§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of theHouse of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
I beg to move,That the repeals of, and Amendments to, the Standing Orders of this House relating to Public Business, and the new Standing Orders, recommended by the Select Committee on Standing orders (Revision) in their Report and stated in the Appendix thereto, be made, subject to the following modification, namely, in Standing Order No. 65 (Procedure in standing committees), paragraph (3), line 11, after `committee' insert 'or to a motion relating to a document referred to a committee under paragrapy (4) of Standing Order No. 73B (Standing Committees on European Community documents)', and to the following omissions, namely, the recommended Amendment to Standing Order No. 24 (Order in debate), paragraph (2), at the end to add and no salary shall be payable to such Member in respect of such period of suspension', and the recommended Amendments to paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 86A (Select Committees related to Government departments).It is, I believe, of particular importance that the procedures of this House are contained in Standing Orders which are as clear, consistent, and up-to-date as possible.
It is for this purpose that from time to time a Select Committee of the House is established to tidy up our Standing Orders. This requires the renewal of out-dated references, ensuring that drafting and phraseology do not differ from one Standing Order to another; and providing that structure and order follow as logical a pattern as possible.
The last time this was done was by a Select Committee set up in 1970. The report with which the present motion is concerned is that of the Committee appointed in December last year. Its formal terms of reference wereTo consider and report upon the re-arrangement and redrafting of the Standing Orders so as to bring them into conformity with existing practice".I should like to take this opportunity to thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) and the members of his Committee for the thoughtful care that they have clearly taken in performing this task and the valuable contribution that they have thus made to our proceedings here. As the House will have noted, the Committee has made a considerable number—263 in all—of proposed drafting changes.
The overwhelming proportion of these changes, as detailed in the schedule to the report, are entirely of a minor drafting kind. Some renumbering and rearrangement is recommended. A considerable number of amendments are proposed to ensure consistency of phrasing: for example, using "at least" rather than "not less than"; and the standardising on the use of "Committee" as a singular. It is proposed that some outdated references should be removed. Finally, the embodiment in Standing Orders is proposed of a resolution of the House concerning the publication of evidence taken by a Select Committee in public, but not yet formally reported to the House. The combined procedural expertise of the hon. Members who served on this Committee is formidable indeed. I see no reason to question the Committee's assurances that their proposed amendments do not affect current procedural practice in any way. I warmly recommend their adoption to the House.
The Committee has, however, drawn to the attention of the House a small number of its recommendations that contain an element of substance as well as of drafting amendment. I refer to paragraphs 13 to 19 of the report. I wish,however, to draw to the attention of the House only 394 two of these recommendations. The rest seemed to me—as I hope they will to the House—essentially uncontroversial alterations.
The first—paragraph 14 of the report—proposes that Members suspended from the House for disorderly conduct shouldforfeit their salary during their suspension".The Committee sees this as a clarification of the purpose of Standing Order No. 24, in that, in so far as this Standing Order sets out to punish art offending Member, it fails to impose what the Committee regards as the most obvious sanction which should accompany the exclusion of a Member from the precincts of the House.
There may be some argument as to how far such a proposal lies strictly within the terms of a revision of Standing Orders. However, in this connection, I take note of the Committee's comments on its procedural competence, detailed in paragraph 13 of the report. In any case, what I do know is that this would obviously he a most important change. It could, I suggest, also be sharply controversial not least because a suspended Member still has constituency responsibilities to discharge, whether or not he may be admitted to the Chamber. Thus, I do not feel that this procedural side wind would be appropriate for such an innovation. I am fortified in this view by the fact that the Committee itself divided on the recommendation which was included in the report only by a vote of three to two. I propose, therefore, that in the context of this report at least, this recommendation should be rejected. The motion now before the House would provide accordingly.
The other recommendation to which I would draw the attention of the House is that contained in paragraph 18 of the report. This concerns Standing Order No. 86A(5). At present, this sub-paragraph would enable a Sub-Committee on the nationalised industries to be formed from members of the relevant departmental Select Committees, but makes no provision as to which of the departmental Select Committees the sub-Commiitee should report to. It has hitherto been inoperative. The proposal made in the report is that the Committee should become a Sub-Committee of whichever departmental Select Committee its chairman is a member of.
I think, however, that it is for consideration whether this matter affecting Select Committee organisation would most appropriately be dealt with in this way. The recommendation is contrary to a recent recommendation by the Liaison Committee of Select Committee Chairmen, 395 to which I shall be replying shortly, and it is relevant to the consideration of the Parliamentary Control of Expenditure (Reform) Bill now before the House. I accordingly suggest that this proposal should be merely noted, but that no decision should be taken this evening.
The House will appreciate that I am in no sense prejudging whether a nationalised industries Sub-Committee should be formed along the lines suggested; I am merely observing the contrary views that have been expressed by the Liaison Committee and the relevance to the decision on the outcome of the Parliamentary Control of Expenditure (Reform) Bill which has yet to pass into law. I do not believe that this evening is the appropriate occasion for a decision.
The motion also provides for one other modification to the Committee's proposals. Recommendation 45 in the Committee's report proposes an amendment to Standing Order No. 65—page 19 of the report. It recommends that that order should cover not only notices of amendments to Bills, as it already does, but amendments to motions before Standing Committees on European Community documents. The recommendation speaks of motions which have been referred to such Standing Committees, but in fact it is not the motions which are referred but the documents themselves. The modification provided for in the motion will make it clear that the amendments referred to are amendments to motions relating to documents which have been referred. This amendment has been agreed with the Chairman of the Committee. That passage convinces me how wise it is not to have a written constitution. Subject, however, to the two exceptions to which I have referred, and this minor modification, I commend the remaining recommendations in this report to the House.
It only remains, therefore, for me to express again considerable gratitude on behalf of the House to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South and his Committee for the painstaking and thorough way in which they have carried out this revision.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
Mr. Speaker has selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop).
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I beg to move as an amendment to the proposed motion, in line 8, leave out from 'namely' to 'the' in line 10.
The reason for the recommendation that appears at the top of part II of the Committee's report—which concerned amendments with an element of substance, which found favour with the majority of the Committee—is that, frankly, when, for defiance of the Chair, a Member is named, far from there being any effecive disadvantage to the Member concerned, there is considerable income from media interviews, the Member is spared from having to attend the House and vote, from having to attend any Select Committee or Standing Committee and from being in the precincts at all, save if the Member is a member of a private Bill Committee, in which case he has to carry out his duties.
