§ Madam Speaker
I inform the House that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Government's motion uses the term "party" three times. It says not "the Conservative party" but simply "party". In the ensuing debate we shall hear many references to the Conservative party and to political parties in general, so I should like your advice, Madam Speaker, on how that term is to be defined.
The Conservative party as such seems to be non-existent. It has no definition in relation to the House and the 1922 Committee, which seems to be the umbrella organisation, has no standing orders. The Conservative party itself is not incorporated and does not publish an annual report and accounts. Indeed, it seems to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Prime Minister, without accountability to anyone.
§ Madam Speaker
That is all very interesting, but it seems to me that it is a matter for debate if the hon. Gentleman were to catch my eye. I am wondering what the point of order for me is at this stage.
§ Mr. Madden
The point of order is that the debate hinges on the central issue of majorities on Committees. I cannot understand how that debate can be conducted in an informed way if none of us is aware of how the Conservative party or Conservative Members of Parliament are defined. There is no such thing as a Conservative party.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I have been enormously tolerant. This is all very interesting. I am sure that the House will be most interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's views on the matter, but they cannot be expressed on a point of order. I cannot say that I am willing to call the hon. Gentleman because I shall have many people to call, if I ever have a chance to get the motion under way. If the hon. Gentleman will come to his point of order, I might be able to answer it. Otherwise, perhaps he will save his remarks for the debate so that we can all enjoy them.
§ Mr. Madden
I ask you to consider whether the motion is in order, as the motion refers only to "party".
§ Madam Speaker
That is a very simple point of order. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the motion would not be printed on the Order Paper unless it had been thoroughly examined not only by me but by several other people. It has been considered by learned Clerks of the 158 House, but most importantly by me. It would not have appeared on the Order Paper unless it was perfectly in order for debate today.
§ Madam Speaker
No. I will not allow that. I call the Leader of the House to move the perfectly in order motion.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)
I beg to move,That, unless and until the party which achieved an overall majority of Members elected at the preceding general election loses that majority either as a result of by-elections or through the secession of Members to another party, the Committee of Selection shall interpret paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of standing committees) in such a way as to give that party a majority on any standing committee.I need only briefly describe the background, which I believe is familiar to the House. Under Standing Order No. 86, Standing Committees of the House are appointed by the Committee of Selection, which is enjoined to have regard, among other things, to the composition of the House.
In the ordinary course of events, even though the meaning of the phrase is nowhere more clearly defined, its intention has been clearly understood to be to ensure that the Committees reflect party proportions in the House and, therefore, to give a Government with an overall majority in the House a majority on the Standing Committees which consider legislation. Such difficulty as has occurred, with the principal exception perhaps of an occasion in 1976 to which I shall return in a moment, has normally been in applying the somewhat arcane mathematical formulae with which the concept is given practical effect, which has led at times to disagreement about the precise size of majorities on particular Committees.
§ Mr. Madden
The Leader of the House will admit that in the real world the Committee of Selection is told whom to select for Committees by the respective party Whips. Therefore, the prospect of the nine Conservative Members who have had the Whip withdrawn being selected to serve on any Standing Committees is remote to say the least. May I put to the Leader of the House the question that I put to Madam Speaker: how does he define the Conservative party in the House? The Whip has been withdrawn from nine individuals who happen to have been elected to the House in the Conservative cause. They do not belong to any organisation comparable to the parliamentary Labour party. The PLP has standing orders. The 1922 Committee does not. How does he define the Conservative party? Are Members who are known as Conservative Members part of any recognisable party structure or organisation in the House?
§ Mr. Newton
It is certainly the case that the 1922 Committee, rather like the British constitution, is based largely on an unwritten constitution. As to whether the 159 Conservative party can be recognised, I can recognise it when I see it, and there are more of us than there are of them and we are sitting over here.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
How does the Leader of the House answer the charge made on the radio at lunchtime today by the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) that the motion on the Order Paper today is fiddling with the constitution?
§ Mr. Newton
For reasons that I hope to explain in a moment, I do not accept that view. As it happens, I did not hear my right hon. Friend on the radio at lunchtime. He may seek to catch your eye, Madam Speaker, and elaborate his point during the debate.
I was explaining that in general, although not exclusively, the main difficulties for the Committee of Selection have arisen from determining the size of majorities, rather than from identifying who is to have a majority. In the circumstances that have arisen in recent weeks, following the action taken by my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip in respect of eight of my hon. Friends and the consequent action by another of my hon. Friends on his own, there has been a strong divergence of view about what the phrase "the composition of the House" is to be taken to mean. We therefore thought it right for that dispute to be resolved on the Floor of the House, rather than leaving the Committee of Selection and its diligent Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery), in continuing difficulties in fulfilling their duties week by week.
The purpose of my motion is to resolve the matter and to do so in a way that would establish a firmer basis for dealing with any comparable difficulty in the future.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
Can the Leader of the House assure us that, in promoting this motion, the Government intend that all Members of Parliament elected as Conservatives at the last election, irrespective of their present relationship with the party, will receive equal treatment by the Committee of Selection in the consideration of their qualifications for Committee membership? In other words, will there be no veto?
§ Mr. Newton
I can certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance that there will be no veto. He will know that, unlike the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), we regard the selection of Committees as a matter for the Committee of Selection. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale nodding. Subject to that caveat, we would not wish to, nor would we seek to, exclude from consideration my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) or the other hon. Members concerned.
§ Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way as this matter is very important. We may be in danger of disfranchising the nine Members of Parliament about whom we are talking. As a member of the Committee of Selection it is well known to me, and I am sure to the right hon. Gentleman, too, that I am responsible for nominating all other Members, other than those who are part of the Conservative party or the official Opposition. As a result of what he just said, am I to be expected to make recommendations for Standing Committee 160 membership on behalf of those nine Members of Parliament, or will the Government officially put forward their names for inclusion in the membership of any Standing Committees that we may create?
§ Mr. Newton
I think that I made the position clear. On the hon. Gentleman's first question, the position is absolutely clear. No, we certainly do not expect him to take responsibility for nominating the Members of Parliament in question for selection for Standing Committees. I have made it absolutely clear—I shall repeat the words—that we would not wish to, nor would we seek to, exclude those Members from consideration as Conservative members of the Standing Committees—there would be no veto.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
Perhaps my right hon. Friend could emphasise the fact that two of our hon. Friends who do not take the Whip serve on Select Committees and the Committee of Selection has made no attempt to remove them.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery
With great respect, I think that it has a bearing on this. We could have tried to remove them, but we made no attempt to do so and we accept them as members.
§ Mr. Newton
That is absolutely right and I stress that point. Three of my hon. Friends in the position at issue in this debate are members of Select Committees.[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale raised the matter. Perhaps I might be allowed to acknowledge and agree with what he said. There is no intention of trying to remove those Members from Select Committees.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that the problem does not arise with Select Committees because, by custom, a member of a Select Committee cannot be removed from it simply because he happens to disagree with the Government generally or on a specific matter. The problem does arise in respect of Standing Committees, however. Is it not the case that, as far as the Conservative party is concerned, most Members write to the Chairman of the Committee of Selection saying that they want to be considered for a Committee? The Whips Office also makes recommendations. There are a number of ways in which people can show their interest in a Committee. Even if we are not part of the official party for some temporary reason, it does not stop us writing to the Chairman of the Committee of Selection.
§ Mr. Newton
I agree with every single word that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has just uttered.
§ Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing)
My hon. Friend the Chairman of the Committee of Selection may have had a slip of the tongue when he referred to Select rather than Standing Committees. Will my right hon. Friend make it absolutely clear that there is no question of the Committee of Selection seeking to remove people from Select Committees? They are appointed for a Parliament and can be removed only by a motion on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Newton
Of course that is right. Select Committee membership is determined by a motion that must be 161 passed by the House. To avoid any doubt, there would be and is no question of seeking to remove any of the hon. Members in question from Select Committees.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
Will the Leader of the House clarify some of the terminology that has been used so far in the debate? The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) referred to his colleagues who "do not take the Whip". That is not the correct terminology. It is a question not of not taking the Whip but of the Whip being withdrawn. In view of the statement which the Leader of the House was making about appointments to Standing Committees, will he say exactly what is meant by "withdrawal of the Conservative Whip"?
§ Mr. Newton
It is not for me to describe on the Floor of the House the internal arrangements of this party or any other. My purpose in tabling the motion and making a speech—I am making it with some difficulty in view of the number of interventions—is to explain what I believe is appropriate to the procedures and Standing Orders of the House, and their interpretation.
§ Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)
Given that the Leader of the House said that the hon. Members in question will not be debarred from Standing Committees—incidentally, Standing Committees are all that we are discussing today, and all that is referred to in paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 86, the motion and the amendments to it—will he explain what happened when the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) had the Whip withdrawn? When he approached the Whips Office to get on a Standing Committee, he was directed to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) to see whether he could get the position of another member of the Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Newton
My hon. Friend the Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household, who occupies the position opposite to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), assures me that that was not the case. In any event, it is not the case in the present issue.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
As one of the two hon. Members specifically referred to—I am a member of the Select Committee on Agriculture—will the Leader of the House be kind enough to give me one good reason why I should vote for this motion, given that the Government could prolong my punishment indefinitely if they win the vote?
§ Mr. Newton
I hope to give my hon. Friend a number of reasons why he should vote for the motion. On the latter part of his question, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others, including some of my hon. Friends who are in a similar position to my hon. Friend, have made it clear that we all wish to see the matter resolved as speedily as possible.
§ Mr. Norman Lamont (Kingston upon Thames)
Is not the question put by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) the most central one? Is not the withdrawal of the Whip from an hon. Member, or its resignation by an hon. Member, tantamount to his losing membership of the parliamentary party? As that hon. Member's membership of the parliamentary party has then stopped, either temporarily or permanently, have not the Government put 162 themselves in a minority? Are not they therefore denying the logic of the position which they have, for whatever reason, decided to take?
§ Mr. Newton
I do not think that they have, for the reasons that I shall give in a moment. In effect, they will entail the House making a judgment about whether it wishes to enshrine the position of the Whips in the formal procedures and Standing Orders of the House in a way that has never hitherto been done.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)
The motion tabled by the Leader of the House refers to thesecession of Members to another party".Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what will happen in a situation where a Member chooses to sit as an independent?
§ Mr. Newton
He would be a party of one in the same way as the hon. Member for North Down (Sir J. Kilfedder) sits as a party of one representing the Ulster Popular Unionist party.
§ Mr. Gill
If the Leader of the House and other right hon. Gentlemen wish the Whip to be restored to me and the other seven who have had it withdrawn, would he be kind enough to tell me why they do not do just that rather than seek approval for the motion? The answer is self-evidently in their own hands.
§ Mr. Newton
I hope that with the best will in the world—I mean that; I am not just using words—my hon. Friend would not expect me now to go beyond what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his widely publicised interview on Sunday or to attempt to resolve the matter at this moment. The motion is meant to deal with the particular difficulty that we face and I hope that I may now be allowed to get on to put my argument.
§ Mr. Budgen
I listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend said about the position of a Member who describes himself as independent. That might be the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), who resigned the Whip. We, the remaining eight, are in a different position. We say that we are Tories and indeed the Prime Minister described us as being more blue than many of the Tories—it is only the Government who do not describe us as Tories. On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston may be in the position of being an independent. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can explain whether there is a distinction between the eight and the one.
§ Mr. Newton
It would depend on whether my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) declared that there was a difference in the position, which amounted to him viewing himself as a party of one or as an independent in the terms to which I have already referred. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West for what he just said about 163 his own position and that of most, at least, of the others concerned. I am also grateful to him for his article in The Guardian yesterday.
