HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc889-976
Mr. Speaker

We now come to the debate on Members' interests. Before we enter on the motions, it might be helpful to the House if I describe the procedure that is to be followed.

The Leader of the House moves first the formal motion that the report of the Select Committee be now considered, in order to enable the hon. Member whose conduct is in question to address the House first. It has been our custom that, when the hon. Member has concluded his speech he withdraws from the Chamber, but on the most recent occasion the House decided that the hon. Members concerned could remain to hear the debate if they so wished. Therefore, I take it that that is the will of the House on this occasion.

Secondly, I remind the House that it is our custom that such speeches should be heard in silence and without interruption. Thereafter, when the formal motion has been disposed of, I propose to call the Leader of the House to move and to speak to the substantive motion in his name.

There will then follow a joint debate on that motion and on the amendments to it, and on motion 2 on the Order Paper and the amendment that I have selected to that, which is amendment (b). On the first motion I have selected all the amendments—amendments (a) to (d) inclusive.

At the conclusion of the debate, I will call the Members to move their amendments to the first motion formally so that the House may decide upon them. I shall then put the main question before moving on to amendment (b) to the second motion and then to that main question.

Ordered, That the Report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (HC 135) be now considered.—[Sir Geoffrey Howe.]

4.31 pm
Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

I rise to apologise most sincerely both to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House.

Very considerable pressures have been brought upon me to discuss the Select Committee's report publicly before this debate. I have resisted that, because I felt that the correct place for me to speak was to this House, which I now do.

There was also an option open to me to make an earlier personal statement. I rejected that lest it seem like an attempt on my part to pre-empt the debate.

There has been considerable media coverage of this case. In coming to a judgment, I ask the House to put out of its mind that media coverage, much of it sensationalised and, in the light of the Select Committee's findings, simply untrue.

I now recognise that, some seven to eight years ago, I failed to register properly all my interests. Since first being elected to Parliament some 11 years ago, I have tried always to comply with the rules of the House as I understood them and properly to declare my interests.

Whenever I have spoken in debates I have also sought to declare relevant interests. I have, on occasions, refrained from voting, as on the Barclays Bank Bill in 1984, when I felt that there was potential conflict with the financial interests that I had.

I ask the House to consider the Select Committee's report against that background.

I cannot honestly say to the House that I am happy with the investigation procedure but, subject to that, I turn to the two complaints that the Select Committee upheld and upon which it recommended further action.

First, there is the matter of the Saudi Arabian monetary agency. Some eight years ago my company, Falcon, in which I had declared an interest as a director, had a contract with the Saudi agency. That contract did not involve parliamentary lobbying of any kind. I did not declare that contract, because the work did not involve Parliament in any way whatever.

As the House will know, there is no general obligation to disclose the names of clients. Having already declared an interest in my Falcon company, it did not occur to me that rule 13(7) applied to sums received in the commercial business of my company.

Since this matter arose, I have discovered that I am not alone in that interpretation. Furthermore, the Committee seems to have accepted this uncertainty in recommending that rule 13(7) now be clarified.

Having stated how I interpreted the rules, I naturally accept entirely the Committee's interpretation, and I apologise for failing to disclose that interest.

The Committee has also determined that I should have declared the client relationship with the Saudi agency because of the question that I asked of the Prime Minister in 1982. As the House will know, I could not possibly have known that I would be called to ask the question, because it was only a supplementary question. Furthermore, the Committee accepts that I was not asked to put that question. It has also accepted that the question made no difference to my fee. I am grateful for those acceptances.

The reason why I asked the question, the answer to which was, of course, predictable, was that I wanted, as most other hon. Members would want, to encourage inward investment into the United Kingdom.

Again, I accept the judgment of the Committee and I apologise sincerely for the omission.

The second matter concerns Selco East and Mr. Charles Chidiac. Again, these events related back approximately eight years. I must tell the House that I have never had any kind of contractual or financial relationship with Mr. Charles Chidiac. That fact was confirmed by Mr. Chidiac himself. Then, as now—and in common, I imagine, with hon. Members on both sides of the House—I sought to back British companies which were facing intense foreign competition. I had no financial interest in so doing and therefore did not consider that I had an interest to declare.

My company, Falcon, did have a consultancy agreement with Selco East, London. Under that agreement, my company, in which I had declared my directorship, was paid £200 a month for some nine months. It was for general financial advice work and banking introductions. It did not involve any parliamentary lobbying. The contract had nothing to do with my actions on behalf of British companies.

Without the relationship between Mr. Charles Chidiac and Selco East, London, there would have been no requirement to declare the consultancy agreement. However, looking at it now, I understand why the Committee found that the relationship between Mr. Charles Chidiac and the owners of Selco East, London was so close that the consultancy agreement with my company should have been declared.

I therefore accept the Committee's judgment concerning that and, again, I apologise.

I wish to emphasise that my failure to disclose those interests was to a misunderstanding of the rules, which no-one can fairly say are wholly clear. Indeed, a motion is now before the House inviting the Select Committee to study and report further on the definition of outside interests.

I had no financial reason for failing to declare those interests and I have never intentionally misled the House.

I say to the House that I am truly sorry for my mistakes, for the misery that I have caused to my family and for the embarrassment that I have brought to the House and to my constituency.

4.38 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

I beg to move, That this House

  1. (i) agrees with the Report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (HC 135); and
  2. (ii) endorses the findings of the Committee in respect of the specific allegations against the honourable Member for Winchester and accordingly suspends him from the service of this House for a period of 20 sitting days and suspends his salary as a Member for that period.
The House will have listened, as I have, to the substantial statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), to his explanation and to his personal and repeated apologies with considerable personal sadness and with a deep sense of the seriousness of this occasion.

It now falls to me to undertake the painful burden of launching this difficult and important debate. The fact that the motions stand in my name alone indicates the unusual nature of the occasion. These are matters for consideration by the House as a whole, for this is pre-eminently not an occasion that any of us would wish to approach in a partisan spirit. It is an occasion for the House as a whole to search—as it has always tried to do, on those fortunately infrequent occasions in the past when we have been obliged to consider such matters—for reasoned conclusions and to consider what action, if any, to take in respect of alleged misconduct by one of our number. It is an occasion on which the House has to try to act in a similar non-partisan way. I certainly appear today not in any sense as a member of the Administration but as Leader of the House of Commons.

In formulating the motions that I have laid before the House I have endeavoured, after wide consultations on all sides, to identify and to express the conclusions that I judge will best represent the opinion of the House as a whole.

As Leader of the House I have tried to ensure, as best I may, that just as the subject of debate is not one which will divide the House on party lines, so the motions that I move may also attract the widest support, and it is in that spirit that I have approached my task.

The debate today is of importance to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. That goes without saying—and his statement a moment ago emphasises just how important—but the debate is also important for the maintenance of the standards that we all strive to uphold in the House. I hope that we may be able to use this melancholy occasion positively to help in the necessarily intermittent process of defining more clearly how those standards apply in specific circumstances, and how the House should set about upholding them when they are called into question.

It is to that continuing task that my second substantive motion is directed. In that motion I suggest that the House may well wish to invite the Select Committee on Members' Interests to give further consideration to questions of procedure as well as of substance, which were touched upon in its report.

The report of the Select Committee is at the heart of today's proceedings. On behalf of the House I pay tribute to the work of the Select Committee under the skilful arid sensitive chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson-Smith).

The absolute irrelevance of any kind of partisan approach to today's debate is reinforced by the way )n which in all its findings, the Select Committee was able o reach unanimous conclusions, and that is a most important point. Both in its conclusions about the allegations concerning the conduct of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, and in its observations on the operations of the Register of Members' Interests, and on other more general topics, the Committee was in complete agreement. That fact must surely give added weight to its conclusions.

On that basis, the first substantive motion in my name today invites the House to endorse the conclusion reached by the Select Committee about the alleged misconduct of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. Let me remind the House briefly of those allegations. The Committee grouped the complaints made against my hon. Friend under five headings. It records its findings on 10 separate counts. Of those 10, it finds no substance in five, it finds some substance in three but recommends that no action should be taken by the House, and in respect of two complaints against my hon. Friend the Committee found that he was at fault and recommended that the House consider action.

First, in paragraph 65 of the report, the Committee refers to my hon. Friend's failure to declare his interest in payment from an agency of a foreign Government—Saudi Arabia—of a little more than $88,000. The Committee found, as my hon. Friend has acknowledged, that he should have declared both the client relationship and the foreign payment.

Secondly, in paragraph 101, the Committee deals with my hon. Friend's failure to register his interest in a Lebanese company, while lobbying Ministers and officials on its and its clients' behalf, although a payment of £1,600 out of a proposed retainer of £2,600 a year was made to him. The Committee found it to be beyond reasonable doubt that my hon. Friend had a client relationship which influenced his parliamentary actions and conduct as a Member, and which should have been declared and registered.

It would be quite wrong and unfair to my hon. Friend if, by focusing on those two charges, we gave the impression that the Committee had upheld all the allegations made against him. It did not. However, the Committee's positive findings are, in its chosen language, serious matters, and we cannot belittle their importance.

The second part of my motion invites the House to decide what action, if any, should be taken to signal our view about the seriousness of that misconduct. I shall have more to say about that crucial question in the last part of my speech.

I will try to make clear my own view of the role of the House today. Judicial metaphors may be misleading. We are certainly not here to try my hon. Friend. We are not a court of law. A better analogy, in my view, is that of a disciplinary committee of one of the professions, although like all analogies it does not correspond at all points. One feature that our procedure has in common with professional and other disciplinary bodies is that it has provoked complaint and criticism from the person who has been the subject of proceedings—as it has today from my hon. Friend.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

If we are not a court of law, could we at least be clear whether the Lord President thinks that the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) has done anything legally wrong? I ask that question against the background of being had up by the Select Committee in 1967 with no capacity for legal defence in matters which subsequently turned out to be very different from how they looked at the time.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not respond too frequently to interventions of that kind. It is hard enough to deal with one case at a time.

As I was about to say, certain criticisms can legitimately be made of the proceedings and my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has touched upon them.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the Leader of the House saying that the actions of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) were unlawful?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The answer to that is self-evident from the report of the Select Committee. Whether or not there is any legal offence involved, my hon. Friend has not been charged with a legal offence. He has committed errors which in the opinion of the Committee deserve to be regarded as serious and to be subject to action by the House. The matter stands within its own framework. Complaints are understandable.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Will the Leader of the House be fair? He was asked a simple question by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on the question of legality. Will he make it clear that the Committee did not find illegality? Therefore, he should answer my hon. Friend comprehensively. We did not so find. Can the right hon. and and learned Gentleman not say that from the Dispatch Box?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

As I have already said, the Committee was not concerned with legality or illegality. It was concerned with investigating what had taken place and upholding the standards that the House seeks to set for itself and its Members. As I said a moment ago, this is not a court of law and we are concerned not with questions of legality but with the way in which we uphold the standards expected of hon. Members and of the House.

I was going on to say that the complaints made by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester are understandable. It is not to be expected in cases of this kind that the procedures should closely follow those of courts of law. Of course, we should strive to achieve the principles of natural justice. It is clear from the patient way in which the Select Committee did its work that it endeavoured to do just that.

As an example, I draw attention to paragraph 20 of the report in which the Committee takes care to arrange for the exchange and cross-exchange of evidence.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

If we are not a court of law but a disciplinary committee, and the Leader of the House has spoken of the concept of natural justice, will my right hon. and learned Friend advise the House whether that concept of natural justice—one in which charges are laid, witnesses are allowed to be called, representation is available and nobody is ju dex in sua re, or lays charges or proposes sentences before the accused has been heard—has been upheld in this case?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. and learned Friend will have an opportunity to make his points later. If the House will allow me to proceed, I am doing my best to make concessions in the direction offered by my hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)


Sir Geoffrey Howe

No doubt my other hon. and learned Friend will do the same if I gave way, but I hope that he will forgive me if I do not do so.

The position is very similar to that which emerged when the report of an earlier Select Committee was considered by the House in 1977, following the so-called Poulson affair. At least two distinguished legal members of that Committee expressed anxiety then about the procedures being followed—I refer to the former hon. and learned Members for Hendon, South and for Montgomery, now Lord Thomas of Gwydir and Lord Hooson.

Lord Thomas said: I felt that the Select Committee was a judicial body that seemed wholly alien to my professional experience and nurturing. But the House was concerned with the standards it is entitled to expect from its Members. Decisions on the standards of conduct of hon. Members can never be handed over to an outside body. Therefore, the Select Committee, with all its apparent imperfections as a judicial body, was necessary and inevitable in this case."—[Official Report, 26 July 1977; Vol. 936, c. 395–96.] We have already heard those words echoed in today's debate, and no doubt they will be echoed again.

It is for that very reason that the second motion in my name specifically invites the Select Committee to give further consideration to procedures which might be followed in future cases of this kind. It is also right for us to recall wider issues raised by the Select Committee's report concerning the operation of the system for registering Members' interests. There are a number of points of substance, as well as of procedure, that the House might think it appropriate for the Select Committee to be asked to review further in the light of today's debate. Those, too, are addressed in the second substantive motion in my name, as indeed they are in the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn).

Against that background, I think that, in relation to the specific accusations made against my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, the House will wish to proceed on the basis of the conclusions recorded by the Select Committee. I do not consider it any part of our function today to review those findings in detail. The Select Committee, which was established by the House of Commons in 1975 for the express purpose of reviewing breaches of the rules that we had established on the disclosure of Members' interests, has carried out that task in accordance with its terms of reference. It would therefore be otiose, and discourteous to the Committee, if we sought to repeat on the Floor of the House, in a condensed and distorted form, the Committee's careful deliberations over many months. The House is required to decide what action should be taken in the light of the Committee's findings.

To return to the central feature of the matter, we in the House have a duty to uphold our own standards. No one outside the House can or will do that for us—we must do it ourselves, and we must do it without fear or favour. Of course we must take account of opinion outside the House, but we must not allow ourselves to be overborne or carried away by wild or irresponsible criticism from any quarter. We must perform our task rigorously, paying due attention to the facts of the case as investigated by the Select Committee and reported to us.

We must not, for example, be swayed by some feeling that we are all, as it were, members of the same club and owe some kind of primary allegiance to each other. Of course we must seek to act justly when dealing with our colleagues in such matters, but as we form our judgment in this case I suggest that we should also be mindful of the advice offered to the House, again in 1977, by Lord Strauss —better known to us in the House as George Strauss, former right hon. Member for Vauxhall and Chairman of the Select Committee which reported on the earlier case. He said: This is a national affair and the national aspect of it is that there must remain in the mind of the whole public a high esteem for this body, because it is the emblem of democracy in this country".—[Official Report, 26 July 1977; Vol. 936, c. 364.] We can all say, "Hear, hear," to that. The strength and authority of the House of Commons rests upon the respect of the people. If that respect is endangered, much greater damage may follow. That is the fundamental background against which we must remind ourselves why we are so deeply concerned by the topic of today's debate.

Anyone who in the last couple of weeks has read again, as I have, the reports of debates in the House in 1974 and 1975 when the House first resolved that there should be a compulsory Register of Members' interests and a Select Committee to oversee it, will certainly have been struck by two points. First, there was widespread agreement that it was not wrong in principle for hon. Members to have outside interests. Coming to the House as we do from a wide variety of backgrounds, we bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our duties, whether on the Back or the Front Benches, and that is important.

As one hon. Member said in 1974, God forbid that we ever get 635 full-time Members of this House. It would be a political monastery…This place benefits greatly from people with outside financial interests." —[Official Report, 22 May 1974; Vol. 874, c. 432.] [Interruption.] The House may be surprised to learn that that was the view of our former colleague, Willie Hamilton, then hon. Member for Fife, Central. I appreciate that that view is not universally shared, as is clear from the sedentary interventions, but it remains my own view. I believe that it is important for the House not to become a House without windows, always looking in on itself and cut off from the experiences of the real world. That is the view which underlay and still underlies the establishment and operation of the Register of Members' Interests, but there is a powerful and crucial corollary to that essentially libertarian belief.

Again, the 1974 and 1975 debates reveal a broad and deep consensus that we must be acutely concerned not only with the substance of improper conduct and the risk of undue influence being brought to bear on an hon. Member, but with the mere appearance of that. Hon. Members must not only act honourably—we must he seen to act honourably. We must be—and be seen to be—above suspicion. That means that, both individually and collectively, we all need to pay careful and continuous attention to the definitions and procedures which have been established by the House to guide us in the handling and disclosure of outside interests.

Where those definitions or procedures appear to need further refinement or clarification—as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester suggested earlier and, indeed, as the Select Committee itself acknowledges—we should certainly pursue the matter. We should always bear in mind, however, that a full and perfect system—one which offers precision in advance of every case—simply cannot be designed; that is impossible.

It was widely recognised in the debates of 15 years ago that there was, and would always remain, an element of subjective judgment for each individual Member. Against the background of our unique position in the House—responsible as we are for maintaining our own standards, but each of us accountable to the electorate in all that we do—it is inescapable and entirely right that there must be that scope for individual judgment of what is or is not appropriate for disclosure.

So it is that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, as he has told the House, has exercised his judgment and discretion in each of the relationships and transactions examined by the Select Committee. It is in relation to two aspects of that conduct that, as I have explained, the Committee has expressed a clearly critical view. Paragraph 103 of the report recommends the House to decide an early date what action it proposes to take in the light of the serious nature of those of our findings which uphold the complaints against Mr. Browne. Today my hon. Friend has accepted the findings of error recorded by the Committee, and has apologised for those errors.

The first substantive motion standing in my name invites the House, after crucial—even understandably reluctant—consideration, to endorse the Committee's judgment. For my part, I have reached that conclusion, with personal regret but without any doubt, for the following reasons. I will try to put them simply.

Membership of the House of Commons is a great privilege, as we all acknowledge, and a privilege which carries with it great responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to ensure that any personal, financial or other interest is so managed and so disclosed that it is never in conflict, or perceived to be in conflict, with the fundamental obligations and responsibilities of a Member of this House It is in my opinion clear, as it was to the Select Committee, that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester did not succeed in fulfilling that obligation.

Some may think that my hon. Friend deliberately hid his interests. Others, more charitably, having heard his speech, may think that it was no more than a misjudgment, if not an oversight. Either way, in my view, it must be the case that my hon. Friend's acts and omissions did not measure up to his responsibilities. Today he has acknowledged that judgment and apologised in that respect.

Finally, I come to consider what is probably the most difficult question—that of penalty or reproach. Should the House proceed to impose a penalty upon my hon. Friend or require him in some way to be reprimanded or rebuked? If so, in what form or at what level should that be set? Some hon. Members, I know, believe—and will, I dare say, argue today—that talk of penalty is, in such circumstances, inappropriate. I do not share that view; nor do I believe that it accords with precedent.

That said, the range of options is very wide. Many of them are before the House, if not in my original motion, then in the amendments tabled by hon. Members on both sides of the House in the last couple of days. At one end of the scale, there is the possibility of simply taking note of the report. That barest of all options is not represented on today's Order Paper. At the other end of the scale is the possibility of expulsion. There is, I think I am right in saying, no precedent for that in recent times. Nor is it proposed by any hon. Member today.

If I may express a personal view on that, I can understand why. The House has increasingly, and in my judgment rightly, taken the view that the composition of the House, in personal as well as political terms, is not a matter for the House itself, but for the electorate. A Member's election to, and continued membership of, this House is a matter between him and his constituents.

The point was put with characteristic clarity in the 1977 debate by Lord Broxbourne, as he now is, better known in this House as my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Derek Walker-Smith: Members…sit here by reason of the will and suffrage of their constituents. The House must be careful about pre-empting their choice or usurping their function. The sovereignty of Parliament is, indeed, a great principle, but it must not be exercised at the expense of the sovereignty of the people."—[Official Report, 26 July 1977; Vol. 936, c. 418–9.] Some would put suspension in the same class—as a penalty upon a Member's constituents as much as upon the Member himself, and so, up to a point, it is. However, it does not by any means debar the hon. Member from acting for his constituents outside the Chamber.

The suspension that I have proposed in my substantive motion would mean that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester would be debarred from the Chamber, but not from the precincts of the House. By definition, suspension is limited in duration. It is also reasonably well precedented. As many as 21 hon. Members have been suspended for periods of up to 20 days in the past 43 years. Most recently——

Mr. Dalyell

On what basis is the right hon. and learned Gentleman suddenly making the judgment that the hon. Member for Winchester is to be allowed inside the precincts of the House? When I am suspended, for reasons that are known, I am not allowed inside the precincts. What is the difference? Is saying bad things about the Prime Minister so much worse?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have not studied the matter as closely as the hon. Gentleman in respect of his own situation. The advice that I have received is that the terms of this motion should not involve suspension beyond the circumstances that I have described. It may have been different in other cases.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Further to the point made by my admirable colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), when I was suspended—rather misguidedly—the House was deprived of my presence anywhere within the precincts.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

No doubt the hon. Gentleman will address the point that I have made. I am speaking on the basis of the advice that I have received. We shall listen to what is said as the debate proceeds.

More recently, on 20 April 1988, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) was suspended for 20 days. With that in mind, the options that are, in this respect, before the House range from, first, endorsement of the report of the Select Committee, without any penalty or reproach. An amendment to that effect stands in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) and for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin).

Next in line comes the proposal of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield—that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester should be formally reprimanded by Mr. Speaker himself. Then comes my own proposal —a suspension for the normal maximum period of 20 days —the equivalent of a month.

Beyond that, the House will have seen that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and others, are proposing a period of suspension of as much as three months. Further than that, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) and others are calling upon my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester to resign.

Many hon. Members will no doubt wish to listen to the whole debate before coming to a conclusion on this central question. No doubt they will wish, as indeed I shall, to take account of the points made in the personal statement of my hon. friend the Member for Winchester at the opening of this debate. He explained to the House the background of personal circumstances against which he acted, and he asked us to have in mind the way in which he described the specific errors of omission or commission on his part which the Select Committee has reviewed. The House will no doubt wish to do so.

I apologise for detaining the House for a little time. I hope that, at least to some extent, I have been able to suggest the way in which the House will wish to approach its task. It is to that end that I commend my motion, alongside the several amendments selected for consideration. It is now for the House to judge.

Several hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Chairman of the Select Committee, it may be for the convenience of the House if I draw attention to page 399 of "Erskine May", which states: A Member suspended from the service of the House on a motion not made pursuant to Standing Order No. 43 is not excluded from the precincts of the House unless the order for his suspension expressly provides therefor.

5.6 pm

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

On behalf of my colleagues who served on the Select Committee, I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House for tabling his motion, which invites the House to agree with the Committee's report and endorse its findings. I am pleased to be able to acknowledge the apology of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) and his acceptance of the report's findings. I am grateful to him for that.

It is not a pleasant duty to inquire into the personal affairs of a parliamentary colleague. None of the Committee enjoyed that task. I thank my colleagues who served on the Committee for their care, diligence and dedication in what turned out to be a long and protracted inquiry. Our deliberations were exhaustive but worth while because I have no doubt that the time that we took over those deliberations enabled us to produce a unanimous report.

All hon. Members are aware that such matters are House of Commons matters. They are not party matters. The Committee rightly examined the complaints in a non-partisan manner. In investigating such complaints, the Committee must work within clearly defined rules. Our opinions of those rules do not matter—we must work within them. I am referring to our consideration of the rules governing the declaration of Members' interests. I believe that they are common-sense rules—they were not drawn up by lawyers and are not to be interpreted by lawyers. They were drawn up by a Select Committee, appointed by the House for that special purpose, in the Session 1974–75. The Committee therefore has a clear duty placed upon it by Standing Order No. 128 to consider impartially complaints that are referred to it.

The procedure followed by the Committee was laid down by the Select Committee on Members' Interests in the 1974–75 Session and approved by the House in 1975. In respect of complaints, the Committee's terms of reference are narrow. We can consider specific complaints relating to registration and declaration of interests and no other matter. In short, we cannot go on any fishing expedition. Nor should we consider matters relating more generally to a Member's conduct. In that way, our task is substantially different from that of the Select Committee on the Conduct of Members set up after the Poulson affair. Therefore, our sole concern is whether the rules of the House have been disregarded or disobeyed within a narrow area.

