HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 cc997-1028
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Minister to move motion 4, relating to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, I must tell the House that I have selected the manuscript amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) Copies of the amendment are available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Forth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following that helpful information, I should be grateful if you clarified what the voting procedure will be and whether or not the matter will be subject to a deferred Division. If that is so, how will the House deal with an amendment to a matter that may be subject to a deferred Division? It would be very helpful if you were to guide the House on the conduct of this business in the light of your having selected a manuscript amendment.

Mr. Speaker

There will be a vote if the House wishes to divide on either the amendment or the motion. That Division will take place this evening, or this morning—or whatever.

11.45 pm
Mr. Spellar

As I recall, it is always today.

I beg to move, That Rachel Squire, Mr. John Spellar, Dr Lewis Moonie, Mr. David Clelland, Mr. Dave Watts, Ms Dari Taylor, Mr. David Crausby, Mr. Robert Key, Mr. Quentin Davies, Mr. John Randall and Mr. Paul Keetch be members of the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. That three be the quorum of the Committee. That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records. That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place. The Select Committee examining the Bill will have a vital role to fulfil on behalf of the House. It will subject to careful scrutiny proposed legislation which, because it is important to the armed forces, is it important to us all. The hon. Members listed in the motion I appear to me to be fully capable of discharging that function, and I extend that generous characterisation not only to my hon. Friends, but to Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) served with distinction on the Select Committee that considered the previous Armed Forces Bill, and I am sure that the Committee will benefit from his experience.

I also advise the House that we are pleased to accept the manuscript amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). Accordingly, I commend the motion to the House.

11.46 pm
Mr. Key

We realise that it is an unusual Committee and we accept the tradition that three be its quorum. It is extremely important that the Committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records and to adjourn from place to place to allow it to take evidence in places other than London. In principle, the motion is an attractive proposition.

However, one or two points need to be made. It is unfortunate that it has been the tradition that this Select Committee does not have the powers to appoint other specialist advisers so that it can obtain information. We therefore very much welcome the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). It represents sensible progress and it will assist the Committee. It will provide discomfort for the Government, because the Committee will be better informed.

I also have absolutely no difficulty with the individuals whom the House seeks to appoint to the Committee, but I have a good deal of difficulty with its composition compared with the one that considered the previous quinquennial Bill. It is worth reminding the House that, in 1996, the Committee's business was conducted with just one Minister, who turned up only for those sessions at which he was strictly required. The Committee felt no constraint about whom it asked for evidence and what it asked from a Government breathing down its neck. It had one parliamentary private secretary, no Whips on either side, one shadow Minister and four Conservative and four Labour Back Benchers. Eight of a Committee of 11 were Back Benchers. That made it an effective and model Committee.

That is in stark contrast to the composition and balance of the Committee this time. As several right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, it will be dominated by the Executive and the Opposition have had to fulfil their role and shadow that structure. We suggested that it would be appropriate to have a bigger Committee, but the Government were not willing to concede that point.

Mr. Gummer

Before my hon. Friend castigates the Government alone, has he noticed that the Opposition Members of the Committee are all trusties? Because the Government members are all trusties, the Opposition members are all trusties. The Liberal Democrats have a trusty too, so is it not time that we recognised that the purpose of a Select Committee is have a few "untrusties" on it? It is the duty of the Government to make space for "untrusties". [HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I had hoped that Labour Members would not say that, because I am trying to make the Government think in the depths of their heart that a bit of friendly fire from Labour Members might result in a better Select Committee.

Mr. Key

We must bear it in mind that, as far as the Government are concerned, all Opposition Members are untrusties, and we will of course play that role in the delightful, mischievous terms in which my right hon. Friend puts it. Given that only three Opposition Members are being suggested for membership of the Committee, I am sorry that my right hon. Friend feels that we will all do the Government's bidding; I assure him that we will not. I think that I shall be the only member of the Committee who went through the process last time round, so I will know where the bodies are buried and where the elephant traps lie.

When we get into Committee, we will consider whether we are to meet only on Tuesday mornings or on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I want to make it clear now, as I will do in Committee, that Opposition Members will sit for as many hours as it takes. We will be happy to sit not only on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but on Tuesday afternoons and evenings, until midnight or whatever hour is necessary to get the work done.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend's assurance about how hard Opposition Members will work. Does he agree, however, that it is extraordinary to suggest that we might work hard when Government Front Benchers have not told us what the Committee is to do, or where and when it is to do it? Is not that information lacking?

Mr. Key

It has always been the case that until we get into Committee we do not know exactly what the programme will be or how long it will take. That is in the nature of a Select Committee. Any Select Committee starts by saying, "Let's investigate something." It then has business sittings at which it decides exactly what it will do. The difference on this occasion is that we have been told when the end date must be, which limits our powers of investigation on behalf of the House.

I find it extraordinary that the Government have known for four years that the Bill was coming, exactly what would be involved and what they wanted to include in it; they have listened to representations from previous Select Committees and had the opportunity to talk to the Chairmen of the Committees; yet it took them until nearly midnight tonight to concede that the Committee can have specialists for whom Parliament is prepared to pay. That represents mismanagement, and I hope that the Government will say why they have been bounced into that action by the Chairman of the Defence Committee, the right hon. Member for Walsall, South. I am grateful to him for persuading the Government to take that action, which will be of great benefit, but we will greatly miss him and his colleagues from the Committee in our deliberations on the Bill.

Mr. Wilshire

I am reassured to hear that my hon. Friend supports the amendment in principle. Is he aware, however, that while some of his colleagues might agree with him on the principle of the amendment, we find the detail unacceptable? He says that the amendment will be accepted, but that is not necessarily true as regards all the Members on the Benches behind him.

Mr. Key

That is my hon. Friend's prerogative; no doubt he will do his own thing.

It is to the credit of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South that the motion is on the Order Paper. However, I find it extraordinary that while the previous Committee scrutinised a longer, more complicated Bill with one Minister and no Whips, the Government side of this Committee will be packed with trusties, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) calls them.

We will support the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, and we will therefore be able to support the motion on the Armed Forces Bill.

Mr. Leigh

Before my hon. Friend sits down, will he reflect on the reasons why the amendment has been accepted? Does he think that the Government have accepted it because of its intrinsic merits or because, above all else, following yesterday's debacle, when they were unable to get their business through because only a handful of Government Members were still here, they fear a vote in the early hours of the morning?