I want to make it clear, because there may be confusion among some hon. Members, that that recommendation does not refer to occasions when a Member is ordered by the Chair to withdraw for disorderly conduct. It applies 396 only to proceedings under Standing Order No. 24. In those proceedings a Member is named by Mr. Speaker. It is not to be confused with Standing Order No. 23 when Mr. Speaker or the Chairman orders a Member or Members to withdraw if their conduct is grossly disorderly.
Therefore, it is only for the most serious offences committed in the presence of the House, for which a Member is named, to which that sanction applies. It is wise to remember that that is done not just on the initiative of the occupant of the Chair, although that is what starts the proceedings. The Question is put to the House. It is the House itself that decides whether the Member or Members should or should not be ordered to withdraw. It is therefore a decision by the House of Commons, not an arbitrary imposition by the occupant of the Chair.
I hazard a guess that 99 per cent. of the public would be astonished to hear that a Member who is named and suspended from the service of the House does not lose his salary for the period of his suspension. Even some members of the Lobby, to my knowledge, were astonished to find that that was so, as reason and a sense of justice, apart from the requirements of good order, suggest that if a Member is suspended from the service of the House, he should not receive a salary for his full service of the House during that period of suspension.
It is not proposed by the Select Committee charged with the duty of revising the Standing Orders that secretarial or other allowances should cease during that period because there are some functions that a suspended Member still performs. It is merely proposed that a Member's salary, which is paid for his full and proper service of the House, is suspended during the period of his compulsory suspension.
I need say no more than that. The amendment is necessary only because, exceptionally, the Government have not chosen to include that provision within their omnibus recommendation that the House should endorse the recommendations of the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
I support the motion moved by the Leader of the House. I shall comment on the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). In so doing, I join the Leader of the House in expressing the Opposition's appreciation for the work that was done by the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) and his colleagues in the revision of the Standing Orders. As we all recognise, Standing Orders create the framework for orderly debate.
No one wishes to encourage disorderly behaviour in debates in the House. One does not want to encourage the challenging of the Chair by any Member from either side of the House. However, I draw the House's attention to a point that was made by the hon. Member for Tiverton when he moved his amendment. He suggested that, as a form of sanction on and punishment of a Member who is named for disorderly conduct and then suspended from presence in the House, the Member should lose his salary for the period of his suspension. That sounds reasonable until one starts to work out what it means in salary terms. Assuming that the Member is suspended for five days, will 5/365 of his annual salary be withdrawn? Is the annual salary related to a daily salary? If a Member's salary is to 397 be withdrawn for disorderly conduct, will those who voluntarily suspend themselves from attendance at the House lose a daily salary?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
No such proposition has been made by me. Such a Member is not prevented from coming here and voting, nor is he relieved of the obligation to attend Committees of the House on which he has been appointed to serve.
§ Mr. Morris
I accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman.
If it is argued that a Member who is suspended ought to lose a daily part of his annual salary, it is assumed that the salary is based on a daily entitlement. Is it or is it not? I support the motion moved by the Leader of the House. If we accept that the salary of a Member of the House is on a daily entitlement, we move into a difficult area. The amendment should be rejected at this stage and considered later in greater depth. As the Leader of the House said, the recommendation was carried in Committee by only three votes to two. It requires deeper and more thoughtful consideration.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
As the right hon. Gentleman seems to attach great importance to this point. I should draw his attention to the fact that entitlement to pension for a Member is calculated on the basis of a 365-day year. That was the recommendation of one of the salary review bodies, and it was accepted by the House. Therefore, it is in no way anomalous or innovative that the daily salary should be calculated for this purpose by dividing the annual salary by 365 in exactly the same way as a Member's pension is calculated, with the approval of the House.
§ Mr. Morris
I accept the point that the hon. Gentleman is putting, but the pension entitlement is related to the principal Civil Service pension scheme. The scheme for Members is analogous to the Civil Service pension scheme. A Member's pension is calculated on a completely different basis from his salary. If it is argued that the salary is paid on the basis of a daily sum, it automatically provokes the question whether the daily portion of the salary is the entitlement for a day's attendance. If a Member is suspended for, say, five days and it is laid down that, because he or she has been suspended, he or she should lose five days' pay, can it not equally be argued that if a person attends on five days he is entitled to five days' salary?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I think the right hon. Gentleman's memory has let him down. The pension scheme was based on complete years, and Members were credited only with complete years. It had nothing to do with the Civil Service. On the recommendation of the salary review body, a change was made to take account of years served, plus days in an incomplete year, for which the year's entitlement was to divided by 365. No one is arguing in support of the amendment anything other than the bare proposition. Nobody is arguing that if a Member is ill or absent, he should lose any salary. That would be a different matter. If someone wanted to put forward such a recommendation he could do so, but that is not the recommendation made by the Select Committee charged with revising Standing Orders; neither is it the recommendation in the amendment, which is confined solely to the disciplinary case where a Member who has been in defiance of the Chair is named.
§ Mr. Morris
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the point he has made. I assure him that my memory is not at fault. I served in the Civil Service Department, and my mind is scarred by that experience. I have not misinterpreted the position of the Members' pension scheme in regard to the principal Civil Service pension scheme. I say—and I am open to correction—that the Members' pension scheme is based on the principal Civil Service pension scheme. The salary that Members receive is not related to the Civil Service as such. That is a fact of life. If a day's pay is to be regarded as 1/365th of annual salary, a precedent will be established and it may be used in different ways.
The Leader of the House said that, despite suspension, a Member continues to carry the constituency commitments involved in his or her representative position as a Member of the House. That is another aspect of the withdrawal or suspension of salary which will have to be given serious consideration. The House should accept the argument advanced by the Leader of the House and reject the amendment, which should be taken back for deeper and more thoughtful consideration.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Hendon, South)
As Chairman of the Select Committee whose report is before the House, I thank my right hon. Friend, the Lord President, and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) for their kind remarks about the Committee and also for the welcome that they have both given to over 99 per cent. of the Committee's recommendations.
To serve on a Select Committee dealing with the revision of Standing Orders does not appear on the face of it to be a thrilling part of parliamentary activity. In the event, our deliberations were conducted in a lively and invigorating way. I am grateful to those Members who attended for their industry, enthusiasm and contributions. Perhaps I may single out the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), who was determined to see that all the wording we used in our amendments was both grammatical and stylistic. He was successful. What we have produced is the fruit of his efforts.
