the Leader of the House is convincing in saying that the amendment is not the thin end of the wedge, I suspect that we shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
I hope that I can give the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) and his Liberal colleagues the assurances that they seek. I am the parliamentary adviser to the CPSA. That is well known in the House. I can say 1269 without fear of contradiction that the issue of the closed shop has never once arisen in any of the discussions that we have had on the amendment, or in any discussions that we have had on the Bill. From my knowledge of trade union members and trade union representatives in the House, I am sure that that has not in any way played a part in their thinking in seeking the amendment.
The hon. Member for Rochdale referred to the Whips. I, too, regret that there has been whipping. That applies not only to the Government but to the Opposition. The Opposition as well as the Government are seeking to get their Members to the House to vote. I regret that. I wish that it had been possible to arrive at an agreement between both sides of the House on a form of words that would have commended itself to the Conservative Opposition, the Liberals, the other minority parties and the Government.
When we began considering a form of words for the amendment we went to the statutes that contain sections referring to consultations and negotiations with trade unions. If in the initial stages we had tabled an amendment without having full consultation, it would have been very much along the lines of that which apparently was proposed.
I regret that there has not been agreement. In Committee the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), said:I believe I speak for all my hon. Friends in saying that the spirit of Amendment No. 24—that was the amendment seeking consultation and negotiation—could not be objected to.The hon. Gentleman added:The Commission, through its agents… would not wish not to recognise those who represent substantial bodies of opinion. I cannot believe that the Commission would want to be immune to the views of people who serve us here."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A; 27th April 1978, c. 33.]5.45 p.m.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) has made it clear that the Opposition believe that there should be access to the Commisison. If they believe in the principle of access to the Commission, I do not understand why 1270 they are so worried about the amendment being incorporated in the Bill. If they believe in the principle of access, which they apparently do, what is wrong with enshrining that principle in a small clause so that it stands for all time? It seems that the opposition goes not to the principle of access, despite the anxieties that have been mentioned, but to the writing of that principle into legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was anxious because a precedent was being set. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) has said that a precedent does already exist in the Employment Protection Act 1975. My hon. Friend referred to various measures that have passed through the House such as the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1975, the British Airways Board Act 1977 and the Post Office Act 1977 all of which in statute put a responsibility on the various boards to have negotiations and consultations on terms and conditions of employment and other matters. They spell out in some detail the access and the activities that the boards shall negotiate with trade unions and representative bodies.
It is not true to say that a precedent does not exist for an amendment of this sort. As there are precedents, and as the right hon. Gentleman agrees with the principle, I am at a loss to understand why the Conservative Opposition should be seeking to defeat the amendment.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
I turn to the reasons that led the staff to think it necessary to have the amendment incorporated in the Bill. For the most authoritative views we must turn to the report of the Committee under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley) entitled House of Commons (Administration). Paragraph 5.27, which is about staff relations in the House, sets out in chapter and verse the history of relations between trade unions and staff in this place as they have existed over the years. Those relations have been in a pretty sorry state. The report states:We have noted evidence of feeling amongst staff representatives that on some occasions the Staff Board1271 —that is the body that has been responsible for these matters—has lacked sufficient authority to deal with representations made by staff representatives without reference back to Heads of Department. In consequence, they have, in effect, to make their representations to individual Heads of Department without there being a single focal point on the official side to whom, as in the normal structure of a Government Department, they could make their case. This has, in their view—that is, the trade unions' view—tended to weaken the development of full Whitley consultative procedures in the House and the adoption of standard conditions of service. In this regard we understand that meetings of the full Whitley Committee have been infrequent.That is testimony to the lack of adequate procedures that have existed in the past. The trade union consultative committee of the various staff associations in the House feels that the procedures have been totally inadequate. It considers that the position has been so bad that the experience of the past few years and the history of the House should not be repeated. That is why it takes a strong view. That is why it wants to see the amendment incorporated in the Bill.