Mr. Key

I read last night's Division lists and was surprised by them I suspect that my hon. Friend is correct. I deplore what happened—it is a bad way to run the House of Commons, and the Government will live to regret it, because some of us care very much, and in the long term, about parliamentary democracy in this country and the way in which they are eroding it.

11.55 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

I regret to say that I cannot follow my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) in supporting either the motion or the manuscript amendment. The first reason for that is the circumstances that appear to surround the acceptance of that amendment, although I must confess that I am encouraged that accepting such an amendment to such a motion has enabled the House to vote on them during this sitting. We must give those matters considerable attention, and I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), the Chairman of the Defence Committee, for demonstrating that innovative procedure.

Having said that, however, I deplore the fact that the amendment has been tabled through a process with which we are becoming all too familiar, whereby the Government table a substantive motion at the last minute, leaving no proper time for consideration by the House. The Chairman of the Defence Committee has been forced to table a manuscript amendment and, again, we have no proper time for debate.

Mr. Gummer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government might have realised that the manuscript amendment was necessary had there been an interval between the debates on Second Reading and on the guillotine motion? Indeed, had they done so, they would have been spared embarrassment this evening. Do not these events prove what he said last night: the real problem is the way in which such issues are squashed together, giving no time for proper consideration?

Mr. Forth

I should say that the Government are immune to embarrassment. Although they should feel embarrassed frequently, they are incapable of being embarrassed over such things, which is a matter of great regret to me. However, my right hon. Friend is correct. The Order Paper contains a classic example of how the Government presume on the House to introduce a series of linked measures, each in its own way dependent on the other, but give Members no time for proper consideration of the content of each, whether each should be accepted and whether amendments are required to make sense of the relationship between the measures.

I shall deal with the motion before discussing the manuscript amendment. The Minister for the Armed Forces, who introduced the measure all too briefly, has left the Chamber. During the previous debate, the Under—Secretary of State for Defence said—with some pride, I thought—that the matter was consensual and that the Select Committee would operate in such a fashion. He added, rather lamely, that the Committee would not be uncritical. From the Opposition Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury went on, at some length, to stress how far and how frequently the Committee would travel and how well all its members would get on together. My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) gave the lie to all that by suggesting that the Committee would be a cosy travelling circus. Those are not quite the words he used, but they give the sense of his remarks.

The so-called Select Committee will be a cosy club of like-minded people travelling together in a consensual way. That is not good enough and completely unacceptable. What sort of criticism and scrutiny of the measure will be provided by a group of people of the kind who have been described? The proposed membership, which we must consider, gives a further lie to what has been said. The members will be cosy and consensual and will travel great distances together on our behalf.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Has it occurred to my right hon. Friend that the membership is grotesquely white?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend tempts me to go into the matters of gender, ethnicity, regional representation and many other aspects of the Committee. I did not intend to go into that, but I may be tempted, because it is relevant to the measure before us.

The House is being asked to give consideration to the members proposed for the Committee I am surprised that the Government have not given due consideration to the question whether there is proper ethnic balance and gender balance, and whether the different parts of the country are properly represented on the Committee. That is a matter to which the House should give consideration. I may come back to it later in my remarks, but I do not want to be diverted from my main purpose at this stage.

Mr. Gummer

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) will allow me to say that the way in which his intervention was presented was a little more lighthearted than it might have been. However, two of the areas that will be most affected by the Bill are in the east of England. I see no member of the proposed Committee who has any connection with those areas. Would my right hon. Friend say that some regional consideration would have been reasonable?

Mr. Forth

I will digress briefly on that point, as it is highly relevant. Such a Committee will travel extensively throughout the United Kingdom and beyond—as we heard, the previous Committee went to Cyprus and Germany. I could almost feel my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury vibrating with excitement at the thought of where this Committee might travel, and I could almost sense him devising an itinerary in his mind, as he thought where the Committee might go on our behalf and on behalf of the benighted taxpayers of this country.

Mr. Key

I give my right hon. Friend an undertaking that I will not suggest that we visit Bromley. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), who is a proposed member of the Committee, represents one of the largest Royal Air Force communities in the east of England.

Mr. Forth

That is extremely reassuring. It may go some way to answering the query raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal.

Mr. Gummer

On a geographical point, those of us who live in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex—I regret to mention that word—would not consider that the Committee provides a proper representation of the east of England.

Mr. Forth

I do not want to get drawn into a geographic dispute between my right hon. and hon. Friends. The point almost makes itself. It is self-evidently vital that the Committee should have thorough, comprehensive regional representation from all parts of the United Kingdom, in order better to understand the importance of the military in the different parts of the kingdom and to do its work properly. I do not judge that the proposed membership gives proper regional representation. The Committee is defective in that respect.

I will leave others to judge whether the gender balance is appropriate. I do not want to get drawn into that and, despite the helpful intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), I do not want to get drawn into the matter of ethnicity.

Mr. Wilshire

I urge my right hon. Friend to revisit the matter of the gender balance. As he is aware, the question whether women should serve in the front line of the infantry is relevant. If the Select Committee is to consider that matter, should there not be a woman on the Committee to bring that perspective to the argument?

Mr. Forth

We are constantly told by Labour Members how proud they are of the number of lady Members in the House, yet I should have expected more representation of those lady Members than is proposed. I shall go no further than that. But one can see already the difficulty into which we are getting with the proposed membership of the Committee. Whether we talk about gender, ethnicity or regional representation, on almost every one of those criteria the suggested membership fails completely.

That does not even begin to deal with why we must have two Ministers on the Committee plus sundry members of the payroll. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury in his consensual mood, and wanting, as he undoubtedly does, to see the Committee working harmoniously, would surely concede that to have so many members of the payroll, to say nothing of the Opposition payroll if there is such a thing, on the Committee would hardly suggest that there will be a grain of sand in this particular oyster in order to produce parliamentary pearls.

Mr. Leigh


Mr. Forth

Talking of which, I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Leigh

My right hon. Friend may be missing the point. He is being unfair to our hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key). We can rely on our hon. Friend to be the kind of forthright Opposition spokesman that he is, of this Committee and on this Committee. But that is not what a Select Committee should be. The real danger is that this will develop more and more into a kind of Standing Committee, where the Opposition put their arguments, piling into the Government, and the Government are set defending their line again and again, and it will not be a consensual Select Committee looking at the merits of the case, which is what it should be.