§ Sir John Gorst (Hendon, North)
Surely the situation is this: if one has the Whip withdrawn, one has one's knuckles rapped; if one has been expelled from the party, one has had one's hands cut off. That is permanent.
§ Mr. Newton
I take my hon. Friend's point. One thing is absolutely clear—the withdrawal of the Conservative Whip does not constitute expulsion from the Conservative party.
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
Will the Leader of the House clearly define at this stage what interpretation he would offer of the nine Members who are no longer members of the parliamentary Conservative party in the House—the eight who were suspended and the one who resigned? One might suggest that the Member who resigned would automatically lose his position, but the eight who have been suspended have been subjected to a particular debate. It is for the Leader of the House to decide into what category those eight Members should be put, because the Committee of Selection, of which I am a member, is having great difficulty deciding how we can appoint people to Committees until such time as the House has decided the issue.
In the early part of December, in reply to the shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), the right hon. Gentleman said that it should be up to the Committee of Selection to make the decision and that it was not a matter for him. The Committee of Selection has failed to reach agreement, hence today's debate on the Floor of the House. Can he explain in what category he believes that those eight Members should be put in the formidable list presented to the Committee of Selection when we determine the numerical strength on each Committee?
§ Mr. Newton
Surely I have made it clear, in response to a number of interventions by my hon. Friends, that, for this purpose, the Members in question would be regarded as Conservative Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The Leader of the House said that the internal workings of the Government party have nothing to do with the motion before us. How can that be so? In so far as the eight Members are concerned, it is a result of an internal matter in the party concerned. All that the motion does is to pretend that that never happened, for the purposes of the Standing Committee and the Committee of Selection. Is not it using the authority of the House to back up the internal authority that has failed inside the Conservative party?
§ Mr. Newton
No. The purpose of the motion is almost exactly the opposite, but, as a result of the number of interventions—about which I make no complaint—I have not been able to make the principal argument that I wish to make to the House.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
I regret that. My right hon. Friend is being very tolerant indeed.
The motion has long-term implications, which we will reach eventually, and short-term implications. Will my right hon. Friend say, categorically, that, as far as he and 164 the Government are concerned, those of us who do not have the Whip at the moment will be treated in exactly the same way for the purposes of Standing Committee selection as those colleagues who currently have the Whip—yes or no?
§ Mr. Newton
I think that I made it clear that—although it is a matter for the Committee of Selection—we would expect the Committee of Selection to consider those Members in the same way as other Members, and we would neither wish nor seek to exclude them from such consideration, or to veto them.
§ Mr. Newton
I will give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).
§ Mr. Marlow
We all know that the usual channels have a great deal of influence on these events. My right hon. Friend is a bit shy about it, but we know that that is the case. Does he agree that colleagues such as myself who do not have the Whip will be treated, as far as the Government and the usual channels are concerned, in an identical way to other colleagues?
§ Mr. Newton
I think that I have made that clear to my hon. Friend. The best description of the situation was that given by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. The arrangements on the Conservative side of the House have historically been different from the more rigid approach adopted on the Labour side of the House, as I understand it. It is the traditional practice that, on the Conservative side of the House, Members have usually written themselves to the Committee of Selection, and their opinions and wishes are taken into account, together with any thoughts coming from other quarters. That position will continue. I hope that I have said clearly several times that we would neither wish nor seek to exclude those Members from normal consideration by the Committee of Selection.
§ Sir Andrew Bowden
Will the Leader of the House spell out, loud and clear, that the Members about whom we are talking were elected as Conservative Members of Parliament and continue to be members of the Conservative party, and that that is being confused by an internal operation centring round the word "Whip"? They are Conservatives, they were elected Conservatives and, as long as they remain members of the Conservative party, they are part of the Conservative party strength in the House.
§ Mr. Newton
In a nutshell, I agree with that and it is the part of my speech that I am trying to reach.
§ Mr. Lamont
My right hon. Friend, in response to an intervention from an Opposition Member, said that if an hon. Member on the Conservative side of the House resigned the Whip—I am sorry to use that phrase again—but did not join another party, he would count none the less as an independent. My right hon. Friend appears to be drawing a distinction between someone resigning the Whip and having the Whip withdrawn from him, and I cannot see how that distinction can be made.
§ Mr. Newton
There is a possible distinction, but only in the hypothetical terms in which my hon. Friend the 165 Member for Wolverhampton, South-West couched it, in suggesting that there might be a difference in one Member's perception of his position. That leads me to one of the points that I want to make later in my speech. I also want to return to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir A. Bowden).
§ Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)
Some of us were under the impression that a grievous sin had been committed against the Conservative party by some hon. Members who voted in the wrong Lobby in the autumn, that condign punishment was being meted out to them and that they had to earn their passage back. As it is palpably the case that such hon. Members can vote in any Lobby they choose at the conclusion of any debate on the Floor of the House, and as the Government now seem to be portraying themselves as being solicitous of the interests of those Members should they wish to participate or vote in Committee, what is the nature of the punishment that such Members have received?
§ Mr. Newton
As I have already said, I do not propose to discuss on the Floor of the House the internal arrangements of the Conservative party any more than I would expect to discuss the internal arrangements of any other parties.
§ Mr. Budgen
Will my right hon. Friend give me a bit of guidance? We are told that one of the ways in which we may he able to crawl back on our knees into the party is by a display of abject loyalty. Obviously, we very much want to display those characteristics, but there is a practical difficulty. If we do not get the Whip, we do not know when the votes will come, we do not know when anything will he contested and, with the best will in the world, we cannot display the subservience required of us.
§ Mr. Madden
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The debate so far reinforces the reservations that I and a number of others have about the motion. What is clear so far is that the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) has a fighting chance as an independent to claim Short opposition money to support his party. As long as they are not receiving the Conservative party Whip, the other eight Members have no chance in hell of serving on a Standing Committee. All in all, would it be helpful to you, Madam Speaker, the House and particularly the eight Members who have had the Whip withdrawn if I were to move to withdraw the motion to ease the difficulties facing the Leader of the House? We could return at a later stage when the Whip is restored to the nine Members.
§ Madam Speaker
It seems that the only difficulty—if difficulty it is—faced by the Leader of the House is that he is not being allowed to get on with his comments, which I am anxious to hear.
§ Mr. Newton
I shall respond briefly to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, whose intervention I took to be extremely friendly. I assure him that we shall be as helpful as we can in ensuring that he is fully informed about what is going on.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On one occasion the Leader of the House said that there would be no veto, and on another he said that the rebels would be treated the same as everyone else. Is he seriously asking the House 166 and all of us to believe that neither he nor any of the Whips will pass judgment on an application by any of the nine rebels to serve on a European Standing Committee?
§ Mr. Newton
I have said what I have said several times and I do not propose to repeat it or seek to elaborate it further. The motion would establish a firmer basis for dealing with any comparable difficulty in future. Its purpose is to achieve that aim by stating that the composition of the House is to be regarded as determined by the electorate and the declared position of Members themselves, not by internal party arrangements within the House. Such arrangements are not recognised in our Standing Orders or procedures and are not normally discussed on the Floor of the House—although plainly that can hardly be avoided today.
The motion provides in a clear and straightforward manner that a party with a majority of Members elected at the preceding election shall retain a majority on Standing Committees unless and until it loses that majority, as a result either of seats changing hands at by-elections or Members seceding to another party. I believe that to be not only sensible but constitutionally right in recognising the relationship of Members to those who elect them. In the present House it would, of course, reflect the reality that, of its membership of 651, 330 were elected as Conservatives—which picks up the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown—and are members of the Conservative party who support Conservative principles and who have indicated their broad support for the Government's legislative programme set out in the Queen's Speech. Indeed—this echoes something to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has referred already—as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his interview on Sunday, some would say that my hon. Friends whose position is at issue are very blue Conservatives indeed.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) will no doubt address the Opposition amendment, my disagreement with which I have already made clear. Its very terms underline the important point at issue, since I think that it would be the first occasion on which an order or resolution of the House had enshrined the position of the Whips. I can only repeat that I do not believe that the composition of the House, for the purpose of our Standing Orders, should be determined by internal party arrangements within the House, but should be determined by the electorate and the declared position of Members of Parliament themselves.
In case the hon. Lady intends to refer to the events of May 1976 as some kind of precedent for her argument today, let me say that I think that exactly the opposite is true. In May 1976 the then Labour Government had lost their majority as a result of by-election defeats and the defection of a Labour Member to a party of his own. It was of course right in those very different circumstances that the Government should cease to have a majority on Standing Committees—as indeed, in similar circumstances, would happen under the terms of my motion today.
As it happens, in 1976 the Government argued initially that they should continue to have a majority on Standing Committees simply because they had a majority over the Conservatives rather than an overall majority in the House. That was plainly not acceptable in 1976. I suspect that there was much to-ing and 167 fro-ing through the usual channels and, between debating the proposition that there should be a majority regardless of the absence of an overall majority and 7 May, the dispute was resolved by a motion precisely along the lines that I propose today:the Committee of Selection should interpret the Standing Order so that only an overall majority in the composition of the House should guarantee a majority in each Standing Committee".Before I conclude, Madam Speaker, I hope that the hon. Lady—whatever else she may say in her speech—will explain the mystery of the apparent flat contradiction between the letter that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) wrote last week to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) and the motion on which his name appears today.
In his letter of last week, the hon. Member for Perry Barr referred to a Labour party standing order which said that, even if someone were suspended from the Whip, that Member isexpected to comply with the Party whip, and to conform with whatever pairing arrangements apply to other members of the Party from time to time".The letter continued:If the PLP at any time had Members who were suspended from the whip, it would still be quite legitimate for the Labour Party, in Parliament, to 'claim' those Members for the purposes of constructing Committees of the House".He went on to say that unless the 1922 Committee had a similar rule—I am bound to say that it does not because, as I have said, its constitution is largely unwritten—there would be one rule for Labour party calculations in the House and another rule for Conservative calculations. Perhaps there is some simple misunderstanding—or perhaps wiser counsel has prevailed—but it would be helpful if the matter could be cleared up.
Whatever the explanation, however, the motion that I have moved represents the approach that is both sensible and right, and I commend it to the House.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:in the opinion of this House, any Member who for disciplinary reasons has been deprived of his or her party's whip has in effect been expelled from his or her Parliamentary party and cannot logically be counted as belonging to that party for the purposes of determining the current composition of the House; and accordingly this House instructs the Committee of Selection to apply this principle in nominating Members to serve on Standing Committees in accordance with Standing Order No. 86(2).".Labour Members have certainly enjoyed the debate so far, although I am not sure how much light the Leader of the House has shed on the issue this afternoon. I am not sure that he has told the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) how he should crawl back into subservience.
We are still intrigued to know exactly what is meant by withdrawing the Conservative Whip. If the roles were reversed and we were talking about Labour Members who had lost the Whip, it would be easy to define exactly what that meant, because the parliamentary Labour party has written rules and a constitution and we abide by them.
168 The Leader of the House said that he had tabled the motion because he thought that the House should decide. In fact, the decision to refer the matter to the Floor of the House was taken by the Committee of Selection; it was a unanimous all-party decision by that Committee, and that in itself demonstrates that the Committee of Selection considers that there is a problem, and that the new circumstances in which the House is working need to be examined and throw up new problems.
I start by reminding the House of the exact circumstances which have led to today's debate. It is not surprising that the Leader of the House did not spend a great deal of time on those circumstances, but it is worth reminding the House of the sequence of events.
