HC Deb 28 April 1993 vol 223 cc1106-10
Mr. Alton

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 31, line 28, at end insert 'and—

  1. (c) one shall be nominated after consultation with the leaders of the minority parties other than Her Majesty's Opposition.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 7, in page 31, line 37, after `Opposition', insert 'or of any other minority party.'.

Mr. Alton

These two amendments were moved in Committee. The Minister will recall that we were unable to have a Division on the issue of the representation of minority parties in the House on the Millennium Commission.

Despite discussions that have been held in the intermim with Ministers and the Secretary of State, I understand that it has been impossible to make any progress on the question of representation and I give notice that, if we are unable to extract anything from the Minister when he replies as to whether the issue will receive further consideration, I intend to press the amendment to a Division as we were unable to have a Division in Committee.

I am grateful to the official Opposition and to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) who, in contrast, has been extremely helpful on the matter and who was good enough to say earlier that the official Opposition support the principle that the minority parties in the House should be represented on the Millennium Commission.

About 20 per cent. of the funds raised by the national lottery will be dispensed by the Millennium Commission. If there is to be political representation—whether there should be political representation at all is open to question and is a matter that the House may wish to consider—and given that the Government have decided to write on to the face of the Bill the fact that two Ministers and one representative of the official Opposition will be appointed to serve on the commission, it seems extraordinary that no representatives of the 43 Members of the House who serve in seven minority parties should be members of that commission.

There are plenty of examples of the minority parties taking collective decisions—for example, through the Committee of Selection. I recall that when I was my party's Chief Whip, on many occasions, I made joint nominations on behalf of the minority parties to serve on Committees in the House. The principle should be no different in respect of the amendment.

There are nine places available on the commission. I cannot understand why the Government decided to take two places and to give one to the official Opposition and none to the minority parties.

The geographical composition is also worth considering for a moment. It will not have escaped the attention of hon. Members that among the signatories to the amendment are spokesmen for the Democratic Unionist party and the Official Unionist party in Northern Ireland and the Social Democratic and Labour party of Northern Ireland.

Neither the official Opposition nor the Government are represented in Northern Ireland, and it would be scandalous if no one from Ulster were represented on the Millennium Commission. I hope that, at the very least, the Minister will promise Northern Ireland Members that one of the nine places will be allotted to someone from Northern Ireland.

The amendment is supported not only by representatives of the three Northern Ireland parties that I have mentioned, but by members of the Scottish National and Welsh National parties. I think that the breadth of opinion represented should in itself commend the amendment to the House. If there is to be a separate fund with its separate bureaucracy—the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde talked about that earlier—and if it is to have political representatives, surely minority parties should be represented. It is an elementary question of fairness.

The Minister rightly took great pains to point out that there was an extraordinary atmosphere of good will in Committee, although many of us held diametrically opposed views on the issue of the lottery iself—often because of constituency, moral or ethical considerations. At the conclusion of the Committee stage, the Minister himself said that all parties had played a constructive and positive role.

The Committee stage was marked by a very non-adversarial quality: there was great co-operation and partnership between hon. Members on both sides of the Committee as they considered the best way in which to make the lottery work. Although many had deep reservations about whether it should be established at all, we did not allow ideological questions to prevent us from proceeding. Surely, hon. Members should adopt the same spirit when considering who should serve on the Millennium Commission.

Another issue should worry hon. Members. Inevitably, people will be concerned about the nature of the money that is being dispensed by the commission. I believe that those who will monitor the operation of the commission would feel far happier if they knew that it contained a breadth of opinion representing all parties in the House and every part of the United Kingdom. That would leave the commission open to far fewer suggestions that it is the result of a carve-up, or is being manipulated or cynically abused.

The Government should consider the amendments carefully, in the interests of fairness. If they do not feel able to accept them tonight, they should at least give us an assurance that they will consider them in another place, thereby avoiding the need for an otherwise necessary Division.

Mr. Key

When we established the Millennium Commission, we recognised that we were establishing a far-reaching and visionary body that would be of interest to the whole nation. We therefore thought that the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition ought to be able to nominate one member of the Commission; we did not think that the right of nomination should be spread further. In Committee, we amended our proposals to reduce the number of our nominations to three; we considered that sensible. There is no doubt that politicians will be a minority on the commission.

I find it extraordinary that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) should suggest that we have engaged in discussions or negotiations between the end of the Committee stage and tonight's debate. I have engaged in no discussions whatever. The hon. Gentleman's comments are, perhaps, predictable, but I cannot accept them. I shall oppose the amendments.

Mr. Alton


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I call Rev. Ian Paisley.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) put his points very fairly. Let me point out to the Government that small parties are represented in the House. Do the Government feel that they should have the largest slice of the cake? Are they saying to the official Opposition, "You can have one representative; all the other, smaller parties should be forgotten"? I do not think that that bears out what the Government have continually told us about the objectives of the Bill.