It is 12 years since the House accepted that there should be changes in Standing Orders. During those 12 years great change has taken place. It was opportune that a Committee should be set up to consider what amendments and changes were needed. We have proposed 263 changes. Apart from the small drafting amendment to our recommendation on Standing Order No. 65, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend and which I accept and welcome, 261 of our changes appear to be acceptable, as I understand from the speeches that we have just heard. That is not a bad track record for a Select Committee.
I do not propose to speak at length, nor do I intend to go into detail on the amendments. Any changes of a substantive nature that we have proposed—in particular, changes which to some extent may have been outside our terms of reference—have been put in a separate appendix. We did that for the convenience of the House, so that these matters could be brought clearly to its notice.
I wish to say something about the two amendments referred to by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, especially the one referred to by the right hon. 399 Member for Openshaw. In both cases the Committee sought to bring the drafting of the Standing Order into conformity with its intention.
I shall deal first with the amendment to paragraph (5) of Standing Order 86A relating to a Sub-Committee on nationalised industries being set up from time to time. The Standing Order, as drafted, proved unworkable, and the Liaison Committee recommended its repeal. The Select Committee also considered whether to make that recommendation, but we felt that it was the clear intention of the House that there should be such a Sub-Committee. Therefore, we have proposed improved drafting to allow the Sub-Committee to operate, if that were thought desirable.
I listened with care to my right hon. Friend's comments on this amendment. For the reasons that he gave, I accept that the proposal should be merely noted today, as it would not be an appropriate occasion for a decision to be taken.
Probably the main proposal in today's debate is the amendment to Standing Order No. 24 relating to suspension from the House for disorderly conduct in defiance of the Chair. With one exception, such suspension involves withdrawal from the precincts of the House. The amendment proposes that Members who are suspended should forfeit their salaries during the period of suspension.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that that would be an important and sharply controversial change. There was considerable division about it in the Select Committee and, as my right hon. Friend said, the recommendation was included in the report by three votes to two, two members of the Committee being absent.
Standing Order No. 24 dates back to an order passed in 1880—well before the payment of salaries to Members, which began in 1911. The intention of the Standing Order was clearly punitive, and the purpose behind the amendment was to implement fully that punitive intention. However, I agree with my right hon. Friend and with the right hon. Member for Openshaw that it is such a far-reaching, controversial and arguable amendment that it would be inappropriate for the House to accept it today. At a later date—perhaps in a review of the powers of the Chair—it might be considered again. Speaking personally, however, as of course I must, I accept my right hon. Friend's motion and commend it to the House.
§ 7.3 pm
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I wish to speak briefly to three of the more controversial recommendations in the report. First, however, I express our gratitude here, as we have done elsewhere, to the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) who chaired the Select Committee and also to the Clerk of the House for the enormous assistance that he and the Clerk to the Select Committee gave us in the conduct of our proceedings.
On withdrawal of salary, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) put forward technical objections to the imposition of sanctions of this kind on Members who had been suspended. My objection is one of substance. Unless there is widespread abuse I do not believe that it is proper for the House to exercise this or any other form of discipline over its Members. We should be extremely reluctant to allow other Members to 400 discipline a Member. A Member is answerable to his constituents, and whatever penalties need to be visited upon him should be visited upon him by his constituents. We should go beyond that only when there is such severe and widespread abuse of our procedures as to make our proceedings impossible or difficult. On that basis of substance, I believe that it would be wrong for us to impose the additional sanction of withdrawal of salary on a Member who has been suspended.
On the nationalised industries Committee, I am afraid that in my view not only is the present situation unsatisfactory but the recommendation in our report is also unsatisfactory. In 1978, when the big Procedure Committee recommended a new family of Select Committees, we recommended that there should continue to be the possibility of a nationalised industries Committee of some sort—I shall call it a Committee for the moment—to study those matters that were common to two or more nationalised industries. We envisaged that the membership of that Committee would be drawn from the subject Committees involved in the issue that the nationalised industries Committee was to study.
I was a Member of the Procedure Committee in 1978, but I do not recollect our ever addressing our minds to the problems arising from the fact that the nationalised industries Committee would be a Sub-Committee and not a full Committee. Had we been aware of the problem that that created, I am sure that we should have recommended that there should be a full nationalised industries Committee which, unlike the old nationalised industries Committee, would not be a Committee in its own right with separate membership and its own subject but a potential Committee to be called into existence from time to time as the need arose, with its membership drawn from the subject Committees. The advantage of that would be that such a full Committee could report direct to the House.
As the House will have gathered, I do not agree with the recommendation in our report, for this reason. We have given the proposed nationalised industries Sub-Committee an artificial daddy because the poor little thing had no daddy of its own. We did that to allow the Sub-Committee to report, through its artificial daddy, to the House. To find a means of defining the daddy, we decided to give the Sub-Committee to the member of the family of subject Committees to which the Chairman of the nationalised industries Sub-Committee happened to belong. That could involve serious problems, as the Sub-Committee might produce a report that did not have the support of the artificial daddy, although it might have the support of a number of the other subject Committees.
Therefore, I believe that there should be a potential nationalised industries Committee which can be called into being as needed but that it should be a full Committee made up from Members drawn from the other subject Committees but, like any full Committee, free to report to the House without its report having to be approved by any other Committee.
My third point of substance apparently causes concern to no one but me, and I regret that. The report recommends—and the Government recommend that we accept the recommendation—that when the House of Lords makes a proposal initiating expenditure it will automatically be ruled out when it comes to this House, and not be capable of being adopted by this House unless 401 it is covered by a money resolution from the Government. That is perceived as a means of retaining Commons power as against House of Lords power.
More important is the fact that it is also a means of retaining Government power against House power, because if the House of Lords initiates such a proposal for expenditure which gains the Government's support in the Commons with a money resolution, we overlook the fact that it has been initiated by the Lords. However, if it has been initiated in the Lords and five-sixths of the House wants it but the Government do not, there will not even be a possibility of a Division on it in this House. Therefore, we are not primarily removing a right of the House of Lords against this House but a right of non-ministerial Members of Parliament as compared with the Government. I am always opposed to that. It is a pity that we are doing it.
When my grandchildren ask me, "What did you do as a result of your X years in the House?", I may refer to one or two other things but I shall conclude by pulling a copy of Standing Orders off the shelf and saying, "Here is an old copy of Standing Orders which used to refer to `less' than 20 hon. Members when it ought to say 'fewer' than 20 hon. Members, and which used to say if a Committee `are' satisfied when they should have said if the Committee `is' satisfied.". Those two beautiful removals of irritation are worth several years of parliamentary life.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for bringing this important report to the House for debate so soon after its publication. We often wait a long time for Select Committee reports to be debated. All credit should go where credit is due.