On Monday 28 November last year, the House debated the Second Reading of the European Communities (Finance) Bill. The Prime Minister, because of fears about the scale of the Tory rebellion which was pending at that time, made that vote a vote of confidence in his Government. As it turned out, eight Conservative Members refused to support the Government on a vote of confidence and had the party Whip withdrawn. One hon. Member, the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), voluntarily resigned the Whip the next day. The motion moved by the Leader of the House leaves that hon. Gentleman in limbo, because its terms imply that hon. Members can move only to another party rather than have the independent status that he was implying could exist, but that is a minor point.
As a consequence of the decisions of that hon. Gentleman and the Conservative Whips, the number of members of the parliamentary Conservative party fell by nine. That meant that the number of Members receiving the Government Whip fell by nine and that the Government no longer enjoyed an overall majority in the House.
The figures were reported in the House of Commons Library bulletin of 2 December, which shows clearly that there are 321 Conservative Members and 269 Labour Members. There are two new categories: elected as a Conservative but has resigned the Whip, one; and elected as Conservatives but the Whip has been withdrawn, eight. Shortly after that, the position changed because after the Dudley by-election the number of Labour Members increased to 270. The change in the composition of the House following events on 28 November left the Committee of Selection having to decide what the ramifications of the new circumstances were and how it should interpret them in respect of new Standing Committees.
The Leader of the House has already mentioned that there have been other occasions on which Members on both sides of the House have had the Whip withdrawn. Indeed, there have been other occasions when Conservative Members have defied three-line Whips. When the European Communities Bill went through in 1972, the Government were defeated three times on three-line Whips because of defections on their own side, but in those circumstances no action was taken. It was somewhat unusual and unprecedented for so many Members of the Conservative party to have the Whip withdrawn on one occasion.
Now the Government have lost nine Members, which, given the relative narrowness of the Government's majority, has materially affected the balance of the House 169 of Commons. As the Leader of the House said, on such occasions we tend to look for precedents and he is right to say that there is no exact parallel.
As the right hon. Gentleman anticipated, I would argue that the nearest parallels are presented by events in 1951 and 1976, when Labour Governments were elected with small majorities which they lost during the ensuing Parliaments. It is interesting to note what Conservative Members said at those times. In 1951, for example, Mr. Winston Churchill, Mr. Anthony Eden, Mr. R. A. Butler and others tabled a motion when the Labour Government lost their majority, suggestingThat a Select Committee be appointed to considerthe relevant Standing Orderand report what alterations are necessary to elucidate its meaning and to ensure that Standing Committees in fact reflect the composition of the House.As all hon. Members probably know, the outcome of that was a general election soon afterwards.
In 1976—the Leader of the House has already mentioned this—a Labour Government lost their majority on the Floor of the House. On 29 April 1976, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Thatcher, tabled early-day motion 351, which called on the Committee of Selectionhenceforth to appoint Members in equal numbers from the Government and the Opposition Parties.Incidentally, that motion was signed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, who is not present at the moment. The position was debated on the Floor of the House, and it was agreed that only an overall majority in the composition of the House should guarantee a majority on each Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)
Did that historical position arise because Labour Members who formed part of the majority were denied the Whip? Surely not; this is a different situation.
§ Mrs. Taylor
The situation is the same, in that a governing party with a small majority has lost that majority.
As the Leader of the House has said, we still need to ask how we should define the composition of the House. That was the difficulty that faced the Committee of Selection when it met before Christmas. The peculiarity of our constitution is that it tends to ignore the existence of political parties whenever possible, which does not make the definition of the composition of the House any easier. The points made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) are extremely relevant in this context. Registration of political parties, which has been suggested by some Opposition Members, might help, but, for reasons that have already been mentioned, the idea has always been rejected by the Conservative party.
As we debate the motion we do not know exactly what is meant by withdrawal of the Whip, which makes life very difficult. The Government argue in the motion that the circumstances that should be defined as the loss of a majority are extremely narrow: under the terms of the motion, the Government could withdraw the Whip from half the Conservative party and still claim to have a technical majority on the Floor of the House. In fact, the motion could well store up future problems for the 170 Government, because it could be interpreted as an invitation to other potential rebels to risk a rebellion without bringing down the Government.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The hon. Lady is making a powerful point. Does she agree that, although this provision may be available to the Government at a later stage in this Parliament, it also sets a precedent that will straddle Parliaments and could be used by future Governments in circumstances that the House cannot foresee today?
§ Mrs. Taylor
We have noticed that with some interest, but we would not intend to try to use the provision, because we are certain that one election victory does not give a Government absolute authority to do anything they like.
The Leader of the House has said outside the House and again here today that because independent Conservatives—or rebels—were elected as Conservative Members of Parliament, they should automatically be counted as Government supporters. Perhaps we should leave aside the fact that claiming the 1992 election victory as authority for anything is a bit rich coming from the Government, considering all the broken Tory taxation pledges. Be that as it may, the right hon. Gentleman is ignoring a few important facts, not least the reasons for the withdrawal of the Whip.
§ Sir Andrew Bowden
Surely the point is that these people were elected as Conservatives and are members of the Conservative party? They are thus part of the Conservative party.
§ Mrs. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman overlooks the simple fact that they are not members of the parliamentary Conservative party; there are other important ramifications to which I shall come later.
I remind the House that the Conservative Whip has been withdrawn from certain Members because they refused to support the Prime Minister on a vote that he had made a vote of confidence. We are not talking about a minor vote or an ordinary three-line Whip. How can the Government have it both ways? If Conservative Members cannot vote for the Government on a vote of confidence which the Prime Minister said could have led to a general election, how on earth can the Government count them as part of their majority from day to day?
The fact is that nobody does that. We have only to read the press reports—Tory press reports—of the day after to know that. I have already mentioned the House Library bulletin. We know that Tory central office has been in touch with the constituency chairs of the so-called rebels. We know that it is generally thought that withdrawal of the Whip puts Conservative Members beyond the pale. Indeed the hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) said before Christmas on "The World at One" that the Government should restore their majority in the House of Commons by giving the Whip back to the rebels; so he clearly believes that the Government lost their majority by withdrawing the Whip from them.
The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) went out of his way in the debate on the Christmas Adjournment to proclaim that he could no longer call the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer his right hon. Friend. On the VAT vote, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) said that if he had still had the Whip he would have voted with the Government, but that as he 171 did not have it he would make up his own mind and take his own decision. If all the rebels thought the same, perhaps that is why most of them did not vote with the Government on VAT.
It may, of course, have been all these instances that led the Prime Minister to talk about whether the Whip should be restored to those who lost it at the end of November. Just before Christmas, on 20 December, he said:In due course one can consider whether"—not when—they should be readmitted to the party whip … but it is not imminent at all. They must show that they are in the business of supporting the Government.If their return to the fold is not imminent and if they must still show that they are in the business of supporting the Government—crawling back to subservience, as it has been described by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—how can they be counted as part of the Government's majority when we debate these issues?
Some Ministers are not sure whether they should be taking a tough or soft line, whether they should be wooing or abusing the so-called rebels. Even the Prime Minister has changed his tune on some occasions. Despite his toughness before Christmas, we heard a slightly different tone last weekend. Perhaps that is because he wants the votes of the rebels today, or wants them in the near future. The Secretary of State for Employment has said all along that he hopes to have the rebels back in the fold soon. He is adopting the gently, gently approach. That may be because he agreed with them at heart. It may be also because one day he may need their votes in a leadership election. One of the consequences of withdrawal of the Conservative Whip is that if there is a leadership election, those Members who do not have the Whip will not be able to take part in it.
§ Mr. Dixon
My hon. Friend's argument is extremely relevant. Is she aware that when the Committee of Selection met on the Wednesday at 4.15 pm to determine whether the rebels were still Conservative Members—that is what the Government were arguing—nominations for leadership of the 1922 Committee had finished at 12 noon? If the Committee of Selection had met the night before, would the Government have been claiming that the rebels were Conservative Members? They could well have submitted counter-nominations.
§ Mrs. Taylor
I understand that one member of the parliamentary Conservative party said today that he regarded the withdrawal of the Whip not as a disciplinary decision but as a political one. Perhaps that is what those concerned had in mind.
§ Sir Michael Neubert (Romford)
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Lady's arguments. She lacks one crucial piece of evidence in securing the conviction that she seeks. Will she say what evidence she has that any one of my nine hon. Friends of whom she has been speaking has declared that he or she does not support the Government? We cannot rely on the House of Commons 172 bulletin and the person who compiles it. Does the compiler determine the composition of the House? If so, who is it?
§ Mrs. Taylor
I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman might mean by evidence that the rebels do not support the Government. Surely not voting for one's Prime Minister in a vote of confidence is pretty clear evidence that one does not support the Government.
I return to the central point that the Leader of the House made when he talked about the composition of the House being determined by the electorate in a general election. Opposition Members all live in the hope that if a general election were to be called today, tomorrow or next week, the rebel Members—the independent Conservative Members—would not be eligible to stand as parliamentary candidates in that election. It might be that they would stand as Conservative independents. They could stand as parliamentary candidates but not as official Conservative parliamentary candidates. The Leader of the House has confirmed that in our discussions.
§ Mr. Budgen
The issue is shrouded in some mystery. The answer depends on whether the Members concerned were selected by a Conservative association and whether that association was then expelled from the national union. The constitution of the Conservative party is as shrouded in mystery as the constitution of the United Kingdom.
§ Mrs. Taylor
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in one respect, and that is that many of these issues are shrouded in mystery. Every time a Conservative Member intervenes to clarify an issue, the waters are even more muddied.
It might be helpful to the House and to the country if correspondence and reports of telephone calls between Conservative central office and individual Conservative parties were placed in the Library, which would enable us all to have the full information. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) has made public some interpretations of the Conservative constitution which have been given to her. As the Leader of the House has said, however, all these matters are extremely vague. That does not help us. Some of those who have had the Conservative Whip withdrawn have been told that until the Whip is restored, if it is, they will not be able to stand as official Conservative candidates.
It may be that some Conservative Members would consider that an advantage. Some of them who are now in their places might think that their chances would be enhanced if they stood as independent Conservatives rather than official Conservatives come the next election. The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) made it clear in a television interview that he is not concerned whether he stands as an official Conservative candidate or an independent one. I am sure that the House is aware that the hon. Member for Billericay is similarly not concerned. She stood as an independent candidate against an official Conservative candidate in 1974.
If the rebels are not eligible to stand as official Conservative party candidates, how can the House consider them to be eligible to be part of the Government's majority today? The real problem is that the Government have been in office for too long. They have been in office for so long that they think that they can get away with anything, both with their own Members and with the country. The truth is that the Prime Minister 173 has lost his authority in his party within the House. It is only a matter of time before the country has the opportunity to pass its verdict.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
This is a short debate and I shall try not to make a long speech.
I wish to pay tribute to the members of the Committee of Selection. I think that all nine of us would agree that it is a pleasant Committee. Nevertheless, we have our arguments. When I first became a member of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) was the Chairman. That was in the halcyon days when the Government had an enormous majority. With his usual impeccable timing, my hon. Friend moved on to fresh fields and pastures new and left me to hold the baby, when the Government had a small majority. I pay tribute to the members of the Committee because our arguments are always conducted in a civilised way. There have been no instances of anyone being unpleasant or descending to personalities.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) was incorrect when she said that no agreement had been reached by the Committee. We reached a decision on a vote. It was because of that that the Opposition members of the Committee felt that the matter should be referred to the House. I did not dissent because I thought that if we could not reach a proper agreement in Committee, the matter should be decided by the House itself. At the same time, I am sorry that the issue has had to come to the Floor of the House. The Committee decided before the vote took place that the matter should be referred to the usual channels. A meeting was deferred for a week so that that could happen. Over the years, the usual channels have done a tremendous job in sorting out extremely difficult issues.
The speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was constantly interrupted. He showed enormous patience. It is difficult to make a speech when one is being constantly deflected. I pay tribute to him. Many Leaders of the House would not have given way as often as my right hon. Friend did.
The motion is perfectly fair and deserves support. The problem arose because nine of my hon. Friends no longer have the Conservative Whip. As a consequence, the Committee of Selection had to decide whether they should be counted as Conservative Members or, when we decide the party proportions on Committees, whether they should go under the umbrella of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), the Chief Whip of the Liberal party who looks after the minority parties. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman because he consults the other parties fully before any nominations are made on behalf of the minority parties.
My nine hon. Friends continue to sit on the Conservative Benches. That is an important point. They have repeatedly stressed that they are Conservatives and that they support Conservative principles. Therefore, I believe that—this is the point that I made in Committee—they should be treated as such.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery
I am sorry, but I cannot give an answer to that. I was going to use as my precedent what happened in 1976, which is something to which the hon. Member for Dewsbury also referred. At that time, Hugh Delargy was Chairman of the Committee of Selection, and the Labour Government had lost their majority. That was the simple fact. A debate took place, in which Mr. Delargy said:The Labour Party has a majority of 39 over the Conservatives. Most of the other 40 or so hon. Members belong to four political parties. They are independent parties with their own Leader, their own Whips and, more importantly, their own policies. They are the Liberals, the Scottish National Party, the United Ulster Unionist coalition and Plaid Cymru. There is also the SDLP of Northern Ireland. None of these parties was elected to support the Conservative Party in this House. They were not elected primarily to oppose the Labour Party. They were elected for positive reasons—to pursue certain policies and to serve their electorates."—[Official Report, 3 May 1976; Vol. 910, c. 984.One can switch that argument around. Today, there are 60 more Conservative than Labour Members of Parliament. There are 23 Liberal Democrats and 24 other hon. Members who represent six different parties. I maintain that those Liberals and Members for the minority parties were not elected to support the Labour party today. They were not elected to oppose the Conservative party, to use the analogy that Hugh Delargy used then.
On 6 April 1976, the then Labour Government lost their overall majority, because of the death of Brian O'Malley, the Labour Member of Parliament for Rotherham. I think that there was parity at that time. The following day, John Stonehouse crossed the Floor of the House. His clothes were found on a beach in Florida and he turned up in Australia. He must have been a very strong swimmer. The point is that the Government's majority dropped to zero after the death of Brian O'Malley, and with the defection of John Stonehouse the Government had a minority.
Later in 1976, as I am sure that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will recall, the Labour Government lost other by-elections. There was also the defection of James Sillars and John Robertson, who left the Labour party to form what was called the "Scottish Labour party". That, of course, increased the deficit that the Labour Government had.
The situation today is very different from that in 1976. I disagree with the hon. Member for Dewsbury, because the problems in 1976 were caused as a result of by-election losses and because three hon. Members, who were elected as Labour Members in October 1974, became increasingly disenchanted with that party and crossed the Floor of the House. We voted on 3 May 1976 on whether the Labour Government should keep a majority on all Committees even though they had lost their majority in the House. The argument arose because Mr. Delargy gave his casting vote in the Committee of Selection to say that the Labour Government should keep a majority of one.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery
I see that the hon. Gentleman is nodding.
I maintain that we had a majority on the Floor of the House. The point that I am making is that the Government had lost their majority. I found it quite amusing that the 175 hon. Members for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker)—he has not spoken yet, but has sent a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley—voted that day for the Labour Government to keep a majority of one on all Standing Committees, yet tonight they are putting up entirely different arguments.
The present Government have lost four seats in by-elections, and that has reduced our overall majority. My nine hon. Friends have shown no inclination at all to cross the Floor of the House. They have not wanted to join any other party. They have maintained repeatedly that they are still Conservatives. I hope that tonight, when we vote on the motion, they will support the Government.
§ Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)
The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) has played a very distinguished role as Chairman of the Committee of Selection. He has, largely through his own personal qualities, managed to keep the argument on an even keel in terms of the personalities involved. The Committee of Selection was clearly in a difficult position, and he was quite right to take the decision, supported by his colleagues on the Committee, to bring the matter to the Floor of the House. The Committee could have used its majority to railroad just about anything through, but if it had done so it would have ruined the relationship that is essential for the Committee to work properly. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman.
I watched the Leader of the House carefully and have not seen him look quite as uncomfortable at the Dispatch Box for some time. He made a speech, but I do not think that he was particularly committed to the merits of the case that he was seeking to establish. I say that because the motion is designed to cover the Government's embarrassment. It was not the right hon. Gentleman's fault, as it was not his decision; it was taken in other parts of the Government.
The Government are trying to make the best of a bad job. Politically, they are trying to have their cake and eat it. They cast nine of their Members into the wilderness, yet they are trying to maintain them as part of their number for the purposes of the Committee of Selection. The two things are entirely incompatible.
I have a clear view about the relationship between any Member of Parliament and his or her political group. A simple analogy is that of contract law, under which there must be consensus between both parties before an agreement can be struck. An hon. Member must say that he or she is willing to be associated with a parliamentary group and, equally important, the grouping in turn must associate itself with that Member. Those two parts of the bargain are essential before consensus is possible. It seems quite impossible to argue that somebody can be considered as a member of a parliamentary grouping without those two essential parts of the bargain being struck and without consensus being achieved. If that is true, it is impossible for one part of that bargain to be withdrawn unilaterally and the situation to remain the same. It seems inconsistent to argue otherwise.
176 The motion is bad because it establishes a bad precedent. I listened to the valuable speech made from the Labour Front Bench by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). I made the point to her in an intervention—I hold it to be true—that the House will invariably return to this precedent, but goodness knows when and in what context. We have trawled over some of the precedents of 1974 and before that. One day, this motion and the action that the Government take will be used in circumstances that we cannot foresee and in a way that is wholly bad practice. It could be used by others in a future Government, such as the hon. Lady, to disfranchise the left wing of the parliamentary Labour party, which would be equally as wrong as the Government's approach to the motion.
§ Mr. Newton
The hon. Gentleman refers to the absence of precedent. I advert to the fact that the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) made no comment on what we have been told by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) are the standing orders of the Labour party—that the removal of the Whip makes no difference in the Labour party. Therefore, my motion is effectively the same as the standing orders of the Labour party.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The Leader of the House is looking in the wrong direction if he expects me to defend the official Opposition. I have enough trouble trying to defend the Ulster Unionists, the nationalist parties and the others as the shop steward for the minority parties. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) is big enough and long enough in the tooth to be able to answer for himself.
I want to make two quick points in the remainder of the time available to me. Despite the assurances that the Leader of the House gave to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and others—I shall read Hansard carefully tomorrow—unless there are changes in the practical way of working that until now the Committee of Selection has adopted, I do not think that he can deliver that promise.
The only member of the Committee of Selection who invariably is obliged because of his position to offer alternatives for consideration for the make-up of Standing Committees is myself. By definition, I am supposed to look after and try to reconcile the conflicts between the other minority parties and my own. Members of the Committee will confirm that from time to time I will announce to it that I have had bids that I have not been able to resolve by bilateral discussions from the minority parties for positions on Standing Committees. If I cannot reconcile them, the obvious commonsense method of proceeding is for me to go to the Committee of Selection and for the Committee, using its powers under the Standing Orders, to make that decision, as it is entitled to do.
The other two main parties exercise their discretion, perfectly properly under Standing Order No. 86(2), in assessing the composition of the House and the qualification for membership of the Standing Committees before they come to the Committee of Selection. Otherwise we would all be arguing about one another's suggested members. Invariably what happens in the Committee of Selection is that names are proffered and accepted without argument and the only member of the Committee of Selection who offers alternatives at the moment is me.
177 The only way in which the Leader of the House can deliver the promise that he has just given to the nine rebels is to give them a guarantee, which would have to be implemented by one of the members of the Committee of Selection, that any competing bids that were made by the nine Members referred to in the motion will be reported to the Conservative Whips office and that those bids, if they have not been reconciled by discussion, will be reported by somebody to the Committee of Selection so that it knows that some of those nine Members have made an application to be considered. It has no other means of knowing. No machinery exists at the moment for doing that. Therefore, unless procedures change, it is impossible for that fact to be made known to the Committee of Selection.
The Leader of the House will correct me if I am putting words in his mouth, but I understand that he will now make sure that any bids made by any of the nine Members whom we are debating this evening that are turned down and not automatically accepted and recommended by the Conservative members of the Committee of Selection will be separately announced so that the Committee of Selection will know that they have asked to sit on a Standing Committee but have not been included in the Conservative numbers. That procedure would be new, but it is the only way in which the Leader of the House can deliver the undertakings that he gave earlier this evening.
I can tell the Leader of the House why I believe that to be so. There is some confusion about it and I do not want to make too much of it, but it is my clear recollection that when the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) was absent for the Maastricht vote he was disfranchised in exactly the same way as the nine Members whom we are debating this evening. He had, prima facie, a good case to be considered for the Standing Committee that considered the Intelligence Services Act 1994. At that time he did not have the benefit of being in receipt of the Conservative party Whip, so the matter arrived in my bailiwick in the Committee of Selection. I proposed two names: my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones), who represents GCHQ and so had a proper reason to be considered for that Standing Committee, and the hon. Member for Torbay. The decision was taken in a perfectly competent way by the Committee of Selection.
Perhaps that should not have happened; I may not have had the necessary authority. I did not speak to the hon. Member for Torbay; I was simply told by someone that it would be the proper thing to do. I did not want to take any chance of his not being considered, so as a failsafe fall-back position I decided to make that recommendation. As usual with the minority parties, I put two alternative names forward and one was preferred over the other.
That is my clear recollection of what happened to a Conservative Member who had no Whip. No Conservative members of the Committee of Selection demurred and said that I was not entitled to do that because the hon. Member for Torbay was in some strange way still a member of the Conservative party. That nomination was put forward, it was considered and it was rejected because the claim of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham was considered to be superior. Therefore, there is a clear precedent, which the Government conveniently seek to gloss over and forget in a way that is neither sensible nor fair.
178 The motion is a pretty tawdry little attempt to try to clean up a bit of difficulty into which the Government have got themselves. The House of Commons should have nothing to do with helping them out of the hole into which they have dug themselves.
§ 5.6 pm
§ Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)
I do not usually have the immediate presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) on these Benches, but I am delighted that that is the situation this evening because I should like to pay tribute to him as Chairman of the Committee of Selection. The Committee does a tremendous and unsung task for the House. It is a good example of where this place properly has the property of aggressive rhetoric, but behind it there is a great deal of constructive work of consensual politics, without which this place could not operate. Occasionally the Committee is placed in great difficulty and it invites the advice of the House—usually in circumstances where its advice is rather less than wholly detached.
I have always assumed that the crucial task of the Committee of Selection is to ensure that the Government's business can be carried through, not wholly on the Government's terms. One of the crucial aspects of the work of the Committee of Selection is its arm's-length relationship with the Government—arm's length, but, none the less, it must still be touching. One accepts that.