As the paragraph in the Bottomley Report indicates, one of the reasons for there being difficulty over consultation is the lack of a unified structure. One of the difficulties that we are now experiencing is that even under the new structure, which will be unified, there is not to be a chief executive officer, a head of the whole administration of this place. That has been one of the difficulties that I have found with so many of these matters. The team management that we are to have is a strange thing with which to get to grips, because there is no chief executive officer, managing director, or anyone else who will be responsible for all these matters. Different people will be responsible for different things, and the Commission corporately in the final analysis will be responsible for them all. That is why some of the difficulties have arisen on the amendment.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that he feared that the staff would abuse this provision. The Conservative Opposition and Liberal Members should be aware that the staff associations and trade unions are clear in their minds about what they want. They are not asking for day-to-day negotiations 1272 with the Commission on all kinds of piffling or, indeed, serious matters. They have made it clear that they intend to exercise the right of access to the Commission sparingly and with discrimination. They understand and fully accept that the normal channel shall be the Board of Management, which is referred to in the Bottomley Report and which is to be established when the Bill comes into force. They appreciate that the Commission should be used only as a last resort for pleas on serious matters on which agreement has not been possible at the lower level with the Board of Management or, indeed, with the establishments officer. The trade unions accept that this right must be used with discrimination and that only as a final court of appeal should the Commission be used by the staff side.
§ Mr. Pym
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. I do not think that anything that I said could possibly be taken to mean that I was suggesting that the trade unions would in any way abuse what is intended behind the amendment. The hon. Gentleman said that the trade unions would wish to use the Commission only as an ultimate resort. I have no doubt that is right. But that would be the position without the amendment. How would the Commission resist seeing them? Apart from anything else, I am sure that it would wish to see them. They have the assurance that they may see the Commission even without the amendment. As I indicated, this provision breaks new ground in a variety of ways. It is not necessary to have the amendment to manage relations with the unions in this place in the way described by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
I am sorry if I misinterpreted or misrepresented what the right hon. Gentleman said. I wanted to make clear to the House that there was no desire on the part of the unions to abuse the procedures proposed in the amendment. The trade union side fully understands that the Commission should be a final court of appeal on serious matters just as it will be for the Board of Management and for individual heads of Departments when difficulties have to be resolved. That is clearly understood and I want the House to be aware of that position.
1273 I think that I have already covered the second point made by the hon. Member for Rochdale. The fact is that, if there had been a history of sweetness and light and of constant negotiations and helpful discussions between the staff side and the management of this place, this matter would not have arisen. It may have been better if it had not arisen. It may have been better if we had had a history of sweetness and light and good discussions going on over the years. But the simple fact is that that has not been the position. The staff have felt frustrated with the system. Here is a good opportunity to reform the system with proper negotiations. I think that it will be of assistance to all Members to have this provision.
I hope that what I have said will at least convince Liberal Members, if not the Conservative Opposition who have sent out their Whips, that there is no underhand attempt here to do anything more than the amendment lays down. The reason for it is basically the history of negotiations in this place. Therefore, I hope that at least Liberal Members will support the amendment, even if the Conservative Opposition do not.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am glad that the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wriggles-worth) clearly said that the unions intend to use this provision only as an ultimate sanction.
We are really discussing the interests of the staff. I think that we all acknowledge their loyalty and hard work. I should have thought that this matter, above all, was a House of Commons, not a party, matter. I very much regret that we could not obtain agreement on this clause and that it should have caused dislocation between the two sides.
The important point is that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, everyone ultimately should have access right through as far as the Commission to redress what is felt to be a grievance. I do not consider that the amendment is necessary. I agree with my right hon. Friend that access is available without it being written into the Bill.
I should like to raise two matters with the Leader of the House. There will presumably be two methods of approach. 1274 Having listened to what has been said, matters will obviously go to the Board and ultimately to the Commission. Therefore, there will presumably be two forms of approach. Those who are not members of unions will represent themselves and union members will no doubt be represented by their unions.
I cannot see why the amendment is necessary. I hope that, in reply to the debate, the Leader of the House will make clear that there is no intention of this matter leading to a closed shop. I do not often agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), but I agree with him that the amendment is not necessary because the provisions in the Bill already allow access. Therefore, it seems a great tragedy to make this a party issue.