I should also like to add my congratulations to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) on his speech today and for the report to which he and the members of the Committee have obviously given so much thought. Looking into Standing Orders is no small matter. It is a truism to say that they are the rules under which we operate our system of parliamentary democracy, through everything that we do in the House and its Committees.
I should like to comment on two recommendations that the Government have not accepted. I can understand why. I shall deal first with Standing Order No. 86(A) on the Sub-Committee on nationalised industries. It is a pity that the recommendation has not been accepted. I served on the old Select Committee on nationalised industries for eight years. For the three years during which we have had the new Select Committees, I have noticed the obvious omission of a separate Select Committee for nationalised industries. A Sub-Committee would be a step in the right direction towards filling the gap and satisfying the need for detailed study of the nationalised industries such as only a Select Committee can give.
The nationalised industries are now tending to wander rather lonely in the scheme of things without regular examination by Parliament through a Select Committee. I can understand my right hon. Friend's views on that subject, but I hope that he will note that there is a feeling in the House that the nationalised industries deserve and require more constant study by the House through its Select Committees.
402 The other recommendation with which I should like to deal concerns Standing Order No. 24. I listened to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and I note seriously his point that hon. Members should not try to punish an hon. Member. That step has been described as dramatic, should the House agree to it. Whenever we hear such comments, we shrink from taking such decisions. However, I am sorry that we have shrunk from that one as it is in accord with the proper responsibilities of the House regarding the behaviour of hon. Members and the authority of the Chair.
If we are afraid to take measures to support the authority of the Chair, we should re-examine ourselves. The Committee has examined the subject and has been worried that, at times, the authority of the Chair has been challenged. We can always challenge that authority in an official way by tabling a motion, seeking a debate or referring the matter to a Procedure Committee. There are many ways in which we can reform ourselves but we always maintain that the authority of the Chair is supreme in the Chamber.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Is not the hon. Gentleman confusing two things? We all agree about the authority of the Chair, but is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that that authority is significantly diminished because there is no financial penalty? Surely the real sanction is not only being named but being excluded from the privilege of sitting in this place, even for one day. Is that not representative of the authority of the Chair? Indeed, might not—I put it no higher—the addition of a financial penalty demean and reduce that significant sanction?
§ Mr. Crouch
That is an extremely good point, but it takes nothing from my argument. I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. For an hon. Member to be named by the Chair and suspended from the Chamber and the precincts of the House is a significant punishment. However, I should have thought that suspension carrying the sanction of losing one's pay during suspension would accord with the spirit of the times.
We are trying to establish better discipline in industry and say that people who are suspended because they cannot observe the rules should also lose pay. Surely we should be prepared to accept that discipline as well.
It is recognised in the House—indeed, the House has decided in its Standing Orders—that the authority of the Chair is supreme. We may not challenge that authority, and if our behaviour is disorderly we are deemed to be out of order and can therefore be ordered out of the Chamber. I should have thought that it would be good for lion. Members to accept an additional punishment.
We are not so much debating whether hon. Members should decide to impose a punishment or a sanction on other hon. Members as showing that we are prepared to accept a sanction that might apply to us. I am not invoking a punishment on other hon. Members. We can all be disorderly, named and ordered out of the Chamber. It is sometimes almost proper, when debate is spirited, to determine that one will fall foul of the Chair. I have done so, and I doubt whether there is an hon. Member here tonight who has not ruffled the Chair a little—some more so than others.
§ Mr. Crouch
I am not begging for mercy, I am simply saying that this is a good recommendation. It is a pity that we shrink from it. I understand that we may have to delay the decision, but we should not delay it forever. We must face the fact that in recent years the House has been subject to much stronger criticism from outside for what appears to be disorderly conduct as a result of the broadcasting of Parliament. The public tend to hear those periods—15 minutes twice a week—that are noisier than the other eight hours of each day that we work. The feeling is growing up that the House is not the place of order that it should be. It has never been a very orderly place and has had to be controlled by the Chair for many hundreds of years. We respect the Chair for that reason. This small additional sanction would have shown that hon. Members collectively were prepared to take their punishment if they transgressed the rules of the House.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will take those thoughts on board and will understand that we do not dismiss the idea readily.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
I shall not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), for reasons that I shall make clear in a moment.
This debate is significant because Standing Orders generally work so well that we take them for granted. The Leader of the House mentioned a written or unwritten constitution, but Standing Orders are part of the effective constitution of Britain. They are the part that is, to some extent, written down, like the Representation of the People Act 1983 and other documents—unfortunately, including the treaty of Rome—which affect our constitution.
Standing Orders are the ball-bearings on which the parliamentary wheel works. The entire public life of Britain depends on that wheel turning, without its spokes being destroyed. If the ball-bearings are not in good order and are not lubricated, as the Committee has done for our benefit, or if they become rusty and inefficient, the effects are out of all proportion to the modest size of the book.
We owe some thanks to the Select Committee on Standing Orders (Revision), but I must add a small caveat about its proceedings. Its terms of reference wereto consider and report upon the re-arrangement and re-drafting of the Standing Orders so as to bring them into conformity with existing practice.The recommendation about pay and suspension was an innovatory suggestion, but—I choose my words carefully—I am surprised that consideration of any such proposition was strictly in order for that Committee. It is interesting to note that much of tonight's debate has been not on the many relatively minor changes to Standing Orders but on pay and suspension. It is not strictly appropriate for the Committee to have reported on it, so I shall not discuss it tonight. If the amendment is not carried, perhaps we should try to deal with the matter on another occasion. This is not the right time to debate the matter, still less to decide it.
As to the practical effects of the motion in the name of the Leader of the House, line 4 states that the amendments 404 shall "be made". Therefore, once the motion is carried, with or without the amendment, from tomorrow there will be no Standing Order No. 9. It will be goodbye to Standing Order No. 9; hello to Standing Order No. 10. I am not sure whether that would be wise. I know that there is no likelihood of points of order tomorrow, but there may be some when we meet again on Monday week.