The Committee adhered closely to those terms of reference in the inquiry. We hope that we made that clear to those who studied the report, in paragraph 8. I hope that the House understands why I do not wish to comment on the specific complaints or findings of the Committee and agrees that it would be inappropriate to revive now, on the Floor of the House, all the detailed discussions or to refer to all the notes of written evidence and, indeed, the oral evidence given during the debate.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

With regard to the question put a few minutes ago by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir. N. Fairbairn), on the need to meet the obligations of natural justice to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), does the hon. Gentleman agree that the hon. Member for Winchester received a fair and impartial hearing from the Select Committee?

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

It is the view of my Committee that we discharged our duty as the hon. Gentleman described. But I wish to make it clear that the House will judge whether we acquitted ourselves according to the standards of the House. That is why I do not wish to go into the reasons why we came to our conclusions and what we did. Many hon. Members have studied the matter closely and read the report, and it is they who will pronounce at the end of the day.

The House has the report, and I do not want to add to or subtract from it. The words in the report were carefully chosen after lengthy consideration. I pay tribute to the Clerk to the Committee for his patience and skill in drafting as well as his careful and methodical compilation of the evidence, which is voluminous.

As I said, I do not wish to add anything further to the report. Therefore, I hope that the House will not mind if I say no more about the matter but pass on to points that I hope will be useful when the House comes to consider not only how it should react to the report but what we should do in future.

The House may wonder why we did not make any specific recommendations in the light of our findings. We thought about it for some time. However, this is the first occasion since the procedure was established in 1975 when the Committee has had to make an adverse report on an hon. Member. Indeed, the complaints procedure as a whole has been little used. The register was set up amid some controversy. The House has never reviewed the register or outlined the importance that it places on compliance with the rules of registration. Therefore, the Committee had no yardstick by which to judge the appropriate penalty or, indeed, whether a penalty was appropriate.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Do I understand that, if my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) had declined to register any interests, the Committee could have found that he was not at fault?

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

It would all depend on the nature of the complaint made to us.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Come on.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

It is not a question of "come on". I shall come on in my own way. If my hon. and learned Friend is referring to the case of a distinguished Member of the House who did not declare an interest, no complaint was lodged against him. The Committee considered the fact that the right hon. Member did not register. We reported it to the House twice and the House decided to take no further action. That is why I do not propose to go further and answer a hypothetical question.

After some discussion, we felt that we had little option but to leave the matter of a penalty to the decision of the House. Perhaps I may add some general reflections, as I have been Chairman of the Committee since 1979 and a member of it since 1975.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Supposing that 20 or 50 Members of the House decided that, as from the next occasion, they would not register, what would happen then?

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

That is another hypothetical question. I think that the hon. Gentleman can guess what would happen.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is it not true that if someone brought a complaint against any of the 50 on the basis that they had an interest that was not declared or registered, the Committee would have to consider the matter and, indeed, commence an inquiry on exactly the same basis? Failure to register does not somehow absolve one of responsibility.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

I dealt with that question to a large extent in response to the previous intervention. As the hon. Gentleman, who was so useful to us on the Committee, will know, if 20 hon. Members do not register, we cannot take specific action to investigate unless we have a specific complaint alleging that there were interests to declare. In the case of the right hon. Member to whom I referred, no one alleged that he did not register an interest. Everyone knew that he did not have any interests to register. What we were cross about was that he did not even register a nil return. I hope that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is satisfied with that answer. If not, we can come back to the matter later.

I would not be Chairman and my colleagues would not be members of the Committee if we did not believe strongly in the principles on which the Register is based. Many hon. Members will agree that, when Members of the House speak, vote, write to Ministers or do anything related to their job as Member of Parliament, their conduct should be transparent. The Registration of a Member's interests is not a gross invasion of privacy or a challenge to a Member's honour. If the Member obtains financial benefit that relates in any way to his activity as a Member of Parliament, he owes it to his colleagues, the public, the Minister or the Departments involved to disclose his interests. His interests may not influence him in the least. Perhaps 99 per cent. of the time they do not. But it is both good sense and, I submit, good manners to make them known. The Register is there to help Members to do that and it supplements the long-standing tradition of the House that Members should declare any relevant interests when speaking in a debate.

The suspicion of unavowed motives can be extremely damaging to the House. It is damaging to the reputation of the House and of its Members. Therefore, omissions from the Register should be treated with seriousness. The Register in its present form has served the House well. However, Members' outside interests have continued to increase. I make no complaint about any hon. Member having an outside interest, but there is a suspicion in some quarters that Members of Parliament use their position as a basis on which to build business interests and that those interests are sometimes partly concealed by fairly bland entries in the Register. I believe that that has been much exaggerated and that the connections of many hon. Members with particular companies are often misrepresented and completely misunderstood. Nevertheless, if the Register is to serve the House effectively in the future, perhaps the time has come to examine its scope afresh.

The Select Committee would warmly welcome that opportunity. Subject to consultation with the Committee, I believe that the terms set out in my right hon. and learned Friend's motion would give us such an opportunity. The motion invites the Select Committee to study and report further on questions raised by our report. The study should relate to definitions of outside interests and their enforcement as well as to the procedures for raising complaints and their investigation, together with other questions that might arise. With the terms of this motion well in our mind, it would be right first to consider its implication in the context of lobbying.

Last year we embarked on an investigation into lobbying to fulfil our obligations to the House, which asked us to keep that practice under review. That investigation was halted pending the completion of our inquiry into the allegations against my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. We think, therefore, that it would be sensible to resume that work immediately, which should not take too long to complete.

That, together with the views and advice expressed by the House in today's debate and by hon. Members who undoubtedly will not have the fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, but who may care to get in touch with us, should enable the Committee to give more mature consideration to the wider views raised in my right hon. and learned Friend's second motion. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will agree that that plan of action makes sense and that the Committee will be acting within the spirit and meaning of his motion. I especially hope that the House will give its support.

5.21 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I agree with the Leader of the House that this can only be an unhappy occasion for Members of Parliament. It is certainly not an occasion in which I take any pleasure. I hope that everyone will agree with that. In many respects, I can understand better than most the misery that the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) must be feeling now.

I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), and his colleagues for performing effectively, fairly and objectively what could only have been a difficult task. Anyone who has looked at the Select Committee report must conclude that the Committee carried out its difficult duties meticulously. I can understand why the hon. Member for Winchester said that he found some of the procedures difficult. That could only be the case, as they referred to matters which occurred seven or eight years ago. Nevertheless, the Committee had a duty to the House, which it carried out fairly and well.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

I entirely agree that, so far as it was possible, the Committee carried out its duties meticulously and impartially. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it set itself a high burden of proof to discharge —that of proof beyond reasonable doubt? Does the hon. Gentleman think that that burden is safely discharged when the accused, as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) is, could not cross-examine the witnesses who were producing evidence against him, nor produce witnesses in his own favour, nor secure by discovering documents or other papers which belonged to him but were not in his possession and which were vital to prove his case?

Dr. Cunningham

With respect, I was coming to those points. If the hon. Gentleman had waited before making a long intervention, he would have heard what I have to say.

I am expressing my view. I am in no sense expressing the view of the shadow Cabinet or the parliamentary Labour party, as this is, rightly, a matter for individual Members on a free vote. There is no question of the hon. Member for Winchester being before a court. So far as I can tell—I have looked carefully at the matter, as hon. Members would expect—the hon. Member has not acted unlawfully. The House is not conducting itself as though it were a court and the hon. Gentleman charged with a criminal offence. We should be clear about that.

As for the opportunities that the hon. Gentleman had to respond to evidence, I understand from reading the report that he had the opportunity to comment on what witnesses had said. In so far as these imperfect procedures can work satisfactorily, it seems that they did.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

rose ——

Mr. Lawrence


Dr. Cunningham

I do not want this to turn into an arcane legal battle between a range of Queen's counsel on either side of the House, so I shall not give way.

Mr. Lawrence

The hon. Gentleman is scared to give way.

Dr. Cunningham

I am not scared of anything. This is not a court of law. We are not talking about legal procedures. We are dealing with this problem on the basis of a Select Committee report on motions before the House.

The Committee came to a unanimous decision that the hon. Member for Winchester, for whatever reasons—I am perfectly prepared to accept that his judgment about his obligations was wrong—twice breached the rules on the disclosure of interests and that the matter was serious. In paragraph 103 of its report the Committee asks the House to take action on this serious matter. That is perfectly proper. It was not for the Committee to recommend what action should be taken. That is for the House to decide. As I support the way in which the matter has been conducted so far, I believe that we should address ourselves to how the House could take action.

We could simply take note of the report and take the matter no further. In the past the House has acted similarly. We could have tabled a motion requiring you, Mr. Speaker, to reprimand the hon. Member for Winchester and taken no further action. We could support a motion with or without amendment tabled by the Leader of the House for a period of exclusion from the Chamber. I understand that, as we are discussing the matter on a motion and not under Standing Order No. 43, the Leader of the House has placed the correct interpretation on the motion's effect—that even if the motion is carried, with or without amendment, the hon. Gentleman will be excluded from our proceedings in the Chamber, but not from the precincts of the House.

Alternatively, we could have discussed and voted on a motion to expel the hon. Member from the House altogether. I do not hesitate to say that I am pleased that no such motion has even appeared on the Order Paper. I would not have voted for it. Such a penalty would not have been commensurate with the nature of the problem. Moreover, such a judgment is for the electors of the constituency of Winchester, not for Members of this House. In some senses, whatever decision the House may reach, the hon. Gentleman has the opportunity of an appeal—if that is the appropriate word—to his constituents to use their judgment about what has transpired.

Regrettably, the House is asked from time to time to vote to exclude a Member for a period. If a Member cheeks the Chair or does not accept the authority of the Chair, a motion is moved and we vote to exclude that Member for a limited period. If Members abuse the Mace, as they do from time to time—we have had one from each principal party recently—either they apologise immediately and the matter is dropped or they, too, are the subject of a motion to exclude them from the House.

I hope that everyone will agree that the rules on the disclosure of interests are minimal. I have declared my interests as a Member sponsored by a trade union, as I have been for my 20 years in the House, and latterly as a result of being engaged to give scientific and other advice in the commercial sector. The rules are a minimal requirement of the House and are perhaps ready for review. The obligations on us are not onerous. Since the Select Committee reported unanimously that the hon. Member for Winchester is in clear breach of those rules and that it is a serious matter, it would render the whole business of the Register of Members' Interests inoperable, if not a laughing stock outside, if the House simply took note of the report and left the matter there.

The right course of action—I emphasise that I a m speaking personally—would be to support a motion to exclude the hon. Member for Winchester from the House for a period. The House may well decide not to take any action—we shall see—but our constituents, and others, would not understand if the House so decided when a Select Committee had considered the matter, listened to the evidence and reported unanimously that the matter was serious. The public would not think that that was the right thing to do. I agree with the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), that there is concern about the conduct of hon. Members.

As on other occasions, this is one of those issues where the standards and requirements in local government are already well in advance of the requirements placed upon hon. Members. I believe that the third motion on the Order Paper, which calls upon the Select Committee to review such matters, should be supported. I shall certainly vote for it. The House—or, to be fair to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative and Labour parties—are in a kind of historical time warp on such matters. The belief is that, in financial terms, private enterprise backs one side and the trade unions, by and large, back the other—and usually, but not always, that backing is repeated in political terms.

We should look at the way in which we finance the democratic process, because the way in which it operates is out of tune with the reality of life in other western democracies. Perhaps that wider remit is not for the Select Committee, but any action taken by the House should be based on the broadest context of what is or is not acceptable in terms of the external financial arrangements of hon. Members and political parties. We should consider whether state aid should be given for political parties—I support that without hesitation—and whether we should have better facilities and support for hon. Members and their staff. Those matters are germane to the debate.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

Earlier the hon. Gentleman said that he supported the third motion, but I believe that he means the second, which was originally the third.

Dr. Cunningham

I apologise for that slip of the tongue. I meant that I supported the motion in the name of the Leader of the House calling for the matter to be referred to the Select Committee.

I am pleased that the House is conducting this difficult debate in a serious manner and, I hope, even in a mood of some magnanimity. There is nothing worse than a sanctimonious mob on such occasions.

It must have taken considerable courage and fortitude on the part of the hon. Member for Winchester to apologise unequivocally and fully, and I pay tribute to him for that. He has accepted the report of the Committee and, no doubt, will accept the decision of the House.

5.34 pm
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

I support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) and me, which has been selected for inclusion in the debate.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and congratulate him on the non-partisan way in which he approached this subject. I hope that that will be echoed by others who take part in the debate.

Although I support the motion in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House in respect of agreeing with the Select Committee on Members' Interests' report, and its endorsement of the Committee's findings, I cannot agree with the suspension of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). He has been pilloried unmercifully and unjustifiably in the national press, but he has not been treated so by his local press, which knows him better. He and his family have been through a living hell since long before the inquiry began. I submit that he has suffered enough. Although I accept that this is a matter for the House to decide, I do not believe that hon. Members should feel obliged to rub salt into the wounds. As has already been mentioned, this is a House of Commons occasion, much more so than a party political one, but it is also an occasion that we should not relish.

I also agree wholeheartedly with the second motion tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend, particularly regarding further study of the procedures that the Select Committee uses to investigate complaints such as this. The Select Committee considered complaints from a journalist who, for a number of years, has had a financial interest in investigating my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. He said to the Committee: I've got cracking on Mr. Browne for years. The hon. Member for Copeland has already said that the procedures are imperfect. Under those procedures, the Select Committee was unable to let my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester present his case as fully as he would have liked, call witnesses to give evidence on his behalf, or cross-examine the complainant or his other witnesses. It was a rather weird form of trial, but the Committee was not, of course, a court of law. My hon. Friend has not broken the law of the land; he has broken the rules of the House of Commons.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

Although the House may not be a court of law, does the hon. Gentleman agree that an hon. Member's reputation could be ruined as a result of the decision of the Select Committee? If an accusation is laid against anyone, it is only natural justice for him to be entitled to invite witnesses on his behalf and also to cross-examine.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Colvin

The response to that welcome intervention demonstrates that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are supported by most hon. Members present.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Under the present procedures, it is possible for an hon. Member in such a situation to call witnesses—we have never denied that. We were working within the rules. Evidence was presented from the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne)—in writing, it is true—and he was also able to comment, in writing upon the evidence supplied by the complainant. The same privilege was given to the complainant.

Mr. Colvin

The House will also welcome that intervention, and I think that it will accept that, when we seek to find justice, an analogy should be drawn with courts of law. I hope that the House will agree that the Select Committee should undertake a study of its procedures, and perhaps it will draw on the analogy of courts of law to see whether procedures can be improved so that hon. Members who appear before it as a result of complaints have a fairer opportunity to present their case and cross-examine witnesses.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I cannot understand the hon. Gentleman's point. He says that witnesses could not be called. As I understand it, the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) conceded to the House today that he was in error and made mistakes. Why should he want to bring witnesses when he concedes that he was in error?

Mr. Colvin

I am referring to the general procedures, not the specific case. As I said, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has already admitted that he broke the Rules of the House. I am saying that those rules are accepted by all to be imprecise. The letter from the Registrar that accompanies the form that we are regularly invited to complete sets out the Register's fundamental purpose. It states: the purpose of this register is to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member of Parliament may receive which might be thought to affect his conduct as a Member of Parliament or influence his actions, speeches, or vote in Parliament. That description is capable of widely different interpretations, and it is not surprising that, in those cases where a complaint against my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester was upheld in the Committee, it was as a result of oversight or failure on his part to understand what the rules are all about.

Mr. Dalyell

In the light of what the hon. Gentleman has just said, will he give the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) an opportunity to clarify what some of us understood him to say in his opening statement, to the effect that he was less than happy with some of the procedures? If the hon. Member for Winchester was unhappy, should he not specify why he was unhappy and what he was unhappy about? Should he not be given that opportunity?

Mr. Colvin

That would prejudge the study that the Select Committee is about to undertake. From the reaction of the House so far, I do not think that many hon. Members are entirely happy with the Select Committee procedures under the rules as they are currently drawn. That is what the Select Committee has to consider.

Hon. Members will know only too well that our duties as Members of Parliament and the triangular way of life that we lead, consisting of Parliament, the constituency and home—home always seems to come last—put heavy strains on our families and marriages. Some of us are lucky and some are not. The divorce rate among hon. Members is one of the highest.

My hon. Friend was one of the unlucky ones. His particularly acrimonious divorce and the determination of his ex-wife to destroy him were largely responsible for the journalistic inquiries and subsequent complaints, based largely on evidence produced mainly by the former Mrs. Browne. It is not our job to debate the matrimonial affairs of my hon. Friend. However, we must acknowledge that it was mainly his divorce that led to the complaints against him.

Probably the most damaging of my hon. Friend's errors of judgment was, following a bad press in connection with his divorce, to proceed with his private Member's Bill on privacy. I can well understand why he did that, but it was probably because of that Bill that the national press has been doubly hard on him during the past few months.

My hon. Friend's constituency is adjacent to mine, and for a while he was my Member of Parliament. I have seen him at work in and around Winchester, and I have read the many good things about him and his parliamentary and constituency work in my local press. No one works harder for those whom he represents. He certainly had difficulties with his constituency association following his divorce, when, understandably, people took sides. We can also divide his association today into the "workers" who are for him and the "talkers" who may be against him.

But then Winchester has a record of being tough on its Members of Parliament. Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles, now Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, who will be remembered with great affection and respect in this place, also faced——

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Gunboat, gunboat.

Mr. Colvin

Did the hon. Gentleman shout, "Gunboat, gunboat," because that is what they used to shout?

Admiral Morgan-Giles also faced a special general meeting calling for his deselection—we Conservatives started it long before the Opposition thought of it. I forget what the issue was about; it was either the route of the M3 or the fact that his majority had slipped below 20,000, but he saw off his opponents by 2,000 votes to 120. I hope that my hon. Friend does so too, if he is forced into that position.

Whatever action we may, or may not, take tonight, it is the electors of Winchester who will have the final say. They sent my hon. Friend here and they will decide whether he returns at the next general election. From experience, I believe that he will return. At the general election in 1987, his majority may have fallen, largely due to demographic changes in the constituency, but his personal vote actually increased.

There are many people in Winchester who give my hon. Friend considerable support. The Dean of Winchester, who was for some time Mr. Speaker's chaplain, said some good and supportive things about my hon. Friend on television just the other day. The lord lieutenant of Hampshire, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir James Scott, in whose home my hon. Friend has a small flat, backs him. His Member of the European Parliament, Mr. Edward Kellett-Bowman, said that he was the hardest-working and most helpful of his constituency Members of Parliament. I intend no untoward criticism of other hon. Members in his Euro-constituency. My hon. Friend now has a wife who is enormously loyal and supportive to him and his work as a Member of Parliament. She has been an absolute brick through these hellish months and is immensely popular in his constituency.

My hon. Friend has made errors of judgment—we all accept that, as he does. But then, who has not made such errors? He has broken our rules, but that is partly due to the loose way in which they are written. My hon. Friend has apologised generously to the House for his mistakes. The House is magnanimous and understanding enough to accept his apology, and I am sure that, when this sorry day is over, whatever the outcome, for the vast majority of us, the hon. Member for Winchester will remain our hon. Friend.

5.48 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

We are not debating the general conduct of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). When the speech of the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) is read in Hansard, it will be seen to have been wholly irrelevant to the major questions that concern the House.

We are having one of those rare debates when the House discusses the obligations that Members of Parliament owe to their electors and each other, the question of openness in Parliament, how open we should be and how to deal with cases when there may be a conflict of interest between a Member's duties to his or her constituents and his or her pecuniary interests. This is a House of Commons matter, as has been said, and it affects us in all parties. We are all responsible for what we do, both as individuals and as Members.

I have tabled two amendments, and I am grateful to Mr. Speaker for selecting them. The first recommends a reprimand rather than a suspension, and the second calls for legislation in place of the voluntary Register, because we are dealing with potentially corrupt practices. I am not speaking about the hon. Member for Winchester; I am talking about potentially corrupt practices.

I read the Select Committee report; it upheld some grave and serious complaints. The hon. Gentleman has done himself and his party and the House damage, but because of the very fact that we have all suffered, we have to be careful how we act in this case. The party of which he is a member must be very embarrassed by what has happened, and the party of which I am a member must be tempted to exploit it politically. The whole House is angry that the conduct of one Member might have damaged the public esteem in which all Members are held. It is not just that we are not a court of law, although we are not; it is also that we are not exactly an independent jury in the hon. Member's case.

The hon. Member for Winchester has not broken the law, because there is no law. That is what is wrong, and the people on trial today are the House, more so than the hon. Gentleman.

I do not favour suspension, for the reasons that have already been widely canvassed. Members are elected by and are answerable to their constituents. Candidates are answerable to their local parties. The sentence proposed is the wrong one. One, two or three months' suspension without pay is absolutely meaningless. I had not realised until it was explained that the hon. Gentleman will be able to use the facilities of the House, so what possible punishment can there be in that, if indeed punishment be meant? However, the suspension would deny the electors of Winchester a voice in the House that they might need, and we have no right to deny them that.

I have therefore looked at other remedies and settled on the one that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) suffered—the penalty of a reprimand. The Leader of the House said that a reprimand was not as severe as a suspension. Any hon. Member who has seen a reprimand will know that it is more severe than a suspension. The hon. Gentleman in question would stand in his place and Mr. Speaker, wearing his three-cornered hat and seated, would deliver the reprimand, which would be recorded not only in Hansard but in the Journal of the House. I would regard it as a terrifying experience to be reprimanded by the Speaker for a breach of a resolution of the House. With television, the experience would be even more frightening.

So I recommend that the hon. Gentleman be reprimanded, not suspended, for an offence which he, in all fairness, admitted in his statement was an error of judgment.

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the last occasion when a reprimand was administered. Many of us who saw that occasion thought that it was a repellent event that should never be repeated. Can the right hon. Gentleman recall it? If so, does he really consider such a reprimand an appropriate remedy?

Mr. Benn

I can only say that the House must act when its own resolutions have been defied. I voted against the suspension of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown), giving the same reasons that I am giving now—and my party was more angry then than the Conservative party. I believe that a reprimand is a proper way to deal with a breach of rules. They are, after all, only rules— —

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I was severely censured and reprimanded by the House for alleging that Members of Parliament were available for hire? Later, it was proved that Maudling, Cordle and Roberts had indeed been hired, but no one ever gave me a free pardon. That is one of the problems with reprimands or censures: one can be reprimanded and then proved right.

Mr. Benn

I give way to the hon. Member for East Lindsey (Sir P. Tapsell).

Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey)

May I echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has just said? I thought that the last reprimand in the House was a nauseating occasion. The House should never go through those procedures again.

Mr. Benn

The House must make up its own mind. The Leader of the House said that my proposal was less severe than a suspension, but I do not take that view. I shall vote against the hon. Gentleman's suspension for any length of time, and I shall vote against the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who said that nothing should be done.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these interventions by Conservative Members confirm precisely what my right hon. Friend has been saying—that a reprimand is more serious and humiliating than suspension? So my right hon. Friend is surely on the right track.

Mr. Benn

I am trying to think of an appropriate response by the House to a breach of its rules which will not impose a financial penalty on the hon. Member for Winchester. After all, a month's suspension without pay sounds like a penalty imposed by a court of law, and it denies his constituents the right to be represented.

I am much more concerned with my second amendment. What obligations do Members owe the electors of this country? That is the real question. I have been trying to follow through the obligations that we assume. First, all of us before we are elected issue an election address. I have never yet met a Member who has put his business interests on his election address. The election address contains political pledges, and so on.

Next we come to the House and go to the Table. I have been struck by the strangeness of our arrival, with an election address that has helped to propel us here. We take the oath: I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God. We do not say that we will implement certain programmes or abide by the rules of the House; we just give a ritual oath of allegiance.