§ Mr. Foot
I believe that, in replying to the questions posed by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), I shall cover most of the matters which have been mentioned by other hon. Members. However, I shall refer to them as I proceed. I hope not to omit any major question.
It was the Government's intention and hope that the Bill should go through the House with general support—I do not say without any amendment, because obviously hon. Members, who are all authorities on this subject, have important questions to raise.
I am sorry that a difference should have arisen on this subject. I do not make any allegation against the right hon. Gentleman about his attitude towards trade unions generally. I believe that he has raised this matter perfectly legitimately, and he is entitled to call upon me to answer the points that he made.
The origin of the amendment was the debate which took place in Committee upstairs. I believe that it was a legitimate deduction for me to make from that debate that it would be desirable to incorporate the general understanding in Committee in an amendment. There was no question, and there never has been from the beginning to the end of this discussion, of seeking to establish a closed shop in any form. That has not been put to me by any representative of any trade union in any of the discussions which I have had upon the matter. That 1275 is certainly not the Government's intention and I am sure that it would not be the intention of the Commission. After all, the Commission would have a say in the matter. Without its agreement, there could not be any such possibility. I say to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) that that was not the origin of this matter. I do not believe that there are any grounds whatsoever for suspicion. We have reached this situation through a perfectly natural procedure, and I should like afresh to outline how we have arrived at this point.
During discussions in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) and others raised the question of trade union access to the Commission. They were entitled to raise that matter. They raised the matter for reasons to which I shall come later and which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wriggles-worth). They said that they wished it to be made clear that there was access and that it was provided in the Bill. The Government gave an undertaking in Committee that they would look at the matter and see whether the position could be strengthened and improved by an amendment.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire that in one sense this amendment is unnecessary. I agree that it would be possible under the original Bill for access to take place. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) rightly said that the breakthrough came under the Employment Protection Act and the new clause to that Bill which he and others helped to devise and which the Government happily accepted. That was the real change that took place. We are building upon that, although the access could and would take place even without the amendment.
I am not saying that that is a reason for not having the amendment. I say that even without the amendment there would be direct access to the Commission in the cases in which the Commission judged that access was desirable from the industrial relations point of view.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire asks, since that undertaking has been given in the name of the Government, 1276 why there should be any further trouble about it. I shall give the House a reason in a moment. The right hon. Member also asked whether there was a statutory provision exactly of this kind in any other legislation. He is correct; there is no statutory provision exactly of this kind. There are some similar forms of statutory provision under nationalisation measures. The Liberal Party looked for an amendment of that character. Liberal Members tabled an amendment but it did not include the essential provisions which provide for there being other machinery, such as Whitley machinery, I understand the Liberal Party's motive, but its approach was not necessarily the best.
There is no body like this Commission. It is a body which deals with a unique situation and, therefore, since there has been no certainty about industrial relations in the previous arrangements, it is not absurd or outrageous for us to incorporate in such a new piece of machinery a clear undertaking that there should be the right of direct access for recognised trade unions. That is a reasonable approach.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire also said that there were dangerous implications in what we propose. I do not think that there are any such dangerous implications. I said earlier that, of course, the Commission would have the right to decide whom else it may take into account and whose representations it may take into account, just as it will have the power to decide how industrial relations should be conducted generally. There is nothing sinister in that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley) made a point which was underlined afresh by my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby. Over the years industrial relations in this place have not been wholly satisfactory. Some of the things that I hear about industrial relations here shock me. In many spheres we have not lived up to the claims that we make on the subject. Because of that there is a background of suspicion. It is not a suspicion that the House will not carry out undertakings that are given in debates. But there is a background of suspicion about industrial relations here. When we are setting up 1277 an organisation of this character we should do everything in our power to remove that suspicion.
The debate has been initiated and the discussions have taken place. They were legitimate and above-board discussions between the Government and the unions following representations in Committee. To throw this amendment into the wastepaper basket now would not help industrial relations. It is not a question of a gulf of principle between the two sides. I want to see the Commission set up on the best possible basis. I should prefer the House to pass the amendment without a vote. It is a question not of principle but of judgment. It is a question of how we are to establish good industrial relations in the House of Commons. If we cannot do it here we had better not lecture people in other places. I may be wrong—I am on rare occasions—but in my opinion, having had all these discussions, it would be wrong for the House to say "No. We have an amendment which the Opposition say is all right but unnecessary and we are going to throw it out." To do that would not be conducive to good industrial relations. It could sour them. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire is as eager as I am to prevent the souring of industrial relations.