If a Government have a whisker majority, as the Government of February 1974 did, the matter is relatively easy for the Committee of Selection: it provides for a Government in a minority. The difficulty arises in the circumstances that we now have and which we had in 1976 when a Government lose their overall majority but effectively, on day-to-day operations, they retain a majority. They can still claim to have the legislative authority to conduct the Queen's Speech, and usually the wisdom not to draft that Queen's Speech so that they cannot obtain a Second Reading for Bills. That is the present situation.
This is a rather grubby, practical problem. I say that because these are good-natured occasions but for a moment we must come back to that one reality. The problem that confronts the Committee of Selection, which it would like resolved by this cathartic experience this evening, is how to secure a Committee structure that will enable the Government, having secured the Second Reading for a Bill, to proceed with it through its subsequent parliamentary stages.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has suggested one formula, and my hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) have suggested another. They say that they quite understand that if a Bill receives a Second Reading the Committee of Selection must propose a Standing Committee that can reasonably reflect the view that the House took on Second Reading. To my mind, that idea was made in a constructive and thoughtful fashion.
My hon. Friends were attempting to disengage the House from a difficulty that is almost inevitably of a temporary nature. A Parliament in which one party has a majority but not an overall majority cannot be one that will last more than a couple of years or so. We know the terminal date of this Parliament, so we are talking about a period of roughly two years at the very longest. My hon. Friends have suggested a solution that I am sure will be 179 studied, although it will to some extent be rejected by the perfectionists, who will feel that the standard formula applying to the construction of Standing Committees is much to be preferred to the pick-and-choose basis suggested by my hon. Friends.
The debate, however, has shown us that this is a great occasion of imperfections. My hon. Friends need not be too distressed about what they have done as a piece of private enterprise; although it is imperfect it is an attempt to meet a central difficulty for the House, on an admittedly temporary basis for this Parliament.
I believe that my hon. Friends have made a helpful suggestion, and I hope that it will not only unite sentiment on the Government side of the House but will appeal to Opposition Members, who will also realise that this is a House of Commons problem. Admittedly, it occurs only once every 20 years or so—thanks be for that—but when it does it requires a more constructive response than an exchange of good-natured but hysterical party political polemic.
The speech that has dominated this evening's proceedings is that delivered by the Leader of the House who, with characteristic courtesy, tried to thread his way through a thicket of difficulties in defining what a Member without a Whip is for the purposes of law making—a crucial element of House of Commons procedure. Like everyone who has had any connection with the usual channels, my right hon. Friend knows that a seamless robe of difficulties flows from certain decisions concerning legislation, which are then applied to accommodation and then to the provision of assistance via the so-called Short money. The whole business is a nightmare, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his courage and stamina in approaching it.
When my right hon. Friend's speech was all over, however, I thought that my ideal reply would have been, "Wouldn't it be easier to restore the Whip?" Presumably we are in a situation of graduated response, but Home Office issues have been batted to and fro in the House over the past few days to such an extent that I still feel quite unable to deal with questions of parliamentary discipline and the remedial consequences of a certain dose of custodial treatment.
I am now beguiled by the thought of the Chief Whip hearing a tap on his door and opening it to find my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) in a penitent sheet, waving a sheaf of architectural plans for the renovation of his office. I hope, if not pray, for that deliverance, but somehow I feel that it will not come. Therefore, I look to the Leader of the House, in the light of whatever vote takes place, to bear it in mind as we proceed from here that there cannot be a full restoration of Conservative fortunes and fighting ability until we resolve the miserable business of the whipless nine and the powerful degree of support that they enjoy in the country.
§ Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)
I shall speak briefly to explode two myths, one about the way in which the Committee of Selection works and the other about what the Leader of the House has said about the way in which the Labour party withdraws the Whip. I hope that the Tory rebels will listen attentively.
180 Before I explain, I shall congratulate the Chairman of the Committee of Selection on the good job that he does. We try to work together as cordially as possible, but tonight the minority parties have been spoken about as if they were on the Labour side. I remind Conservative Members that a minority party, the Ulster Unionist party, saved the Government's bacon by voting with them on a European finance Bill and preventing a general election. I put that on the record straight away.
For the benefit of the Tory rebels, I shall explain Labour party standing orders, and how the Whip is withdrawn from a Labour Member. First, the person concerned is interviewed by the Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip and asked for an explanation of his or her actions. If the Chief Whip is not satisfied with the explanation given, he then reports to the shadow Cabinet. If the shadow Cabinet is not satisfied and agrees, it submits a motion to a special meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, where there is a full discussion and every Labour Member of Parliament has the opportunity to vote on whether the Whip should be withdrawn.
The Leader of the House seems to want to cite what we do, but the best thing that he could do would be to take our standing orders back to the 1922 Committee. If he did, the Tory party would look a lot better than it does now.
I have pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), who made a great case in her speech, that when the Committee of Selection met at a quarter past 4 on the Wednesday, the nominations for the leadership at the 1922 Committee having closed at midday that day, the Government claimed that the rebels who had had the Whip withdrawn were still Conservative Members. I asked whether, if the Committee had met the previous night, before the nominations for the leadership closed, the Government would have claimed that those people were still Conservative Members. If they were, they could have gone to the 1922 Committee and assembled the number of names required for a stalking horse in the leadership election.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
As we are talking about Labour party politics, will the hon. Gentleman explain what would happen if the Leader of the Opposition took one view on whether the Whip should be withdrawn and the parliamentary party took another? Who would prevail?
§ Mr. Dixon
The vote would be taken at a special meeting of the parliamentary Labour party and the majority would decide, whatever the leader of the Labour party or anyone else wanted. I think that that is a good system, and I hope that when the Tory rebels have the Whip restored they will go to the 1922 Committee and try to have its standing orders changed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury mentioned official Conservative candidates. May I ask the Leader of the House what would happen if the rebellion by the nine—or the eight—Members led to the Government's being defeated on a confidence motion and a general election followed? Would those nine or eight Members be official Tory candidates in the election caused by their having defied the Tory Whip? That question has been asked and the Leader of the House has not given an explanation.
I shall now explode the other myth that has grown over the years concerning the way in which the Committee of Selection works. Invariably, when we meet on a 181 Wednesday a motion is on the Order Paper to set up a Standing Committee to consider a Bill that has received a Second Reading. The Chairman of the Committee of Selection proposes the Conservative names, which are never queried by the Labour or Liberal members of the Committee of Selection. The Labour names are proposed by me or my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and are never queried by the Government or the Liberal party. When the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) proposes the minority party names, they are left primarily to him. That is how a Standing Committee is selected.
Where the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) gets the Conservative names from, I do not know, but I have a good suspicion. I have no doubt that the Government and Conservative Members know where he gets the names from. I remind hon. Members that we are not talking about Select Committees. A Select Committee is appointed by the House of Commons. When a name is proposed to the Committee of Selection it is then put to the House and hon. Members can object. Indeed, if hon. Members continue to object, there has to be a debate and vote on the Floor of the House.
Standing Committees fall into a different category. Once the Committee of Selection announces the names, no one can object. If a person is taken off a Standing Committee or is not put on it, no one can veto the decision of the Committee of Selection.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery
I would much rather have volunteers on Standing Committees. Conservative Members sometimes write to me to say that they would like to be considered to serve on a particular Standing Committee. It is much better for someone who has an interest in the Bill to serve as a volunteer than to drag people on to Committees.
§ Mr. Dixon
I do not know where the Chairman of the Committee of Selection gets the names from, but they are never queried and Members never object to them.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire was right when he said that the Government directed the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) to him to try for one of the minority party places when the hon. Gentleman had the Whip withdrawn and wanted to become a member of the Committee that considered the Intelligence Services Bill. How on earth can the Government claim that the nine Conservative Members who have lost the Whip should continue to be regarded as Conservative Members? Those nine Members do not have a chance to be selected to serve on a Standing Committee.
I put a question to the Chairman of the Committee of Selection: what would happen if the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) wanted to serve on the Finance Bill Committee? I know that he has an interest in finance. Would he be a Government nominee? I doubt it very much. The Committee of Selection works by selecting Committees to reflect representation on the Floor of the House. It is done on a mathematical basis. The Government claim that they have 330 Members. The Opposition have 270 and the others have 47.
The Labour party will not gain from the nine Conservative Members no longer being treated as members of the Tory party. We will still have the same number of members on a Standing Committee. Those who will gain are those dealt with by the Liberal Chief Whip.
182 This is not a case of the Labour party wanting to dominate the Standing Committees. The people who will benefit are not only the nine members of the Conservative party who have lost or resigned the Whip but the 47 others represented by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire.
There has been some argument in the Committee of Selection and on the Floor of the House. The Leader of the House has not answered the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury. When is a Conservative Member of Parliament not a Conservative Member of Parliament? We say that it is when he does not have the Conservative Whip. Those nine Members are now in no man's land. They have no representation on any Committee because they are selected through the usual channels. Those Members cannot go to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, so they have no say. They are doubly penalised by the Government. They have had the Whip taken away from them. They are no longer members of the 1922 Committee. They will not be able to serve on any Standing Committee as a result of today's motion.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
There is a saying that if we legislate or pass a motion in haste, we repent at leisure. I am sympathetic to what the Government are trying to achieve in the motion. It has two aspects—the short term and the long term. As is usual in such cases, the long-term issue is more important than the short-term issue. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has told the House that he will not, through the usual channels, seek to veto the ambitions of my eight colleagues and myself to be selected to serve on Standing Committees. Certain colleagues have said that that means that we will be treated in exactly the same way as any other Conservative Member. I am not sure that that is precisely what my right hon. Friend said.
Let us move on and consider the long-term issues. The motion seeks to perfect the Standing Orders of the House as they apply to the Committee of Selection. If we pass the motion today, it will guide the Committee of Selection for the indefinite future. I accept, and I believe that everyone would accept, that if the House gives a Bill a Second Reading, that is the will of the House. The House and any sensible person would wish and everyone would expect the Standing Committee to have a majority which would support the principles of the Bill so that it could progress through the Standing Committee stage. That is accepted and understood.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) was generous and kind about the amendment that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) have tabled. We have tried to achieve the principle that I have outlined. I accept that the drafting is amateur, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House understands the principle behind it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, with his superior skills and resources, could table an amendment that would give effect to the principle that we seek to achieve.
What worries me is that the motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on behalf of the Government goes further than necessary. It has long-term implications. My right hon. Friend is an honourable and scrupulous Leader of the House. If he gives an undertaking, we all accept it and expect that he will 183 behave honourably. However, with the best will in the world, my right hon. Friend will not be there for ever. There could at some stage be a change. Someone else could take his position. There could be a change in Government. The motion will still be there. The House will have voted for the motion.
The motion means that if an hon. Member leaves the Government party or is forced from the Government party, short of that hon. Member joining another party, he will still count as part of the Government tally when Committee places are allocated. He may become a political untouchable. The usual channels may obstruct his ability to pursue his constituents' interests. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House would not do that, but under different management and leadership it could happen. If it happened, the hon. Member would not have the same ability to pursue his constituents' interests as other Members of Parliament.
Such an hon. Member could be adversely affected, but the Government would not be. Where it mattered, the Government would be safeguarded, but where it mattered to the hon. Member, he could be undermined and less able effectively to pursue his constituents' interests. At the very least, that is unfair and against natural justice. More important, it would enhance the power, prestige and influence available to the friendly gestapo in the Whips Office. That is at the expense of the individual and, more particularly, the individualistic Member of Parliament.
Surely, in this cradle of democracy, if we are to change the balance of power between the authorities, the establishment and the Back Benches, we wish to move that power towards the Back Benches, not towards the establishment.