Mr. Forth

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. He and I rarely disagree, but on this occasion we must. If we are talking about the consideration of legislative matters, or quasi or pseudo legislative matters, consensus is not appropriate. I believe in confrontation because I believe devoutly that where we have consensus in the House of Commons, we fail properly to scrutinise and we end up with inadequate measures. My worry here is that the nature of the proposed composition of the Committee gives no guarantee that we shall have a sharp-edged critical approach from which we are likely to obtain proper results.

It is undoubtedly true that we will have a payroll-dominated Committee. Whether both Ministers will attend the Committee properly and give it their proper attention is another matter about which we should be concerned. As was pointed out, on a previous occasion Ministers were hardly ever present. On this occasion, that might be a blessing. We might well welcome the fact that Ministers will hardly ever attend the Committee because it might well do better work as a result. But why, we have to ask at this stage, is it being proposed that two Ministers be members of the Committee? Hundreds of Back Benchers would no doubt be eager to serve on the Committee provided that their passports were in order and they were able to enjoy the benefits of Committee membership. But here we have a Committee packed with the Government's payroll, so there is another problem that I have with it.

Then we come to the matter of expertise and qualifications. I do not want to embarrass any of the members of the Committee who have been suggested by seeking to examine in public and in detail their qualifications or lack of them. I will leave that to right hon. and hon. Members to consider themselves. But we must ask what is the relevance of the qualifications and background of the members of the Committee. I shall not mention them individually, I simply raise the question because it is relevant. All in all, the membership of the Committee is wrong on almost every conceivable count, consideration and criterion, and for that reason I cannot accept it.

I come now to the Committee's quorum. A number of measures on today's Order Paper suggest quorums of two or three for various Committees, and I am concerned about that development in the House because it suggests a number of things. The first is that the Government have no confidence that a Committee can expect more than two or three of its members to turn up at any one time and be able properly to conduct its business. More sinisterly, it also suggests the possibility of a Committee being convened and doing its work with as few as two or, on this occasion, three people present, being able effectively to legislate on behalf of Britain's voters and taxpayers. Can we be satisfied that a quorum of three is adequate to give proper scrutiny and consideration to any measure? I suggest that it cannot be. The quorum of any Committee in the House should be much higher than three.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

Given the composition of the Committee and the fact that three Ministers will sit on it, Ministers alone could form a quorum for it. Is that not an abuse?

Mr. Forth

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is right. In fact, it is probably inadequate to describe what could happen on the Committee as sinister. If, tonight, the House of Commons endorses the proposal that the Committee has a quorum of three, my hon. Friend is right that the Committee could discharge its functions with solely three Ministers present and voting on measures. Surely, that is not acceptable.

Mr. Spellar

What was the quorum of the Committee set up by the right hon. Gentleman's own Government when such a Bill was last considered?

Mr. Forth

I am not remotely interested in the quorum on some past occasion.

Mr. Spellar

Did the right hon. Gentleman oppose the quorum for the Bill in the previous Government?

Mr. Forth

No—[Laughter.] I was on the payroll, which is why I did not oppose it. That is the point that I am trying to make The Minister, who is now on the payroll, seems to think it highly amusing that a Committee can be proposed in which the quorum consists solely of those on the payroll.

Mr. Gummer

My right hon. Friend may have noticed that the Minister spent a great deal of time guffawing, which usually means that he is embarrassed by what my hon. Friends say—[Laughter.] The fact that he is guffawing again shows that he is clearly embarrassed.

The Committee to which the Minister referred had one Minister on it, but the Committee to which my right hon. Friend refers will have three Ministers on it. If there are three Ministers and a quorum of three, that means that the Ministers can carry out the Committee's business on their own. That is not something that Parliament should accept under any circumstances.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Frankly, I am rather surprised that my colleagues on the shadow Front Bench are prepared to endorse that proposal. At this stage, I cannot accept it.

Mr. Bercow

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) depicted a scenario in which three members of the Government alone would constitute a quorum in the Committee and enable it to make progress. Does my right hon Friend agree that a more disturbing scenario is a quorum of two members of the payroll vote and a member of what might be described as the Government's new robot tendency? The combination of two Ministers, or of one Minister and the Government Whip, would suffice to ensure that they got their way. Would that not directly contradict the very notion of the Select Committee, which, absurdly, the Committee purports to be?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend may be right. However, if the Committee is as consensual as has been suggested, no such events would occur. Let me give my hon. Friend another scenario. Suppose that two members of the payroll and only one Opposition Member were present. The Committee could still discharge its duties, based on a quorum of three, and the Government could get their way, with only two Ministers present.

All those possibilities start to arise, unless the prospect of travel is so attractive that all the Committee members are always present. The Committee may have it in mind to travel extensively, because that would give its members an incentive always to attend. In that case, I hope that Ministers would be so busy making a mess of other business that they would not have time to attend the Committee, so it might just have a chance of doing some proper impartial work. The quorum suggestion is therefore unacceptable and, for that reason alone, I shall not support the motion.

Then there is the rather coy reference in the motion, to which I have made glancing allusion. In the quaint parliamentary language that we use, partly to deceive the taxpayer, the motion states: That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place. That is the open airline ticket that hon. Members choose to vote themselves from time to time. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a year or two ago, we voted ourselves an equally open airline ticket to travel to European Union capitals. I am minded to table a parliamentary question to ascertain how many hon. Members have availed themselves of that privilege. It is always an interesting question to ask.

When the Committee concludes its work, whether that happens before the general election or not—another interesting consideration, given the suggested timetable— the results may be revealing if an hon. Member tables a parliamentary question to ascertain the Committee's itinerary. We might even ask about the cost so that we can work out for ourselves the value for money that the taxpayer receives from the Committee when it adjourns from place to place.

Mr. Wilshire

When my right hon. Friend considers tabling such questions, will he bear it in mind that one of the key matters that exercises the Royal Navy is whether we should keep a warship in the West Indies?. Would it be a good use of taxpayers' money to send the Committee to the West Indies to ascertain what the guard ship has done in the past and whether it should continue to do that? A trip to the West Indies is the sort of matter that worries my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Forth

I wish that my hon. Friend had not put the idea in people's minds. I hope that no more such interventions will be made.