I hope that the House as a whole can accept the amendment. There is mysterious talk about three-line Whips and it is said that these extraordinary instruments are being mobilised to deal with the issue. I should prefer no mention to be made of such a matter. I never mention three-line Whips. It is not my business: it is the job of the Patronage Secretary—I hope that he has been doing his job properly.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire knows what happened at the end of last week. To have a vote now and vote the amendment down on a party vote after these discussions and have it said that an innocuous amendment was defeated which insisted that recognised trade unions have direct access to the Commission would not be the best way to proceed.
I urge the right hon. Member to think afresh. In my judgment, to throw out this 1278 amendment would injure our industrial relations. That is my judgment. I believe that it is the judgment of the House and of those who have paid special attention to these matters. I do not say that such people are on this side of the House exclusively. But hon. Members must take account of the fact that spokesmen have been in touch with the unions. We must take all those factors into account.
I am strongly in favour of the Bill. The House owes a debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough and all those who have worked to bring forward this change in our affairs. One of the reasons why I am so strongly in favour of the Bill is that it can put industrial relations in the House on a much better footing than they have been. It is high time that we moved in that direction. On that basis I much prefer a unanimous vote than a Division. I hope that we shall reach a conclusion soon.
§ Mr. Pym
With the permission of the House, Mr. Speaker, I wish briefly to reply. Although the Leader of the House was unable to accept the third criticism that I made in my opening remarks about the recognition of particular trade unions and the representations they make, he conceded that in one sense the amendment was unnecessary. That was the first point I made. He also conceded that the proposal was without any equivalent precedent, although, to be fair, he went on to say that as the Bill was breaking new ground, in a sense perhaps a precedent was not a precedent. At any rate, he admitted that there was nothing like it in previous statutes. So I think I might be said to have scored two out of three points there.
The Opposition have certainly supported the Bill throughout, and the only argument has arisen over this amendment, to which no reference was made before the Committee stage. In a sense the Leader of the House exaggerates what happened as a result of that. He and I share one view. The last thing either of us wants is to sour the atmosphere. I certainly do not want a Division on this Bill, and certainly not one on partisan lines.
I would have thought, however, that in view of all that has been said in this 1279 debate, instead of the right hon. Gentleman urging me not to press the matter to a Division, it would be appropriate for him to agree to withdraw the amendment. Let us enact the Bill without it. Let us embark upon this new course. It is a completely new system for administering the House. Let the Commission come into existence and get on with its work. Let representations be made from any member of the staff ultimately, if that proves necessary, to the Commission in the way that hon. Members on both sides of the House have agreed would happen without the amendment. I believe that we should then find that the Bill would lead to that improved degree of industrial relations for which we are all striving. We are both agreed across the Floor of the House on this matter.