The motion effectively states that, once elected as a member of the Government party—in this instance the Conservative party—despite any damascene conversion that an hon. Member might undergo, and one's views on policy might change by 180 per cent., as long as one does not join another party, even a one-man independent party, one will be counted as a member of that party for the Government's convenience. In the long term, that cannot be right. It might be right while we are under the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but in principle it seems very wrong.
Those of us who were elected as official Conservatives at the last election know that if we had not stood as such candidates we would be most unlikely to be here. Having been elected, we are, as the Prime Minister says, very true blue Conservatives. By and large, we want to support the Government more than many of our colleagues.
The procedure suggested in the motion is tantamount to some of the principles that underlie proportional representation. For House of Commons purposes, the motion implies that a party as a whole is elected, not an accumulation of individual Members of Parliament, representing individual constituencies, with individual consciences, eccentricities and, perhaps, changing policy priorities. I was not aware that the Conservative party had embraced the radical proportional representation position of the Liberal party, but this motion seems to imply just that. I caution my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to look at the motion from that point of view.
184 I respect and accept the objectives of the Government motion, but I am concerned about its detail and its long-term implications. I invite all hon. Members to consider carefully those implications because, although they may not visualise them at the moment, there could be times when the motion will affect them and their power to act in their constituents' interests. A short-term solution may be needed but, as ever, there seem to be uncovenanted long-term implications.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) invited us to consider the implications of the motion. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House could consider one aspect of the matter that has not yet been touched upon—the representation by this House in the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. At present, this country has 18 full and 18 alternate members. The Government have 10 full and nine alternate members, the minor parties have one full and one alternate member, and the Labour party has seven full and eight alternate members. The proportion was generous to the Government at the time of the 1992 general election. Since then, they have lost seats and, with the removal of the Whip from nine Conservative Members, they do not command half the membership of the House, which would justify occupancy of 18 of the 36 places, but merely 321 Members. The Government are, therefore, grossly over-represented.
I do not believe that I should challenge the credentials of the British delegation in Strasbourg in January on the ground that the Conservative party is grossly over-represented. I would certainly be prepared to do so, however, and have done so before over another issue, as the Leader of the House will recall. The fact remains that, if this situation continues, we are entitled to challenge the number of seats that the British Conservative party occupies. We would be challenging the largest delegation to that parliamentary assembly and it might well mean that the other Conservative parties that form the Conservative group will wonder why a party that occupies less than half the seats in its national Parliament should have more than half the seats—certainly more than half the full members' seats—allotted to its delegation. The other Conservative parties might well start to question why the British Conservative party takes seven eighths of the chairmanships and vice-chairmanships that accrue to their political group. There are a lot of implications and it might be wise for the Leader of the House to pay attention to that aspect.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
It would also be in the Government's interests to reduce that gross over-representation for pairing purposes.
§ Mr. Hardy
That may be the case, although we did not go away quite as often as usual last year, as my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) will recall. He might also like to know that the situation cost some of us a great deal of sleep as well.
Even before the removal of the Whip from nine of its Members, the Conservative party might have been taking an excessive share. If the present situation still applies at the end of January, when the Council of Europe assembly next meets, the Leader of the House must not be surprised to find that the position is challenged in Strasbourg.
§ Mr. John MacGregor (Norfolk, South)
In view of the time, I shall endeavour to be brief. I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) as Chairman of the Committee of Selection, which is largely unpraised in public, although it is very deserving of praise. I understood him to say that this matter had come to the Floor of the House largely as a result of Opposition pressure. I listened carefully, therefore, to what the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) said when she tried to establish a case for changing our procedures for the composition of Standing Committees. She did not make her case, or deal with the central issue. I notice that she did not reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House when he asked her to explain the position that her hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) took in a recent letter to the Chairman of the Committee of Selection. If that was his position and the Labour party is changing its position now, it merely demonstrates the hollowness and the hypocritical nature of the debate that they are trying to have here today. If the hon. Gentleman rejects the position that he put forward a week ago, it demonstrates yet another example of the Labour Front-Bench team changing its position within a week, a day, or sometimes an hour, as was the case with value added tax on school fees.
The hon. Lady made a number of extraneous digs that had nothing to do with the debate and I assumed, therefore, that that was the purpose of this exercise. The only issue is what constitutes the composition of the House when considering nominations to Standing Committees. The precedents seem clear and I do not need to refer to them in detail as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale did so—especially the 1976 precedent. The hon. Member for Dewsbury also mentioned that, but she did not make a case for any change from the 1976 position, which was to establish that, if the majority party loses its majority through by-elections, or the declared departure of sufficient Members, and if they subsequently join or establish other parties, that constitutes the loss of a majority. That has patently not happened in this case, which is why my right hon. Friend's motion, which he tabled to clarify the position, seems right and should be supported.
It is not merely a case of apparently leaving an official whipped position. The Member concerned has clearly to indicate that he has crossed the Floor of the House and established another party as Mr. Stonehouse did. It must be clearly established in Parliament and in our constituencies that the Member concerned has ceased to be a member of the party. That is the clear and simple issue that is under consideration.
The party Whip does not enter into it. I believe that, in this context, "Erskine May" does not refer to whipping or to party arrangements of that sort. We are all familiar with the occasions on which Members ignore the Whip and vote against their party on certain issues. That vote and that rejection of the Whip does not constitute a change of party, or a change in the composition of the House.
On the argument by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), I do not think that the position of Members who no longer have the Whip is affected by this issue. I do not think that it affects their 186 responsibilities as Members of Parliament, or their ability to pursue Members' interests. I do not really have time to give way, but I shall do so if the hon. Gentleman is brief.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)
The right hon. Gentleman's argument is tantamount to the point made by the shadow Leader of the House in her opening remarks—that if the Whip were removed from 100 Conservative Members, it would not change anything either. That is the most absurd proposition that I have heard during this debate.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am coming to the membership of the party, but I must make it clear that the question of the Whip does not enter into the matter—[Interruption.] May I pursue my argument about the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North? All that we are discussing is the opportunity to serve as a member of a Standing Committee on a particular Bill. It is inevitable that, given the large number of members in a majority party, many hon. Members who wish to serve on a Standing Committee are prevented from doing so because, physically, they simply cannot all be on it.
So my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North is not on as strong a point as he thinks because this matter does not affect his role as a Member of Parliament representing his constituents, nor would it be fair to say that an hon. Member who leaves the party Whip or establishes a separate party of his own should have preference in selecting the Standing Committee of his choice. Indeed, as my hon. Friend will confirm, he would not have that preference if he were part of a small minority party. So that is not the central issue. The central issue is how the composition of the House is established and whether it is right that that should be reflected in Standing Committee membership.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) referred to amendment (d). He would be the first to acknowledge that that is a minefield—he said himself that it is an extraordinarily difficult area. The danger of considering an issue such as the recommendation in amendment (d) is that it represents a radical departure from all precedents. On such an issue, one must be extremely careful before going for a radical departure.
I suggest to former Leaders of the House that a moment's thought reveals real difficulties in the amendment. How do we define "interests and groupings"? While individual hon. Members may be prepared to support a Second Reading, they may feel passionately about individual aspects of a Bill. Do they therefore have an undue position in relation to the selection of the Standing Committee? Does not that give that representative interest an undue ability to change the composition of the Bill in Standing Committee?
I do not have time to go into some of the other aspects.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The point that I was making was that the amendment contains many difficulties that would not necessarily be in the interests of the House as a whole.
187 Many definitions would have to be established, which may give undue influence to particular interests or groupings. On the power of the Executive, the motion follows the established practice of the House and does not, therefore, add to the Executive's power.
Finally, may I answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson). In accordance with established practice and in so far as it applies in this case, as far as I am aware none of my hon. Friends to whom the Opposition have drawn attention have declared that they no longer support the Conservative party or the broad generality of its legislative programme; nor have they proclaimed that they belong to a wholly different party or severed themselves from their local Conservative associations, and they have made that clear to their association members and electors. On the contrary, they have made it clear that they continue to support the Conservative party.
That is the relevant point in relation to the composition of the House. It is the point which the motion addresses and why I support it.
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
I shall be brief, as another hon. Member wishes to speak before the debate is wound up.
It appears that the Government, particularly the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House, have changed their opinions since 29 November last year. When my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) asked the Prime Minister toconfirm reports that the President of the Board of Trade is looking again at the privatisation of the Post Office",the Prime Minister replied:The hon. Lady should not be in any doubt that we think that the right decision, when we have a majority in the House, will be to privatise the Post Office."—[Official Report, 29 November 1994; Vol. 250, c. 1076.]We recognise that the Government do not have a majority in the House at present.
As a member of the Committee of Selection for a number of years who has served under the excellent chairmanship of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery), I am glad to have a debate of this nature, so that hon. Members realise what work the Committee undertakes, and the number of Committees that it sets up. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) about the functioning of that Committee and the cordial manner in which we conduct our business, although there are often great differences between its members.
I am concerned about the Government's double standards. I have great sympathy with some of the hon. Members who have had the Whip suspended, as I well understand their beliefs and the stance that they have taken. Whether it was a vote of confidence in the Government or not, they were prepared to stand by their principles and standards, and vote against the Government.
I am surprised, however, at the ensuing arrogance by the Government. Immediately those hon. Members voted 188 against them on principle, they decided to suspend the Conservative Whip. The next day, they tried to persuade the Committee of Selection that, because of the numerical strength of the Conservative party in the House, they had the right to retain their representation on Committees. I doubt whether the Government expect the House to agree that they should have such double standards.
Only six days later, we debated on the Floor of the House the extension of VAT on fuel. I know what happened in the vote, because, as the pairing Whip, I can look at the vote every night and see who voted for and against. Those Tories who voted to defeat the Government on that issue were not necessarily the hon. Members who had had the Whip suspended. Why, then, do the Government have double standards and take the Whip from some but not from others? The basic principle was the same, yet the Government did not take the Tory Whip away from hon. Members on that occasion.
I admire the way in which my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House prepared and presented her case, because it covered all the points discussed by the Committee of Selection, but I am still concerned that we have not yet had a reply from the Leader of the House—I do not know whether we shall have one—about how he will place the suspended Members on those Committees. I agree with others who have expressed their concern about whether the precedent which we may be swayed to accept tonight will be extended to all other Governments and procedures in the future, and whether hon. Members who might have the Whip suspended can retain their Committee membership.
The list that I have before me shows all Committee members until 16 December 1994. On a Committee of a round figure of nine, which is the same number of members as the Committee of Selection, there would be five Conservatives, four Labour members and one independent or minority party member. Once the Whip has been taken from some Tory Members, on a Committee of nine there would be four Conservatives, four Labour members and one other. In effect, it would mean that the Committee would not be controlled by the Government.
We must understand the Government's motive in ensuring that they retain their numerical strength on Committees. If the Committees were reduced in size, they would become a minority Government, and would have to accept that they could not put all those hon. Members on the Committee. The important issue is the numerical strength of all the Committees. The Leader of the House knows that it is not a question of principles. The principles are involved, however, for those Members who have had the Whip withdrawn, because if they are not careful, as a result of a decision tonight they may be denied any possibility of being retained on Committees, other than Select Committees, which are not the issue tonight.
Those Members would be well advised to join the Labour party in the Lobby in support of the amendment, which would ensure that Parliament does not have to subscribe to a decision forced on it by the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
This has been a useful debate. I suspect this is not last time that we will have such a debate, if for no other reason than the terms of the Government's motion, which refers to 189the party which received an overall majority".Those words do not exist in our Standing Orders.