Once we are here, how do our constituents see what we do? They read Hansard or, if they can afford £10, they read the Register of Members' Interests, which is a business prospectus—all 98 pages of it. Any company that wants a contact with a Member of Parliament would do well to start by looking at the Register of Members' Interests to see who could be recruited to its board from among the new Members. That is a much more serious matter.

Then we must consider how to define interests. I, like every former Cabinet Minister, received a confidential minute from the Prime Minister: Cabinet: Procedure. Questions of Procedure for Ministers", signed by the Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan on 23 April 1976: I circulate a memorandum on questions of procedure". This is a little more formidable. Any hon. Member who has ever been a Minister might care to remind himself of what Ministers are expected to do. I regard it as outrageous that the document is not published. That is a limitation on some Members of Parliament that is not known to others.

Paragraph 67—I doubt whether it has changed much in 14 years—reads: It is a principle of public life that Ministers must so order their affairs that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their private interests and their public duties. That should apply to all Members of Parliament. Such a conflict may arise if a Minister takes an active part in any undertaking which may have contractual or other relations with a Government Department". That should apply to Members of Parliament, too. Ministers should be free to give full attention to their official duties, and they should not engage in other activities which might be thought to distract their attention from those duties. Perhaps that principle should apply to Members of Parliament. Ministers must on assuming office resign any directorships which they may hold, whether in public or private companies and whether the directorship carries remuneration or is honorary. That might or might not be applicable to the House as a whole.

This is a wholly different approach from the cosy investigation of a voluntary undertaking which was introduced years after it should have been.

I have already mentioned the issue of disclosure. No disclosure is made to the electors, who have a vested interest in the matter. I believe that when the polling card is sent by the electoral registration officer it should include a register of all the interests of all the candidates as well as of the Member of Parliament. If that is not done, there should be a requirement that the electoral address should include them. The average elector connected with any party does not go to the Register of Members' Interests to find out the interests of his candidate. People should be allowed to know, and that would be a provision.

In law there are no rules on interests. I am interested in these matters and I looked up the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. There are 11 pages of disqualifications to over 300 offices. Any Member who applies for, and receives, the Chiltern Hundreds is immediately disqualified. What is it about the Chiltern Hundreds that makes it a task incompatible with membership? It is the notion of an office of profit. I looked up some of the offices that lead to disqualification and found that some of them are absurd. They include membership of the Pilotage Commission and chairmanship of the British Library Board; and 43 amendments have just come out.

We should define offices, whether of profit under the Crown or anywhere else, that are incompatible with membership. I regard as quite incompatible with membership of the House the chairmanship of a company that has contractual relations with the Ministry of Defence or any other Government Department. That should be a disqualifying office and the House should look at that in terms of legislation. It might even remove some of the disqualifying offices in the House of Commons Disqualification Act.

There is no definition of a corrupt practice. "Corruption" has many meanings and is interpreted in many ways, but it is the use of improper influence to secure something. If a candidate in an election goes around putting 50p coins in pints of beer, in the way that candidates in the 19th century used to do with half-crowns, that is a corrupt practice. Such people are taken to court on an election petition and the court determines whether they have acquired a seat by a corrupt practice. That is all laid down in the Act. I have some of the old cases before me and they show that that is the proper way to deal with an issue that we have been dodging through a debate that has not got to the root of the matter.

These matters should be dealt with by the courts. As soon as the House passes a law it will not be for us to interpret that law; it will be for the courts.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Like, I suspect, some other hon. Members, I agree with the attractiveness Of what the right hon. Gentleman suggests—the idea of a compulsory or legal registration system. The majority of hon. Members do not receive unearned income, dividends or unearned income from wealthy wives. This matter bedevils British politics. Most hon. Members have to rely on their salary or on some other source of earned income. Under the Labour Government in 1975 a vote on linking the salary of hon. Members to the salary scale of assistance secretaries was defeated by a large majority. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the House had grasped the nettle of setting a realistic professional salary for Members there would not be orientation towards dubious outside interests?

Mr. Benn

To take an extreme case, it is arguable that a Member of Parliament should publish his income tax return. That is a clear answer to the hon. Gentleman's question. I doubt whether that would be welcome, but if the House adopted such a rule it would settle all the arguments about private incomes. When my father was first elected in 1906 there was no parliamentary salary. He worked as a journalist in the City of London in the morning and went to the House in the afternoon. The House could be filled if people had to pay £1,000 a year to be a Member, especially as we now know the business interests that can be attracted by a Member of Parliament.

I should now like to deal with the register of lobbyists. The hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, spoke about that. The whole business world that has grown up around influencing Members of Parliament is staggering. I throw away 95 per cent. by weight of my mail every day, all of which is paid for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer because it is a legitimate business expense to send annual reports to hon. Members.

The Palace of Westminster is crowded with lobbyists. Anyone who wants to know where they are has to look at The House Magazine.I looked it up and photocopied a couple of pages. The Freight Transport Association represents the total transport interests. There is also the name of its controller of legal and parliamentary affairs. We should not need to look at The House Magazineto find who is trying to win our support; there should be a register. I would go further and say that research assistants and perhaps members of the Lobby should be reasonably asked to declare their interests.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

They already do that.

Mr. Benn

In that case, I should like to add another category of temporary people attached to the House. I had a letter from an American student who asked me to take him on as a research assistant, which I did not do. I am sure that many hon. Members had such letters. He included with the letter his curriculum vitae and a reference which I shall read to the House. I shall not mention his name so that he will not be embarrassed. The letter was from Michael Lekson, deputy counsellor for political affairs in the American embassy, and he said what a wonderful man this guy was. He said that he had clearly gotten full benefit from his earlier internship at the House of Commons. We profited considerably from his knowledge and insights about Commons' members, procedures, and folkways—most notably in delegating to him two priority projects. The first was to select up-and-coming Conservative parliamentarians to submit to an Embassy committee choosing potential recipients of International Visitor grants. This process was a bureaucratic nightmare. Identifying the future leaders was only the start. He also determined who had been considered before by researching through chaotic files in this and other offices; got the essential personal and possible travel data from the potential nominees without committing the Embassy to offer a trip; and documented his nominations for consideration by a traditionally sceptical committee. Mr…did all this superbly—and, as a side-benefit, systematised our computerised records on parliamentarians. Eight of his nine nominations have been accepted and the ninth is under active consideration. I have tried to introduce a note of humour. People send their interns here for very good reasons. I would like the American embassy to give us a list. We must legislate on this matter.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

The right hon. Gentleman has touched on a matter that will strike a chord in the hearts of many hon. Members. As it returns to the subject of lobbying, the Select Committee on Members' Interests would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman and any other hon. Members would submit as evidence documentation of the sort that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman implied that a large proportion of the costs that American research assistants incur are met by the British taxpayer.

Mr. Benn

I am not getting at researchers, because my son was a research assistant to a senator in Washington and came back and wrote a thesis on the White House staff. I am not complaining about researchers, but I am saying that we should know and we should legislate. Nothing has convinced me more of the need for legislation than hearing the cosy and courteous way in which we have spoken about the hon. Member for Winchester. We have dodged our own failure to take seriously the fact that a Member of Parliament is an attractive target for business people and that there is money to be made by Members of Parliament.

There is no enforcement. If the House is an enforcement body, it is the most curious one that I have come across. I fear that we will create a scapegoat and say that that is that. However, the problem will remain. I do not believe in "scapegoatism"; I believe in getting to the root of the matter. If we were to legislate, the matter would be resolved not by the Select Committee or the Leader of the House but by a court. I know that some hon. Members do not like to have courts looking into the conduct of Members of Parliament, but the decision to which I have referred was taken years ago. The House of Commons decided then not to try contested elections in the House itself, but to hand them over to the courts.

Up to a certain date—I do not remember when; it may have been 1700 or a bit later; in any case, the matter is referred to in "Erskine May"—if there was a petition against an election, the House voted. But it voted on party lines. So the matter was pushed out to the election court. I speak as somebody who has appeared before two election courts. Actually, one of them disqualified me. Two judges, having sat for a fortnight, said that nothing had changed since 1626, and, as a result, I was thrown out of the House. A court to look at the proper relationship of Members of Parliament, with their financial interests, to the House and to their constituents is what we should be considering.

It is with some regret that I say that I fear that the Palace of Westminster is in danger of degenerating into a marketplace, where influence is traded for favours, where backhanders and patronage are rife, and where we turn a blind eye to these things. We have the ancient rituals—the office of profit under the Crown, the Chiltern Hundreds —but we ignore the real conflicts between financial and commercial interests and parliamentary duties. Parliamentary privilege has come to be a means of protecting Members from their constituents, whereas I have always taken the view that parliamentary privilege is intended to protect constituents and to enable Members to do their job.

There is a certain high-minded cover over our proceedings, designed to confuse and mislead people into believing that all is well. If we want to end the cynicism, let us realise that this debate, if interpreted in a certain way, could lead to greater cynicism. If that happens, we shall have damaged the institution itself. Perhaps it is time to turn the money-changers out of the temple. Today is the time to begin.

6.11 pm
Sir William Shelton (Streatham)

I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). I have some sympathy with what he said, because, like him, I am not entirely happy with the procedure that, as a member of the Select Committee, I underwent during the period of the Committee's examination of this matter. I think that, in all, that was nine months. The Committee's report is unanimous, and I agree entirely with its finding. In that respect, I have no quarrel at all. The fact that the report came out so well was due not only to the Committee's members but also to its Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith). He was an excellent Chairman, who handled the Committee extraordinarily well.

But it was not a pleasant experience. As has already been mentioned, there was talk of stolen documents. In many cases, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) had no copies. As has been said, a divorced wife passed evidence to a journalist, and writs were issued against that journalist. Eight-year-old handwritten notes—perhaps forged, perhaps not—were put before us. Not surprisingly, in view of the time lag, there were conflicts of evidence. It really was a most unpleasant business.

Of course, in 1982, when all this happened, the climate of opinion in the House was very different from the climate of today. Indeed, at that time Mr. Enoch Powell refused to register at all. We have been judging my hon. Friend in respect of events in 1982 by standards of 1989. I do not say that that is improper. However, it is what we have been doing, and I am sure that the House would wish to keep that in mind.

My conclusion, about which I have thought a great deal, is that, within the rules of the House, justice was indeed done by the Committee. However, I question whether natural justice has been done to my hon. Friend. "Natural justice" is an expression that was used earlier today. I question whether the retribution bears any relation to the offence. Let me explain as quickly as I can why I have the sense of unease that I have had for several months, and why I find myself being critical of rules of the House.

First, those rules are ambiguous; they are subject to various interpretations. Even we on the Committee had to have a discussion before we could agree exactly what they meant. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield talked about their friendliness and cosiness. It is fine to be friendly and cosy, provided the stakes are not so high, but when the stakes are as high as they are in this case—at stake is not only my hon. Friend's reputation but perhaps even his living, not only as a constituency representative but also in respect of business matters—one cannot be friendly and cosy.

I refer to this wretched business only for the purpose of illustrating the point I am making. Paragraph 3 of the introduction to the report refers to a resolution of the House which says that the Member shall disclose any relevant pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature, whether direct or indirect, that he may have had, may have or may be expecting to have."—[Official Report, 22 May 1974, Vol. 874, c. 538.] Let me apply that to the case of 3Cs—one of those in respect of which the case against my hon. Friend was upheld, although no action was recommended. I use this case merely to demonstrate why I think that, perhaps, the rules are too cosy and friendly.

Clearly my hon. Friend wanted to make money out of cable over a period. However, in March 1982 he wrote to the chairman of Thorn-EMI stating that he had considered setting up a company but had come to the conclusion that it would be best to work for the major corporation rather than start a new company. A copy of the letter appears on pages 117 and 118 of the report. He asked—rather naively—whether the company needed a consultant. In the following months, the company invited him to lunch and told him that it did not need a consultant.

A few days later—on 20 April—came the debate on cable. What was my hon. Friend to declare in that debate? Clearly he was not to declare that he had started a company—he had not. Clearly he was not to declare that he was seeking a consultancy with EMI—he had been turned down. What was he, therefore, to declare? The view that the Committee took was that he should have declared that he was going to start a company—indeed, he did start a company a few weeks later—or that he wished to make money out of the cable business, or something like that.

My hon. Friend, in his evidence, said that he had decided after the debate to start the company, because it had been such a good debate. I agree with the finding of the Committee because of its phrase "or might be expected", but I cannot release myself from the feeling that there is there a certain amount of ambiguity that could lead to misinterpretation.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I think that the hon. Gentleman is being clear with the House, but perhaps he could be even clearer if he were to say that that was not the only matter on which the Committee deliberated. There was also another document, which referred to the fact that 3Cs had been set up "some 18 months ago". That was almost 18 months prior to the speech in the House of Commons. While it could not be proved that 3Cs had been set up, the Committee received other evidence—again evidence that has been published—showing that the idea of 3Cs certainly had existed some six months earlier.

Sir William Shelton

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we debated this matter, if not for weeks, then for days, and if not for days, then certainly for hours. I understand entirely what he says, and he will remember the arguments that I put forward.

Let me return to the rules. The definition of "relevance" in page iv, paragraph 3, is left to the discretion of the Member concerned. The rule continues: The extent to which the details of the relevant interest are disclosed is also a matter for the Member. If my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester read that, he might be forgiven for thinking that he had nothing relevant to declare, and therefore did not have to declare anything. Either the words in the rule mean something or they mean nothing, and clearly they do not mean anything. The issue of relevance appears to be left to the view of the Member, and clearly that is not the position. That is why I am led towards the possibility of introducing legislation of the sort that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield was talking about.

I turn my attention to another rule which guided the members of the Committee. I refer to paragraph 5 at the top of page V, which states: The purpose of this Register is to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member of Parliament may receive which might be thought to affect his conduct". Thought by whom? Clearly not by the Member himself —that would be nonsense. Clearly not the complainant, because of the 10 complaints which were made the Committee upheld three or four. Does the rule mean it is the view of the public? That, too, is clearly nonsense. It comes down—not necessarily wrongly, and perhaps rightly—to the members of the Select Committee and then to the House. That must be the interpretation of the phrase, but that is not apparent from the rule.

Mr. John McWilliam (Blaydon)

I ask the hon. Gentleman to turn his mind to the red book on standards of conduct in local government, which presupposes that, if a councillor thinks that in any circumstances he may have any sort of interest, he must declare that interest. I think that it would be wrong of the hon. Gentleman to rely too heavily on the wording of the present rules.

Sir William Shelton

I prefer that ruling to the one that we have. It is far better to leave discretion to the individual Member. It would be much wider and much easier for a Member to understand. The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) made a helpful intervention and I like what he suggests. I confess that I cannot easily see the way forward. Therefore, I welcome help from any Opposition Member.

Paragraph 6(6) deals with foreign payments. It states: Within this definition there is a more specific requirement to disclose in the register nine categories of pecuniary interest or other benefits. Sub-paragraph (7) refers to any payments or any material benefits or advantages received from or on behalf of foreign Governments, organisations or persons. That seems clear, but in fact it is not. A careful reading of the rules reveals that a Member does not have to make a declaration unless the payments, benefits or advantages influence the Member's conduct in Parliament, or are in some way connected with Parliament.

Foreign payments must be declared only if it may be thought that they influence a Member's actions or speeches. Consequently, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester was not required to declare the fee which he received—I must say that it deeply impressed me by its size —unless it involved his conduct, actions or speeches. The fee was paid by a Saudi Arabian Government agency for my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester to write a report on the United States freeze on Arabian assets.

What did my hon. Friend do? He put a supplementary question to the Prime Minister about how Her Majesty's Government would respond to any extra-territorial freeze on assets in British banks. It is clear that he asked a question that related to the report and his fee. Therefore, the Committee rightly found that he was in breach of the rules. I add, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Committee was unable to obtain a copy of the report consequently. It was not aware of what the report stated and what it was about, other than what came to it by hearsay. That worried me.

I have been speaking about the ambiguity, lack of clarity and unclear interpretation of the rules. There was an enormous difficulty facing the Committee in its effort to function properly to find the truth when confronted with a complex mass of papers. The Committee was not a court of law, and it is not a court of law now. However, my Committee colleagues and I felt that we were sitting in judgment on a colleague. No one was unearthed. We had no power to send for witnesses.

I shall refer briefly to the Chidiac case, where the finding went against my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester; in other words, the Committee upheld the complaint. My hon. Friend owned a small company called Falcon, which had a contract with a London company called Selco East. He did not register that separately as it had nothing to do with his parliamentary activities. If my hon. Friend has a company, he does not have to register a client of the company unless his parliamentary activity is affected. However, my hon. Friend lobbied on behalf of a Mr. Charles Chidiac of the Lebanon in an effort, he says, to obtain orders for United Kingdom companies. Mr. Charles Chidiac was the brother of the chairman of Selco East Company. That is the joker. The Committee came to the conclusion that the brother and Mr. Charles Chidiac were so close—Mr. Charles Chidiac was working closely with Selco East of London—that my hon. Friend should have registered the interest. I agree.

The Committee received a letter from Mr. Charles Chidiac from Hawaii which exonerated my hon. Friend in every way. We, the Committee, did not accept that letter. We chose to disbelieve it. We thought that Mr. Chidiac was trying to help my hon. Friend, which he probably was. However, we were unable to question Mr. Chidiac. We were unable to bring him as a witness to the United Kingdom. First, we had no money to pay his fare. Secondly, we had no way of obliging him to come. We suggested that he might wish to come but he did not wish to do so. Mr. Chidiac, as I have said, wrote a letter exonerating my hon. Friend and we were unable to question him. As I have said also, I think that the Committee took the right decision. I signed its findings. This was a difficulty in my mind, however, and I was unhappy.

Mr. Lawrence

If the Committee was unable to question the contents of the letter and all it had was suspicion, did not the burden of proof require it to decide the issue in favour of the accused?

Sir William Shelton

I am trying not to go too deeply into the contents of the report. If my hon. and learned Friend reads the report, he will find that there was some circumstantial evidence which overweighed the letter from Mr. Chidiac. I think that the Committee came to a correct decision. There was a difficulty, however, that was apparent to me.

Mr. Dalyell

I ask the hon. Gentleman a factual question: did the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), let alone a lawyer acting on his behalf, have the opportunity at any stage to test the circumstantial evidence? Did he have an opportunity to question those who were accusing him?

Sir William Shelton

No. There was no cross-examination except by members of the Select Committee themselves. Of course, my hon. Friend received all the papers and was able, at any time he wished, to put forward his view in writing. Indeed, had he asked to be seen again, I am sure that he would have been. I think I am right in saying that he did not ask.

The inquiry was not conducted as a court of law. It was conducted on a friendly basis, with the one major problem that the stakes were so very high. It was not only my hon. Friend's existence in the House, in Winchester or in his business that was at stake; there was also the fact that there might well have been a libel case standing against his complainant. So it was a complicated and unpleasant matter.

I cannot believe that my hon. Friend had anything to gain from not registering or declaring those interests for which we found him at fault. I see no way that he could have profited. Indeed, he might have profited more in one or two cases by declaring the interests. I can only believe that he either genuinely misunderstood the rules or did not care, because he did not think it important, given that the time involved was 1982 when views were very much more lax. Therefore, I believe the retribution is far greater than the offence.

What do I think we should do? I support the second motion in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. We must consider the rules. They must be clear and concise, with no ambiguity. They should be like a short highway code so that every hon. Member knows exactly what he is supposed to do, and knows that if he does not follow the rules he will be at fault. If we had concise rules, instead of taking nine months to consider the case, it would take only nine days. If the rules were concise, there would be a clear yes or no.

I should like also consideration to be given to a statute of limitations. To have something dredged up after eight years is absurd. I suggest a statute of limitations of one, three or perhaps five years, but certainly less than eight years.

That does not solve the quasi-judicial nature of a Select Committee hearing without the safeguards of a judicial court. If the rules are being broken, they must be examined by the House. An alternative would be to transfer the matter to court, but that would be a very big step and I would not even think of it. If we clarify the rules, the way forward will be easier and simpler.

6.32 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I do not think that anyone can deny that a debate like this has human implications, especially for the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). No doubt many hon. Members, like me, have re-read the debate on 26 July 1977 when the House dealt with a Select Committee report on the conduct of Members. I was taken by a phrase used by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). I will quote the full paragraph from the speech of my right hon. Friend the member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), then Leader of the House: I believe that we can act wisely and intelligently without any sort of vindictiveness in this matter. I believe that we have done this on many such previous occasions. But the House of Commons has occasionally in the past operated a liberal form of lynch law. It can act as a mob, and of all mobs the most objectionable is a sanctimonious mob."—[Official Report, 26 July 1977; Vol. 936, c. 349.] That is important. I sat through the debate, which was much more complicated. It involved two hon. Members on opposite sides of the House. The previous Friday another hon. Member had resigned.

The hon. Member for Winchester made a personal statement today. I do not boast about it, but I know what it is like to have to make a personal statement to the House. I accept the sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman made his statement. If he had made it a day or so after the publication of the Select Committee report, I believe that there would have been pressure never to debate the report. In my judgment, there would have been no need for a debate.

I do not wish to detain the House more than a few minutes. Members of Parliament are expected to set an example in all facets of their lives. Many claim that it is unfair, but we are nevertheless told from time to time, whether in respect of salaries or of conduct, that we have to be seen to set an example.

My right hon. friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said that there was no law on corruption. We have not set a good example. The 1976 report of the Royal Commission on standards of conduct in public life, chaired by Lord Salmon, has never been debated in the House. It is to the shame of both Labour and Conservative Governments that they never found time for a debate. In the early 1980s, I asked the then Home Secretary what the Government were doing to set an example which would lead to an improvement in the standard of conduct. He answered the question by saying simply that we should set an example by all that we did; it was incumbent on Members of Parliament to set an example.

I defy any hon. Member to say that throughout his whole political life, when he has been canvassing in his own constituency or anywhere else, he has never experienced someone saying, when he has intimated his business at the door, "Clear off. You are all the same. There is no difference between the two sides. You are all in it for what you can get." I defend the House and hon. Members. It has been easier to defend our conduct since 1975 because of the Register of Members' Interests. I can say to people who put that point to me, "Yes, there are some who appear to be in it for what they can get, but by the rules of the House they have to put in the register for whom they are working." That is a defence for those who want to say that we are not all in the same boat. In giving the public perception, I sensed that I struck a chord in the memory of hon. Members. The defence provided by the Register of Members' Interests is important.

I do not want to go into the details of the Select Committee report. That would waste a lot of time. One presumes that the report has been read by every hon. Member.

I do not think that the sanction of a 20-day suspension is sufficient. There is a need for a sanction of suspension which must by definition be limited. I was unaware of the difference between the two types of suspension until the Leader of the House spoke. A suspension of 20 days is the normal maximum, but there are two types of maximum suspension. In one case the hon. Member has to remain outside the precincts; in the other, the hon. Member has the free run of the place except that he cannot come into the Chamber, speak or ask oral questions.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

The hon. Gentleman will find that there is a third category. In the two normal categories, the hon. Member is suspended but is still paid. In the third category the hon. Member is suspended and is not paid. So there are three different categories.

Mr. Rooker

I accept that expansion of what I said.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield thinks that there should never be suspension but that there should be a sanction. It has been clearly indicated by some hon. Members that, to put it colloquially, bawling out by the Speaker is not on. The only other sanction available is to suspend a Member's salary. There must be a sanction of some kind. I do not know whether that is a terrible proposition, but it is not on the Order Paper today.

The hon. Member for Winchester told the Select Committee and stated in correspondence on more than one occasion that he was called more than twice the average for other hon. Members. He boasted that he was an active member and was called more than twice the average by Mr. Speaker. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman is suspended for 20 days or for three months there will be no difficulty; he will still be ahead of all of us in the running average that he has kept.