Has the Leader of the House considered when the amendments should come into effect? A new term, if we can call it that, might be the right time. A new Session might be more appropriate, and a new Parliament might be even more convenient. There are other considerations. I understand that "Erskine May" is to be republished, and it may need textual amendments. However, it would be difficult for the House to take on board an entirely new set of Standing Orders. They could hardly be reprinted by Monday week. I do not know whether the Leader of the House has considered this, but the House may be able to agree that the coming into force of the new Standing Orders should be postponed.
The table of comparison at the end of the document was of less help than I had wished, because, although the new renumbering of Standing Orders is contained there, it does not refer to the existing Standing Orders. Perhaps if we have another revision in 10 years, we can ensure that that is done. It might even be possible, when the new Standing Orders are printed, to have in brackets the numbers of the old Standing Orders. I mention this because those in the Clerk's Department—we should be grateful for their assistance to the Select Committee and the Clerk of the House was a witness—carry many matters in their heads, especially the numbers of Standing Orders. If they must do that, what can hon. Members do?
I understand from the table that new Standing Order No. 10 will replace the well-known Standing Order No. 9, but in the table of amendments Standing Order No. 9 is referred to as recommended Standing Order No. 11. I may have misunderstood the matter, and I would have drawn it to the attention of the Table Office informally had I not just happened to notice it a few moments ago. However, it reinforces my point about when the new Standing Orders should become effective.
There is a belief outside the House that our procedures are archaic and long-winded, that we have Standing Orders to prevent things happening, and that they are innately conservative. That is not correct. Standing Orders are constantly being revised through Procedure (Finance) Select Committee recommendations and through textual revisions, such as those before us today. They are referred to rarely because they have been honed through time and are very practical. I put it to those who examine our procedures that Standing Orders provide the least inconvenient way of dealing properly with business, consistent with the rights and privileges of hon. Members and the constituents they serve.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
On page 32 of the report there has been an alteration in the wording in accordance with the terms of reference of the Committee. Recommendation No. 121 states:Any Member intending to propose that certain Members be members of a select committee, or be discharged from a select committee, shall give notice of the names of the Members whom he intends so to propose, shall endeavour to ascertain previously 405 whether each such Member will give his attendance on the committee, and shall endeavour to give notice to any Member whom he proposes to be discharged from the committee.I understand that these are redrafting points, and under the terms of the Committee, it would have been difficult for it to have made it a requirement that any hon. Member intending to propose that an hon. Member "shall" obtain the consent from the hon. Member and "shall" give notice to the hon. Member concerned. Membership of Select Committees is drawn up by Whips of either side, who started from an illiberal beginning when they voted, and organised the vote to exclude an hon. Member. They have continued their illiberal practice ever since, with variations on the theme. There have been occasions when hon. Members have found their names on lists or have been taken off, when they have not been consulted. It would have been useful to alter the Standing Order to ensure that an hon. Member understands the position and is consulted.
However, the Committee was not empowered to do that because the terms of reference were limited toreport upon the re-arrangement and re-drafting of the Standing Orders so as to bring them into conformity with existing practice.That is all. It is a minor task, but we should thank the Committee for its endeavours, because it is a boring task as well. The fact that it has been undertaken is a credit to the Committee. However, having given it that limited and narrow task, we should not consider a major alteration by means of a side wind—that is, the recommendation that if hon. Members are named and therefore suspended, they should lose their pay.
When the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) proposed his amendment, he said that hon. Members were paid to turn up and do a job here. That is true, but it does not apply universally. I wish that it did. As I argued before, if that was the criterion that applied, payment would be withheld from a large number of people. However, that is not the criterion. I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) said, that it is a considerable punishment, indeed the greatest one that can be inflicted, to deny an hon. Member access to this place. We pass annual orders to ensure that they have access to this place, so that we can have an unfettered ability to get here. We do that, whether or not it is effective, to emphasise the importance of our attendance here. People work extremely hard to get to this place and argue lengthily and mightily at elections that they, and not others, should represent the people here. Therefore, once they have got here, to deny them access is a considerable punishment.
§ Mr. Crouch
I take the hon. Gentleman's point about denying hon. Members access, but he suggested earlier that some hon. Members were not here all the time. If we are to demonstrate outside that it is a punishment, and we are prepared to take it, hon. Members should be prepared not only to be denied access here, but to be denied payment for not being here.
§ Mr. Cryer
I am saying that punishment is enough.
It is not true to suppose that the level of noise in this place is in some way allied to the ability to throw people out. The noisiest times are not always the times when people are removed. There have been noisier occasions when individuals have not been punished because the House has been suspended. For example, there was on that well-known occasion when the Mace was, for some reason, removed from its resting place—I have some 406 reservations about the position of the Secretary of State for Defence because if he has another rush of blood to the head he now has buttons to press and it is much more harmless to remove the Mace. On that occasion, the House was suspended when there was clearly an individual action. I am not criticising the Speaker of the day for that, but it is not true that noise and the ability to throw an hon. Member out are related.
On another occasion, when my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) was named, he spoke quietly and merely said that he was putting a little notice on the Table. It was a quiet and measured occasion, but it probably took everybody's breath away. The removal of pay is not necessary to make the offence that more heinous and neither will the chilling obligation of being both excluded and losing pay make the House behave that much more quietly.
We are a noisy assembly. It may be that through broadcasting people outside bring their influence to bear and some procedures change. Noise can be defended. Assemblies that are quiet and in which the speaker is listened to in respectful silence because it is the custom and practice of the assembly, may be nice assemblies, but they are inordinately dull. One of the strengths and virtues of this place is that hon. Members stand up and challenge other hon. Members on points. It is an interchange of ideas, and a clash of wills. That is a strength.
For example, when I have the opportunity to ask questions of the Prime Minister, which is not sufficiently often, there are occasionally some odd comments from Conservative Benches. I do not grumble at that, and I do not go on radio to say what a noisy place this is. I expect and understand the noise, and feel that one of the challenges of this place is to be able to stand up to it.
This happens to be by tradition a noisy place. It is. on many occasions, the stronger for it, although I do not include in that observation the scenes between 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock when on many occasions when we were in government—this tends to be forgotten—the words of the Minister's winding-up speech could not be heard. I am talking about the way that people can interject, ideas can be challenged and hon. Members who come to speak at either Dispatch Box have to be reasonably certain of what they are saying to confront the House with their ideas. That is not a bad thing either, because if one has a quiet and respectful assembly it is easier to get away with things than if that is not the case.