Mr. Robathan

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth

Only if my hon. Friend promises not to add another suggested destination to the itinerary.

Mr. Robathan

I should not dream of doing that. However, there is a large deployment to the Falkland Islands, which are further away than the West Indies. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the Falkland Islands constitute an important destination for the Committee?

Mr. Forth

I shall leave that for other hon. Members to consider. We have made the point more than adequately that behind the phrase, adjourn from place to place lies more than most taxpayers would care to stomach.

Let us consider the manuscript amendment. It is a quaint device, but it has helpfully opened up all sorts of new possibilities in the new procedural world in which we live. The Modernisation Committee has given us a new parliamentary world in which to operate; it can also excite, interest and amuse us. I welcome the new early nights that the House is experiencing, and look forward to more.

However, I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, for revealing another procedural quirk. Doubtless the Modernisation Committee anticipated it as it anticipated so much else that now happens in the House. Apparently, if a manuscript amendment is accepted—that has happened to the one that we are considering—it gives the House the opportunity to divide in the traditional way at the end of the debate. That is proper and I welcome it because there will be a Division if I have anything to do the matter. As the Speaker explained usefully a short time ago, the House can also divide on the substantive motion. We can look forward to that when we finish the "until any hour" deliberations that the Order Paper kindly allows us.

I regret that I must differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury, but I cannot accept the manuscript amendment that the Chairman of the Defence Committee has tabled. Although the term "specialists" may have a ring of authenticity and integrity for some people, it may be wiser to limit the number of specialists who could be recruited at taxpayers' expense.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could you clarify that while it has been said that the amendment will be accepted for debate, it has not yet been moved?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

That is correct. The amendment has not yet been formally moved.

Mr. Forth

That is excellent, because if it is not moved, I shall not have to oppose it. However, as it was implied that an amendment had been accepted, it is in order for us to debate it now. I am trying to do that.

We do not know whether the number of specialists that can be recruited at taxpayers' expense will be limited. I presume that there is no such limit. We have no idea who they might be or in what capacity they may be recruited. We do not know whether they will be able to travel with the Committee on its extensive travels or whether they will be restricted to meetings that take place here when the Committee sits—probably rather rarely—in London.

I am mystified about just what role the specialists will be able to play. We should give some thought to whether those specialists, if they are to be of use to the Committee, will have to travel with it when it is out and about and adjourning from place to place. Unless I were much more satisfied about the limits to be imposed on what is at present an open-ended provision, I for one would oppose the manuscript amendment were it to be moved.

I find the motion utterly unacceptable. Its form and procedures are unacceptable, and the House has not been given enough time to consider it. Although I welcome the precedent set by the manuscript amendment, we have no time in which to give it proper consideration. We are having to take part in the debate unguided, because we do not know what lies behind the proposal. We do not know whether there are any limitations or qualifications, what it might cost, or anything else.

At this stage, I intend—and I hope to persuade others to join me—to oppose the measure, and the amendment if it is moved. I want the Government to take the proposal away, and bring it back in a much more acceptable form.

12.21 am
Mr. Bruce George

In response to popular demand, I beg to move the manuscript amendment, in line 7, at end add That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers, either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity relating to the provisions of the Armed Forces Bill. I do so with some anxiety, trepidation and regret, because I had hoped that the amendment would be considered seriously.

I am not a devotee of the Chamber, having decided long ago that it was far better to involve oneself in the Select Committee system, in which I am delighted to have participated since 1979 when it was adopted. Having listened to the debate, I must say that I am pleased with the wisdom that I employed then: it is indeed far better to confine oneself to the Select Committee system than to indulge in debates that are artificial and irrelevant, and will hardly lead to any improvement in the public's estimation of the House.

We are discussing serious issues. We are discussing the procedures of the House, the control of the House by the Executive and why we should fight against it, and a range of important matters affecting our armed forces, including discipline, the future of the forces, and their relationship with their employers and with each other. It demeans the armed forces and the procedures of the House when—

Mr. Forth

How pompous.

Mr. George

Labour Members do not have a monopoly on pomposity. I have listened to some amazing pomposity. Let us do a deal: I will stop being pompous and be brief, if the right hon. Gentleman will stop being pompous and decide to be brief. That is a fair exchange.

I tabled the amendment with a reasonable intention. My motives were simple. I have been a member of three Select Committees considering Armed Forces Bills. I did not volunteer to serve on the Committee on this Bill because the Chairman of the Defence Committee has a busy agenda. Moreover, following 25 years of campaigning, a Government have introduced legislation to regulate the private security industry, and I want to be on the Standing Committee that considers that Bill. I therefore excluded myself—although that may have been superfluous, because the Whips excluded all members of the Defence Committee anyway, so even if I had wished to be a member there is no guarantee that I would have been.

Why did I table the amendment? An Opposition Member asked with some indignation why the Government had not included the ability to appoint an adviser to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. An adviser has never been attached to that Select Committee, and it has shown. I thought that it was time— even though I was not going to be on the Select Committee—for it perhaps to have one additional weapon in dealing with the overbearing Executive, which would help, if not to rebalance the relationship, at least to give Back Benchers on the Select Committee the opportunity of hearing advice that was independent of the Ministry of Defence.

Although I have rarely found an occasion on which the MOD has lied, it regularly withholds information; it has withheld information for as long as I have been on the Defence Committee. As we know, the MOD can be economical with the truth. Therefore, the idea of relying on the MOD, however competent civil servants and Ministers are, is profoundly unwise.

Select Committees on the Armed Forces Bills have gone, if not into competition, into an impossible relationship with the Executive. By definition, the Executive will win because the Whips are able to put their men and, occasionally, women on to the Committee. They have a near monopoly of information because the subjects that they are putting before the House in legislation are not aspects of defence that we can all rabbit on about to our heart's content after a morning read of The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian providing us with more than enough information, allied to a natural ability to spin out nothing to endless length.

The issues within the Bill are beyond that level of inventiveness. They require an enormous amount of expertise and knowledge. An enormous amount of time needs to be spent studying the matter even before the first Committee sitting. Then we come up against the MOD, which has spent the past five years gathering the information. It drafts the legislation. It steers it through. Against that formidable adversary is a group of hand-picked individuals who are not always known for their interest in defence. It is a grossly unequal task.