That is not an argument for suspension. My point is that either we take the Register seriously or we do not. People outside will consider that 20 days is no more than a nod and a wink or, as it has been described in print, a slap on the wrist. It will suggest that we do not take the defence of the Register seriously. That is why three months is a more suitable sanction for the problems that have been identified and accepted by the hon. Member for Winchester. Therefore, at the appropriate moment I intend to move that amendment.

6.40 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

In my intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) I drew attention to an important anomaly. A number of years ago a Select Committee of the House was set up under the chairmanship of Mr. Peter Thomas, to revise the Standing Orders of the House. That Select Committee recommended to the House that when a Member was suspended from the service of the House, his salary should stop for the period of that suspension. That was not only a fair and logical correlation between the two, but got rid of what was seen outside the House as quite scandalous. When somebody was named by Mr. Speaker and then ordered by the House to be suspended from the service of the House, he merely did less work for the same money.

I was surprised when, in the name of the then Leader of the House, the recommendations of that Select Committee were put to the House for approval, that one was omitted and the Whips were unofficially put on against it. Therefore, we still have the position where normality is that when an hon. Member is suspended from the service of the House that hon. Member is suspended from duties, but the financial benefits of being a Member of the House —his salary—are not suspended.

Therefore, I hope that the motion in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House betokens an amendment to be put before the House so that not just in this case but in all cases where a Member's offence is considered sufficiently serious for that Member to be suspended from the service of the House, there should automatically be a suspension of salary as well. That should be the norm, not something exceptional.

It is right that in this case my right hon. and learned Friend's motion should embrace the two, but it would be equally right on occasions when an hon. Member has defied Mr. Speaker to such an extent that Mr. Speaker has to name that Member, not just for the first time but for the second and third time. The Standing Orders provide for each of those.

I hope that, if the House passes the motion, my right hon. and learned Friend will get the message that it does not want this to be a unique correlation of suspension from the service of the House with suspension from entitlement to salary, and that he will introduce an amendment to the appropriate Standing Order, so that when a Member is named, and the House has voted to suspend that Member from the service of the House, that will be the normal procedure.

There is a strong case for tightening up the rules. My impression is that comparatively few hon. Members have read them, but those who have would agree that they are quite tight already, including on the point of expectation. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) wish to intervene?

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

But there are many cases where the rules laid down by resolution of the House are broken almost every day. Those rules clearly lay down that none of the services of the House may be used for the commercial purposes of any hon. Member. How often do we receive letters through the internal mail from a parliamentary colleague asking us to come to a meeting or a lunch, or whatever it may be, which has nothing to do with parliamentary duties, but everything to do with that parliamentary colleague's consultancies?

If the rules are read, it can be seen that they state clearly that, if any hon. Member writes to another asking him to some event on the premises, he must declare in that letter that he has a relevant interest. It is not sufficient just to have it in the Register of Members' Interests. That rule is also regularly broken. Most of us know that to be the case. Therefore, the House has a considerable policing job to do.

I mention those matters because they have not yet been raised today and today is the appropriate occasion to do so.

6.46 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I am the youngest Member of the House so far to be called and one of the most recently elected. My colleagues and I thought that one member of our party should make a contribution, although none of us is following any party line. I bear no ill will towards the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), having only ever had courteous, albeit limited, dealings with him. For myself, I accept entirely the apology that he made to the House.

The job of the House, as the Leader of the House correctly said, is to be a disciplinary committee. The Select Committee's job was to be the agency of inquiry. We are left to decide whether to act on a recommendation that action shall be taken, but with no idea of what the Select Committee thought that action should be. We should not duck that responsibility.

Many hon. Members have made it clear how imperfect the procedure is. As a lawyer, I think that many of the views expressed about the need to improve procedure should be taken on board. My colleagues and I therefore support the second motion in the name of the Leader of the House. We believe that an inquiry into ways in which we can improve the working of the Select Committee is urgent and should be started forthwith.

I have sympathy with the amendment spoken to by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). What is declared needs to be much more clearly defined and much more comprehensively required. My only reservation is whether the appropriate first step is to legislate. The right hon. Gentleman proposed draft legislation. This would be a difficult matter about which to legislate at the best of times. It is better that, in the first place—and without prejudice to the view that we may need to legislate later —we should tighten the rules of the House. In other words, first we should have firmer rules governing our procedures and then, if they do not work, we may need to take further steps.

My hon. Friends and I—and particularly my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who was a Member of the Committee—accept the report, agree with its conclusions and endorse what it says in all its detail. So the only question for us today is what action we should take.

There is only one precedent, to which other hon. Members have referred. The House debated the actions of three hon. Members in 1977. Precedent is not helpful, except that it gives us the response of the House to that breach of the rules, as it was found to have been, so we have a point of comparison.

The hon. Member for Winchester made a mistake, to put it at its most favourable, but a question remains unanswered, and I make the point having found myself in the same position. If the hon. Member was unsure about what he should have declared, he always had the option of asking the Registrar for guidance. On one occasion I did that. I do not understand why any hon. Member who is in doubt because the rules are not clear, could not go to the Registrar and ask, "Can you help me about whether something should be included?" Had he taken advice and followed it, I do not think that the House would be in a position to rebuke him. So far as I know, he did not do that. That was an error or judgment and his fault.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

In fairness, the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) claimed to the Committee that he had obtained advice from the Registrar, but the advice that he claimed to have been given was disputed by the Registrar in question.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that clear. The Committee should know, if advice was given, what that advice was, because the only officer policing the Register is the Registrar, and it must be to him that we look in the first instance for guidance.

There appear to be five courses of action before us—no action, expulsion, reprimand, suspension or a call to resign. I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) about the first. I have in recent days sought the views of various people, not all constituents of mine and not all supporters of the Opposition parties in the House. Without exception, they have said that firm action must be taken.

It would be appropriate, therefore, to reject the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) suggesting that there should he no action. I also accept that we should not proceed with expulsion There are clear constitutional reasons why the House does not have any justification to expel a person sent here by that Member's electorate.

Mr. Colvin

When reading the Official Report of the hon. Gentleman's speech tomorrow, the public might get the impression that I was recommending taking no action. That is not the case. I am saying that no punishment should be determined today. I was arguing that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) had been punished enough, but I support motions Nos. 1 and 2, with the exception of suspension. That is all that I would omit.

Mr. Hughes

Acceptance of the hon. Gentleman's amendment would mean the House taking no action at the end of the debate, a course which does not accord with the public view. Nor would it be appropriate.

We are left with the options of reprimand, suspension or a call to resign—and if suspension, whether it should be for 20 days or three months. I, too, was taken by surprise by the varieties of suspension. I had presumed that suspension meant no participation in any of the activities, as a Member of Parliament, in the House of Commons. Suspension which means only that one cannot come into the Chamber is clearly a lesser penalty than many of us had presumed would be the case.

As for a call to resign, it is a widely held view that the hon. Gentleman should have resigned. That is a matter for him and his conscience and he has chosen not to do so. The electorate of Winchester must judge in time, if he is a candidate at the next election and if he has not resigned beforehand, whether they think his decision not to resign was appropriate.

There remain two options—reprimand or suspension. Reprimand has the air of a headmaster summoning a naughty pupil for a public rebuke in an archaic way. I am not sure whether that would be seen by the public as anything other than that sort of old formality. It means, in practice, that one public action and nothing more.

Although it may be regarded by some—I do not question their right to view it in this way—as a more serious punishment than suspension, I do not think that the public would see it like that. They would regard suspension as more severe.

If, then, it is to be suspension, we must consider how long it should be. Given the seriousness of the complaints upheld by the Committee and its conclusion in paragraph 103 of the report that three months would be the appropriate penalty, anything less would be seen as tokenism—the more so given how limited in effect a suspension would be.

The argument that any suspension deprives the electorate of their Member of Parliament has been dealt with well. We must all take responsibility for our actions. If those actions have the result of suspension, it means that for a period the electorate do not have their Member's full service.

My next remark will be controversial and I make it as fairly as I can. I believe that the motion might have been for three months were it not for some party self-interest. We all have party self-interest, and I do not dissociate my party's self-interest from that of any others. Winchester is a Tory-held seat in which the Labour party has come a poor third.

Mr. Ashton

What has that to do with it?

Mr. Hughes

It has a relevance to the proposal of the Leader of the House. The more severe the recommended period of suspension, the more severe the harm it would be perceived as doing to anyone acting in the Tory interest in Winchester. It would have been of no advantage to the Labour party interest there, either. I am not in a position to say that that was the reason, or was influential upon the reason, which led the Leader of the House to propose the motion, but there must be a suspicion that it might have been, and I believe that it might be true.

My next comment follows closely the points made by the hon. Member for Perry Barr, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and others. We are the most important elected body in the land, but the requirements of standards here are at present far less than those of elected councils. I agree with the Chairman of the Select Committee that our conduct should be transparent. If in doubt, we should ask. We are at present far too slack.

There is also a difference between those who come here with business interests and those who acquire such interests once they are here. The Select Committee Chairman observed the growth of outside interests in recent years, particularly those which people acquire once they arrive here. Of course, the House could not and should not be one without windows, as the Leader of the House rightly said, but there is all the difference in the world between people who come here with a business background and those who acquire one subsequently.

How do we reconcile those activities with our jobs as Members of Parliament? It seems to me that there is no question but that all our outside interests and the money that we get from them should be registered in every particular. Unless we do that, and unless the public know exactly what other influences there are or may be upon their Member of Parliament, then outside interests will be regarded as corrupting but people will not know to what extent they could corrupt. Human nature being what it is, we cannot stop people having outside interests. Therefore, we have to ensure that they are declared.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

rose— —

Mr. Hughes

No, I shall not give way—I have nearly finished.

We must be tougher and firmer and we must be much more open. We are sent here to represent the people—not private interests, private companies, trade unions or anyone else. The reputation of Parliament suffers, and Parliament and parliamentarians are unpopular and discredited, because people generally believe that we conceal much of what we do whereas we should reveal it. I hope that the lesson learnt today will not just be that of taking firm action in this case, but that we shall be much tougher on ourselves and on Parliament in the future.

7.1 pm

Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

I have listened with the greatest interest to the whole of this debate, and I am grateful to be able to make what I hope will be a brief contribution.

I have little to say about the first motion tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. The Select Committee on Members' Interests has obviously done a thorough job within the limitations of its structure. I think that we must recognise that. My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House has recognised and emphasised that, and it is therefore a matter that can be considered under the second motion tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) bitterly attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), saying that his speech had no relevance whatever to the first motion. As on so many occasions, the right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. My hon. Friend was talking about the reputation of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), of his personal knowledge of him, and of the views of those people acquainted with him. He was entitled to do that and, what is more, the House, in making its judgment, is entitled to take into account the general activities of an hon. Member and the contribution he has made to the House and to our national life.

I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Chesterfield back in his place. His attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside, saying that his speech was irrelevant, shows a complete lack of understanding of the circumstances of the House. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside for what he said about my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester.

I think that each of us should form our own judgment about the motion. Having listened carefully, I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has suffered from a vast amount of publicity about the whole of this episode. The Select Committee has reported in clear terms and that has been widely publicised. My hon. Friend's constituents know about every episode in detail and it is for his constituents to make up their minds whether they wish him to continue to be their representative.

My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has apologised to the House for what he now recognises as his mistakes. My conclusion is that the House should accept that apology. In my experience, the House has always been magnanimous to Ministers or hon. Members who recognise their errors and come to the House to apologise. In this instance I believe that that is the right step to take.

I am not trying to rebuke my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, but I think that he has tried to produce a solution which would meet disparate views in the House. This is a personal matter for each of us to decide and I think that it has been settled because the apology has been made; the whole House knows it and my hon. Friend's constituents know it.

The second motion causes me some apprehension, and I say so quite frankly to my right hon. and learned Friend. Two views have been expressed today about how these issues should be dealt with in the House. Personally I think that they should also affect the other place, but that has not been mentioned. As far as the House of Commons is concerned, there are two approaches: first, that we should rely on the integrity of each hon. Member; secondly—the other extreme put forward by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield—that the whole issue must be laid down in detailed law.

I could not disagree more. Consider the matter from the practical point of view. If one wanted to take action against an hon. Member in such circumstances, the possibility of doing so by using the legal system is minimised and not maximised. We know that from the many other cases that are in the public eye today, some of which have been mentioned this afternoon. I strongly reject the idea that Members' interests should be embodied in a new law which would be enforced in the courts.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield was quite frank. He said that the burden would pass from us and we would have nothing more to do with it. We could wash our hands of it because it would all be settled by the judges. Again, I could not disagree more.

Therefore, I return to my original point: we must depend on the integrity of hon. Members. We must depend on each other. In my view, looking back over the years, that has always been the basis of relationships among hon. Members and Ministers.

Mr. Benn

I have listened intently to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he turn his attention to one point that I made—whether the issue is decided by voluntary or legislative action? Does he think that there are any commercial interests which are incompatible with membership of the House, and, if so, what should the House do about them? The right hon. Gentleman was the father of the phrase "the unacceptable face of capitalism". I hope that he will not forget that that may have a special application to those people who are elected to serve the public good.

Mr. Heath

The phrase "the unacceptable face of capitalism" has had far more effect in the past 20 years than anything that could have been done by legislation, and that still remains the case.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield asked about interests that are incompatible with our duties to the House. Once again, he takes an extreme view. He said that we should be full-time members of the House of Commons and should have no other interests so that we could look after our constituents. That is not the tradition of the House, it never has been, and it never will be if we are to be effective. Opposition Members should recognise that if we were that we would cut ourselves off from the outside world.

Why did the first majority Labour Government in 1945 find it so difficult to deal with many outside interests? Because they had cut themselves off from the rest of the world. That policy would result in people of ability and experience not wanting to become Members of Parliament because they would say that they would not be allowed to continue with their other activities. The House would lose that experience.

When I first came to the House, it contained some very distinguished chairmen of top companies. There was no need for them to be on a register; everyone knew that the chairman of Lucas was the chairman of Lucas. When we saw his name on the tickertape, we would say, "We must get back into the Chamber and hear what he has to say." The right hon. Member for Chesterfield is trying to exclude more and more people like that.

There is another side to it. At that time trade union leaders were allowed to become Members of Parliament; it was only shortly afterwards that the TUC general council laid down a rule preventing them from doing so. When they were Members of Parliament, of course they spoke, and we all knew that they were expected to speak from the point of view of their unions as well as that of their constituents. No one questioned that; it was automatically accepted. We also knew that they were financed, but there was nothing wrong with that, because we all knew about it. If such Members were speaking on a specifically trade union matter, we felt that we were being treated like children if they said, "I must declare my interest: I am the general secretary of such and such a union." We relied on the integrity of the Member, and it worked.

It causes me some apprehension that the requirements in the amendments tabled to the second motion would impose considerable pressures on those examining such matters. The crucial question is, "What interests has a Member that affect his conduct in the House of Commons?"

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)


Mr. Heath

One of the amendments calls for the declaration of all shareholdings and changed circumstances. That has nothing to do with the conduct of a Member in the House of Commons. When we have an agriculture debate, will every Member be expected to stand up and say, "I must declare that I have 2,048 acres, half of which is used for sheep and half for cows"? Not for a moment. We know that, and the integrity of the Member has made it clear that he is engaged in farming activities.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield says that the constituents never know. He must have very strange constituents. I have seen few election manifestos in which the candidate does not specify his profession, his business and how he spends his time, and the local people have every right to ask the candidate, at an electoral meeting, what he does in his daily life and what he intends to give up. There is no difficulty about that; it does not require the detailed information called for in the amendments.

The right hon. Gentleman even called for the publication of income tax returns. How does that affect a Member's conduct in the House of Commons? Of course he will want to pay less tax, but everyone accepts that. There is no need to publish income tax returns to let people know that a chap wants to pay less tax.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

The right hon. Gentleman is making out a case for the job of Member of Parliament not to be full time. Does he recall that, not so long ago, hon. Members trooped through the Lobbies to approve the linking of their salary with a certain Civil Service grade? That grade related to full-time workers. Surely, if a Member of Parliament is doing his job properly in the House, it should be a full-time job.

Mr. Heath

If a Member wants to make his occupation full time, he is entirely entitled to do so; nothing will stop him. On the other hand, nothing should stop him from having other interests outside the House if he finds that compatible with his constituency work. The House has existed for centuries on the basis that the two are compatible. What is more, most constituents welcome the fact that their Member of Parliament has outside interests as well as looking after his constituency.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

Surely it all depends on how we define "interests". All of us have many outside interests. What we object to is the use of interests furthered by, or involved in, membership of the House. The right hon. Gentleman is interested in music—no problem. He has a knowledge and understanding of business—again, no problem. Anything else is a different matter.

Mr. Heath

With great respect, I differ from the hon. Gentleman. When I conduct an orchestra in Jerusalem, I am liable to be accused of influencing my speeches on foreign policy. I must confess that my Arab friends get very worried about it.

As for the question of what affects Members' conduct in the House, if there is a conflict of interests we expect them to speak out. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that a councillor is expected to declare any interest in the subject of a debate, or the existence of a conflict of interests. Absolutely: we are expected to do the same. That, however, does not involve declaring shareholdings, publishing income tax returns and taking all the other actions required by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield.

I have said enough to demonstrate my apprehension about the consequences of an examination in which many people—out of sheer desire to know about the affairs of others—will press for the details to be made available, simply because they relate to Members of Parliament. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) acknowledges frankly that that is his view, but it is not the view of most hon. Members. It has not been their view in the past, and I do not think that it should be in the future. We should rely largely on the integrity of our Members.

By all means let us keep the Register going, and let hon. Members insert the main items, but more and more detail is being asked for. I am a member of the review board of Arthur Andersen, worldwide accountants. We have 2,200 partners, and our fees from our clients amount to $3.2 billion. How am I to return to the Registrar of Members' Interests the names of all the firms involved in the decisions that I make? Could we not be a bit more realistic? I will gladly declare my interest whenever I make a speech about accountancy—which I never do.

I am invited to declare the Lloyd's syndicates to which I belong, because the hon. Member for Nottingham, North wants to know whether or not I am making a loss over Louthwaite. That does not affect my attitude in the House of Commons, however, because I never take part in any debate on Lloyd's or ask a question about it—for the same reason: I do not want any misunderstanding. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman in confidence, however, that the losses on Louthwaite are considerable. They are not going to drive me out of the House of Commons, though. In fact, they may well keep me in.

I beg my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, and whichever Select Committee deals with the matter, to be realistic, and, above all, to depend on the integrity of Members of the House of Commons.

7.17 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for selecting the amendment to which I have put my name, calling on the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) to resign in view of the findings of the Select Committee on Members' Interests. We tabled the amendment for a simple reason. The House is made up of people who have been elected by their constituents to represent them, and—as many others have said—they should be answerable to those constituents for their activities and interests, and for how they conduct those interests.

If the House takes it upon itself to expel hon. Members whom it did not elect—they were elected in a general election or by-election—it is, in effect, depriving them of the ability to represent their constituents in Parliament. The hon. Member for Winchester may have apologised, but he has admitted making a serious error in, for example, not declaring an income of $88,000—I imagine that amounts to more than £50,000—and a number of other interests. That is very serious.

The idea that a Member of Parliament is anything but full time may seem perfectly normal to many Conservative Members, but people outside do not see it the same way. They regard us as people who have been elected to the House on a substantial salary, which is far above the average industrial wage, far above the income of old-age pensioners and far above that of many people in ordinary middle-income jobs. Not unreasonably, they expect us to devote our energies to working to represent them, rather than creating income for ourselves through outside financial interests.

I support the principle of having a Register of Members' Interests. That is important. However, I do not think that the Register of Members' Interests goes anywhere like far enough. There is, for example, the question of for whom a particular company is working. If an hon. Member is a director of a public relations company, a statement to that effect is absolutely meaningless to me or to anybody else reading the Register. I want to know on behalf of what interests that public relations company is working. If an hon. Member is a director of a holding company, do we know what its subsidiaries are? Do we know what transactions are taking place? Do we know what influence that hon. Member can bring to bear on any decisions that are made?

We now come to the murkier area where an hon. Member might be a director or a substantial shareholder in a company that has direct dealings with central Government, such as the Ministry of Defence or any other Department. Frankly, that stinks to people outside the House. They ask, "Why can't we get a house to live in? We have insufficient pension to live on. We have all sorts of environmental problems in our constituency, but not only do Members of Parliament vote themselves a salary that to many of us is considerable, but they sanction substantial outside interests for themselves."

Mr. Flannery

My hon. Friends and I have considered this fact for several years now. Does my hon. Friend agree that many Conservative Members entered the House without any directorships whatever? Entry to the House is like opening an Aladdin's cave for them and that fact impels them to try to enter the House. Having become a Member, people make vast amounts of money that they would not have made if they had not managed to become a Member of the House.

Mr. Corbyn

I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent and apposite intervention. Having become a Member of Parliament by an elective process, through the ballot box, some hon. Members are saying, "I will take on this directorship, that advisership, this consultancy and that consultancy. I will act on your behalf in the House." There are many occasions when there is a potential conflict of interest and any number of occasions when those conflicts of interest become apparent.

I compare that with the attitude that is taken in statute towards local councillors. A local councillor, who is elected to represent a particular ward on a local authority, is absolutely prevented from voting on matters in which he or she might be deemed to have a direct interest. Council tenants, for example, are prevented from voting on rent increases or otherwise for council tenants in their wards. I regard that as iniquitous, but that is what happens. Likewise, if a councillor is deemed to have a particular pecuniary interest, he or she must declare it, take no part whatever in that debate, and withdraw from the chamber or committee concerned.

Furthermore, councillors are liable in law for any actions that they take as councillors. The Clay Cross councillors were debarred from holding public office under the Housing Act 1971. Councillors in Lambeth and Liverpool were debarred from holding public office and substantially surcharged following the rate capping of their local authorities, on the issue of whether they had overspent. Those councillors had not committed a crime. They had not made any money for themselves. They had simply acted in what they believed to be the best interests of the people they represented—and were punished severely as a result.

However, in this place, an hon. Member can have any number of shareholdings, directorships, outside consultancies, PR consultancies or anything else, and provided that they are declared, it is all okay. The debate is timely because it opens up that question.

Most employees work to a job description, which states that they are employed to work for a particular company. Someone who is employed as a salesman for a major company, such as GEC, would find that that company would not take kindly to one of its salaried salesmen also working privately as a salaried salesman for Siemens or for any other competitor company. Company employees are not allowed to get involved in such things, any more than local councillors. Why should it be so very different for Members of Parliament? Why should hon. Members be allowed to stack up so many outside financial interests from which they personally can benefit a great deal?

I am also concerned about the amount of time that is taken up on those outside interests. I do not know about the social problems or the constituency case work loads of Conservative Members who have substantial directorships, but I do know that in the community that I represent, I deal with several thousand individual cases per year. It would not only be totally wrong, it would be impossible, to try to represent such a community if, at the same time, I had to attend 50 or 60 company meetings per year or various other meetings of boards of directors, or if I had to spend time in other places when I should be working for the people who elected me to this place.

Conservative Members may make light of the whole thing and say that it is a House of Commons matter. Frankly, when the House decides that something is a House of Commons matter, the House is not at its best; it is often at its very worst. This is not a House of Commons matter. It is a matter of public importance and public interest.

A great many people outside the House think, "There they go again—voting themselves a substantial rise, not turning up in the House, not voting and not taking part in the debates because they all have outside directorships." I have no outside directorships. I have no outside interests at all, yet because Conservative Members—and perhaps even some of my hon. Friends—have such interests, the whole House, and the names of the elective process and of democracy are smeared as a result. We have a responsibility, not just individually, but to the electoral and democratic process as a whole.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said—and quoted others who said the same—that if the House were composed of people with no other interests, it would be a boring place. He said that one of the problems of the 1945 Labour Government was that they did not have people of sufficient experience who could take an overview or a wider view of matters. If those who are elected to the House come from different backgrounds—from working for a company, working in the Health Service, working down a mine, being unemployed, being a housewife or a single parent or whatever—they have those reosurces, that knowledge and that experience on which to draw. Hon. Members do not need to hold a dozen directorships to have an idea how the financial system works. An hon. Member does not need to hold directorships in 25 companies to be able to travel abroad and to find out what other people are thinking. Such outside interests do not broaden one's interests—they narrow them. They narrow an hon. Member's range of options and opinions. They have the very opposite of the effect that some hon. Members claim.