We have always understood that the Conservative party is a wholly owned subsidiary of its current leader, which publishes no accounts and has no written rules. It now transpires that the same applies to the Conservative parliamentary party. I believe I am correct when I say that its only written rules are those to trigger a leadership election. It does not have any standing orders or written code of conduct, unlike the parliamentary Labour party. That raises the question, what does the Conservative Whip mean? What does membership of the Conservative parliamentary party or membership of the 1922 Committee, although it represents Back Benchers only, mean?
Our constituents understand the difference between the Labour and Conservative parties, but how are they to understand that now, according to the Tory party, everything in the House is built on a myth? The Conservative parliamentary party is now in trouble, because it has lost its majority in the House. The fact that some of its members were not prepared to lay down their political lives in a vote of confidence to keep the Prime Minister in power shows that their party no longer commands a majority.
What do our constituents make of it all when it turns out that, at the whim of the Prime Minister—just one member of the Conservative parliamentary party—and probably the Government Chief Whip, it was decided to withdraw the Whip from some colleagues? They made that decision behind closed doors, and did not seek the approval of their party. In that manner, the Whip was withdrawn from eight Conservative Members in one week—perhaps the same will happen to 80 in a following week. All that was done without seeking the approval of the 1922 Committee, let alone the rest of the Conservative parliamentary party.
The same could not happen under a Labour Government, because, under party rules, every Labour Member of Parliament signs a contract—a document.[Interruption.] Oh, yes. On selection as a Labour party candidate, one signs an agreement to abide by the written standing orders of the parliamentary Labour party. Those written rules include a written code of conduct in which certain procedures are laid down.
No such written procedures exist for the Conservative parliamentary party. We are entitled to ask where the line is drawn as to how many Conservative Members can have the Whip withdrawn while the Prime Minister of the day still maintains that his party has a mythical majority in the House. We need the answer to that question.
Those hon. Members who have lost the Whip clearly want it back—it would have been so much easier if just that had happened—and they need to know the terms on which they must crawl back into the Conservative party. If they were Labour Members of Parliament, there would be no secrets about those terms. We have a written code of conduct—a public document—which is part of our standing orders and is available to anyone. It lays down the procedures governing expulsion from the party, suspension of the Whip and the procedures to get it back. It also makes clear the conduct that one is expected to maintain when one has either had the Whip withdrawn or has been expelled from the party.
190 A similar situation to that confronting the House tonight could never arise under a Labour Government. We are therefore entitled to demand a proper explanation from the Conservative party before it cheats again—it is cheating on the rules of the House by creating Conservative Members of Parliament for one purpose and suspending them for another.
The motion is all about trying to keep a weakened Prime Minister in power. The Opposition and the public demand that the Conservatives get their act in order. They should publish their accounts and make written rules about the conduct of those who are and are not members of the Conservative parliamentary party. They should define the twilight area in which Conservative Members who are elected by the people according to their election addresses and their party's programme are then cast aside by a member of their party, the given leader, without any approval from their colleagues. All of a sudden, however, the Government then turn round and say, "No, no, they are really part of us collectively, because we need to keep our majority to force through the House all the legislation that we want."
The Conservative Government want to maintain their numbers on any Standing Committee—Conservative Members currently account for more than half the membership of a Committee—because they claim that more than half of the Members of the House are members of the Conservative party. That is not true. We already know that the Conservatives won less than half the votes of the electorate.
Tonight the Government are cheating on the rules. They are placing the Clerks of the House in an impossible position. They are sending the wrong signals to the Committee of Selection, which, frankly, puts the Chairman and the rest of that Committee in a dishonourable position. I am not claiming that individuals are acting dishonourably, but that the collective arrangements are dishonourable.
The Leader of the House owes it to the House and his party to explain how the Conservative parliamentary party can operate without any written rules, unlike the parliamentary Labour party. At some time, I also hope that I shall get the courtesy of a reply to the letter that I wrote to the chairman of the 1922 Committee.
§ Mr. Newton
With permission, Madam Speaker. I should like to reply to the debate.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) said that he felt that I had been uneasy as I presented my arguments. That may have been the impression gained through some deficiency in my presentation, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I believe strongly in the points that I put, for reasons that I shall come back to in a moment.
We have had a rather good-natured debate in the circumstances and a number of engaging interventions, not least from some of my hon. Friends whose position is at issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) made a characteristically perceptive speech about some of the difficulties of presenting the issues in the House. I am not sure that I can go as far as saying that I agreed with every word of his speech, but I had some sympathy with the perceptions that he expressed about those difficulties.
191 I am grateful to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) for the effective way in which he demolished some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and others.
I give an undertaking to the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) that I shall draw his remarks to the attention of those responsible for the appointment of Members to the bodies he mentioned. The Committee of Selection is not, of course, responsible for those appointments.
I respect the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and the reasons he gave for tabling his amendment. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South about the impracticability of the proposals contained in my hon. Friend's amendment. I understand the reasons behind them, but, in practice, his proposals could not be operated as he envisages. They would represent a mathematical nightmare for the Committee of Selection. The position of the Members in question would be a good deal worse if they were added to the long list of those to be represented in the Committee of Selection by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire than under the proposal I sketched in my speech.
The biggest difference that I have with my hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North and for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) is their belief that, were my motion to be passed, the power of the Executive would somehow increase. The weight of my argument is that, as a result of the motion, the position and power of the Whips would be enshrined in the procedures and Standing Orders of the House for the first time.
I believe strongly that what should determine the status of Members of the House for the purpose of its procedures is what they were elected as and what they declare themselves to be. I hope that, for reasons going well beyond today's debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North would continue to wish to declare himself a Conservative.
§ Mr. Marlow
What the Opposition suggest in their amendment may do that, but nothing that my right hon. Friend has said or that I have said would enhance the power of the Whips.
§ Mr. Newton
We have a difference of view. I regard this as establishing the constitutional position of Members of Parliament in relation to the electorate and their own opinion of what their party affiliation is.
Lastly, if what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) says about the Labour party's constitution is right—frankly, I thought that, with every word that was uttered by him, and by the hon. Members for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) and for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), they dug a deeper hole—it is inconsistent with the amendment that they and other Opposition Members have tabled, which says that, if anyone is denied the Whip, that person is effectively expelled from the parliamentary party and cannot be counted as belonging to that party. The letter that the hon. Member for Perry Barr sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) says 192 that, in those circumstances, the Labour party would continue to claim them. There is a hopeless inconsistency there. I have no intention of discussing it further.
I commend my excellent motion to the House.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 327.196
|Division No. 33]||[6.00 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Darling, Alistair|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Davidson, Ian|
|Ainger, Nick||Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Allen, Graham||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Alton, David||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Denham, John|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Dixon, Don|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Dobson, Frank|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Ashton, Joe||Dowd, Jim|
|Austin-Walker, John||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Barnes, Harry||Eagle, Ms Angela|
|Barron, Kevin||Eastham, Ken|
|Battle, John||Enright, Derek|
|Bayley, Hugh||Etherington, Bill|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Beith, Rt Hon AJ||Ewing, Mrs Margaret|
|Bell, Stuart||Fatchett, Derek|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Fisher, Mark|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Flynn, Paul|
|Berry, Roger||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Betts, Clive||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Blair, Rt Hon Tony||Foulkes, George|
|Blunkett, David||Fraser, John|
|Boateng, Paul||Fyfe, Maria|
|Boyes, Roland||Galbraith, Sam|
|Bradley, Keith||Galloway, George|
|Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)||Gapes, Mike|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||George, Bruce|
|Burden, Richard||Gerrard, Neil|
|Byers, Stephen||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Cabom, Richard||Godsiff, Roger|
|Callaghan, Jim||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Gordon, Mildred|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Graham, Thomas|
|Campbell-Savours, D N||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Cann, Jamie||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Chidgey, David||Gunnell, John|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hain, Peter|
|Church, Judith||Hall, Mike|
|Clapham, Michael||Hanson, David|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Hardy, Peter|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Harvey, Nick|
|Clelland, David||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Henderson, Doug|
|Coffey, Ann||Hendron, Dr Joe|
|Cohen, Harry||Heppell, John|
|Connarty, Michael||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hodge, Margaret|
|Corbett, Robin||Hoey, Kate|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)|
|Corston, Jean||Home Robertson, John|
|Cousins, Jim||Hood, Jimmy|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Dafis, Cynog||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Hoyle, Doug|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Mullin, Chris|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Murphy, Paul|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)|
|Hulton, John||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|lllsley, Eric||O'Hara, Edward|
|Ingram, Adam||Olner, Bill|
|Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Jamieson, David||Paisley, The Reverend Ian|
|Janner, Greville||Parry, Robert|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Pearson Ian|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)||Patchett, Terry|
|Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)||Pickthall, Colin|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)||Pike, Peter L|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)||Pope, Greg|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Jowell, Tessa||Prentice, Bridget (LeW'm E)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Keen, Alan||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)||Purchase, Ken|
|Khabra, Piara S||Quinn, Ms Joyce|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Radios, Giles|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)||Randall, Stuart|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Raynsford, Nick|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Redmond, Martin|
|Lewis, Terry||Reid, Dr John|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Rendel, David|
|Litherland, Robert||Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)|
|Livingstone, Ken||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Rooker, Jeff|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Rooney, Terry|
|Loyden, Eddie||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Lynne, Ms Liz||Rowlands, Ted|
|McAllion, John||Ruddock, Joan|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Salmond, Alex|
|McCartney, Ian||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McCrea, Rev William||Sheerman, Barry|
|Macdonald, Calum||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McFall, John||Simpson, Alan|
|McGrady, Eddie||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKelvey, William||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
|McLeish, Henry||Smith, Uew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Snape, Peter|
|McMaster, Gordon||Soley, Clive|
|McNamara, Kevin||Spearing, Nigel|
|MacShane, Denis||Spellar, John|
|McWilliam, John||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Madden, Max||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Maddock, Diana||Stevenson, George|
|Mahon, Alice||Stott, Roger|
|Mallon, Seamus||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Mandelson, Peter||Straw, Jack|
|Marek, Dr John||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Taylor, Mrs Arm (Dewsbury)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Martin, Michael J (Springburn)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Martlew, Eric||Timms, Stephen|
|Maxton, John||Tipping, Paddy|
|Meacher, Michael||Turner, Dennis|
|Meale, Alan||Tyler, Paul|
|Michael, Alun||Vaz, Keith|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Walley, Joan|
|Milburn, Alan||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Miller, Andrew||Wareing, Robert N|
|Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)||Watson, Mike|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Welsh, Andrew|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Mortey, Elliot||Wigjey, Dafydd|
|Morris, Estelle||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)|
|Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Wilson, Brian|
|Mudie, George||Winnick, David|
|Wise, Audrey||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Wray, Jimmy||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wright, Dr Tony||Mrs. Barbara Roche and Mr. Joe Benton.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Davies, Quentin (Stamford)|
|Altken, Rt Hon Jonathan||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Alexander, Richard||Day, Stephen|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Devlin, Tim|
|Amess, David||Dicks, Terry|
|Ancram, Michael||Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen|
|Arbuthnot, James||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Dover, Den|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Duncan, Alan|
|Ashby, David||Duncan Smith, Iain|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Dunn, Bob|
|Atkins, Robert||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Dykes, Hugh|
|Baker, Rt Hon K (Mole Valley)||Eggar, Tim|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Elletson, Harold|
|Baldry, Tony||Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Beggs, Roy||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Evennett, David|
|Bendall, Vivian||Faber, David|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Fabricant, Michael|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Body, Sir Richard||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fishburn, Dudley|
|Booth, Hartley||Forman, Nigel|
|Boswell, Tim||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Forth, Eric|
|Bowden, Sir Andrew||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Bowis, John||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Freeman, Rt Hon Roger|
|Brazier, Julian||French, Douglas|
|Bright, Sir Graham||Fry, Sir Peter|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Gale, Roger|
|Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Gallie, Phil|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset)||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Garnier, Edward|