I had no wish for an army of advisers, as we have on the Defence Committee.

Mr. Brady

I am following the right hon. Gentleman's argument and am sympathetic to his case. Does he not accept that, given the composition of the Committee and the fact that the payroll vote dominates it to such an extent, there is little hope of specialist advisers being appointed who are genuinely independent and who can undertake the scrutiny that he would like?

Mr. George

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I do not think that he was here earlier when I argued strongly that the composition of the Committee was, frankly—let me choose my words carefully—appalling, and should never ever be repeated. Any legislature worth its salt would not allow a Committee to be composed on that basis. Rather than making silly points, we should spend some of our time doing something to reverse the inexorable decline in which the House has acquiesced over the past 50 years. If we had wanted the legislature to be a proper legislature, we would not have connived in our decline into semi-superfluity. In a tiny way, the amendment is an attempt to provide a Committee that is better composed.

Regrettably, the adviser will be in an invidious position because the Committee will be dominated by sets of executives: the actual Executive, the supporters of the Executive and those who aspire to be the Executive. If that poor adviser is ever appointed, he or she will be joining a Committee on which there is likely to be little chance of genuinely acting on any advice that may be given.

Mr. Robathan

I have a high regard for the right hon. Gentleman and I agree with everything that he is saying. I am not making a partisan point. To a large extent, I agree with his amendment, but, from everything that he has said, he must agree that we cannot accept the motion because, as he said, it is appalling for the Executive to try to foist such a Committee on the House. It is a denial of democracy. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that.

Mr. George

Hon. Members on both sides of the House connived at this because Government members were chosen by Government Whips and the smaller number of Opposition members were chosen by the Opposition's methods. As a consequence, my calculations show that there is only one genuine Back-Bench Member on the Committee, and that is my hon. and good Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor). Somebody thought that there were no female members of the Committee. In fact, there are two including the Chairman. Perhaps the hon. Member who did not notice that there were two females should do what I will be doing and start cleaning his glasses.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. George

In a moment. I had not intended to speak at length.

Mr. Howarth


Mr. George

All right, I will give way.

Mr. Howarth

The right hon. Gentleman has just said something en passant that rather disturbed us. He seemed to suggest that he knew the identity of the Committee Chairman. Can he tell the House by what process the Chairman of the putative Committee was selected, and can he tell us their identity?

Mr. George

If I had any ability to compose the membership of the Committee, I would indeed have a great deal of influence. My role in the drafting in of members was, I am afraid, non-existent.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. George

I have given way several times. I promise that I will give way later.

The wording that I chose was lifted almost entirely from the normal rules of Select Committees, which were drafted in 1979 under the tutelage of former Conservative Leader of the House Lord St. John of Fawsley. If there is any criticism of the wording, I suggest that hon. Members drag him to the House and ask him to explain. I have simply used the words that are to be found in every Select Committee report.

Without going into the detail of my academic interest in Select Committees or defence committees throughout the world, I can say that the Select Committee set-up was an aberration, and that this process is a further aberration built on top of it. When I think about countries that have committees with such a lack of power, I think of—there is a degree of hyperbole in this—Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. It does not apply to Russia because the Duma is far more powerful than we are. All the mock eastern European regimes have now jumped over our heads as legislatures and have bestowed on their committees the power to legislate and to participate in the budgetary process. They have the power to scrutinise appointments to office. They have real confirmation hearings, not the bogus virtual confirmation hearings that we have. Before we glory in the majesty of this House, I suggest that we use our ability to travel to Europe once a year and see how the Europeans operate a legislature. They put us to shame.

I meet members of the defence committees of many countries from around the world. They say that I am the Chairman of a powerful Committee in the mother of Parliaments, and ask me for advice on how the Committee operates. They ask me what power I have in the budgetary process. I have to be frank, and tell them that I have no such power. I admit to them that the House of Commons does not have much of a role in the budgetary process. That process is controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which presents the budget to the Select Committee throughout the year. We can hold amiable seminars, but we have not the slightest influence on the size or shape of the defence budget.

The Select Committee is unable to do what its counterparts in most countries can. We cannot raise the budget, or allocate money from one account to another. Our role in the budgetary process is slight. We need advice, and a return of the power taken from us in 1979.

My counterparts from around the world ask me what power I have to legislate. I tell them candidly that I have none whatever. Defence legislation is rare, and when it is introduced it does not come before the Defence Committee. We can hold hearings, and pass a report on to the Standing Committee that is to be established, but we are out of the loop. I say that members of the Defence Committee used to have one opportunity every five years to participate in the legislative process, when we were able to transfer almost en masse to the Select Committee considering the Armed Forces Bill. However, I have to add that we are no longer able to do that.

I am then asked what power over policy I have. I say that the Defence Committee is able to undertake amazing studies that resemble royal commissions, and that we have great advisers. I am not embarrassed to tell the House that at least 20 advisers are attached to the Defence Committee, at an annual cost of £12,000. I consider that to be an amazing investment by the House in gathering heads of policy institutes, former military personnel, excellent academics—all of them people who can add to our limited knowledge of defence matters. I feel not the slightest guilt at the fact that we have such a formidable group of people to give us advice. That is one reason why I believe that the boon enjoyed by the Defence Committee could be transferred—albeit ephemerally—to the hybrid Committee that is being set up. So it is clear that when I describe the Defence Committee to outsiders I have to say that it has no powers of legislation and no real influence in the procurement process.

Eight months ago, the Ministry of Defence made a big procurement decision. It did not ask for the Committee's advice or allow us to play a part. We wrote to the Ministry to ask why a particular company or consortium was chosen over any other, and we were informed that we would be told in good time—when the companies that had lost the bid had been informed of the decision.

The Ministry will not even tell the Committee why it made the decision that it made. I point no finger at current Ministers, who I believe are about the best that I have come across in 20 years' experience in the Select Committee system. Despite what Opposition Members may think, I say that with no trace of deference or grovelling.

There are two dozen Select Committees in the system. I have pointed out the weakness of the Defence Committee, which I consider to be among the best of all the Committees. We try to be innovative, and to push back the boundaries—for example, by holding confirmation hearings. We insist on all pieces of delegated legislation—however boring or trivial—coming before the Committee, because it is incumbent upon us to investigate the minutiae of policy administration and expenditure.