§ My answer, therefore, to the Lord President's plea to me is that he should withdraw the amendment. Let us set up the Commission, let us try it, let us see the representations made by trade union representatives and by those who are not members of trade unions, if necessary, ultimately, to the Commission. If after a year or two's experience that does not work, we could return to the matter. I believe that we shall find the new arrangement a great improvement. My reply to the Leader of the House is that he should withdraw the amendment and let us embark upon the Bill without it.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 237, Noes, 211.1283
|Division No. 239]||AYES||[6.13 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dempsey, James||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Allaun, Frank||Dewar, Donald||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Anderson, Donald||Doig, Peter||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dormand, J. D.||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Kelley, Richard|
|Ashley, Jack||Duffy, A. E. P.||Kerr, Russell|
|Ashton, Joe||Dunnett, Jack||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Eadie, Alex||Kinnock, Neil|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Edge, Geoff||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Lamond, James|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||English, Michael||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)|
|Bates, Alf||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Evans, John (Newton)||Luard, Evan|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Faulds, Andrew||McCartney, Hugh|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||MacCormick, Iain|
|Boardman, H.||Flannery, Martin||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McElhone, Frank|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Forrester, John||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Bradley, Tom||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)||George, Bruce||Maclennan, Robert|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Buchan, Norman||Ginsburg, David||McNamara, Kevin|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Golding, John||Madden, Max|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Gourlay, Harry||Magee, Bryan|
|Campbell, Ian||Graham, Ted||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Grocott, Bruce||Marks, Kenneth|
|Cant, R. B.||Hardy, Peter||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Cartwright, John||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Meacher, Michael|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Heffer, Eric S.||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hooley, Frank||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Horam, John||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Cohen, Stanley||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Huckfield, Les||Molloy, William|
|Corbett, Robin||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Crawford, Douglas||Hunter, Adam||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Cronin, John||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Newens, Stanley|
|Cryer, Bob||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Noble, Mike|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Jackson, Colln (Brighouse)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Ogden, Eric|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Janner, Greville||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Davies, Ifor (Gowar)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Padley, Walter|
|Deakins, Eric||John, Brynmor||Palmer, Arthur|
|Dean, Joseph (Leads West)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Parry, Robert|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Skinner, Dennis||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Perry, Ernest||Smith, Rt. Hon. John (N Lanarkshire)||Ward, Michael|
|Phipps, Dr Colin||Snape, Peter||Watkins, David|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Spearing Nigel||Watkinson, John|
|Radice, Giles||Spriggs, Leslie||Watt, Hamish|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Stallard, A. W.||Weetch, Ken|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Weitzman, David|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Stoddart, David||Wellbeloved, James|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Stott, Roger||Welsh, Andrew|
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Strang, Gavin||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||White, James (Pollok)|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Swain, Thomas||Whitlock, William|
|Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Rooker, J. W.||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Rose, Paul B.||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Thompson, George||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Ryman, John||Tierney, Sydney||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tilley, John||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Selby, Harry||Tomlinson, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Sever, John||Tomney, Frank||Woof, Robert|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Torney, Tom||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Tuck, Raphael|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Urwin, T. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. James Tinn.|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Fox, Marcus||McCrindle, Robert|
|Alison, Michael||Faser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||McCusker, H.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Freud, Clement||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Arnold, Tom||Fry, Peter||MacGregor, John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)|
|Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gardiner, Edward (S Fylde)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian (Chesham)||Madel, David|
|Banks, Robert||Glyn, Dr Alan||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Beith, A. J.||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Marten, Neil|
|Bell, Ronald||Goodhart, Philip||Mates, Michael|
|Bendall, Vivian||Goodhew, Victor||Mather, Carol|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Gorst, John||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mawby, Ray|
|Biffen, John||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Blaker, Peter||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gray, Hamish||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Bottomley, Peter||Grieve, Percy||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Griffiths, Eldon||Mills, Peter|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Brittan, Leon||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Hampson, Dr Keith||Molyneaux, James|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hannam, John||Monro, Hector|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hastings, Stephen||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hawkins, Paul||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Buck, Antony||Heseltine, Michael||Neave, Airey|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Higgins, Terence L.||Nelson, Anthony|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hodgson, Robin||Neubert, Michael|
|Carlisle, Mark||Holland, Philip||Newton, Tony|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hooson, Emlyn||Onslow, Cranley|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hordern, Peter||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Clegg, Walter||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Pardoe, John|
|Cope, John||Hurd, Douglas||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Percival, Ian|
|Critchley, Julian||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jopling, Michael||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Dunlop, John||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Raison, Timothy|
|Durant, Tony||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Rathbone, Tim|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Mrs Jill||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Knox, David||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lamont, Norman||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lawrence, Ivan||Rhodes James, R.|
|Fell, Anthony||Lawson, Nigel||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Loveridge, John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Luce, Richard||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'fd)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Rossl, Hugh (Hornsey)||Stanley, John||Wakeham, John|
|Royle, Sir Anthony||Steel, Rt Hon David||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|St. John-Stevas, Norman||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Wall, Patrick|
|Scott, Nicholas||Stokes, John||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Stradling Thomas, J.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Tapsell, Peter||Wells, John|
|Shepherd, Colin||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Silvester, Fred||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Tebbit, Norman||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Temple-Morris, Peter||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Younger, Hon George|
|Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Speed, Keith||Townsend, Cyril D.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Trotter, Neville||Mr. Peter Morrison and|
|Sproat, Iain||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Sir George Young.|
|Steinton, Keith||Viggers, Peter|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Mr. Hal Miller
I beg to move Amendment No. 24, in page 6, line 13, at end insert—'(2A) The Commission shall appoint as its Secretary a member of the staff whose appointment lies within its power under section 2(1) and (4) of this Act.'It is with a sense of surprised gratification that I rise to ask the support of the House for this amendment. I only hope that it has not put you, Mr. Speaker, under any personal pressure.