The constituency of the hon. Member for Winchester deserves representation. Serious issues face that constituency, such as the construction of a motorway through Twyford Down. Those are the sort of issues on which we were sent here to represent our constituents. That is why we are in the House. None of us was elected because we have shareholdings or directorships with certain companies.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) advanced an idea that particularly appealed to me —that the electorate should be told of all the directorships that are held by Members of Parliament. When my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) stood for election in Hampstead in 1979, I was impressed by the fact that he printed the list of directorships of the sitting Member for that constituency in his election address. We were told that that was foul play. All that my hon. Friend was doing was informing the people of Hampstead and Highgate about what their sitting Member of Parliament was doing. I thought that it was a perfectly reasonable and fair thing to do. In an election, the electorate should know who and what we are standing for and what we actually represent when we enter this place. All such interests should be registered.

The question of how the House should punish a particular hon. Member is important. I was not here when the last reprimand was delivered and have no idea of the importance or consequences of it. Presumably it would be televised and no doubt there would be great solemnity, which would be a distinct advantage.

There is also the question of suspension. The obvious point is, how can the House decide to deprive the people of Winchester of their right to be represented? The question of expulsion has also arisen, although that option is not included on the Order Paper. In an expulsion, the House is taking unto itself powers over and above those that it has been given by the people.

The Select Committee on Members' Interests spent a great deal of time going into this matter in the most incredible detail, and produced an excellent report. The hon. Member for Winchester delivered an apology to the House, but how much is an apology worth? He made a great deal of money that he did not declare. I do not know what his total income is. I do not think it unreasonable that the public should know the total income of all hon. Members from all sources, as Members, through directorships or through shareholdings. Then people could see in whose interests we are working and how we are spending our time in the House.

I should have thought that the only honourable course for the hon. Member for Winchester is to resign as a Member of the House. If he then wishes to seek nomination for subsequent re-election, that is a matter for the people of Winchester. There is no other course of action by which the people of Winchester can decide whether they wish the present Member to continue as their Member of Parliament or whether they wish to choose someone else. Anything less would damage the reputation of the House and of the democratic elective process.

I am pleased that the Leader of the House has at least accepted that the current Register of Members' Interests has shortcomings and, for that reason, has moved the second motion. I wish that the motion went further. I endorse the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, who lists a series of specific cases and offices that should debar one from being a Member of Parliament. It is ludicrous that one cannot be a Member of Parliament if one holds the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds or any other minor, almost non-existent archaic office of profit under the Crown, whereas one can make as much money as one likes as a chairman or captain of industry and spend little time on being a Member of Parliament, save for using the facilities, lobbying facilities and privileges awarded to Members of the House. I support my right hon. Friend's amendment.

If we are serious about being elected to the House to represent our constituents and the people of Britain, what message do we give to those who cannot afford to pay the poll tax, those who sleep in cardboard boxes, those on endless housing waiting lists, and those struggling by on a state old-age pension of less than £2,500 a year when we condone someone for forgetting or omitting to record in the Register that he received more than £50,000 from one foreign Government for one contract? Being a public representative demands the highest possible standard of public probity. For that reason and because we must defend the principle of democracy, I believe that the only honourable course is for the hon. Member for Winchester to resign.

7.32 pm
Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). It is a pity that we could not have called for the question to be put when my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) completed his speech—[Interruption.] My right hon. Friend can go now, as I shall not mention him again.

The media will be disappointed with the debate. The House has been broadly sympathetic to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) and, therefore, the debate has been constructive, moderately keyed and in good humour, despite the efforts of Members such as the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to raise the temperature and to substitute a load of cant and little of the milk of human kindness.

There is here a human tragedy. We still have to vote on whether to punish my hon. Friend, merely to endorse the findings of the Committee or to accept my hon. Friend's apology and do nothing further. I wish to address myself to that tragedy. The House should do something constructive about it.

I found the insight of my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton) interesting. He was a member of the Committee and he told us about the agony through which the Committee put itself. It drove him to the conclusion—he did not utter it, but he has told me that he would like me to tell the House of it—that he will vote against the suspension of my hon. Friend.

I am no particular friend of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, because our paths hardly ever cross. I do not know whether he is a good or a bad man. I do not know whether he is an honourable or a dishonourable man. I do not know whether he makes more errors of judgment than the rest of us or fewer. But the pursuit of him at one point certainly had the smell of scapegoat. From the media the smell wafted in of witch hunt. There has been more than a hint of hypocrisy during our discussion of these matters.

I do not agree with any of the motions. We are tending to allow ourselves to be carried along by what we think people are saying in response to media hype. I deplore the fact that we decided to spend an entire day debating the motion when we cannot have a day to debate Hong Kong, or eastern and even western Europe, or a whole list of domestic matters, including those near the heart of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery).

Mr. Flannery

Does the hon. Gentleman remember when he was out on a famous court case and we did not see him here for a month? Does he remember that, because we do?

Mr. Lawrence

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman is short-sighted. There has never been an occasion when I have been engaged in any criminal case when I have not been here at the conclusion of that day's business. I have often stayed here until one or two o'clock in the morning. As the hon. Gentleman does not walk around the areas where people work in this place he cannot be expected to have noticed that. There has been no day on which I have been here for less than five, six or seven hours. The hon. Gentleman could not talk more ridiculous rubbish.

To return to the matter which is really important—it would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman were to concentrate his mind on what we are debating and not on his pet illnesses—as a result of media hype, the public have come to the conclusion that, because my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester failed to declare certain interests, the Committee found that he had made money from that failure and that he obtained advantages for his clients. Both conclusions are wrong. The Select Committee on Members' Interests came to no such conclusion, as was clearly stated in the debate today. Nevertheless, that is the impression that so many constituents seemed to have formed.

I am anxious that we should not do anything in response to a wrong impression formed for reasons which I shall give. I cannot rid myself of the feeling shared by several hon. Members who have spoken that the intensity of the media vituperation against my hon. Friend has something to do with the fact that he introduced a Private Member's Bill last year to limit the freedom of the press to invade people's privacy—a Bill which the press bitterly opposed. I consider that a worrying matter for the future of Parliament.

To use this debate—personalised, as it is, to some extent—against my hon. Friend as an excuse for examining whether our rules on Members' interests are appropriate is, in my view, not called for. I am pleased that we are considering rather more the future procedure of the House and that more emphasis is being put on that than at first we thought. I do not like to think that we are using my hon. Friend's personal misfortune as a trigger for doing that. We should have done it anyway.

If we support the motion and return any verdict which is hurtful to my hon. Friend, we shall take an irreversible step towards the destruction of a parliamentary colleague. Such a step might be perfectly justifiable and in order if he had been convicted of armed robbery, rape, murder, large-scale fraud or child abuse in a court of law, but it would not be justifiable for the errors of judgment of which he has been found guilty.

Although the Committee on Members' Interests is not a court of law, outside this place it is perceived to be one. The dire consequences that will follow a decision adverse to my hon. Friend's interests will as assuredly follow as if this were a court of law. [Interruption.] We observe, do we not, the milk of human kindness that flows from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery)? I believe that he was a teacher of children.

Mr. Flannery

I was indeed.

Mr. Lawrence

We should be thankful that the hon. Gentleman spends most of his time in the House and can no longer pollute those particular waters.

I wish to dwell on the wrongs of the matter. I refer to the absolute unfairness of the trial to which my hon. Friend was subjected for nine months by the Committee —a trial is what it turned out to be and it is perceived as such by the public. I do not blame any of those hon. Members who serve on the Committee. They were doing what they thought to be their duty as decent, honourable Members of the House, but everything got terribly out of hand.

The truth is that my hon. Friend has broken no law of the land. He has broken no rule of Parliament that we feel so strongly about as to make it obligatory to honour it.

Mr. Dalyell

I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that at the beginning of the debate I asked the Leader of the House whether in his view the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) had broken any law. Why does the hon. and learned Gentleman think that the Leader of the House was so coy in his reply? Was it not a simple enough question to answer?

Mr. Lawrence

My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House answered the question in a most characteristic and endearing way. He said that since the Committee was not a court of law, the question was one which it never considered. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for underlining my point. He is being uncharitable to my right hon. and learned Friend, who certainly answered the question, albeit not as directly as the hon. Gentleman wished.

Before we take any action which condemns or makes matters worse for my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester we should consider this plain fact. Had he simply failed to register any interests, he would never have been subjected to nine months' misery and he would not now be subject to a motion which could help to destroy him. He has been tried by no court of law, yet the Committee sought to try him. The Committee has never previously tried anybody. It had no experience of trying people and no proper procedure for doing so. It lacks the most fundamental elements of a court of fair trial. I was amazed when my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House said that it had breached no rules of natural justice. Whether intentionally or not, it was the worst type of kangaroo court, but the press have been noticeably silent about that.

What court of fair trial or natural justice allows judges who are politically apposed to the accused to sit in judgment? One of the judges in this case was the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). I am sure that he will not mind me mentioning that he has tabled an early-day motion praising the prosecutor, Mr. Leigh, the journalist.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to draw attention to these matters, will he point out to the House that the references to Mr. Leigh in my motion relate to The Observer newspaper controlled by Mr. "Tiny" Rowland and Mr. Leigh's valiant attempt to change the nature of that newspaper so that it was not unreasonably influenced by an overbearing proprietor? My motion has nothing to do with this affair. Why does the hon. and learned Gentleman not present his case properly instead of trying to discredit members of the Committee?

Mr. Lawrence

I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman would not sit in judgment in a court of law over my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester when the primary prosecutor was someone whom the hon. Gentleman found praiseworthy. That is a rule of natural justice, yet the hon. Gentleman sat in judgment. The hon. Members for Workington and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) may be the most charming, gentlemanly and delightful colleagues in Parliament, but how many of my hon. Friends would like to be tried by them? How many of their hon. Friends would like to be tried by them?

Mr. Cryer


Mr. Campbell-Savours


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. To which hon. Member is the hon. and learned Gentleman giving way?

Mr. Lawrence

With either or both, how happy should I be. [Laughter.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I call Mr. Cryer.

Mr. Cryer

I know that all this is supposed to be terribly funny, but the Committee spent nine months meticulously and, I hope, fairly examining in detail the evidence presented under the rules which this House, not individual members of the Committee, had decided. The hon. and learned Gentleman is making a party political point. Does he accept that the majority on the Committee are Conservatives? When he traduces members of the Committee as he has been doing, he criticises members of his own party.

Mr. Lawrence

My point is that no court of natural justice has judges who are biased for whatever reason. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman for being biased against Conservatives. The strength of his feeling for Socialism is well known. No court of natural justice ever has judges who are so placed. I began by making nice comments about the hon. Member for Bradford, South, so he need not be——

Mr. Winnick


Mr. Lawrence

I have not mentioned the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and I might not say such nice things.

Mr. Winnick

Do I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that no Committee in any circumstances should look into the conduct of an hon. Member, as the Committee has done? If that is not his view, does he conclude that the Committee should be composed only of the political supporters of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne)? The logic of his remarks is that Labour Members are so biased as to be incapable of reaching a proper conclusion.

Mr. Lawrence

The House must be careful how it judges hon. Members, and it is not doing so in accordance with the rules of natural justice. Having judged them, we must not conclude what punishment should be inflicted if it is clear that, had they been tried in a court of law, they would have been acquitted.

Natural justice does not rely on documents which have been provided selectively by accusers—a journalist who has got them from a former, not very happy, wife. When the accused asks for other documents which would throw a different light on the picture, it is not natural justice for the Committee to refrain either from calling for them or from taking them into account before making its judgments. That is a breach of natural justice. The Committee is not a court of law and does not have to follow the rules of natural justice, but it must not punish or convict a man. That is my point.

What court of fair trail or natural justice does not allow or invite the accused to be present to hear or question his accusers? What such court does not allow him to put his case before he is questioned?

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

There are so many errors in my hon. and learned Friend's speech that I should need to make another speech to put them right, but I hope that hon. Members who served on the Committee will have the chance to rebut them, as I believe that they can do effectively. I must ask my hon. and learned Friend to bear in mind that there is no question of our punishing or convicting my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). We did no such thing and it is for the House to decide. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester had every chance to produce any documents he darned well wanted to. My hon. and learned Friend will spoil the debate if he goes on. I can speak with my hand on my heart when I say that the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), whose reputations he tried to traduce a moment ago, and who were honourable members of that Committee, were totally bipartisan. No sign of political passion crept into the Committee to prejudice the case against my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester.

Mr. Lawrence

Of course I accept what my hon. Friend has said. I was not talking about any prejudice; I was talking about having judges who are known to be biased to the accused. I stand on that and on my assertion that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester was not allowed to be present when accusations Were made against him, nor was he allowed to challenge his accusers.

Whether my hon. Friend was allowed to send in written documentation is neither here nor there. Parts of the report show that, if he had sent in such written documentation, he would not have been believed, because the Committee was not minded to believe all the written documents that he sent in. To say that my hon. Friend could have sent in written documentation is not equivalent to natural justice.

No court of trial or system of natural justice would have 13 judges, only three of whom attended all the sittings and heard all the evidence and only five of whom attended all but one of the sittings. A judge must hear all the evidence before coming to a conclusion. I am not criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) as he was not sitting as a court of law, but we are being invited to punish my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, based upon the Committee's report, in such a way that someone who has not been tried in a court of law or according to the principles of law should not be punished.

It is not consistent with a court of fair trial or with natural justice for my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester to have been unable to call a witness—Mr. Chattington—who hopes to speak about a material incident. That witness wanted to be called, but he was not. Never mind why that happened: here was someone whom my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester wanted to assist his case.

What court of fair trial looks at a bundle of letters, eight years old, and comes to the conclusion—doubtless, rightly —that it looks suspiciously as though there was a contractual relationship between my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester and Mr. Chidiac? The Committee then heard my hon. Friend say that there was no such contractual relationship, however it looked. Mr. Chidiac also told the Committee that there was no such relationship; yet the Committee came to the conclusion that the suspicion was more cogent than the oral evidence heard from someone of good character.

The burden of proof should never have been on my hon. Friend—he should not have had to prove anything. Before we convict or punish anyone, the burden of proof must be on the prosecution. If one has suspicious documents and oral evidence——

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

He admitted it.

Mr. Lawrence

He has accepted the Committee's conclusion about not declaring his interest. He has not admitted any wrongdoing, and it would be wrong for my hon. Friend to draw that conclusion. That is no good in a court of law, but the Committee ended up as a court of law and now my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester is on trial.

What court of law and fair trial bases its verdict on a law which says in rule 11: The purpose of this Register is to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member of Parliament may receive which might be thought to affect his conduct as a Member of Parliament or influence his actions, speeches or vote in Parliament"? An hon. Member does not have to sign that register and the rules are so imprecise as to be invalid as an instrument of judgment. To say in 1989 that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester should have applied the interpretation of that rule to events some eight years ago is not natural justice. That is borne out by what my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham told us. He said that the Committee had great difficulty about that and yet did not always resolve the matter in favour of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester.

I do not mean any offence to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which never set out to be a court of law or pretended to follow the rules of natural justice, but in practice it turned out to be a kangaroo court. It was unprepared for the task of doing justice to a colleague and we ended up with the justice of well-meaning amateurs.

Without observing the rules of natural justice, observing few of the rules of evidence, and without inquiring into matters that needed to be inquired into, the Committee produced two important criticisms. The first concerned the Saudi connection and the other the Chidiac connection. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has agreed that he should have declared an interest, but the errors made must be seen in perspective before anyone —the media, people outside or people in this place—takes any step to harm or crucify my hon. Friend.

For example, the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester put to the Prime Minister on the freezing of assets was a supplementary one and he could not possibly have known in advance that he would be called to ask it. He did not have to declare an interest for a supplementary question under any rule and it could not possibly have resulted in any advantage to him or to his client as Government policy is not changed by asking a supplementary question of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of all people.

Certainly my hon. Friend was not asked to ask that question, nor was any money received for that question. The Committee has accepted that. My hon. Friend did register his company, Falcon, and, as the Committee says: there is, of course, no general obligation to register clients and in our view there is no obligation to register income from abroad unless it might be thought to influence parliamentary conduct". My hon. Friend told the Committee that it did not influence his parliamentary conduct and there is no evidence to suggest that it did.

Therefore, my hon. Friend's failure to register, although open to criticism on the grounds of common sense or good sense, apart from anything else, cannot be said to be all that grave an offence. People outside this place, however, think that he has done some terrible, heinous wrong.

On the failure of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester to register his interests in relation to Mr. Chidiac, it is best to refer to what is said in paragraph 99 of the Committee's report: In examining this complaint we were faced with a direct conflict of evidence and interpretation of that evidence. We regret that we have not been able entirely to get to the bottom of this matter. Although we might have been able to move closer to the whole truth if we had called additional witnesses…we have not been able to take oral evidence from Mr. Charles Chidiac …The complaint relates to events which took place some nine years ago: some of those persons we might have interviewed have died: some of the company records that might have shed an impartial light on certain of Mr. Browne's and Mr. Chidiac's actions have been destroyed or dispersed. It is tempting to leap to conclusions but we recognise that the information we have is incomplete and is likely to remain so. In the circumstances, we felt we should reach such conclusions as we could from the evidence available". The conclusion it reached was a criticism and indictment of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. The statements in that paragraph demonstrate that a court of law, the decision of which would end in conviction and punishment, would not have reached the same conclusion as the Committee.

Those who understand the workings of Parliament will know that it is absurd to suppose that the non-disclosure of the name of a client would have had any effect on the answers given to questions, still less than the nondisclosure of a name would have had the slightest effect on Government policy or been of the slightest benefit to my hon. Friend. But we should be concerned about those who do not understand the working of Parliament and who might be forgiven for thinking that the failings of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester were significant and sinister. Our constituents often think that ordinary Members of Parliament have the executive power of Ministers but there is no excuse for Members of Parliament to believe that, still less for them to encourage that belief.

There is a catalogue of manifest injustices which have been perpetrated against my hon. Friend. I could have listed more. He is a parliamentary colleague who has been no worse than short on judgment, perhaps long on stupidity. We all feel immensely embarrassed about these matters and want to give them the greatest possible airing. However, it would be a great injustice for us to use my hon. Friend as a scapegoat to exorcise that embarrassment about our own vulnerability as a House of Commons to the criticism that our rules on Members' interests are inadequate. It would be still less fair to punish him as set out in the first motion, which states that we should suspend him for however short a period.

It would be equally unjust for us to be influenced by my hon. Friend's matrimonial problems and behaviour. They are no concern of this House. We should not be influenced by the way in which my hon. Friend carries out his responsibilities as Member of Parliament for Winchester. The people of Winchester may love or loathe him, but his future as Conservative Member of Parliament for Winchester should be entirely a matter for them and for him, but not for us. For what my hon. Friend has, or has not done, he has suffered immensely, as have his wife and family for nine months.

In the motion, although it does not follow the rules of a court of law or the normal rules of justice, let alone natural justice, we are being asked to punish my hon. Friend and to take a step that will lead to his destruction in public life. I will have none of it. I shall vote against the motions in this debate on the Register of Members' Interests and I hope that I shall be followed into the Lobby by a number of hon. Members from both sides of the House.

8.3 pm

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

I shall not attempt to follow the hon. and learned Member for Burton (M r. Lawrence), who filibustered for more than half an hour and made an excellent case showing why this place should be run not on lawyers' principles, but, as happens, with "Erskine May" as a guide on which Members should operate.

I am glad that the name of Mr. David Leigh has been mentioned in this debate. It seemed as though we had missed out the major point as to who points the finger at people who make mistakes or come to this place to try to make money out of it. Often that is the most difficult part. There is no point in having a tougher system if it cannot be policed. All my hon. Friends, with the best of intentions, say that everything should be made much tougher, but there is then the problem who does the policing.

I had a very unfortunate experience when I was severely censured by the House in 1974 simply for defending the House at the time of the Poulson debate. I said that the number of Members who indulged in that sort of thing could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Fleet street immediately said, "Name the guilty five". After I had written an article in Labour Weekly and said it on the Jimmy Young show, Sir Harmar Nicholls, the then hon. Member for Peterborough, who had a majority of three after the February 1974 election, saw it as a marvellous opportunity to make some political capital and referred me to the Committee of Privileges.

I was hauled up in exactly the same way as the hon. Member for Winchester has been. We did not have a Select Committee on Members' Interests then, so I had to go before the Committee of Privileges. Everything that the hon. and learned Member for Burton has just said about taking evidence was absolutely true. One writes to the Committee, its members write back, and there is no cross-examination or proper Hansard. At the end, the Committee makes a pronouncement and the word goes out to grovel.

If hon. Members grovel and apologise, they will be let off with a caution and it will all be over in two or three weeks. I did not grovel because I knew that what I was saying was true. I put in a defiant defence, aided by a good friend, Arthur Davidson, the then hon. Member for Accrington, who was a libel lawyer. He helped me with my defence and put the cat among the pigeons because I said I could prove that there were Members of Parliament for hire. He put the Committee of Privileges into a hell of a dilemma because I had the information that I had collected.

One of the biggest scandals that went through the House happened in 1971 when a Bill that we all supported was brought in by a Conservative Government to let the Tote set up betting shops on high streets. The bookies had a fit because that would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of their takings. They fought the Bill tooth and nail and lobbied against it, and Committee Members, none of whom is in the House now, put down thousands of amendments. They were paid to filibuster and delay, and eventually they won.

The Tote never got to set up shops on high streets. The Bill never completed its Third Reading. It went through Committee but was quashed on Third Reading. It was a scandal, but it was never revealed to anybody. It was at a time, in the early 1970s, when Members of Parliament were badly paid. Free trips to Iceland were advertised on the Whip, declaring, "Take your wife and family for £10 and have a holiday while studying the effects of the Icelandic cold war."

Questions were tabled every day in Parliament about independent radio and which frequencies would be allocated to the new commercial radio stations. It was common knowledge around the House. There were stories going round that the banqueting rooms downstairs could be booked for public relations companies. They were paying £350 a time to book the banqueting rooms when Members of Parliament were getting about £80 a week.

When I was up before the Committee of Privileges trying to defend myself, I went to the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) because I wanted to see who booked those banqueting rooms, who paid for them and where the cash came from. I was told that I could not see them, even though I was trying to defend myself. Even today it is impossible to find out how much public relations companies pay to sponsor Members to book those rooms. There is a lot that still happens in this place which we do not know about but which we ought to know about.

The Register of Members' Interests came about because I wrote an article on the day that T. Dan Smith was sentenced, so it was no longer sub judice. It was like throwing petrol on fire. Every newspaper and television programme in the country hounded me. The people who were carrying on were all named, and all I had said was that they could be counted on one hand and in 99 per cent. of cases there was no problem. However, it was a mistake to say that.

At that time there was the famous incident of the coffee pot, when it was alleged that Tony Crosland, the then Secretary of State for Education, had received a silver Georgian coffee pot worth about £4,000 or £5,000. He was smart enough to have it valued at Sothebys where it was valued at £50. He was astute enough to do that, but the innuendos continued. Eventually, Ted Short was named as a friend of Mr. Poulson and Mr. T. Dan Smith. Mr. Short was Leader of the House at the time and he was angry.

We got into such a state with all these allegations that the Register of Members' Interests had to be set up because the average Member was in a Catch 22 situation. If they named names outside the House, they were done for libel, and if they did not name names they were done for contempt. An hon. Member could stand up in the House and say, "This is a breach of privilege, a contempt which libels us because it has been said that a handful of us are taking money." Therefore, we were caught both ways.