Yes, we travel but—I am sorry to embarrass the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)— I almost insist that we travel in such a way as to make it impossible for carping criticism that we are junketeers. The Falkland Islands is an important place to visit, but the visitor may get a dose of radiation because there is a hole in the ozone layer. I insisted that we went to the Gulf in April; it was hot—damned hot—and hardly conducive to enjoyment. We spent our time working. We went to Russia in December because I believe that we should be seen not to be swanning around the world, but doing a difficult job on behalf of this House.

I have sought to allay the fears of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst that Committees are there exclusively for the purpose of providing Thomas Cook or American Express with a large income. Most Select Committees do a good job, and part of that must be attributed to those Committees that are prepared to seek advice.

Eventually, I hope that the House will see a transfer from words to action. The Liaison Committee produced a report a few months ago and had the temerity to say that Select Committees should perhaps be outside the grip of the Whips. Now that we have seen the Committee about which we are talking being selected in this way, the wisdom of the Liaison Committee is more apparent. The day will come when Members on both sides of the House will get together and say that the overwhelming dominance of the Executive must come to an end. A legislature must legislate and share decision making with the Executive. It must do more than hold the Executive to account. There is expertise in this place which needs a bigger role in decision making. However, that talent is totally unharnessed.

Mr. Chope

The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful and important speech. The Executive have indicated that they are prepared to accept his amendment. Has he any guarantee that they will exercise the power that would be given by the amendment to appoint specialist advisers? Can he advise the House as to the procedure he thinks should be undertaken to enable the best specialist advisers to be appointed? How long does he think that will take? Does he think that that will be consistent with the strict timetable that has been laid down?

Mr. George

The hon. Gentleman makes a practical suggestion—I say that even though I am not on the Committee. Very few academics specialise in the narrow area of law relating to national security. They will be poachers turned gamekeepers: people who have retired from the MOD but who may be prepared to offer their services. One or two excellent academics might participate and I shall make my suggestions to whoever the Chairman is.

One of the great roles that a Select Committee can play is to abandon, as far as is possible in this place— [Interruption.] I pay homage to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), my regional Whip, regularly, and will do so again. If all Members were as loyal in voting as I am, my hon. Friend would be exceedingly happy. The main purpose of a Select Committee is not to replicate the bear-garden atmosphere of this place. One bear garden is quite enough. The main purpose of a Select Committee is not simply to offer advice and show the Executive that a group of people is watching closely. It has a positive as well as a negative role. I believe that the main purpose is to find an agreement between the parties, if possible.

The parliamentary environment is constructed to create an adversarial atmosphere. Frankly, I am not convinced that opposing for the sake of opposing, and providing loyalty for the sake of loyalty and careers, constitutes the best ways to legislate. In most Select Committees, people have to get along. The Committee of which I am Chairman consists of people of widely differing political views. We strive very hard to find common agreement— and not common agreement based on the smart writing of an intelligent Clerk who could provide a form of words of such inconsequence that everybody could agree with them. We try to produce reports that are hard hitting and make life quite difficult for the Executive. There have been excellent Defence Committee Chairmen over the years, such as the late Michael Colvin. Tim Kitson, for example, did not know much about defence but was a superb Chairman.

I have continued in the tradition of not using a majority to trample on the interests of a minority. The last vote in the Defence Committee was in 1981. It could be said that that is a Soviet-style, monolithic approach to policy. It is not. It is our job to give Ministers, whatever their political hue, a difficult time. As one very senior ex-permanent secretary said to me, "The better the Committee is, the better we are."

The Defence Committee has given Ministers a bad time over the Territorial Army and over the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, an issue which has not gone away as far as we are concerned. We produced a report on Kosovo which was difficult to write because it meant criticising NATO, an organisation which I love, and my many friends within it. I am proud that the Committee that I chaired was prepared, with our advisers, to produce a hard-hitting report that swam against the tide and said the unpalatable things that needed to be said.

The Defence Committee has created difficulties both for the previous Government and for the present Government, on all sorts of issues including the annual defence budget. The last report that we produced in the previous Parliament said that defence expenditure had fallen to such a low level under the previous Government that, should it fall any further, it would endanger the defence of the realm. That report was produced mainly by Conservatives, who had the guts to say to the Ministry of Defence that defence expenditure had fallen to dangerous levels. Having been part of that tradition, how could I turn my Committee into a Supreme Sovier-type Committee, eulogising its leaders? What was done was not popular, but it had to be done.

I hope that the Committee that has been formed by the present aberrant process will deliver the goods. If it is to make difficulties for the Executive, it will surely mean an act of masochism and self-abuse. The people who will be critical are those whom the Committee will be criticising, so I am not entirely convinced that the critical faculty that should be exercised on behalf of this House will be exercised.

The last point—[Interruption.] My hon. Friends will have to stay anyway—and not because of me. However, it may be better to listen to me than listening all night to Opposition Members.

Finally, I apologise to my colleagues if my intention, which was noble, has been or will be distorted into an attempt to keep them here longer than normal—although one of the few weapons that an Opposition have is time.

I hope that the Committee, of which I am not a member, will do a good job, will do it competently and will fearlessly criticise the Executive—although I doubt it. Above all, I hope that when the next Select Committee on an Armed Forces Bill is constituted, the lessons of this Committee will be learned and the Executive will loosen their grip and allow more Back Benchers to play a part in the scrutiny process. I hope that the lessons will be learned and I commend the amendment with apologies for taking rather too long. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

12.51 am
Mr. Spellar

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) will imagine, I do not entirely accept the rationale for his amendment, nor the way in which he put it. However, I believe that the terms of the amendment are right and that is why, as I said, we are pleased to accept it and to incorporate it into the motion.

My right hon. Friend slightly overdid his grievance about the composition of the Committee, especially as he said earlier that he had said that he did not want to serve on it. Other members of the Select Committee on Defence also said that they did not want to serve on the special Committee.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but I am not aware that he sought the leave of the House to speak again in the debate. Is that in order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. As the mover of the motion, the Minister has a complete right to speak at this point.

Mr. Spellar

My right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South also referred to inconveniencing the Executive. In speaking for some half an hour at this time of night, he did not inconvenience the Executive so much as his Back-Bench colleagues.