The amendment is concerned with the appointment of the Secretary to the Commission, for which there is no direct provision in the Bill. That is the sole reason for the amendment, and I should like to make it plain at the outset that there is no question of any personalities being involved or any subterranean reason why the amendment is being put forward this evening.
In an earlier debate, the hon. Member for Thomaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) spoke of the need for some sort of chief executive managing the affairs of the House. It was, indeed, suggested in Committee that the Secretary to the Commission might come, eventually, to play such a role. The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) asked me, when I moved a similar amendment in Committee, whether I, indeed, foresaw such a possibility and whether I would therefore like to make the appointment an exclusive one—in other words, that the Secretary to the Commission should not hold another office at the same time.
I was about to say that it was a pleasure to sec the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley) here, but he is no longer present. He was not present during the Committee discussion on this point.
1284 The reasoning for the amendment is that in the Bottomley Report it is suggested that your Secretary, Mr. Speaker, should automatically be appointed the Secretary to the Commission. It was felt in Committee that that was not appropriate because of the need to develop the work of the Secretary to the Commission and because of the need to command as large as possible a measure of assent from all those staff working through the Secretary to the Commission.
I admit that the amendment is open to objection on the ground of defective construction, perhaps, in that the Commission would be able, first of all, to appoint somebody to the staff of the House of Commons and then subsequently to appoint that person as Secretary to the Commission. So it would be possible to get round some of the obstacles which the amendment was intended to erect.
It is a very simple point, however, that the Secretary to the Commission will be a major appointment. We feel that it should be mentioned in the Bill. There was a large measure of assent in Committee that some such measure was required and the further consultations which the Minister undertook at that stage to have with me did not result in any agreed form of words.
It is in that spirit, therefore, that I have put this amendment forward in an effort to clarify this most important position.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
I can put briefly what I believe is the main point of this amendment, which I support. It is that if we were not very careful we might find that the whole spirit of the changes which are being brought about as a result of the Bill—the whole spirit of the Bottomley Report, which was to provide 1285 unification of the staff and an opportunity for staff members to gain promotion in a way they have not been able to do in the past—could be spoiled at this most important level, of the person who is to be the Secretary of the Commission. That could happen because, as you know Mr. Speaker, your staff—particularly your Secretary—could be, and indeed might well be, appointed from outside the normal staff in the House. It can be an outside appointment.
If the Secretary of yours or of any future Speaker became Secretary of the Commission, that person would have avoided coming up through the whole ladder of promotion and of experience in the House, and would be in the potentially very important position of Secretary of the Commission. Many people at all levels of the staff of the House might resent somebody going in at that level, having bypassed the whole process of coming up through the ranks, or at least of having had broad experience at the senior level or in different Departments under the new structure in the House. It is to avoid that that this amendment has been tabled, and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it in that spirit.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I had thought more hon. Members would wish to take part in this brief discussion than have sought to do so so far. I should first like to say how much we regretted that we had to have a Division on the previous matter, to which I must not refer, but it is deeply regretted. There is a danger that it could cause difficulties, but the record of the Opposition on staff matters is as good as that of any part of the House and we shall proceed like that hereafter, the House having made a decision on that previous matter.