The innuendoes, stories and rumours continued. Private Eye printed stuff every week without naming names. It was clear that we had to have a Register of Members' Interests. I raised the matter in the parliamentary Labour party because Labour was then in office. I was accused between the February and October 1974 elections. I was pressurised to apologise and grovel by hon. Members on both sides of the House whose neighbours were earning cash in this way and who knew that the dirt would rub off on them. If the hon. Member for Little Twittering, North was accused, the hon. Member for Little Twittering, South also suffered. We were between two elections at the time, and I was severely pressurised to drop the matter and not to name names.

I agreed to drop the matter, provided that a register was set up. Eddie Milne also pressed hard for a register. He was sacked by his party and stood on his own in February 1974, winning by a majority of 66 which he could not hold in October 1974. Eddie Milne and I pressed hard in the parliamentary Labour party to have a register set up. One hot evening during the drought, at a packed meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, only one Member of Parliament spoke out strenuously against the register, and his name was John Stonehouse. He stormed out of the meeting, objecting that the idea was an unwarranted intrusion on privacy—and look what happened to him. He went to gaol for seven years after disappearing off the coast of Miami.

Perhaps there was an excuse in the early 1970s, because Members were badly paid then. We did not receive allowances for the cost of living in London, and many of us lived in scruffy bedsits at the back of Victoria station. We could not even afford a taxi home at night. We were very poor. That is no excuse, but the temptation was there. It no longer is. Members are well paid now, with good allowances. Members can afford proper flats, and to eat properly in the Dining Room. No longer do we have to take every free lunch to save on expenses, and that is why we have to look again at the Committee of Privileges.

One or two hon. Members have talked about the star chamber effect, and that is what we are dealing with. The way in which the Select Committee on Members' Interests and the Privileges Committee operate is not right. One is asked whether one wants to give evidence verbally. Many of the Members who serve on these Committees are lawyers who can take the average hon. Member apart. We are always advised to write to the Committee, and letters are exchanged. The process drags on for months, and that is the whole intention—by then the issue has cooled off and eventually it can be kicked under the carpet. Every 10 or 20 years, however, we hold a debate such as this one. We cannot go on like this, but the problem is where to draw the line.

If we make Members register everything, must they register every free lunch? An hon. Member said earlier that we should investigate every complaint from members of the public. If the public knew that Members were having free lunches at the Savoy, as Members occasionally do, they would all complain, and rightly so. The Committee would sit non-stop. Should we draw the line at £5 or £50? If the latter, people would hand over £49.50.

We are not daft: there is no such thing as a free lunch —or free crumpet—for politicians. The public are not daft, and they know this. Free lunches are not handed out for nothing. I accept one in 20, and always because I have a specific interest. For instance, if the Football League invites me to its annual lunch, I go because I like football and I want to find out what is happening. The other 19 invitations go in the wastebin, although I usually reply politely to them.

We ought to know who is booking the banqueting rooms downstairs, and what they are paying for them. Is any hon. Member receiving a fee for hosting lunches in them? It is not just a matter of entering in the Register whether hon. Members are acting for public relations firms; we also need to know who the clients of these PR firms are.

The hon. Member for Winchester did wrong, but in my opinion he is a fool and an amateur. Nowadays the lobbying is done by professional lobbyists. Although they are supposed to register, and although they are inquired into, there should be a qualification for getting on the register. We should have an official, formal register of lobbyists who have been approved and who have deposited a substantial bond—perhaps £100,000—in, say, a Speaker's fund, which could be taken from them if they abused the rules of the House.

I am fed up with going to the bar for a pint of beer and not knowing who I am talking to. All sorts of strangers come up and talk to me. I do not know whether I am talking to the leader of Newcastle city council—I do not like to ask, because he thinks I should know—or to the political correspondent of The Independent, or to a lobbyist. There is a good case for saying that everyone should wear a badge. When we go to party conferences or a Government Department, we have to wear a badge identifying us as visitors and naming the organisations that send us there. It is time that visitors to the dining rooms and bars of this House wore badges identifying whom they represent and what they are doing in the building.

Lobbyists are often engaged by local councils and some of them are beyond reproach—for example, the lobby known as the Coalfield Communities Campaign, which gives us good briefings on subsidence and pit closures. That is an excellent organisation to which I do not object.

Then there are the surreptitious organisations, which are far more sophisticated now than they were in the early 1970s. I was telephoned by a film producer who wanted to make an advertisement showing the man who winds up Big Ben wearing a Timex watch. He asked me to arrange for this man to be filmed going downstairs and checking his watch before looking up at Big Ben.

Miss World used to tour this place. Stephen McAdden went around asking people to have lunch with her. That guaranteed Mecca pictures in the newspapers and publicity for the Miss World competition. I do not object to that, either, because the public knew about it.

We can never stop lobbying or money changing hands. It has gone on for hundreds of years, but the public, the local party, the voters and the media must know about it. If all these people know, we should not witness the sort of events that took place earlier this week in the Arthur Scargill case. Everything will be on the record, and if someone says he is in favour of something on television we should be able to know whether the organisation that he favours has contributed to his expenses—and that includes trade union officials. I—like all trade-union sponsored Members—always mention in my election address that I am sponsored by the National Union of Railwaymen. If I did not, the NUR would ask me why I did not.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) made one of the most pompous speeches that I have heard in many years, and said not a word about the British School of Motoring giving £300,000 to the Liberal party two or three years ago—that was revealed to no one. The Liberals moved amendments to related Bills and still said nothing about that money.

Mr. Simon Hughes

It is true that I and my colleagues have always accepted that parties should register where they get their money from. If there was such a rule, we would comply with it.

Mr. Ashton

The hon. Gentleman has virtually admitted what I said; he has certainly not denied it.

After I was censured by the House, there was nothing that I could do. The affair was very embarrassing to my constituency party, coming as it did just before an election. It left a stain on my character for ever. Three years later Maudling, Roberts and Cordle were proved not to have declared interests and to have been available for hire. The House censured them, and Cordle quit. I never received a pardon and nobody ever said that my character was quite clean. I never bothered asking for a pardon.

It is not easy to draw a line and say that a pound above that line must be declared. Also, it is not easy to police the measures that my hon. Friends seek. It means that somebody has to point the finger, and all hon. Members are reluctant to do that. I did not point the finger. I said that the place was clean and offenders could be counted on the fingers of one hand. None of us wants the opprobrium of being called a grass or a fink. I was accused of that by some of the people who were involved.

How do we find out unless some journalist or "World in Action" make it their business to find out? We have moved on from Members being paid or being asked. What did the Saudis get for their £88,000? Nobody has ever found out. We have moved on to a much more professional public relations lobbyist system, and it is in that context that we have to approach the problem. People must be made to pay a bond to register, and they must be prepared to be investigated and to be above suspicion. People must be told, "If you do anything inside this place that you do not reveal to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, we will take away your bond and your permission to come in here." If we do that, we will begin to clean it up.

8.22 pm
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) has spoken with commendable candour and realism about the whole question of lobbying. I hope to follow him, at least in the sense of being realistic in my assessment of the unhappy case that we are discussing.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House opened the debate with a quiet dignity that encapsulated the sombre judgment that we have to make on the unhappy situation with which the House, happily, is not that familiar. Make no mistake: this is a House of Commons judgment and we have to ring-fence it. One of the least happy aspects of the whole case has been the trial by tabloids of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) over past weeks and months. It has been done in a way that has made the Shropshire luminary Judge Jeffreys seem like a lilac social worker.

We have to accept a few salient points in this task of discriminating judgment. The first and most important is that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester at the start of the debate when he accepted the findings of the Select Committee that there had been non-declaration in the instances that had been identified and the implied strictures that there had been a dereliction of responsibility under the resolutions of the House, and expressed regret. I appreciated that gesture and judgment on the part of my hon. Friend. It has made the conduct of the debate infinitely easier in circumstances that are disagreeable to us all.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) and his Committee, because they had to carry out an immensely difficult task. I wholly endorse the confidence that my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden expressed in the members of his Committee. That is a relatively easy part of my speech, but I now enter much greater difficulty in trying to make the judgment that is implicit upon me, no less than on all other Members.

I come to the debate convinced that, whereas the resolution of the House mechanism might be tolerably effective for the gathering of information to compile the Register of Interests, it is a thoroughly unsatisfactory mechanism for conducting the investigation that has occupied the Committee over the past few months. I do not know whether we should use the analogy of a court, but to most of us it seems that, effectively, we are being asked to be a jury and pass a judgment in the light of its findings. Therefore, there is bound to be a legal analogy whether it is appropriate or not, and for the purposes of understanding our task, I think that it is appropriate.

I make that observation as if it is something that I have stumbled across in recent days, but practically every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate is conscious of the inadequacies of the procedures that were available to my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden and his Committee in the discharge of their duty. That is also implicit in the second motion moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. It implies that the whole business needs further attention, to see whether we can improve upon our mechanisms and procedures.

To show my respect for the Committee I shall refer to paragraph 9 of its report. It says that the Select Committee did not provide any guidance as to the admissibility of evidence or the period of time over which complaints might be considered. That was in the context of the most serious allegations relating to business activities in 1981 and 1982.

The House has heard speeches that have dwelt upon the difficulties of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester in not having the facilities that he would have had to argue his case in a legal framework before a court. One could make that observation from any point on the political spectrum, because this is truly a House of Commons matter and a judgment about the difficulties in which we find ourselves. It is against that thoroughly unsatisfactory background that I have to make a judgment and none of the proceedings helps me. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has admitted that he did not declare his interests in the instances identified by the Committee. Therefore, there is no question of guilt or not, if I may use a rather heavily loaded word. The infringement—which is perhaps a better word—is admitted. It is not contested.

We have to judge the appropriate punishment for that degree of infringement, and here we would have been much advised if my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House could have given some insight about what he judged to have been the motive for the behaviour of my hon. Friend. Such an assessment from the Committee, if it had felt able to make it, would also have been useful, but I appreciate that its members did not feel that they were in a position to make these judgments. The judgment about motive is crucial before choosing any of the range of punishments presented to us on the Order Paper.

I do not understand the law through any formal education, but my sense of natural justice tells me that before we go for the heavier punishments there must be a clear and demonstrable proof of motive. There must be a demonstration that the assets registered were somehow or other handled in a more acceptable way than the assets and interests that were not registered. No attempt has been made to distinguish between the areas where my hon. Friend registered and those where he did not. One is perfectly entitled to assume that the same broad commercial and political judgment was exercised in both cases. That means that one comes back on any concept of natural justice to suppose that the matter was a consequence not of sinister or mendacious judgment, but of foolish and ill-judged behaviour.

That, I think, is not an over-generous judgment on my part. Indeed, any other judgment would prove to be unduly harsh and would not operate in any normal process of law. Therefore, I conclude this part of my few remarks by saying that, on due reflection, I shall vote for the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson), which endorses and acknowledges what my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester said about his infringement of the House of Commons resolution governing the Register. Once one goes to a higher scale of judgment, one is judging motive, for which there is no adequate evidence.

The second motion, in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, captures the anxiety of the House that the present arrangements are unsatisfactory and need the further attention of hon. Members. Inevitably, and especially in the light of our own experience of this trial—if I may use that word—there will be a growing interest in using the normal legal processes and seeing whether what happens in local government could be a guide to our parliamentary actions.

Clearly, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was not enamoured of that possibility. I quite understand that the difficulties of finding an effective legal formula are immensely formidable—they have been considered by the House on previous occasions—but unless we proceed along the lines suggested by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), it will always be there as the tempting softer option never adequately considered by the House. So I welcome what my right hon. Friend said.

I hope that the further consideration that the House gives these matters will take into account how tangibly and effectively we may try to bring them within the ambit of the law rather than rely upon the present processes, which we have seen at some discount tonight. However, we should travel cautiously. I opened my remarks by picking up the realism of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, and I shall conclude in the same vein: in this sphere it is very easy to aspire, but damnably difficult to deliver.

8.32 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I should like, first, to make it clear that the Committee entered into this task, instructed by the House, with meticulous care and scrupulousness. All members of the Committee resented the implication—indeed, the expression—by the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) that, somehow, because of our political views, we were prejudiced against the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). I suspect that, in fact, because of political differences, we leaned over backwards to try to eradicate any shade of prejudice from the examination of the evidence that was presented, on which we were required to make a judgment for presentation to the House for its consideration.

I can say, without fear of contradiction by any member of the Committee, that the Committee meticulously, scrupulously and lengthily checked every assertion and cross-assertion made by those who gave evidence, including the hon. Member for Winchester, David Leigh, the complainant, and the other people who were brought into the ambit of the examination. The Committee had to spend a minimum of an extra 20 or 30 hours going over and over the ground, at the request of members, to make sure that it had not dealt unfairly with the hon. Gentleman. Therefore, any implication, or expression, that the Committee entered into the debate on a partisan or shoddy basis, in any shape or form, would be completely and utterly untrue.

Indeed, in my case at any rate, it would also be deeply and bitterly resented. I did not want to do the job. That is not what I became a member of the Committee to do; I became a member because, as everybody knows, I am interested in commercial lobbying organisations here. This task just happened to be given to the Committee by the House of Commons. It is very interesting that in this House there is always the rubric that we are all hon. Members, yet every word of the hon. and learned Member for Burton suggested that, in the conduct of our affairs, we were dishonourable Members. I resent that. The hon. Gentleman might at least have given the members of the Committee the same credit as he attempted to give the hon. Member for Winchester.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) suggested that we should have a framework of legislation and recourse to the courts. That would be a detailed framework, and it would shrug off from this House the obligation to examine any case in which a complaint had been made about a Member. I suggest that that would be a very much harsher regime, as this House tends to deal in a very kindly fashion with Members that it feels have transgressed in any way. It does so by going over the information in the most scrupulous way.

Mr. Winnick

Does my hon. Friend agree that some kind of apology is required from the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who clearly made the point—the whole House heard it—that my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), because of political bias, were simply incapable of doing properly their job on Committee? In those circumstances, does not the hon. and learned Member for Burton consider it appropriate to make an apology?

Mr. Cryer

I am not interested in securing an apology from anybody; I simply want to set the record absolutely straight. I suspect the brutality of exchanges from some Members, particularly when they are based on a completely incorrect examination and understanding of the work that the Committee did. I just want to put the record absolutely straight lest anyone here tonight should think that there was any validity in some of the accusations— indeed, all of the accusations—of the hon. and learned Member for Burton.

Mr. Lawrence

I am not surprised that neither the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) nor the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was listening to my speech. I do not expect them to listen to me. I most certainly did not say that anybody, from whatever party, on the Committee was dishonourable. I said—and I am grateful for the opportunity to make the point again—that when one comes to consider who one's judges should be, one cannot expect, in a court of law, to have sitting in judgment somebody who may at some time in his life have manifested some bias against one, for whatever reason. That is precisely what natural justice means. If a judge has a difference of approach, whether political, legal, or of any other kind, the normal procedure is for that judge not to sit.

Mr. Cryer

If one were to work on the basis of the sort of sympathies that the hon. and learned Member for Burton was trying to assess—and on every occasion on which the Committee sat there was a large majority of Conservative Members—it could just as easily be concluded that the Committee was prejudiced overwhelmingly in favour of the hon. Member for Winchester. As a matter of fact, I do not take that view. My view is that all the Committee's members, of whatever political persuasion, including the Liberal Member, tried as objectively as possible—as objectively as any member of the judiciary, and, bearing in mind the strangeness of some members of the judiciary, a good deal more so—to examine the matter impartially, in some cases leaning over backwards to make sure that the accusations that some felt would be forthcoming could not, in any legitimate way, be sustained.

Given that the Committee concluded that the omissions to register interests were serious in two instances and that in others the recommendation was that no action should be taken, I believe that 20 days' suspension, including the unprecedented withholding of salary, matches to some degree the seriousness of the omissions, but I would have made a longer suspension incumbent. If the House is to make a serious issue of the obligation of registration, it must be seen to do something.

I share the concern about the removal of constituents' representation in this place. Expulsion would not be part of my consideration and I would vote against it. As many have said, that is a matter for the constituents of the Member concerned and not for us. There are some disagreeable precedents where a Parliament has tried to make a judgment on Member's membership.

A Member who is suspended has a mark of disapproval from Parliament which can be taken into account by his or her constituents. The Member can still carry out his or her duties to a degree—he or she can still see Ministers and other Members as well as constituents. The constituents are not deprived entirely of the services of their Member. That being so, it seems to me that Parliament has to make some mark of its disapproval of the breach of the rules of this place.

There is the argument that the rules are not especially clear and cannot be followed easily. I remind hon. Members that we introduce rules for ordinary citizens of a complexity and length which would baffle every hon. Member. I am not talking about sums such as £50,000, which many millions of our fellow citizens would regard as a dream. Many people regard sums of that sort as unrealisable. We tell those who are making claims of £40, £45 or £50 a week that they must supply information of intricate detail—and woe betide them if they fail to provide the information which the forms request. For example, housing benefit is often only £10 or £12 a week. Given the large sums that the Select Committee was called upon to discuss, it might regard £10 or £12 a week as paltry. In many terms such sums are paltry, but for so many of our fellow citizens housing benefit is a lifeline in their struggle and scrape each week for existence.

We in this place do not say that we can overlook any lapse on the part of those outside who fail to give the information that is required of them. We do not say, "Well, they are difficult rules. If you do not provide the information, we shall shrug our shoulders, let it go by and say that it should not happen again."

There should not be double standards. It seems that there is one standard for Members of this place: we are prepared to say of them that there could have been an oversight. There is another standard, however, for those outside this place for whom we legislate and for whom we provide scrupulous rules. We are all aware of the statutory instruments and delegated legislation that we produce for the social security system. The pile stands at least a foot high. The legislation is designed to ensure that every penny that is paid is properly expended and that there is no cheating. If we do that for our fellow citizens outside this place, the same standards can reasonably be expected to be operated in this place. But that is not the position.

We formulate rules that have no criminal penalties attached to them, and this is the only place in the country that provides criminal sanctions. We have decided that we shall not apply criminal penalties to ourselves, but we apply them to people outside. If we introduce modest rules that must be followed and we find that there are transgressions, surely we must demonstrate that we do not have double standards—one standard for us and another for those outside.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that taxpayers' money was involved in the matters that we are considering?

Mr. Cryer

The hon. Gentleman is right to make it clear that taxpayers' money was not involved. We have provided, however, that money from whatever source must be subject to a declaration. The position is the same whether money is taken from the public purse for a training school which is run by an hon. Member or whether there is payment by the Saudi Arabian Government, for example. We say that there must be a declaration. Although my parallel is not absolutely apt— the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) was right to take up the issue of taxpayers' money, and I do not grumble about that—it is valid when it comes to the rules, in the application of which we have been generous.

I shall remind the hon. Member for Isle of Wight how the rules came to be introduced. There was pressure from within the House. When I was first elected to this place in 1974, the first question that I tabled was about the registration of Members' interests. I told my constituents that I wanted to see a register established. A senior Labour Member came to me and said, "Don't worry, old boy, we know the wrong'uns in here. We can pick them out. We do not need a register. In any event, a register will never come to pass."

In fact, it came to pass because this place was brought into disrepute by the Poulson scandal, which erupted throughout the nation. The nation's response was to say, "Parliament must do something about this." We cannot lurch from crisis to crisis every 15 to 20 years when evidence of corruption comes to light, only to say, "We must tighten the rules." Once we establish rules, we must be certain that we apply them properly and consistently. that must be the mark of integrity and honesty of this place.

Mr. Benn

The parallel that deals with the question of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) is that if an office of profit under the British Crown disqualifies, an office of profit under the Saudi Arabian crown should similarly disqualify. That is the question that the House must consider.

Mr. Cryer

My right hon. Friend makes an interesting comment, as always.

There is another example of double standards. It is an illustration that may interest the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. We have fairly sloppy rules about the declaration of Members' interests, but we tell councillors that they must observe tight rules. How did those rules arise? They came into being when the House was propelled to produce the Register of Members' Interests. That was the result of the Poulson scandal, the tentacles of which spread to virtually every local authority. Parliament said that local authorities should be subject to tight rules, but we introduced fairly generous rules for ourselves. That was not right.

Members of the public are elected to local authorities for a variety of reasons. Some seek election because they think, wrongly, that election will add to their prestige. Most people, whatever their party view, want to do well by their fellow citizens. Surely it is wrong that those who set out with the best of intentions should have placed upon them obligations which we have chosen to shrug off when it comes to the first test of our rules. We say that there are other and better ways of proceeding. There may be, but we set up the rules. At the first hurdle we are talking about a new inquiry. We say that the procedures are inadequate, along with the Select Committee itself, and that we cannot and should not do anything.

I think that we can and should do something. At the very least we should exhibit our concern as a House for what I regard as a deliberate and mendacious failure to register. I accept that that is not the view of the Committee. The Committee left the matter open, although there are implications of concern in the report. Given the nature of the Committee and the way in which it constructed and compiled the report, I believe that there should be a suspension. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) put down his amendment.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Is it not right that under the present rules an hon. Member is entitled either to register his interests or to decline to do so? Therefore, is it not fatuous for the House, whatever else it has done, to say, "You failed to do what you did not have to do"?

Mr. Cryer

That is the Powell argument, and that has gone by. In any case, it is not true to suppose that, if a Member failed to register, he would not be in the position that we are discussing. If there had been a complaint about a business interest of the Member, the fact that he had failed to register would not have prevented the Select Committee from having an investigation and reporting the matter to the House for debate. So that is completely erroneous.

I do not want to go into detail, but at the beginning the hon. Gentleman was asked whether he had a conscientious objection to registration and he made it clear that he had not. So the whole question of the Powell position is not relevant to the debate.

Failure to act may be delayed until pressure builds up, but it will bring the House into disrepute. We are concerned about people outside. I think that they want hon. Members to follow at least some portion of the standards that we expect of them. Therefore, I support the main proposal of the Leader of the House.

The registration of commercial lobbying organisations has been raised. I have mentioned the Poulson affair several times. When it broke, the Government of the day set up a Royal Commission, chaired by Lord Salmon, to report on standards of conduct in public life. The report has never been debated, which is a serious omission by the House. It made one recommendation for Members of Parliament which has been shrugged off. No crisis has erupted, so we have been able to put it to one side. The Royal Commission recommended that bribery of a Member of Parliament should be made a criminal offence. It is not. That is something we should remedy.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, for many years I have been putting forward a private Member's Bill to register commercial lobbying organisations so that we can keep track of what they do. We should give the House of Commons Commission power to draw up guidelines so that, if the rules are breached, they can be thrown out. My Bill would implement a recommendation made as long ago as 1976. People outside would then see that we did not have double standards and that we had just one standard of justice—rules to be followed by everyone. That would be the fairest way of dealing with the problem.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Most of the hon. Gentlemen who have risen have been here throughout the debate. I should like to be able to call them all. May I ask for brief contributions, perhaps 10 minutes or even less?

8.53 pm
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I rise with great trepidation, partly because a cold has robbed me of part of my voice and partly because, as many hon. Members have said, it is easy in a debate like this to sound sanctimonious or trite. However, I am so disturbed by some of the issues that I feel compelled to speak, new as I am to the House.

The first point which disturbs me was eloquently covered by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who said that there was a growing cry of corruption levelled at the House of Commons. I do not believe that that is justified, but that is not the point—we have to take seriously the fact that the cry is being heard, and we have to nip it in the bud. I want to speak up because I have heard the cry before.

I was in local government before I came to the House and I know what happened there following the Poulson scandal. I assure all hon. Members that it was no fun chairing a planning committee, as I did, after that scandal. I did not enjoy being criticised publicly because my wife, my children and I continued to swim in the swimming pool of my next-door neighbour, who happened to be a developer. That is the level to which it went. I sense that the same may happen here in the near future if we are not careful. My constituent, my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), said that he smelled a whiff of a search for a scapegoat. So do I.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) observed that we are all being tarred with the same brush. I suspect that all of us who have canvassed have had the same accusation levelled at us, irrespective of party. There is guilt by association if we do nothing. The ultimate result, so eloquently expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), may be over-reaction and an invasion of privacy.