Noise is a characteristic of ours, and removing five days' pay will not change it. The barring of an hon. Member from the House is sufficient punishment. What is more, the loss of pay would be much more onerous to Members of Parliament who are full-time Members of Parliament—the very hon. Members to whom the hon. Member for Tiverton referred—than those who are not. The report refers to a clarification of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (Declaration).
We know that some hon. Members, although not all, have outside interests. If a Member with outside interests is suspended for five days with loss of pay, he will not feel it. Hon. Members will not be badly done by if they are not paid for a few days. I am not arguing that they will be, because we are well paid. However, some hon. Members are not only well paid as Members of Parliament but handsomely paid from outside jobs as well. I am opposed to that. Hon. Members should be full-time, and work at the job. I do not wish to go into the arguments about 407 whether outside work enriches the House, because the arguments about outside work are never made by engineering workers or road maintenance workers or coal miners but in defence of company directorships, which are supposed to enrich the House.
The removal of part of the parliamentary salary will have little effect, especially if the suspended Member has outside interests. The person who will be hit hardest will be the full-time member of Parliament, who will not be dealt with fairly. That is another reason why I do not support the removal of salary.
It has also been argued that, if a Member is thrown out, he will get a lot of money from the media and, therefore, it will not matter. That is not necessarily true. Indeed, it is unlikely to be the case. I have no experience of this, although I may have had one or two near misses, but I am quite sure that other hon. Members can testify from experience. I believe that, when a Member is thrown out, there is a brief acknowledgement from television, mostly as a matter of practical application from film crews immediately on the spot. In those circumstances, I do not think that a fee is received. Therefore, the notion that such a Member can derive substantial income, or any income at all, is not true.
The Committee is trying to do something by a side wind that was not within its terms of reference. The penalty of exclusion is sufficient. The removal of salary would apply unfairly among Members, some of whom are full-time and some of whom are part time with outside interests. In any event, such occasions are so rare That they do not merit this additional burden on Members. By and large—indeed, universally—hon. Members acknowledge the rules of debate that enable us to exchange ideas. There are sometimes challenges to the Chair, but that has not been so only since 1979. Between 1974 and 1979, there were many challenges to the Chair. That depends on the quick wittedness, wit and deafness of the Chair. At times it is an onerous and difficult task, but it will not be helped one jot by the removal of a Member's salary.
I am in the somewhat uneasy position of supporting the recommendation of the Leader of the House. In spite of that, I hope that the House too will support his recommendation.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I shall not detain the House for very long, but at the outset I should say that I am not exactly in tune with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). He said that he had never been thrown out, and it makes a difference when one has been thrown out. Certainly the experience can change one's attitude to the suggested removal of salary.
The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) referred to disorderly conduct. There will certainly be none tonight. However, during the recess many hon. Members will be going abroad, possibly to the Caribbean or to the Cayman Islands. Many of them are probably now in the Smoking Room drinking the hours away. We are not allowed to say that they are drunk, but without a doubt some of them are half sober. It seems like disorderly conduct when they come wobbling into the Chamber at 10 o'clock when a vote is taking place. That is probably the occasion on which to label someone disorderly.
408 There are many ways in which one can describe disorderly conduct. Having listened to the radio and heard the animal-like noises between 3.15 and 3.30, the public are bound to reach the conclusion that this place is like a beer garden. The problem is that some of us who wait for a lull in the proceedings, when all the "Hear, hearing" has receded, sometimes fall foul of Mr. Speaker.
Frankly, I believe that my interventions make more sense than the animal-like noises, especially when the SDP has something to say. Indeed, it is novel for the SDP to develop policy on the Floor of the House of Commons, even if some of its Members pronounce Ravenscraig as "Wavenscwaig". I noticed that on that occasion Dr. Death was laughing his head off, and we know why. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel)—the boy David—was also quite pleased.
I am concerned that the Select Committee report has come to the House with such speed. Normally, these reports, do not come to the House very quickly, and on some occasions they are debated years after they are published. Only last week I spoke in an Adjournment debate on the tragic case of Alan Grimshaw, who gave evidence to the Select Committee on nationalised industries in 1973–74. That report was never debated on the Floor of the House. Had it been, it would have been dynamite. I was, therefore, surprised when my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley reminded us of the speed at which this report had come to the House.
Some time ago I referred to the Secretary of State for Employment as the Secretary of State for Unemployment. One thing led to another, and I think I described him as a liar instead of using a phrase such as "terminological inexactitude"—[Interruption.] I am merely quoting what was said at the time.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he is quoting an unparliamentary expression. Perhaps, as a favour to me, he will leave his quotations alone over Eastertide.
§ Mr. Skinner
I could, Mr. Speaker, have used the phrase terminological inexactitude, but no people in Bolsover would have understood the significance of using that phrase. In any event, that is water under the bridge.
Having been ordered out of the Chamber, I should not have regarded it as a hardship had the money been stopped, because I thought that that would happen. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley must disabuse himself of the idea that if he gets ordered out of the Chamber he will get on to the box, certainly within the confines of this place. He may get to Wells street or somewhere else, but the police are quick to act on the instructions of the Serjeant at Arms. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison) also plays a prominent part in these "throwing out" jobs.
When the television people wanted to escort me to their studio in the Norman Shaw building so that I could explain to the wide world—and to Bolsover in particular—what had happened, I was not allowed to go with them. I finished up on the lawn outside. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley is absolutely right. When a Member does a television interview on the lawn, with Big Ben in the background, it does not come under the Equity rules and he will not get paid.
I do not want to give the impression that it can be regarded as a punishment to lose a day's pay when a 409 Member of Parliament's salary is about £14,000 a year. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley votes tonight, if there is a Division, he will not support the Leader of the House on the basis that he is trying to save some money for impoverished men.
Before I came to this place I was working at the pit. I was earning less than £18 a week. In those days I knew what it was like to lose a day's pay for being late for work, for example. That was a hardship. The loss of a day's pay made a real difference to the weekly pay packet.
§ Mr. Skinner
The memories are flooding back to my right hon. Friend, who has been in this place for a long time. If there is a vote tonight, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and I will be in different Lobbies. That does not happen very often. I have no doubt that it will be extremely confusing to at least one hon. Member, who shall remain nameless.
We should not feel sorry for those in this place who lose a day's pay. Instead, our sorrow should go all the time to those whose wages are being docked by the Government. We should be fighting, for example, for the nurses, who have had a real cut in wages. So many have been hammered by the Government's policies. The 4 million who have been thrown out of work have lost all their wages.