The attention of the House has been drawn to the fact that the three small parties from Northern Ireland will not be represented. They do not always see eye to eye. We are always told that we should see eye to eye, but immediately we do, people want nothing to do with us.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage has read deeply in theology. He will know that the millennium is a wonderful thing. It is 1,000 years of peace and prosperity and the reign of Christ. He will also know that before it there comes a great tribulation. It seems that he would like to throw the smaller parties into the great tribulation rather than bring them into the millennium.

If the Government cannot accede to what has been requested in the amendment, can they give an assurance that Northern Ireland will not go without representation?

1.15 am
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The Social Democratic and Labour party will get the seat.

Rev. Ian Paisley

That is all right. It can get the seat. I am not interested in who gets the seat, but there should be some representation from Northern Ireland. This should not be a party political matter, it should be a matter for the House. The Government would not say to the Opposition that the representative cannot come from one wing of the Opposition, whether it be left, right or centre. That should not come into the matter. That is the way in which I look at this matter.

Everyone knows my views on the national lottery. I have made them clear in the House. But the Minister should give the Northern Ireland people at least some sort of recognition and representation.

Mr. Pendry

We sympathise with the arguments that have been made. I thought that it was discourteous of the Minister not to answer the point that was about to be made to him by the hon. Member for Mossley Hill on whether representations had been made since the Committee. It would have been helpful to the House if the Minister had given the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to make his case.

I wish to make two points. First, if this is a national lottery, it should be seen to be truly so. Representatives from the House should be on the commission and should be from as wide a spread of parties as possible. Secondly, many people would like to see Parliament get closer to the national lottery to provide accountability. Therefore, there is a lot to commend the amendment and we support it.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 27, Noes 128.

Division No. 252] [1.17 am
Alton, David McMaster, Gordon
Barnes, Harry Mahon, Alice
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Miller, Andrew
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) O'Hara, Edward
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Paisley, Rev Ian
Cryer, Bob Pendry, Tom
Cunliffe, Lawrence Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Dalyell, Tam Salmond, Alex
Davidson, Ian Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Dixon, Don Wallace, James
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Mike Tellers for the Ayues:
Hinchliffe, David Mr. Archy Kirkwood and Ms Liz Lynne.
Loyden, Eddie
Maclennan, Robert
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Ashby, David
Alexander, Richard Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Amess, David Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Ancram, Michael Baldry, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Bates, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Beresford, Sir Paul
Blackburn, Dr John G. Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Boswell, Tim Legg, Barry
Brandreth, Gyles Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Brazier, Julian Lidington, David
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Brown, M.(Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Lord, Michael
Browning, Mrs. Angela Luff, Peter
Butler, Peter McLoughlin, Patrick
Butterfill, John Maitland, Lady Olga
Carrington, Matthew Malone, Gerald
Carttiss, Michael Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Chapman, Sydney Merchant, Piers
Clappison, James Milligan, Stephen
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Colvin, Michael Moss, Malcolm
Congdon, David Nelson, Anthony
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Neubert, Sir Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Patnick, Irvine
Cran, James Pickles, Eric
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Porter, David (Waveney)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Ronton, Rt Hon Tim
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Richards, Rod
Duncan, Alan Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Duncan-Smith, Iain Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Durant, Sir Anthony Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Elletson, Harold Shaw, David (Dover)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Faber, David Spencer, Sir Derek
Fabricant, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Forman, Nigel Spink, Dr Robert
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Spring, Richard
Freeman, Roger Sproat, Iain
Gallic Phil Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Gill, Christopher Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Gillan, Cheryl Steen, Anthony
Gorst, John Streeter, Gary
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Sweeney, Walter
Hague, William Sykes, John
Hargreaves, Andrew Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Harris, David Thomason, Roy
Hawkins, Nick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Hawksley, Warren Thurnham, Peter
Heald, Oliver Townsend, Cyril D.(Bexl'yh'th)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Tracey, Richard
Hendry, Charles Trend, Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Viggers, Peter
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Walden, George
Hunter, Andrew Waller, Gary
Jack, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Jenkin, Bernard Whittingdale, John
Jessel, Toby Widdecombe, Ann
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Willetts, David
Key, Robert Wilshire, David
Kirkhope, Timothy Wood, Timothy
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Tellers for the Noes:
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Mr. Andrew Mackay and Mr. Robert G. Hughes.
Lait, Mrs Jacqui

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: No. 75, in page 33, line 37, at end insert— `. In Schedule 1 to the Public Records Act 1958 (definition of public records), the following entry shall be inserted at the appropriate place in Part II of the Table at the end of paragraph 3— Millennium Commission.—.[Mr. Brooke.]

Forward to