It would be absurd, but I would be interested if someone could tell me the relevance of my registering my one share in Bristol City football club. There are those who would go that far. What I saw in local government when there was over-reaction was a loss of many good people who cared about the community and who wished to serve, but who found that the pressures were too great, and left.

I also saw a lowering of public esteem due to guilt by association. I believe that the loss of people from local government and the lowering of public esteem had a great deal to do with the problems now facing local government, so heaven help us if Parliament loses its special place in the minds of the public. That is why I believe that the matter is important and why we have to act now.

When, at 10 o'clock, we all have to decide how to act, we have to resolve a dilemma. How do we send the correct signal to the public at large about the conduct of the House, while at the same time making sure that justice is done to an individual colleague? If democracy is to survive, the public have a right to expect us to set an example by all of us being above reproach. If we are to go on insisting that Edmund Burke was right and that we are here not as mere voting machines on behalf of our party but as individuals to use our judgment, and to be sound and independent in our decisions, we must not only be seen to be sound and independent—we must be able to prove it. The conclusion that I draw from the report is that our procedures do not make it easy for us to prove that we are independent and sound in our judgment.

It is in that context that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester in making an admission about errors of judgment, leaves us with an important matter on which we must act and which we cannot duck. It follows that if somebody stands here, as my hon. Friend did today, and apologises for an error of judgment, we can no longer say that we can safely ignore that report. We must do something. If the facts in that report and its conclusions are correct, we must all make it crystal clear to the country that we expect the highest standards from all of us.

That leads me to the other part of my dilemma. Who in this place should decide whether the facts and the conclusions are correct? The more I have thought about that before the debate and while I have been sitting here since 4 o'clock, the less clear I have become about who should take that decision. I have reached a stage where I am sure now about just one thing—the full House is most certainly not the right place to take some of the decisions being put before us.

Why do I believe that? Surely a cornerstone of democratic justice in any country is that the politicians who write the rules must not be responsible for enforcing them or for interpreting them, lest we become judge and jury in our own cause, and that is to undermine democracy.

Who are the right people? It depends what sort of matter we are facing. Are we discussing criminal wrongdoing, political wrongdoing, moral wrongdoing or perhaps just the one thing that has been admitted—the making of an error of judgment?

If we wish to pursue the question of criminal wrongdoing, the answer is simple. The House should send the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. We could then step back and let him get on with it. That is the only way in which criminality can be dealt with in a matter of this sort.

On the other hand, if we wish to say that there may be some element of political wrongdoing in all of this, we should again simply step back and say that it is for the selectors and electors of Winchester to take action, not for the House.

If we wish to pursue the notion of moral wrongdoing, we must take great care that we do not seek to turn the House into a court of morals. I see moral judgments as a matter for every individual in Britain, not just 650 of them. It is not for the House to reach a collective moral judgment about a colleague or anyone else. All that we can do today is to act as individuals, reach our own individual conclusion and make that conclusion public. That is as far as an individual can go in making moral judgments of this sort.

Where does that leave me? It leaves me wanting to uphold the high standards of the House so that we do not bring it into disrepute. I want to leave any further discussion of criminality for the Director of Public Prosecutions and to leave any further consideration of political action to the selectors and electors of Winchester.

What am I then left with? I am left with an admission of an error of judgment and with a growing feeling, which other hon. Members have also expressed, that the rules that we have here are not clear enough. I conclude that those are the only things on which we dare take action—an admission of an error of judgment and an admission that our rules need looking at.

In those circumstances, the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) requesting the Speaker to express our displeasure is as far as we dare go on the matter. I equally believe that we should accept the proposal from the Leader of the House that the rules of this place should be tightened up. I shall therefore be voting accordingly on both motions.

9.3 pm

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

It is not the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) who is on trial today—it is the ethics of the House of Commons. I say that purely because of the experience of many hon. Members on both sides of the House in local government. Local government never finds itself in the one-off situation of effectively trying one of its own members in its own council chamber. That is because the rules are clear, tight and, as many hon. Members have pointed out—from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) to the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen)— the rules are enshrined in law. Whether the House reaches a decision today or on another occasion, that is how the matter will ultimately be resolved.

In looking at an individual Member tonight, we are looking at a symptom rather than the cause of the problems that have beset the Select Committee on Members' Interests for the past year, during part of which time I was a member of that Committee.

The hon. Member for Winchester finds himself in the present position because we do not know the interests that all hon. Members have. Any person who puts himself or herself in the firing line by seeking to represent the local population in Parliament takes on many responsibilities.

Interests cannot be hidden. Indeed, to a large degree we give up our privacy. There is no separation between our public and private lives. We are on trial all the time.

That becomes obvious when we start pretending that there is a division between what we seek to do as individuals in terms of making money and what we do in our political lives here. That is why I have reservations about the concept of something being a House of Commons matter. There is no such thing that is neutral and above the political fray, be it crude party politics or the wider politics that we practise in Parliament.

Political, party and policy issues are at stake today. We on the Opposition Benches should state clearly that a Labour Government would act differently in relation to the Register of Members' Interests. In saying that, I leave aside the case that is in our minds today. We would take a different view from that of the present Government towards the register. Labour Members can express opinions on behalf of a wider public, who expect more from their Members of Parliament in this era of television and radio.

The public should know exactly what the Members they elect get up to. We must concentrate on prevention rather than cure. Rather than one of our number being dragged through the extremely invidious experience that the hon. Member for Winchester is undergoing, there should be clear ground rules to prevent such a case from ever reaching this point, which means total disclosure.

My view on that was made clear in the amendment which stands in my name but which, sadly, was not selected. Many of the ideas contained in it are not new. They are common currency in France, America, Canada and Australia. Legislatures elsewhere in the world take such principles in their stride. We could learn from the best practices of those legislatures and create a really effective register here so that all hon. Members are clear where their duty lies before coming to Parliament and while they are here. There would then be no errors of judgment.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—God bless him—drew attention to some of my proposals. For example, I believe in full-time Members. I find that there are never enough hours in the week to enable me properly to do my one job here, let alone service other organisations, companies, directorships and consultancies outside. I see no reason why all directorships and consultancies, and the remuneration therefrom, should not be declared openly in the Register of Members' Interests. The clients of consultancies should also be listed, and the remuneration therefrom, so that it could never be said, "You are getting money underhandedly because of your activities in the House of Commons," through parliamentary questions, comments in the Chamber or whatever.

All shareholdings and dealings should be listed. The present Register means that a Member could sell all his or her shares on one day, register the next day as having no shareholdings and then buy back the same shares or others the day after. That would accord with the concept of the Register.

Mr. Rooker

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Allen

If my hon. Friend will allow me to continue——

Mr. Rooker

That is absolutely wrong. My hon. Friend must appreciate that any change in the circumstances does not outweigh the details published in the Register, because it is updated daily. There is a requirement that if there is a change of circumstances it must be registered at the time. My hon. Friend must get the record right. Let us not do ourselves down more than we need to.

Mr. Allen

Without checking for myself, I will take my hon. Friend's intervention at its face value and I am glad to do so.

I believe that the Register should include hon. Members who are involved with Lloyd's syndicates, and that the entries should provide the public with clear information about whether and to what extent hon. and right hon. Members have benefited personally from any legislation with which they were involved. There have been a number of cases where hon. Members have gone on to benefit—for example, when voting for a privatisation. Minister who, on appointment, divert shareholdings into trusts should be required to declare those shareholdings and to identify any relatives with a beneficial interest in such a trust.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has amplified in his amendment, which has been selected, the fact that the Representation of the People Act should be amended so that people who become parliamentary candidates understand that they will have to make a full and total declaration of their shareholdings and all their interests and that failure to do so would be in breach of a rule of the House and in breach of the law of the land. They would thus disqualify themselves from Parliament without any intervention from some kangaroo court which might be constituted in this place. I believe that the Act will have to be amended in that way sooner or later.

I was particularly interested in the concept of the well-rounded Member of Parliament—the idea that poor people such as myself, who work here full time, do not have the necessary depth of personality and that it would do us a lot of good to have a couple of directorships in the city, or perhaps to spend five or six hours a day in the law courts to give us a better view of the world.

Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)


Mr. Allen

My hon. Friend may intervene if she wishes.

Ideally, Members of Parliament should take up this position of honour and trust as full-time employment. The House deserves nothing less, and the electors whom we are here to represent deserve nothing less. That day will come —and the sooner the better.

9.13 pm
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

It is all very well to say that this is not a trial, but it is. We are the High Court of Parliament and we are trying my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) whether we like to say so or not.

I do not wish to appear on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. I am not willing to judge whether his admissions or his follies were right or wrong.

As someone who believes in the concept of justice, and in the House of Commons, I am horrified that we should adopt a procedure whose nature is contrary to justice. We have set up a Committee because of what in Scotland would be called a clype—[HoN. MEMBERS: "A clype?"] English Members may not have such a good word. A clype is someone who tells tales.

The Committee was set up with no judicial form and no rules according to natural justice under which a Member of the House could be indicted. My hon. Friend was not indicted on any particular charge, nor was he entitled to call witnesses: what members of a democratic society would regard as justice did not obtain. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) should not laugh; these are serious matters, principles of justice on which the House depends.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

It is not true that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) could not call witnesses; he could.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

We all respect the Chairman of the Committee, but that Committee has none of the characteristics of natural justice. The Leader of the House knows what they are.

What I find so upsetting and disturbing is that the House should suddenly be in a position which, according to the traditions of British justice, should never arise: the jury is being allowed to decide on the sentence. Someone who has been accused of nothing has been found "prospectively" guilty of certain offences, but we have not decided what they are. We know that they are not criminal; we do not know whether they are ethical or moral, but they are supposed to be unconstitutional.

I find this difficult to understand. Let me say to the Leader of the House, entirely seriously, that although we are apparently supposed to declare our interest, we do not need to do so. How can a Committee without the principles of natural justice find someone guilty of not declaring an interest that the House that has found him guilty says he does not need to declare in any case? I find that an extraordinary concept.

Here we all are. Some members of the jury are out, and some are in. The jury is being asked to say what the sentence should be, but the jury was not even in court. Most of its members who are in court now have not read the report, and do not conceive of the rights or wrongs of what the Committee found.

Whatever the party of the accused, what I find offensive and appalling is that the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament, should be fussing about saying, "The jury has 100 sentences that we have thought up." The Leader of the House has thought of 20. Others have talked about an honourable discharge and yet others have talked about a forfeit. I find that offensive to all concepts of justice and decency.

The concept of a jury is absurd in this instance—some are here and some are not; some have gone—some have returned; some have listened; some have not, but they will have to vote—on this and that—in one Lobby or another —and pronounce a sentence. Are we going to give out the message tonight that that is the concept of justice of the House of Commons? Are we going to say that that is our attitude to the duty and rectitude of law, equity and judgment? If we are, the House is not performing its duty or doing itself any credit.

Nobody wants to believe more than myself that hon. Members are respected and behave with rectitude and honour. However, if we make this place into an absurd circus of magic justice in which nothing of the principle of natural justice survives, we cannot say to ourselves or to the public, "Hurrah—we have broken the boil. We have shown that wrong will be righted." We cannot do that.

From tonight we should have a Register of Members' Interests that is simple and sensible. We should ensure that we have a code of honour that we all understand, so that if we break it, we know that that is what we are doing. Let us not sit as a fatuous jury—some gone, some here—and pretend that we are doing justice in the name of the honour of the House. Let us say, "The man has done wrong. He has admitted that he has done wrong." Let us say, "We all accept that fact," and then, like Burns, let us say, The unco' guid should not stand in judgment, lest they be judged. Tonight's procedure will be foolish if we do not understand that this partial jury should not exercise the concept of punishment.

9.23 pm
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

Unlike both the hon. and learned Members for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) and for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), I do not regard this as a court room. When the Government introduced their anti-trade union legislation, I wish that Conservative Members had been equally worried about the rights of workers on the factory floor who do not have the defence of a lawyer. Although, as a result of that legislation, some of those workers could be sacked on the spot, I did not then hear any pleas on their behalf from those hon. and learned Members.

There has been a breach of discipline; the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) has been good enough to admit that. Our credibility with the public would be in serious jeopardy if we did not opt for some type of suspension. For that reason, I am prepared to go along the road that the Leader of the House has asked us to follow.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Winchester. His greatest punishment is not the suspension that we might give him but the fact that his business has been discussed from about 5 pm until 10 pm tonight. He has apologised. He has done wrong and he must be accountable, but I have some sympathy for him.

As a family man, I know that our wives and families do not choose that we go into public life. Even in the good times, they often have to put up with the ridicule of neighbours and sometimes so-called friends. I should like to put it on the record that I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's wife and family in view of what they must be going through and must have already been through.

I do not wish to quarrel with my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), but he said that the Register of Members' Interests was full of items declared by both Labour and Conservative Members. He mentioned the fact that we declare our sponsorship by trade unions. I should not like any member of the public or the press to go away with the idea that union sponsorship and business interests are one and the same thing. They are not. I do not gain any financial benefit whatever from being sponsored by Manufacturing Science Finance. There is a great difference between that and hon. Members who take upon themselves jobs which pay £8,000 and sometimes £10,000 per annum into their personal accounts. It would be wrong for anyone to make that comparison.

The Leader of the House also fell into that trap when he said that the House would be an empty place if we did not have jobs outside. I left school at 15 and went straight into engineering. I had a spell as a trade union officer and a spell as a councillor. I can draw on that experience, and I have done so ever since I came into the House. I defy anyone to say that I am a worse Member of Parliament because I have no other pecuniary interests. That is nonsense.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) cited the example of members of the 1945 Government. He could not have picked a worse example. The 1945 Government consisted of men who spent six years in the forges and knew what life was all about. They had travelled aid had had to make decisions on the spot. They brought their experiences into the House and gave the House the best Government that we have ever known in the history of Parliament.

I am not a great traveller with Select Committees but I have been on some Select Committee trips. There is an hon. Member in the Chamber tonight who went with me on a Select Committee trip to the far east. I was deeply embarrassed by the behaviour of some hon. Members on that trip. They would walk up to guests and Government representatives and say, "Here is my House of Commons card and here is my business card. I am into this business, that business and the next business." I have witnessed Select Committee Clerks of the House being deeply embarrassed because they knew that hon. Members were seeking information, not for the purpose of their work here in the House, but for the benefit of their outside interests.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Martin

No, I shall not give way. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke for a long time. I shall not be long, but I have been here all day.

Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Two minutes.

Mr. Martin

My hon. Friend tells me that I have two minutes. I wish that she had said that to other hon. Members who have spoken.

Clerks of the House and Officers working in the Library have been deeply embarrassed when they have had to give information to Members knowing full well that it is not for the benefit of the House.

I am sorry that we had to have a disciplinary hearing to discuss these matters. I hope that the Leader of the House will return with a motion so that we can talk, not about disciplinary action but about the uses to which hon. Members put the catering, Library and research facilities of the House. If hon. Members are honest, they will say that it is wrong to take money for their own benefit from outside organisations. They know full well that they are damaging the reputation of the House by doing so.

9.29 pm
Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) wholly spoilt the atmosphere of the debate by his partisan comments.

As a junior Member of the House, I decided to speak because I believe that the media have hounded my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) for a considerable time. I share that experience. Twelve years ago, a national newspaper wrote an article on the Economic League which involved the company in which I worked at that time, and it mentioned me. It was recently regurgitated in the Hogarth press and now by the National Council for Civil Liberties, and so it goes on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) mentioned political wrongdoing. The NCCL does not look into the affairs of the Isle of Wight where the Liberal Democrats deposed school governors because they were Conservative. It does not look into how they hound Freemasons from council chambers.

Bernard Ingham was right to say to the press that today the media will not allow the facts to interfere with a good story. This week The Guardian carried on its front page an article which stated that Conservative councillors on the Isle of Wight would resign. That was wholly without foundation. It was the Liberal Democrats who said that they would resign if they were community charge capped. That is a good example of journalists deciding not to allow facts to interfere with a good story.

I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House said about outside interests, but I do not entirely agree with his remedy. The remedy of not being heard in the Chamber should be used by the House only for those who ignore either your authority, Mr. Speaker, or the rules of debate. To exclude my hon. Friend from the Chamber for breaking a rule of the House is not a proper use of the sanction. That is wrong. The House is the crucible for freedom of speech. If we infringe the rules, it should be a matter of note and investigation, which in this case it has been. Then it is up to the people to make a decision at the ballot box because they send us here. We should use lightly our right of excluding Members from the Chamber. We have the right of freedom of speech and we should deny it only to an hon. Member who disrupts the workings of the Chamber.

In my maiden speech I referred to one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, who had to vacate the Chair because of financial misdoings. He represented Isle of Wight. That shows that these matters are hardly new to the House. Unusually, I am in complete agreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley and Sidcup (M r. Heath), who said that the House would be much poorer if hon. Members did not have financial interests, although he almost lost me when he started to defend accountants. He is absolutely right in saying that the House is the richer for that. Labour Members may be lecturers or shop stewards; Tory Members may be lawyers and continue to practise. It rarely occurs to the House that the lifeblood of the nation is business, trade and commerce. That need must be represented properly in this House.

Sometimes the House gets into that sanctimonious mode of the lady in Belgravia who looks straight down her nose and says, "Ew goodness, he's in trade, is he?" Great Britain Ltd. and Great Britain plc must trade at a profit. The House must reflect a trading nation.

It is improper to refer to events that occurred eight years ago. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) that the people will be the final arbiters in this matter. I shall vote against the motion because I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, having been sent here by his constituents, should continue to be heard in this House. The man who never made a mistake never made anything.

9.35 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Before asking the Lord President four concise questions, I wish him well when he goes to Brazil next week on our behalf in the hope that he can help them do something about the rain forests.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman clarify the question about the precints of the House? Those of us who have been suspended have been politely, courteously but firmly escorted by the Serjeant at Arms—sword and all—to ensure that we get out of the precincts. The police keep a kindly eye on us to ensure that we do not come back to our rooms by a circuitous route. Would similar actions be taken in regard to what we are discussing today, or is it different if one says certain things about the Prime Minister?

Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member of Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) rightly asked about the Salmon committee. Paragraph 311 of that committee's report states: Membership of Parliament is a great honour and carries with it a special duty to maintain the highest standards of probity, and this duty has almost invariably been strictly observed. Nevertheless in view of our report as a whole"— a considered and serious report— and especially in the light of the points set out…we recommend that Parliament should consider bringing corruption, bribery and attempted bribery of a Member of Parliament acting in his Parliamentary capacity within the ambit of criminal law. Our recommendation is limited to this single point, and we do not raise any questions about other aspects of Parliamentary privilege and related matters. Could we have the Government's view on the considered recommendation of the Salmon committee?

My third question arises out of personal experience, because I was reprimanded in distressing circumstances in 1967. Let no one pretend that those who are reprimanded by this House do not carry the scars for a long time. I plead with colleagues, however, to go extremely carefully down that road. When I went before the Select Committee on Privileges, I was asked an amalgam of questions, which were confusing and sometimes irrelevant. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who was there, was very nice about it; he may recollect the occasion. We had better be clear what such parliamentary investigations are about and are sparked off by what they purport to be about.

I do not think that we would be discussing this subject today had it not been for press reference to the matrimonial problems of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) and, whatever else we are, we are a jolly bad matrimonial court. Moreover, had he not produced a totally unacceptable private Member's Bill, we would not be debating this matter today.

In my case, it was made clear some years after the matter that it did not involve security, chemical and biological weapons or any formula of that kind, or even about giving Lawrence Marks details of a Select Committee report which had been printed and which the Ministry of Defence knew very well did not contain anything that would damage our country. The late Sir Harry Legge-Bourke rather shamefacedly told me some years later that he had been approached by people in the Ministry of Defence who thought that I had been asking inconvenient questions on Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft, Aldabra atoll and my Government's east of Suez policy, and they now had a chance to "get me" on a technicality.

We must be sure that we do not set up a system in which hon. Members can be "got at" for whatever reason, irrelevant to what the matter is supposed to be about. Therefore, I go along with those who would have liked the hon. Member for Winchester to be able to cross-question and confront those who were accusing him, as in a court of law. There is no substitute for that. I think that I am right in saying that the hon. Member never had the opportunity to cross-question his accusers. As every lawyer knows, it does not do merely to say that he could submit written evidence.

Frankly, amendment (d) which stands in my name, is in one sense tongue in cheek but it makes a serious point. If we are to have a six-hour debate on behaviour, let us discuss the behaviour of certain bigger fish in the House. Behaviour extends in all sorts of different ways, and doing that for which I would be suspended for five days were I indelicate enough to mention it, is also a matter of behaviour. We must strike some sort of balance.

9.42 pm
Dr. Cunningham

By leave of the House, I have been asked by a number of hon. Members to clarify what I said earlier. I thought that what I had said was quite clear, but I am more than happy briefly to reiterate my position.

I congratulate the Leader of the House—I omitted to do so earlier—on the wide consultations that he has undertaken before bringing any motion to the House. In principle, I support the proposals of the Leader of the House and I shall vote for the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) to be temporarily suspended from the House. I shall vote for the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), and if that amendment is not carried, I shall certainly support the substantive motion in the name of the Leader of the House.

I said, absolutely without equivocation, that I thought that motions to dismiss the hon. Member for Winchester from the House would not gain my support. However, it seems abundantly clear—I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has strong feelings about matters of discipline—that there is little point in having a Register of Members' Interests if the House does not move to have that Register's provisions enforced and upheld. The Select Committee unanimously recommended to the House that we should take action on this matter.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)


Dr. Cunningham

No, I shall not give way.

I have no difference of opinion with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin), but I believe that sponsorship by a trade union in the House —I am sponsored by the GMB and have been as long as I have been a Member—does not bring me significant financial gain. However, it is a considerable material benefit to me and brings considerable financial support to my constituency party, election expenses and other people's salaries. To suggest that that is not a financial interest seems wrong. I have always declared it in those terms. In the Register I am said to have financial benefit from it. That is the honest way to describe matters.

I am not suggesting for a moment that financial sponsorship by trade unions enriches Labour Members of Parliament or adds to their bank balances, but there is no denying that it is of major significance.

Mr. Michael J. Martin

There is a big difference between a constituency party receiving £600 to spend as it pleases, and some hon. Members putting the proceeds from six or seven consultancies into their personal bank accounts.

Dr. Cunningham

Of course there is a quantitative difference, but we are discussing issues of principle to do with Members' financial interests, and I cannot deny that sponsorship by a trade union is a financial interest.

I hope that these remarks have clarified my position. I welcome the motion tabled by the Leader of the House. I shall vote for it, but first I shall vote for the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr.

9.47 pm
Sir Geoffrey Howe

With the leave of the House, I want to respond first, lest I forget, to the message transmission asked of me by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I shall try to think of him throughout my time in Brazil.

Turning to more serious issues, I believe that there has been a great deal of common ground in this long debate. On both sides of the House there has been a great understanding of the anguish faced by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), not excluding the point made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow—that there is no justice about where the lightning strikes in terms of publicity.

There has been wide admiration for and acknowlegment of my hon. Friend's apology. The House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) for reminding us of the case for sympathy with my hon. Friend's wife and family.

On the other hand, there has been equally widespread recognition of the importance of upholding the proprieties that we have been discussing throughout the day, graphically expressed in different ways by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). Both had a clear insight into the dangers with which we have been concerned. Out of all that, a great deal of common ground has emerged.

First, there has been real concern about the need to be above reproach, as far as we can be, in relation to conflicts of interest. Secondly, there is recognition of the formidable difficulties of definition and judgment to which the Select Committee was invited to address itself. Thirdly, and perhaps most strikingly, on both sides of the House there has been real anxiety about the procedural problems of trying to reconcile the best efforts of my hon. Friend the Member Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) and his Committee with the requirements of natural justice—including the issue of limitation raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton). My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) have identified the need to try to refine and improve the procedures for investigation of matters of this kind.

In response, I say only that no one should underestimate the immense difficulties of designing an alternative procedure which will comply to the full extent required with the rules of natural justice. We must take great care not to have too high expectations in that respect.