§ Mr. Skinner
I was trying to win some sympathy from you, Mr. Speaker, because of the hundreds of thousands who are out of work in Wales. Let us think of them and not worry too much about the tiny problem which will not bear very hard upon us. If there is a Division, I shall vote with the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop).
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
I am one of the "unfortunates" who have been named and asked to leave the Chamber. That happened to me earlier in the year. I went to the Library to ascertain whether suspension of Members over the past 10 years warranted serious consideration by the Select Committee. I was surprised to find that suspensions are rare. That was the position until 1981, when six hon. Members were suspended in the one year. In 1982, if the information that I received from the Library is correct, there were only three suspensions. In the few months that have passed this year, there have been two suspensions. On the most recent occasion, my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) was suspended. On the previous occasion, I was suspended. My suspension occurred late at night a few days earlier.
I have read the reasons why other hon. Members have been suspended and I have read why Mr. Speaker had to adjourn a debate on one occasion. That happened on the occasion to which my hon. Friend the Member of Keighley (Mr. Cryer) referred. I have contrasted the events of 27 May 1976—I read the report that appeared in Hansard and discussed the matter with those who were serving in the House at the time—with my suspension on 16 February. What would have happened to a Labour Member if he had pretended to be a drum major with the Mace? I am sure 410 that he would not have received the same treatment as the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who is now the Secretary of State for Defence. He played drum major with the Mace and caused the sitting to be suspended.
I have read the report in the Official Report—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not impute that I would not treat both sides of the House equally. He has given an inadequate picture of what took place on the night of 27 May 1976. He was not a Member at the time. If he had been here, he would know that other things happened that night which were not referred to in Hansard but which I saw.
§ Mr. Powell
I am not making that imputation, Mr. Speaker. I can go only by what I read in Hansard. There is a reference in Hansard to grave disorder having arisen in the House. That is the record that appears in Hansard. On the following day the right hon. Member for Henley made a personal statement. He said:Last night, Mr. Speaker, I removed the Mace from its position. I deeply regret my action. I was hoping to be able to apologise to you and the House when you returned to the Chair last night. That was not possible, and I now take this first opportunity of apologising unreservedly."—[Official Report, 28 May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 769.]That is what the right hon. Gentleman said when the House sat the following day.
I was suspended on 16 February when I was trying to raise a point of order during a debate. I was trying to make a point of order on important parliamentary constituency boundaries in Wales. It was possible to table amendments in the Table Office, but the order that was before us was not amendable. Therefore, my amendment could not be called. That was a reasonable ground for raising a point of order. On that night it was the only point of order that I felt was reasonable. I was persistent in asking Mr. Deputy Speaker whether he would accept the amendment, and unfortunately I was suspended.
I share the view that has been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Most of us could reasonably afford the loss of a day's pay on suspension. My hon. Friend made the relevant observation that not all hon. Members attend the House regularly. Perhaps it would be wise to have a clocking on and clocking off system with Members of Parliament on both sides of the House being paid for their attendance. The attendance of some hon. Members would perhaps be very different if that system were rigidly operated.
I take exception to the suggestion that Members should be suspended if, in the course of representing their constituents, they try to get your attention, Mr. Speaker, by raising points of order and hoping that you will call them. Surely Members should be afforded the right of appeal if they are suspended because they have persisted in attempting to raise points of order. I submit that right should be given to them if they are to be suspended for the duration of the sitting. I suggest that some independent body should decide whether a Member is to be suspended in accordance with our Standing Orders. Some hon. Members might be reluctant to persist in properly representing their constituents if it means that they can be suspended without pay, because they might have family and other commitments, such as a mortgage, and have no other interests to supplement their salaries.
§ Mr. Cryer
Does my hon. Friend agree that the suspension of pay would affect Labour Members more 411 than Conservative Members because Labour Members depend solely on their parliamentary income? That rule would bear unfairly on one section of the membership of the House, because those with outside interests would be in an advantageous position.
§ Mr. Powell
I agree with my hon. Friend. One has only to look at the new booklet on the declaration of interests to see the many outside interests of Conservative Members compared with Labour Members. Therefore, it is important that Labour Members should seriously consider the Select Committee's suggestion.
Because few hon. Members have been suspended, I sincerely believe that there should be no suggestion that their pay should be suspended. It is enough that they are suspended and have to leave the Chamber so that they cannot represent their constituents. I was fortunate in that I was unable to represent my constituents for only one hour and five minutes—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman was not suspended; he was ordered out of the Chamber for misconduct. He is following a wrong tack to suggest that the Chair did not behave correctly. It is not open to him to attack the Chair tonight. If he wishes to do that, he must table a motion on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Powell
Nevertheless, I had to leave the House. Therefore, I could not represent my constituents for one hour and five minutes; nor could I participate in the vote that took place on that occasion.
I wonder how much of my salary I would have lost if I had been suspended for one hour and five minutes. Had I been suspended on that occasion—the decision was not yours, Mr. Speaker; if was the decision of Mr. Deputy Speaker— I should not have been able to attend the following day's proceedings of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, and it was imperative that I should. Having been present in the debate on Welsh boundaries and having read the Official Report of the proceedings carefully, I believe that there was no necessity for me to be suspended.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is grossly out of order in saying that and criticising the occupant of the Chair. I am sorry that he did so.
§ 8.4 pm
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I have been inspired to make a short contribution, perhaps the shortest of the debate, by the speech of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), which has shown me how wise my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is to recommend to the House that the recommendation of the Select Committee on the deduction of Members' pay should not be implemented.
One reason why it is so rare for a Member to be suspended from the service of the House is that it is not seen by the public to be a great sacrifice. If it were, as it might be if it involved deduction of pay, I suspect that many hon. Members would be queueing up, particularly as election time grew nearer, to make that sacrifice. It would enable them to show how strongly they felt about their constituents' interests, for which they were prepared to lose a day's pay.
That may not have been in my right hon. Friend's mind, but I suspect that if the proposal were to be implemented, 412 we might find that the need for Members to be suspended would grow considerably. Therefore, I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has made the decision not to do so tonight.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Mr. Biffen
This has been an interesting and wide-ranging debate which one might not have supposed would have come from so closely argued a series of textual criticisms as is contained in the Select Committee's report. The House has much enjoyed having the topic somewhat widened. I appreciated the remarks of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) who suggested that hon. Members might sign on for their emoluments because that is the practice of the other place. When we see the more self-confessedly radical Members of the Labour party looking to the House of Lords for some inspiration for our practices, I know that there is still a good future for consensus politics in the United Kingdom.