There is no doubt that the appointment of a Secretary to the Commission is one of major importance, and it is important that whoever holds the position should have the confidence of all who are involved. But it is felt on the Opposition Benches that such confidence can best be achieved by leaving the choice of Secretary to the Commission itself. The Commission is an important House of Commons body, perhaps the most important House of Commons body, looking after 1286 the interests of both Members of the House and the staff who serve here. We believe that the Commission will be best qualified to choose who it shall have as its Secretary.
It must also be said, however, that powerful arguments have been advanced by hon. Members today, and by some who spoke in Committee, and one could not for a moment imagine that the future Commission would be deaf to whatever has been said in Committee, and here, in relation to the kind of person who should serve as its secretary. I do not believe it is necessary to enact the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend in the way that he introduced it. I rather got the impression that he merely wanted to restate the position that he held upstairs, and still holds, but that he was not seeking to force this matter to a Division.
I hope that the House, having had its say, will be satisfied that the Commission will have good sense in this matter. It has not been trusted, perhaps, in all matters, for the Bill has been very tightly drawn, but perhaps in this matter the Commission's good sense can be relied on. The hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) spoke of the frustration of those who come up through the ranks and see someone brought in from outside to this key post. I put it to him that the whole object of the Bill, which we hope will soon be an Act, is to provide the greatest freedom of movement among this who serve us. I suppose there could be a situation in which somebody comes up through the ranks who, having gone to one of the Departments of the House, is chosen by Mr. Speaker to be his Secretary, I imagine with the acclaim of all concerned.
It might then be the wish of the Commission and the House that this person, having served with such distinction, skill, tact and everything else required of a Speaker's Secretary in that position, should, following that service, assume the extremely important position of Secretary to the Commission. That could happen. I hope that hon. Members will bear it in mind and will not wish to push the amendment to a vote and vote it into the statute, because that situation, which could exist—for we are legislating for the next century—could specifically preclude an immensely worthwhile and experienced 1287 person serving in that position. I hope that I have said enough to bring both sides and all quarters of the House together. Perhaps, just for once, the Commission, which does not yet exist except in shadowy form, could be trusted to get things right.
§ Mr. William Price
I am delighted that harmony is restored between the hon. Gentleman and myself on behalf of the Lord President. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Bottomley Committee recommended, in para 416, that the Secretary to the new Commission should be the Speaker's Secretary. The Committee said:The Secretary to the Commission should be independent of any of the Departments especially in view of possible appeals to the Commission by Heads of Departments. We accordingly recommend that this post be filled by the Speaker's secretary.Under Clause 2(4) the secretaryship to Mr. Speaker, along with other posts, is excluded from being a Commission appointment under Clause 2(1). The effect of the amendment—we have been through this in Committee as the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) will remember—would thus be to disbar Mr. Speaker's Secretary and others, including the Clerk of the House, any Clerk Assistant, the Sergeant at Arms and any other member of the Speaker's personal staff, from appointment to this post. I believe that the hon. Gentleman recognises that that is the position.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the appointment of the Secretary should be for the Commission itself to decide. That is why the Bill is silent on the question of the appointment and on the method of selection, leaving the Commission entirely free to choose whom it wants. The Commission may well follow the recommendation of the Bottomley Committee and appoint Mr. Speaker's Secretary to the post or it may decide to do otherwise, but I believe that it 1288 would be wrong to limit the Commission's freedom of choice by ruling out in advance the Bottomley Committee's recommendation or any other of the House staff referred to in Clause 2(4). I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this. We have not written into the Bill anything on the appointment of anyone, and I do not believe we should write in any exclusion, either.
I want to add to what was said by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke). I, too, am sure that the Commission will take notice of all that has been said, both here and upstairs, and of any representations which may be made before any appointment is finalised.
§ Mr. Hal Miller
I am grateful to hon. Members who have taken part in this debate and for the spirit in which they have approached the amendment. I should like to repeat my assurance to you, Sir, it was not intended to put you under any embarrassment. This is an important post, and I thought it necessary to state a view contrary to that which we felt had been rather facilely adopted—if I may say so without offence—in the report of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley).
My purpose in moving the amendment was to make certain that there was a statement of an alternative position. I hope and believe that the Commission will consider the remarks made here and in Committee when it makes the appointment, and that it does not merely have the Bottomley Report in front of it.
Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.