The House will be glad that the Select Committee is ready to study both subjects referred to it by my second motion. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden recognised the need, as did the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, to pay special attention to the problem of lobbyists, but not in the direction of any relaxation of our guard in that respect. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham emphasised that there was a considerable job of policing to be done.

When the Committee addresses itself to that, I hope that it will take account of the warning uttered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) against inclining too much in the direction of too much law. Those of us who heard the speech by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) were not surprised to hear him utter what was, in effect, a reductio ad adsurdum of the legal position with a touching but terrifying faith in the capability of the legal process.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

My right hon. and learned Friend has just referred to the significant speech by our right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Did he hear him recommend that the apology by our hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) should be taken as enough? Given the revision of the rules that my right hon. and learned Friend recommends, would it not be advisable to leave aside the question of more precise penalties and follow the advice of our right hon. Friend and leave this matter to the electors of Winchester?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It was because I heard clearly the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that I intend to deal with that matter at the appropriate time in my speech. Perhaps I may conclude my observations on the second motion. The House will welcome the fact that the Select Committee intends to address itself to these matters.

The first motion raises the question of what penalty, if any, would be appropriate in this case. Effectively, there is a choice between the recommendation in my motion of a suspension of 20 days and the recommendation in the motion standing in the name of my hon. Friends the Members for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) and for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) which suggests that there should be no suspension at all.

The answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Linlithgow—I should like to have the hon. Gentleman's attention—is that Members ordered to withdraw from the House under Standing Order No. 42 or suspended under Standing Order No. 43 must withdraw forthwith from the precincts of the House. A Member suspended from the service of the House on a motion not made pursuant to that Standing Order is not excluded from the precincts of the House unless the order for suspension expressly provides for that. That is the distinction. Remuneration is not withdrawn except in consequence of a special order of the kind that I propose here.

The choice lies between two alternatives. I emphasise that the choice should be made upon the basis of the candid acceptance by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester of the finding of the Select Committee. The House was impressed by that acceptance, and that is an important point of knowledge because it overcomes the anxieties of hon. Members about the procedures. Those procedures are far from ideal. They are to be examined but, as some hon. Members have said, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has nevertheless candidly acknowledged the shortcomings that were alleged against him. That is the basis upon which we have to decide what to do.

What are we addressing? Are we addressing ourselves to a matter of criminal law? The answer is most certainly not. Are we addressing ourselves to a matter of political judgment? Again the answer is most certainly no. That distinction was clearly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. We are addressing a question of impropriety in a professional respect in relation to the standards that the House seeks to set for hon. Members of all parties. That is a perfectly familiar concept which should not be dismissed because it does not fall into any of the other categories.

In my days at the Bar—now long ago—I spent many weeks appearing before the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council and other professional bodies. Professionals were invited, in proceedings short of an ordinary law court but nevertheless operating under the rules of natural justice to pass judgment on their peers. That is what we are expected to do in this case and there is nothing intrinsically wrong in that.

How are we to choose between the two penalties that I have identified? It is argued that a suspension of one month is insubstantial and, according to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), no more than a slap on the wrist. The same point was made rather sanctimoniously by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

On the other hand, it is said—this point was made strongly by a number of my hon. Friends, and certainly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup—that the very fact of conviction, the exposure and anguish of the months that have gone by, and the jeopardy to a wider career represent sufficient punishment already for my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. We have been urged and invited—quite properly—by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside to take account, in every respect, of the record of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester.

Mr. Donald Thompson

Before the Leader of the House mentions my name, which is one of those in which the amendment stands, may I say that I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) said. As the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said, our most important task is to represent our constituents. We are elected by our constituents, and we are called honourable. I did not think that my hon. Friend for Winchester, whose apology was otherwise admirable, considered his constituents. Therefore, I shall not support my own amendment tonight.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making his position clear in that respect. Nevertheless, I think that I should address myself, as I was doing, to the argument that has been supported by his co-sponsor.

I was dealing with the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside, which was criticised by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup in regarding that as quite unjustified. It is perfectly proper for this House to take account of the record of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, but the question remains—to what judgment are we to come? The dilemma was identified most correctly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North, and I shall close my remarks by returning to that question. I put the question before the House not in any sense as a prosecutor —[Interruption.] I should like to have the attention of the House while I try to focus on exactly what that question is.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North asked what was the motive which led my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester to act as he did. Was it an inadvertent oversight, or was it a conscious and acknowledged misjudgment? That is one way of putting it. My right hon. Friend complained that that had not been precisely found by the Select Committee.

That may be the position, but the question was also rightly put from a different point of view by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), when he asked what judgment on that question is consistent with our duty of ascertaining the seriousness of our view about the importance that we should attach to the rules that we formulate. That is one approach that we have to have in our minds as we try to answer the questions posed by my right hon. Friend.

The best that I can do, in inviting the House to look at that matter, is simply to remind hon. Members of the terms in which the Select Committee dealt with the two allegations that it upheld. Those terms are to some extent enlightening. In paragraph 65 of its report the Committee says: We consider that Mr. Browne should have declared both the client relationship and the foreign payment. A substantial payment from a foreign Government to a Member, or to a company controlled by a Member, is precisely the kind of interest for which the rule was framed. Such a payment is at least as likely to influence a Member's conduct as a sponsored visit. If such payments are excluded, it is difficult to see what benefits (other than an occasional Gold Watch given to a member of a Parliamentary delegation) category 7 would cover. We therefore uphold the complaint. Those are the terms in which the Committee deals with that matter. In respect of the second matter it says: We believe that Mr. Browne's assistance in approaching contractors and in writing to Ministers appreciably enhanced Mr. Chidiac's chances in playing a role in arranging contracts any of which would have given him a substantial commission. In our view it is beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Browne had in effect a 'client' relationship with Mr. Charles Chidiac, founded on the Selco East retainer of £2,400 per annum (although, in fact, only £1,600 appears to have been paid) which influenced his parliamentary actions and conduct … and which should have been declared on the Register. We uphold this part of the complaint. It is entirely a question for the House to decide as to what insight that offers into these conjoined questions—the scale and nature of the misconduct acknowledged by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, and the conclusion at which we should arrive in determining what judgment is proper in asserting the importance that we attach to the rules that have been commended by Members on both sides of the House. For my part, I stand by the terms of the motion, but I am content to leave the matter to the House.

Amendment proposed: (a), to leave out from 'Winchester' to end of the Question.—[Mr. Colvin.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 67, Noes 237.

Division No. 107] [10 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Knapman, Roger
Ashby, David Knowles, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Lawrence, Ivan
Bendall Vivian Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Madel, David
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Miller, Sir Hal
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Mills, Iain
Buck, Sir Antony Mitchell. Sir David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Moate, Roger
Cash, William Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Monro, Sir Hector
Colvin, Michael Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Conway, Derek Pawsey, James
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Critchley, Julian Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Powell, William (Corby)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Dover, Den Shelton. Sir William
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Shersby, Michael
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Fox, Sir Marcus Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Gardiner, George Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Townend, John (Bridlington)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Tracey, Richard
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Warren, Kenneth
Gorst, John Watts, John
Hague, William Wells, Bowen
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Wheeler, Sir John
Hawkins, Christopher Woltson, Mark
Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Miss Ann Widdecombe and Mr. Patrick Cormack.
Janman, Tim
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Abbott, Ms Diane Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Adley, Robert Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Allen, Graham Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Alton, David Buchan, Norman
Arbuthnot, James Buckley, George J.
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Burns, Simon
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Caborn, Richard
Ashton, Joe Callaghan, Jim
Aspinwall, Jack Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Atkinson, David Canavan, Dennis
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Baldry, Tony Cartwright, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Chapman, Sydney
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Beckett, Margaret Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clelland, David
Bennett, A F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Benyon, W. Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Blair, Tony Corbyn, Jeremy
Boswell, Tim Cran, James
Bottomley, Peter Crowther, Stan
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Cryer, Bob
Bowis, John Cunningham, Dr John
Boyes, Roland Dalyell, Tam
Brazier, Julian Day, Stephen
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Devlin, Tim
Dixon, Don Leadbitter, Ted
Dobson, Frank Lee, John (Pendle)
Dorrell, Stephen Leighton, Ron
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lewis, Terry
Durant, Tony Livingstone, Ken
Dykes, Hugh Livsey, Richard
Eastham, Ken Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Eggar, Tim Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Evans, John (St Helens N) Loyden, Eddie
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) McFall, John
Fallon, Michael Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Fatchett, Derek McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Faulds, Andrew MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fearn, Ronald Maclean, David
Fenner, Dame Peggy McLeish, Henry
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) McNamara, Kevin
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey McWilliam, John
Fishburn, John Dudley Madden, Max
Flannery, Martin Mahon, Mrs Alice
Flynn, Paul Marshall, John (Handon S)
Fookes, Dame Janet Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Forman, Nigel Mates, Michael
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Maxton, John
Foster, Derek Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fraser, John Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
French, Douglas Meale, Alan
Fyfe, Maria Michael, Alun
Galloway, George Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
George, Bruce Miscampbell. Norman
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Golding, Mrs Llin Moonie, Dr Lewis
Goodlad, Alastair Morley, Elliot
Gordon, Mildred Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Gould, Bryan Mowlam, Marjorie
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mudd, David
Herman, Ms Harriet Murphy, Paul
Harris, David Nellist, Dave
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hayes, Jerry Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Haynes, Frank Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) O'Neill, Martin
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hind, Kenneth Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Paice, James
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Patchett, Terry
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Patnick, Irvine
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pendry, Tom
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Portillo, Michael
Howells, Geraint Prescott, John
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Price, Sir David
Hoyle, Doug Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Radice, Giles
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Rathbone, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Redmond, Martin
Illsley, Eric Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Ingram, Adam Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jack, Michael Riddick, Graham
Jackson, Robert Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Janner, Greville Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jessel, Toby Rogers, Allan
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rooker, Jeff
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Rowlands, Ted
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Key, Robert Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Kilfedder, James Sheerman, Barry
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Kirkhope, Timothy Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Short, Clare
Knight, Greg (Darby North) Sims, Roger
Knox, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lambie, David Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lamond, James Smith. C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lang, Ian Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spearing, Nigel Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Stevens, Lewis Wilshire, David
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wilson, Brian
Stott, Roger Winnick, David
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Worthington, Tony
Temple-Morris, Peter Young, David (Bolton SE)
Thurnham, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Turner, Dennis Tellers for the Noes:
Viggers, Peter Mr. John Battle and Mr. Dennis Skinner.
Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, MR. SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the Questions which he was directed to put at that hour by the Order [6 March].

Amendment proposed: (b), to leave out from 'Winchester' to end of the Question and add 'and that Mr. Speaker do reprimand Mr. John Browne for his failure on a number of occasions to register, or where appropriate to declare, his pecuniary interests as required by the Resolutions of the House of 22nd May 1974 and 12th June 1975.'.—[Mr. Benn.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Amendment proposed: (c), to leave out from 'accordingly' to end of the Question and add 'calls upon him to resign as a Member of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Corbyn.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 33, Noes 254.

Division No. 108] [10.10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Lewis, Terry
Allen, Graham Livingstone, Ken
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Loyden, Eddie
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Madden, Max
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Caborn, Richard Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Canavan, Dennis Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Cox, Tom Nellist, Dave
Dunnachie, Jimmy Patchett, Terry
Eastham, Ken Primarolo, Dawn
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Redmond, Martin
Fearn, Ronald Skinner, Dennis
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Flannery, Martin Wise, Mrs Audrey
Flynn, Paul
Gordon, Mildred Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Mr. Eric Illsley.
Kirkwood, Archy
Adley, Robert Beckett, Margaret
Aitken, Jonathan Bellingham, Henry
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bendall, Vivian
Alton, David Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Arbuthnot, James Benyon, W.
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Blair, Tony
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ashby, David Boscawen, Hon Robert
Ashton, Joe Boswell, Tim
Aspinwall, Jack Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Atkins, Robert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Atkinson, David Bowis, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Boyes, Roland
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brazier, Julian
Baldry, Tony Bright, Graham
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Batiste, Spencer Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Buck, Sir Antony Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Burns, Simon Ingram, Adam
Burt, Alistair Jack, Michael
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Jackson, Robert
Cartwright, John Janman, Tim
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Janner, Greville
Chapman, Sydney Jessel, Toby
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Clelland, David Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Colvin, Michael Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Conway, Derek Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Key, Robert
Cormack, Patrick Kilfedder, James
Couchman, James King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cran, James King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Cryer, Bob Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cunningham, Dr John Kirkhope, Timothy
Dalyell, Tam Kirkwood, Archy
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knapman, Roger
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Day, Stephen Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Devlin, Tim Knowles, Michael
Dixon, Don Knox, David
Dobson, Frank Lambie, David
Dorrell, Stephen Lang, Ian
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan
Durant, Tony Leadbitter, Ted
Eggar, Tim Lee, John (Pendle)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fallon, Michael Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fatchett, Derek Livsey, Richard
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey McFall, John
Fishburn, John Dudley McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Fookes, Dame Janet MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Forman, Nigel Maclean, David
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) McLeish, Henry
Foster, Derek McLoughlin, Patrick
Fraser, John McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
French, Douglas McNamara, Kevin
Fry, Peter Major, Rt Hon John
Fyfe, Maria Mans, Keith
Gardiner, George Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maxton, John
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Godman, Dr Norman A. Meale, Alan
Golding, Mrs Llin Michael, Alun
Goodhart, Sir Philip Miller, Sir Hal
Goodlad, Alastair Miscampbell, Norman
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Gorst, John Mitchell, Sir David
Gould, Bryan Moate, Roger
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Monro, Sir Hector
Hague, William Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Morley, Elliot
Hannam, John Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Mudd, David
Harris, David Murphy, Paul
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hawkins, Christopher Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Haynes, Frank Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Norris, Steve
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) O'Neill, Martin
Holt, Richard Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Paice, James
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Patnick, Irvine
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Pawsey, James
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howells, Geraint Pendry, Tom
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Portillo, Michael
Hoyle, Doug Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Price, Sir David
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Radice, Giles
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Rathbone, Tim Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Temple-Morris, Peter
Riddick, Graham Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Thurnham, Peter
Rogers, Allan Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rooker, Jeff Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rowlands, Ted Tracey, Richard
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Tredinnick, David
Sackville, Hon Tom Turner, Dennis
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Viggers, Peter
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Sheerman, Barry Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shelton, Sir William Ward, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sims, Roger Watts, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Wells, Bowen
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Wheeler, Sir John
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Widdecombe, Ann
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Wilshire, David
Spearing, Nigel Wolfson, Mark
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wood, Timothy
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stevens, Lewis
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Tellers for the Noes:
Stott, Roger Mr. Michael Shersby and Mr. Kenneth Hind.
Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: (d), to leave out '20 sitting days' and insert 'three months'.—[Mr. Rooker.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 111, Noes 189.

Division No. 109] [10.26 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Godman, Dr Norman A.
Allen, Graham Golding, Mrs Llin
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Gordon, Mildred
Ashton, Joe Gould, Bryan
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Beckett, Margaret Harman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Blair, Tony Haynes, Frank
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Buchan, Norman Hoyle, Doug
Buckley, George J. Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Callaghan, Jim Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Illsley, Eric
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Ingram, Adam
Clelland, David Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kirkwood, Archy
Corbyn, Jeremy Lambie, David
Cox, Tom Lamond, James
Crowther, Stan Leadbitter, Ted
Cryer, Bob Lewis, Terry
Cunningham, Dr John Livingstone, Ken
Dixon, Don Livsey, Richard
Dobson, Frank Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Eastham, Ken Loyden, Eddie
Evans, John (St Helens N) McFall, John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Fatchett, Derek McLeish, Henry
Faulds, Andrew McNamara, Kevin
Fearn, Ronald McWilliam, John
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Madden, Max
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Flannery, Martin Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Flynn, Paul Maxton, John
Foster, Derek Meale, Alan
Fyfe, Maria Michael, Alun
George, Bruce Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Morley, Elliot Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Mowlam, Marjorie Spearing, Nigel
Murphy, Paul Stott, Roger
Nellist, Dave Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Neill, Martin Turner, Dennis
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Patchett, Terry Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Pendry, Tom Wilson, Brian
Prescott, John Winnick, David
Primarolo, Dawn Wise, Mrs Audrey
Quin, Ms Joyce Worthington, Tony
Redmond, Martin Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rooker, Jeff
Rowlands, Ted Tellers for the Ayes:
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Mr. Harry Ewing and Mr. Allan Rogers.
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Adley, Robert Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Aitken, Jonathan French, Douglas
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Fry, Peter
Alton, David Galloway, George
Arbuthnot, James Gardiner, George
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Ashby, David Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Aspinwall, Jack Goodhart, Sir Philip
Atkins, Robert Goodlad, Alastair
Atkinson, David Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Gorst, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Hague, William
Batiste, Spencer Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bellingham, Henry Hanley, Jeremy
Bendall, Vivian Hannam, John
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Benyon, W. Harris, David
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hawkins, Christopher
Boscawen, Hon Robert Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Boswell, Tim Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Bottomley, Peter Hind, Kenneth
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Holt, Richard
Bowis, John Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Brazier, Julian Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Bright, Graham Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Howells, Geraint
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Buck, Sir Antony Jack, Michael
Burns, Simon Jackson, Robert
Burt, Alistair Janman, Tim
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Jessel, Toby
Cartwright, John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Chapman, Sydney Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Colvin, Michael Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Conway, Derek Key, Robert
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kilfedder, James
Cormack, Patrick King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Couchman, James Kirkhope, Timothy
Cran, James Knapman, Roger
Dalyell, Tam Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Day, Stephen Knowles, Michael
Devlin, Tim Knox, David
Dorrell, Stephen Lang, Ian
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan
Durant, Tony Lee, John (Pendle)
Eggar, Tim Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fallon, Michael Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fishburn, John Dudley Maclean, David
Fookes, Dame Janet McLoughlin, Patrick
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Major, Rt Hon John Shersby, Michael
Mans, Keith Sims, Roger
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Mates, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Soames, Hon Nicholas
Miller, Sir Hal Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Miscampbell, Norman Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stevens, Lewis
Mitchell, Sir David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mudd, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Thurnham, Peter
Norris, Steve Townend, John (Bridlington)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Paice, James Tracey, Richard
Patnick, Irvine Twinn, Dr Ian
Pawsey, James Viggers, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Portillo, Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Price, Sir David Ward, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Rathbone, Tim Watts, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wells, Bowen
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wheeler, Sir John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wilshire, David
Sackville, Hon Tom Wood, Timothy
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Tellers for the Noes:
Shelton, Sir William Miss Ann Widdecombe and
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. Graham Riddick.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House

  1. (i) agrees with the Report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (HC 135); and
  2. (ii) endorses the findings of the Committee in respect of the specific allegations against the honourable Member for Winchester and accordingly suspends him from the service of this House for a period of 20 sitting days and suspends his salary as a Member for that period.

Mr. Speaker

We now come to motion No. 2. Thereafter, I shall put the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House requests the Select Committee on Members' Interests to study and report further on the questions raised by its Report (HC 135) relating to:

  1. (i) the definition of outside interests and the enforcement of obligations in relation to declarations of outside interests by honourable Members; and
  2. (ii) the procedures whereby complaints may be brought before the Select Committee and whereby the Select Committee investigates such complaints;
together with such other questions as might appear to it to arise therefrom.—[Sir Geoffrey Howe.]

Amendment proposed: (b), to leave out from '(HC 135)' to end of the Question and add 'and prepare draft legislation that will: (1) identify the responsibilities which honourable Members owe to the electors in respect of their pecuniary interests; (2) provide for the disqualification from membership of the House of certain offices of profit, which though not held under the Crown, may because of their nature be incompatible with membership of the House, such offices to be added to list of disqualifying offices under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975; (3) provide for the extend of disclosure of other relevant pecuniary interests and for the publication thereof; (4) provide for the preparation of a Register of all enterprises which have been established for the purpose of influencing ministerial, or parliamentary, decision by lobbying in support of external interests; (5) lay down rules, where appropriate, for declarations of interests by those who hold official passes to the House of Commons; (6) provide for the application, interpretation and enforcement of this legislation; and to report progress by the end of this session.'.—[Mr. Benn.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 87, Noes 194.

Division No. 110] [10.39 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Livingstone, Ken
Ashton, Joe Livsey, Richard
Beckett, Margaret Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Loyden, Eddie
Biffen, Rt Hon John McFall, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Buckley, George J. Madden, Max
Callaghan, Jim Mahon, Mrs Alice
Canavan, Dennis Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Meale, Alan
Corbyn, Jeremy Michael, Alun
Cox, Tom Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dalyell, Tam Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Darling, Alistair Morley, Elliot
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Nellist, Dave
Davis, David (Boothferry) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dunnachie, Jimmy Patchett, Terry
Eastham, Ken Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Prescott, John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Primarolo, Dawn
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Redmond, Martin
Fatchett, Derek Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Rogers, Allan
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Rooker, Jeff
Flannery, Martin Short, Clare
Flynn, Paul Skinner, Dennis
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Fraser, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Fyfe, Maria Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Galloway, George Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Gordon, Mildred Wareing, Robert N.
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Harman, Ms Harriet Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Haynes, Frank Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Wilson, Brian
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Winnick, David
Hoyle, Doug Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Worthington, Tony
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Illsley, Eric
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Tellers for the Ayes:
Kilfedder, James Mr. Graham Allen and Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours.
Lamond, James
Lewis, Terry
Adley, Robert Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Baldry, Tony
Alton, David Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Arbuthnot, James Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Batiste, Spencer
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Ashby, David Bellingham, Henry
Aspinwall, Jack Bendall, Vivian
Atkins, Robert Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Atkinson, David Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Boscawen, Hon Robert
Boswell, Tim Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bottomley, Peter Hanley, Jeremy
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Hannam, John
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Bowis, John Harris, David
Boyes, Roland Hawkins, Christopher
Brazier, Julian Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Bright, Graham Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hind, Kenneth
Burns, Simon Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Burt, Alistair Holt, Richard
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cartwright, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cash, William Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Chapman, Sydney Howells, Geraint
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Colvin, Michael Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Conway, Derek Jack, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jackson, Robert
Cormack, Patrick Jessel, Toby
Couchman, James Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cran, James Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cunningham, Dr John Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Devlin, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dixon, Don Key, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Durant, Tony Kirkhope, Timothy
Eggar, Tim Kirkwood, Archy
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Knapman, Roger
Fallon, Michael Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Fearn, Ronald Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knowles, Michael
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Knox, David
Fishburn, John Dudley Lambie, David
Fookes, Dame Janet Lang, Ian
Forman, Nigel Lawrence, Ivan
Foster, Derek Lee, John (Pendle)
Gardiner, George Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Garel-Jones, Tristan Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Golding, Mrs Llin Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Goodhart, Sir Philip MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Goodlad, Alastair Maclean, David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles McLoughlin, Patrick
Gorst, John McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gould, Bryan McNamara, Kevin
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Major, Rt Hon John
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hague, William Mates, Michael
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Shersby, Michael
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Sims, Roger
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Miller, Sir Hal Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Miscampbell, Norman Spearing, Nigel
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Mitchell, Sir David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Moate, Roger Stevens, Lewis
Monro, Sir Hector Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Stott, Roger
Mowlam, Marjorie Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mudd, David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Temple-Morris, Peter
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Norris, Steve Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Thorne, Neil
Paice, James Thurnham, Peter
Patnick, Irvine Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Pawsey, James Tracey, Richard
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Twinn, Dr Ian
Pendry, Tom Viggers, Peter
Portillo, Michael Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Price, Sir David Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Ward, John
Rathbone, Tim Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Ronton, Rt Hon Tim Wells, Bowen
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wheeler, Sir John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Widdecombe, Ann
Rowlands, Ted Wilshire, David
Sackville, Hon Tom Wolfson, Mark
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wood, Timothy
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Tellers for the Noes:
Shelton, Sir William Mrs. Teresa Gorman and
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. Graham Riddick.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House requests the Select Committee on Members' Interests to study and report further on the questions raised by its Report (HC 135) relating to:

  1. (i) the definition of outside interests and the enforcement of obligations in relation to declarations of outside interests by honourable Members; and
  2. (ii) the procedures whereby complaints may be brought before the Select Committee and whereby the Select Committee investigates such complaints;
together with such other questions as might appear to it to arise therefrom.

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