In substance, the debate has turned around two points—first, the consideration of a nationalised industries Committee and, secondly, Standing Order No. 24. On the former, I appreciate the general sense that has been argued in the House this evening and the support that has been given to the view that no definitive judgment should be reached tonight. In particular in that context, I welcome the support of and confirmation from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas).
It is the contentious issue of Standing Order No. 24 and the possibility of withholding the pay of those hon. Members who are suspended that has seized most of our imaginations. It says much for the strong sense of puritanism that is within the heart of every hon. Member that many, not least the hon. Member for Ogmore, were anxious to have that provision apply to the circumstances in which they had been required to withdraw from the House, although the reform is intended only for grand and not lesser offenders. Whether the hon. Gentleman aspires to that more dramatic gesture, I know not, but, if it lies within my ability, I would like to discourage him.
The debate has highlighted the problem which properly concerns hon. Members because we are the guardians and keepers of the reputation of the House, and orderly and disorderly conduct bear upon that. But let there be no misunderstanding. The original Standing Orders date back to the last century, when behaviour in the House was infinitely more disorderly than it is today. There have been seven suspensions in this Parliament—just under two a year. I do not speak with any complacency or plead that in extenuation, but I suspect that, in an assembly where debate and conduct have inevitably tended to be a good deal more lively than in some other assemblies, we strike a balance among the various components of debate, including that of noise and disorder, which are historically integral to the conduct of our affairs. I suspect that we do that as well today as we have done at any time in generations past. I will not argue with my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) because he will sense that he had more robust criticism of his speech from others than from me. In response to the point made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), should the new Standing Orders be confirmed this evening, they will become effective as soon as the resolution is agreed to. I make a reference of gratitude to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. 413 Cunningham). I doubt whether the revised Standing Orders in their pristine and pure exposition of language will stand alongside Milton or Shakespeare but to have done something to improve the language in the essential bureaucracy of this place is, indeed, an achievement. I congratulate him on that point.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I was interested, though by no means surprised, that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) confirmed the widely-held view that he expected that his salary would cease to be paid during his suspension from the service of the House. That is the universal expectation outside the House. That is also the widely-held, if incorrect, belief among those in the Lobby who comment on the affairs of the House, who are often surprised, if not astonished, to find that that is not the position.
The case, if I might dignify it with that word, put by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) from the Opposition Front Bench is that he has some difficulty in dividing his annual salary by 365 to establish what five days' suspension means in terms of salary. That is such a trivial objection that he had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find any argument against my proposition. I doubt whether his argument carries weight.
The argument for this reform did not arise when Standing Order No. 24 was first passed, simply because there was no salary that could be suspended. The opportunity was missed, just as many opportunities have been missed in subsequent revisions of Standing Orders. This seems an appropriate time to remedy what many hon. Members regard as an anomaly, in that the same salary is paid to hon. Members even when they have been suspended from the service of the House for defiance of the Chair.
I am pleased that it has been emphasised yet again that this proposition does not apply when an hon. Member is ordered to withdraw. It applies only to gross defiance of the Chair, which occurs when an hon. Member is named rather than ordered to withdraw. That is the only circumstance covered by Standing Order No. 24.
The withdrawal of salary would apply in many circumstances in life exterior to this House, such as in industry—
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris
Before the hon. Gentleman concludes his argument, may I ask whether he is suggesting that the salary for membership of the House is related solely to attending debates in the House?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Far from my not having suggested that, if the right hon. Gentleman had been present when I proposed the amendment he would have heard me say the contrary. I said that an hon. Member, although not allowed in the precincts of the House, except to serve on a private Bill Committee, could still deal with his constituency correspondence. I expressly said that for that reason his secretarial allowance would not be affected. The right hon. Gentleman would have heard me say that if he had been in his place at the beginning of this debate, or perhaps his memory has let him down.
It is from the service of the House—in the House, the precincts, the Chamber, the Select Committees and the Standing Committees—that an hon. Member is suspended when, having been named by the Chair, the motion is put 414 and carried. If it is not carried by the House, the hon. Member is not suspended. I emphasise that an hon. Member is not suspended from the service of the House initially for five days by the Chair. He or she is suspended from the service of the House by his or her fellow Members voting on the motion.
It is appropriate that in those circumstances no salary should be paid for the duration of the suspension. That view would be widely, if not universally, held outside the House. I believe that this is the proper occasion to remedy the anomaly of the absence of that provision. Therefore, I intend to press the amendment to a Division if it is opposed.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made;—
§ The House divided: Ayes 2, Noes 88.
|Division No. 109]||[8.17 pm|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Snape, Peter||Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop and|
|Mr. Tony Speller.|
|Alexander, Richard||Knox, David|
|Ancram, Michael||Lang, Ian|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th.E)||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Major, John|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Marlow, Antony|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Mather, Carol|
|Body, Richard||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Bright, Graham||Murphy, Christopher|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Myles, David|
|Buck, Antony||Neale, Gerrard|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Neubert, Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Newton, Tony|
|Clarke,Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie)||Osborn, John|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Cope, John||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Cryer, Bob||Palmer, Arthur|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Parry, Robert|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Dixon, Donald||Prescott, John|
|Dubs, Alfred||Price, C, (Lewisham W)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Durant, Tony||Race, Reg|
|Eggar, Tim||Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)|
|Farr, John||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Fitt, Gerard||Silvester, Fred|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles||Spearing, Nigel|
|Foster, Derek||Sproat, Iain|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Squire, Robin|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Thompson, Donald|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Haynes, Frank||Waller, Gary|
|Hicks, Robert||Watson, John|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Wells, Bowen|
|Home Robertson, John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Kerr, Russell||Mr. David Hunt and|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That the repeals of, and Amendments to, the Standing Orders of this House relating to Public Business, and the new Standing Orders, recommended by the Select Committee on Standing
Orders (Revision) in their Report and stated in the Appendix thereto, be made, subject to the following modification, namely, in Standing Order No. 65 (Procedure in standing committees), paragraph (3), line 11, after 'committee' insert 'or to a motion relating to a document referred to a committee under paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 73B (Standing Committees on European Community documents)', and to the following omissions, namely, the recommended Amendment to Standing Order No. 24 (Order in debate), paragraph (2), at the end to add `and no salary shall be payable to such Member in respect of such period of suspension', and the recommended Amendments to paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 86A (Select Committees related to Government departments).