Having dealt with the family dispute on our Benches, I shall intrude into that on the Opposition Benches, but only briefly. Again, I do not agree with everything that the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) said, but I appreciate his balanced approach and I look forward to working with him on the Committee to the benefit of our armed forces.

As I said, we accept the amendment and we commend it and the motion to the House.

12.53 am
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I am grateful to have heard the speech by the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), which was a cri de coeur on behalf not only of Select Committees and their Chairmen, but of hon. Members on both sides of the House who feel that an important issue is at stake—the balance of responsibility between the Executive and the legislature. He raised several important issues. Although I hope to follow the right hon. Gentleman in that I take those issues seriously, I shall be more succinct.

Basically, there are two issues, the first of which is the composition of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman described it as appalling. I hope that he and other hon. Members who share his view will be prepared to vote against the composition.

At a practical level, if so many members of the Committee on both sides of the House have Front-Bench responsibilities, how will they be able to give the amount of time that will clearly be necessary to consider what is a complicated Bill, as I think all of us would confirm, within the time frame that the House has agreed? Even if the composition of the Committee was logical and appropriate before we agreed the programme motion, it certainly is not now that we have done so. Clearly, the commitments on both sides will be such that it will be very difficult to complete the Committee's work within the time frame now agreed by the House. As the House has already been reminded, on the previous occasion, eight out of the 11 Committee members were Back Benchers with fewer responsibilities for other business in the House, so they could give the amount of time that was clearly necessary.

First and foremost, my colleagues and I are extremely unhappy about the fact that the Committee has been constituted almost entirely by trusties, to use the expression of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). Before he seeks to intervene, if it is any consolation to him, I already have the consent of my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch), who is the Liberal Democrat trustie, that if the other trusties are all removed, I shall be happy as Chief Whip to replace him with someone from our Back Benches. I hope that that will console the right hon. Gentleman.

The second issue is, of course, the one to which the right hon. Member for Walsall, South referred so eloquently. It is critical that the Committee should have access to other information and sources of advice and expertise outwith the Ministry of Defence. That is surely the most important point about our Select Committee procedures and the composition of such Committees. They should not simply be informed by the Executive. They are not Government informed; they have other sources of information.

It is extremely important to ensure that the amendment is not only passed, but implemented. It will not be good enough for someone to say, halfway through the process, that there is no time to get the necessary expertise or to find the required advisers. It is essential that the Select Committee procedure and principles are observed, even with this specially constituted Committee.

That is all I need to say on the amendment, but I want to say something about how Conservative Members have treated the issue. We all enjoy the speeches of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). My mind is still boggling at the word picture that he painted of a cosy travelling circus, consensually vibrating with excitement. That is not a serious approach. I trust that if the Committee's composition is reviewed, even at this late hour, he will not serve on it so that he cannot be embarrassed by any travelling circus.

Seriously, it is extraordinary that those on the Conservative Front Bench cannot even discipline their own Back Benchers in a debate that is basically about military discipline. There is a complete division of opinion about whether the Select Committee will be a useful adjunct and a useful way to consider the business of the House. I am concerned about the reputation of the House. I believe that Select Committees are an extremely effective tool to ensure that the Executive's legislation and executive actions receive proper scrutiny. I believe that Select Committees have done useful work in the past, but they have done their most useful work when they have been truly representative of the whole House, not just of those on the Front Benches.

12.58 am
Mr. Gummer

I deeply disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). I believe strongly in Select Committees and that they should be able to travel when necessary. I do not like the way in which we talk as though it were unimportant to discover what is happening in the Army and in the armed forces generally. That is a proper activity, and to seek to limit it is not a suitable activity for the House, which should extend its power over the Executive. It can do so only by getting information itself.

In no sense do I seek to limit what the Select Committee does; nor do I wish to complain about the expense to which it puts the taxpayer, especially as its Chairman has said how much he has limited that expense. I do not want this debate to become an argument about cheeseparing in the proper performance of parliamentary activity. This debate ought to be about the way in which the Government are stopping the proper performance of parliamentary activity. We do ourselves a disservice if we suggest that, somehow or other, people will join this Select Committee or any other Select Committee merely for the purpose of junketing. Only the Murdoch newspapers are served by such comments.

Mr. Blunt

I want to reinforce my right hon. Friend's point. The subject of the Bill is the operation of discipline in the armed forces in times of both peace and war. It is an extremely important matter that the members of the Committee, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), have no military experience at all. My hon. Friend has gained experience through his membership of the Select Committee on Defence. The Committee's members should be able to go to an operational theatre to see how the Bill is meant to work in practice in the most extreme conditions that can be found today.

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is right in the sense that he asks for a proper investigation and wishes the Committee to do such travel as is necessary for it to carry out its duties. That is the case that my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) presented.

I have gone to the trouble of looking up the interests of the members of the Committee who have been placed on it by the Whips. The hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby) lists industrial relations, pensions and housing as his special interests. The Minister for the Armed Forces lists as his special interests energy, industry, electronics, the motor industry, the construction industry, Australia, Israel and the United States. The hon. Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) lists as her interests economic policy, industry, education, housing, Europe, Africa and the United States. That is about half the world. The hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) says that his special interests are regional policy, education and training.

Mr. Keetch

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gummer

No, I was about to come to the hon. Gentleman.

Apart from one Minister and the representatives of the Opposition, it is difficult to discover anyone on the Committee who has previously evinced any interest in this serious subject. I do not make merely a party political point, but a point about the House of Commons. Such a Committee has never happened before. We can examine the lists of members of previous Select Committees relating to such Bills and we will discover that they were almost entirely filled with people who had a long-standing interest in the subject and whose contribution could be described as specialist.

Tonight, we are arguing about a totally different kind of Committee. I hope that the House will take seriously the speech of the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). Not realising that I would take part in the debate, I had occasion earlier to compliment him on his performance on television when he answered a tricky question about which he had received no prior knowledge. He answered it in a way that was perfectly proper and that enabled someone like myself from a different political party to know what was a reasonable answer to a particularly difficult issue with which the Ministry of Defence was trying to grapple. I refer to the uranium in some of the armaments used in Britain and elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman gave every kind of due to the Ministry of Defence. He sought to make it as easy as possible for the Ministry to handle a difficult problem, but he also reserved the right and duty of the House and its Members to insist on a proper, accurate and detailed explanation. He made the balanced statement that one would have expected from a Select Committee Chairman of whatever party and in whatever circumstances.