|Burns, Simon||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Burt, Alistair||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Butcher, John||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Butler, Peter||Gorst, Sir John|
|Butterfill, John||Grant, Sir A (Cambs SW)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Cash, William||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hague, William|
|Churchill, Mr||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald|
|clappison, James||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hannam, Sir John|
|Coe, Sebastian||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Colvin, Michael||Harris, David|
|Congdon, David||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Hayes, Jerry|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Heald, Oliver|
|Couchman, James||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Cran, James||Hendry, Charles|
|Critchley, Julian||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Hicks, Robert|
|Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)||Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Horam, John||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Norris, Steve|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Page, Richard|
|Hunter, Andrew||Paice, James|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Patnick, Sir Irvine|
|Jack, Michael||Patten, Rt hon John|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Pawsey, James|
|Jessel, Toby||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Pickles, Eric|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Key, Robert||Rathbone, Tim|
|Kilfedder, Sir James||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Ronton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Richards, Rod|
|Knapman, Roger||Riddick, Graham|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Knight Dame Jil (Bir'm E'st'n)||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Knox, Sir David||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Ross, William (E Londonderry)|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Legg, Barry||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Leigh, Edward||Sackville, Tom|
|Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Tim|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Lidington, David||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lightbown, David||Shaw, Sir Giles (pudsey)|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lord, Michael||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Luff, Peter||Shersby, Michael|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Sims, Roger|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|MacKay, Andrew||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Maclean, David||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Soames, Nicholas|
|Madel, Sir David||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Maginnis, Ken||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Malone, Gerald||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Mans, Keith||Spring, Richard|
|Marland, Paul||Sproat, Iain|
|Marlow, Tony||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Steen, Anthony|
|Mates, Michael||Stephen, Michael|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian||Stern, Michael|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stewart, Allan|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Streeter, Gary|
|Merchant, Piers||Sumberg, David|
|Mills, Iain||Sweeney, Walter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Sykes, John|
|Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Moss, Malcolm||Thomason, Roy|
|Needham, Rt Hon Richard||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Waterson, Nigel|
|Thornton, Sir Malcolm||Watts, John|
|Thumham, Peter||Wells, Bowen|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)||Whitney, Ray|
|Tracey, Richard||Whittingdale, John|
|Tredinnick, David||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Trend, Michael||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Trimble, David||Wilkinson, John|
|Trotter, Neville||Willetts, David|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Viggers, Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Waldegrave, Rt Hon Wiliam||Wood, Timothy|
|Walden, George||Yeo, Tim|
|Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Waller, Gary||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Ward, John||Mr Derek Conway and Mr Michael Bates.|
|Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 325, Noes 288.200
|Division No. 34]||[6.17 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Carlisle, John (Luton North)|
|Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan||Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Alexander, Richard||Carrington, Matthew|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Cash, William|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Amess, David||Chapman, Sydney|
|Ancram, Michael||Churchill, Mr|
|Arbuthnot, James||Clappison, James|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey|
|Ashby, David||Coe, Sebastian|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Colvin, Michael|
|Atkins, Robert||Congdon, David|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K (Mole Valley)||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Cope, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Baldry, Tony||Cormack, Sir Patrick|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Couchman, James|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Cran, James|
|Batiste, Spencer||Critchley, Julian|
|Beggs, Roy||Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Davies, Quentin (Stamford)|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Day, Stephen|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Booth, Hartley||Devlin, Tim|
|Boswell, Tim||Dicks, Terry|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Dorreil, Rt Hon Stephen|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Bowden, Sir Andrew||Dover, Den|
|Bowis, John||Duncan, Alan|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Duncan Smith, Iain|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Dunn, Bob|
|Brazier, Julian||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Bright, Sir Graham||Dykes, Hugh|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Eggar, Tim|
|Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Elletson, Harold|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset)||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Burns, Simon||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Burt, Alistair||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Butcher, John||Evennett, David|
|Butler, Peter||Faber, David|
|Butterfill, John||Fabricant, Michael|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Fishburn, Dudley||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Forman, Nigel||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Legg, Barry|
|Forth, Eric||Leigh, Edward|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||Lidington, David|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||Lightbown, David|
|French, Douglas||Lilley, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Fry, Sir Peter||Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)|
|Gale, Roger||Lord, Michael|
|Gallie, Phil||Luff, Peter|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Garnier, Edward||MacKay, Andrew|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Maclean, David|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Gorst, Sir John||Madel, Sir David|
|Grant, Sir A (Cambs SW)||Magimis, Ken|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Malone, Gerald|
|Grylls, Sir Michael||Mans, Keith|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Marland, Paul|
|Hague, William||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mates, Michael|
|Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Hannam, Sir John||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Meltor, Rt Hon David|
|Harris, David||Merchant, Piers|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mills, Iain|
|Hawkins, Nick||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Hayes, Jerry||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Heald, Oliver||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hendry, Charles||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hicks, Robert||Needham, Rt Hon Richard|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Horam, John||Nichols, Patrick|
|Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Norris, Steve|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Page, Richard|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Paice, James|
|Hunter, Andrew||Patntek, Sir Irvine|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Jack, Michael||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Pawsey, James|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Jessel, Toby||Pickles, Eric|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Jones, Gwifym (Cardiff N)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Powel, William (Corby)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Rathbone, Tim|
|Key, Robert||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Kilfedder, Sir James||Ronton, Rt Hon Tim|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Richards, Rod|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Riddick, Graham|
|Knapman, Roger||RHkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Robatnan, Andrew|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Knox, Sir David||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Thomason, Roy|
|Ross, William (E Londonderry)||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Thurnham, Peter|
|Sackville, Tom||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Tim||Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Tracey, Richard|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Tredinnick, David|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Trend, Michael|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian||Trimble, David|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Trotter, Neville|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Twirm, Dr Ian|
|Shersby, Michael||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Sims, Roger||Viggers, Peter|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Walden, George|
|Smith Tim (Beaconsfield)||Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Smyth, Rev Martjn (Belfast S)||Walker, Bil (N Tayside)|
|Soarnes, Nicholas||Ward, John|
|Speed, Sir Keith||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)||Waterson, Nigel|
|Spicer Michael (S Worcs)||Watts, John|
|Spink, Dr Robert||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Spring, Richard||Whitney, Ray|
|Sproat, Iain||Whittingdale, John|
|Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Steen, Anthony||Wilkinson, John|
|Stephen, Michael||Willetts, David|
|Stem, Michael||Wilshire, David|
|Stewart, Alan||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Streeter, Gary||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Sumberg, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Sweeney, Walter||Wood, Timothy|
|Sykes, John||Yeo, Tim|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)|
|Taylor, John M (Sollhull)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)||Mr. Derek Conway and Mr. Michael Bates.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Ainger, Nick||Burden, Richard|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Byers, Stephen|
|Allen, Graham||Caborn, Richard|
|Alton, David||Callaghan, Jim|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Campbell-Savours, D N|
|Ashton, Joe||Canavan, Dennis|
|Austin-Walker, John||Cann, Jamie|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)|
|Barnes, Harry||Chidgey, David|
|Barron, Kevin||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Battle, John||Church, Judith|
|Bayley, Hugh||Clapham, Michael|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Clark, Dr David (South Shields)|
|Berth, Rt Hon A J||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Bel, Stuart||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Clelland, David|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Coffey, Ann|
|Berry, Roger||Cohen, Harry|
|Betts, Clive||Connarty, Michael|
|Blair, Rt Hon Tony||Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Blunkett, David||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Boateng, Paul||Corbett, Robin|
|Boyes, Roland||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Bradley, Keith||Corston, Jean|
|Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Cousins, Jim|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H)|
|Dafis, Cynog||Jamieson, David|
|Dalyell, Tam||Janner, Greville|
|Darling, Alistair||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Davidson, Ian||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Oavies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Jones, Lyme (B'ham S O)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Jones, Martyn (Ctwyd, SW)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Denham, John||Jowell, Tessa|
|Dewar, Donald||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dixon, Don||Keen, Alan|
|Dobson, Frank||Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Dowd, Jim||Khabra, Piara S|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Wlfoyle, Peter|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Eastham, Ken||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Enright, Derek||Lewis, Terry|
|Etherington, Bill||Liddell, Mrs Helen|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Litherland, Robert|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Livingstone, Ken|
|Fatchett, Derek||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Field, Frank (Biikenhead)||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Fisher, Mark||Loyden, Eddie|
|Fryrm, Paul||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||McAllion, John|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Foulkes, George||McCartney, Ian|
|Fraser, John||McCrea, Rev William|
|Fyfe, Maria||Macdonald, Calum|
|Galbraith, Sam||McFall, John|
|Galloway, George||McGrady, Eddie|
|Gapes, Mike||McKelvey, William|
|George, Bruce||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Gerrard, Neil||McLeish, Henry|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||Maclennan, Robert|
|Godsiff, Roger||McMaster, Gordon|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||McNamara, Kevin|
|Gordon, Mildred||MacShane, Denis|
|Graham, Thomas||McWilliam, John|
|Grant Bernie (Tottenham)||Madden, Max|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Maddock, Diana|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Mahon, Alice|
|Grocott, Bruce||Mallon, Seamus|
|Gunnell, John||Mandelson, Peter|
|Hain, Peter||Marek, Dr John|
|Hall, Mike||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Hanson, David||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Hardy, Peter||Martin, Michael J (Springburn)|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Martlew, Eric|
|Harvey, Nick||Maxton, John|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Meacher, Michael|
|Henderson, Doug||Meale, Alan|
|Hendron, Dr Joe||Michael, Alun|
|Heppell, John||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Hill, Keith (Streatham)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Milbum, Alan|
|Hodge, Margaret||Miller, Andrew|
|Hoey, Kate||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Home Robertson, John||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Hood, Jimmy||Morley, Elliot|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Hoyle, Doug||Mudie, George|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Mullin, Chris|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Murphy, Paul|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)|
|Hutton.John||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|lllsley, Eric||O'Hara, Edward|
|O'Neill, Martin||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Snape, Peter|
|Paisley, The Reverend Ian||Soley.clive|
|Parry, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Patchett Terry||Spellar, John|
|Pearson, Ian||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Pendry, Tom||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Pickthall, Colin||Stevenson, George|
|Pike, Peter L||Stott, Roger|
|Pope, Greg||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Powel, Ray (Ogmore)||Straw, Jack|
|Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Prescott, Rt Hon John||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Purchase, Ken||Timms, Stephen|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Tipping, Paddy|
|Radice, Giles||Turner, Dennis|
|Randall, Stuart||Tyler, Paul|
|Raynsford, Nick||Vaz, Keith|
|Redmond, Martin||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Reid, Dr John||Walley, Joan|
|Rendel, David||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Rooker, Jeff||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Rooney, Terry||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Winnick, David|
|Ruddock, Joan||Wise, Audrey|
|Salmond, Alex||Worthington, Tony|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wray, Jimmy|
|Sheerman, Barry||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Mrs. Barbara Roche and Mr. Joe Benton.|
|Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
§ Questions accordingly agreed to.
§ Resolved, That, unless and until the party which achieved an overall majority of Members elected at the preceding general election loses that majority either as a result of by-elections or through the secession of Members to another party the Committee of Selection shall interpret paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of standing committees) in such a way as to give that party a majority on any standing committee.