When that individual comes to the House and says that he finds the membership of a Committee appalling, he does not deserve to have his Whip standing staring at him for 20 minutes, trying to harass and intimidate him. Happily, unlike myself, the right hon. Gentleman is significantly larger than his Whip, and if there is any intimidation I am perfectly sure that he will be able to ensure that it is on his part. However, that was shocking behaviour. I do not want Opposition Members to say so; Government Members should be saying that it was shocking. It is not right that Parliament should be treated as if it were merely a poodle of the governing party, whichever that may be.

Tonight, we are discussing something fundamentally unacceptable, and I ask the Minister, whom I believe to be a decent man, to notice that in this debate and the previous one, serious and sensible members of his party have stood up and complained about the way in which Parliament has been treated. When I look back over my 25 years in the House, I do not remember an occasion on which, in two successive debates, such complaints were made on either side of the House by Members of their standing and loyalty. This ought to be an occasion for the Government to wonder whether they have made a mistake.

Earlier, of course, there was a certain amount of good-natured humour, which is not unreasonable in the House, and certainly not at such a time. However, this debate is not one of good-natured humour; it is about one of the crucial elements in our democracy. We are discussing the Armed Forces Bill, and Parliament was originally set up to deal with exactly such issues, and not those matters that the members of the Committee have said are their closest interests. Those matters are important, but they are subsequent to Parliament's fundamental purpose, which was to deal with the nation's need to have armed forces, to make sure that they were at the service of the nation and not merely the Crown, and to ensure that the nation was properly defended.

We are not talking about an unimportant matter or one that should be prejudged on the basis of the way in which the Government have stuffed the Committee and appear already to have decided who shall chair it. Those are not suitable measures for a Government who claim that they want to represent all the people. This is not a light matter.

I promised to say something about the Liberal Democrat member of the Committee, the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch). I do not agree with him. He has a number of views that I find unacceptable, but no one can claim that he does not follow these matters with care and assiduity. No one can claim that he should not be a member of such a Committee. It would not be in keeping with the tenor of what I have to say to comment on Conservative Members, but I must tell the Minister that he cannot point to more than one Labour Member who can claim any previous interest in the matter. That must be embarrassing for him in trying to ensure that the Committee is a proper vehicle for the House to carry through its prime purpose, which is to keep the Executive properly in bounds.

Mr. Wilshire

My right hon. Friend, who has done his research on various members of the Committee, referred to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch). Did my right hon. Friend carry out research similar to that which I undertook and discover that the hon. Gentleman is eminently qualified—more so than Conservative Members—because listed among his interests in the paperwork that I have is building model warships?

Mr. Gummer

I am not sure that it is necessary to be able to build model warships to be a member of the Committee, but that hobby represents an interest in the subject greater than that of any Back-Bench Labour member of that Committee, save one. Is not it scandalous that listing building model warships among their interests would have shown those members of the Committee, save one, to be much more suitable members? That is the level at which the matter is pitched.

I would not have been the one to say how that state of affairs arose, but the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, who chairs the Defence Committee, told us that the Select Committee is abominable because its membership was decided by the Whips—perhaps by the very Whip who tried, by his presence, to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from continuing his speech, or perhaps by the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland), the Whip who, until a moment ago, was sitting on the Treasury Bench, laughing. I have always thought that that particular subfusc giggle betrays embarrassment and knowing that the point being made is right as well as the fact that the person giggling does not have an answer. That Whip has left the Chamber, but he will play a part in the Committee—not that the matter is an interest of his.

This is a serious matter, but, at almost 1.15 am, I see no one who is likely to report how serious it is. No newspaper or television service and no one from radio will report that, for the first time in history, the House will allow the Armed Forces Bill to be considered by a Committee with a majority of members who have been chosen because they know nothing about the subject. What is more, until the right hon. Member for Walsall, South tabled his manuscript amendment, those members were not to be helped by someone who might know something about the subject.

The Government hoped to establish a complacent, ignorant Committee majority who would have no help in asking questions of the Ministry of Defence, which we all know to be a Ministry adept at meeting questions with answers more opaque than translucent. May I point to an example? For some months, I have been trying to discover on what basis the United Kingdom supported the American bombing of an aspirin factory in Sudan. That is a matter of great importance to me because I believe it to have been an unprovoked and unacceptable invasion of other nations' airspace and quite wrong. I have received no answer from the Ministry of Defence or the Prime Minister. I am told that it is a matter of—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal)

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is straying rather wide of the motion that is being debated.

Mr. Gummer

I shall be careful to stray back, Madam Deputy Speaker.

In the long discussions that the Committee will have in dealing with its wide remit, I hope that it will discover, at least for me, why the Government can say that that is a matter of national security—the bombing by the Americans of the Sudan is a matter of British national security—and that they therefore need not give me an answer.

Will the Government give an answer to the Select Committee? No, because the Committee is not capable of insisting that it gets the answer, for it is composed of people who have taken no interest in the matter up to now, and until the right hon. Member for Walsall, South insisted on it would not even have had someone to guide them.

I am not speaking on the subject because I am an expert on the armed forces, and it would be wrong for me to do so if I were. I am speaking on the subject because I care about the House of Commons and whether we will regain for ourselves the job that we were sent here to do. I could speak about the environment, about which I do know something, or about agriculture, about which I care a great deal, but neither of those were the original reasons for the existence of the House. The House was established to ensure proper control of the Executive on defence. That is what we were created for, historically, and in that sense the right hon. Gentleman has a role of considerable importance.

I shall deal finally with that role, because it relates to the so-called Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman pointed to the fact that no other country in the European Union would accept the subsidiary role that his Committee has had forced upon it by our current system. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) has just arrived, no doubt again from Geneva, which is not in a member state of the European Union. He should take the matter seriously if he is a democrat and if he is interested in the European Union, as I believe him to be.

I shall say something that probably will not be popular with my colleagues, but I want to say it because it is true. The European Union member states were often criticised in the past by Conservative Members—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Once again, I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the terms of the motion that we are discussing. Will he please confine his remarks to that?

Mr. Gummer

Of course I accept your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the issue concerns a Select Committee that we are setting up. It is perfectly proper for me to refer to the fact that you rightly allowed the right hon. Member for Walsall, South to mention that his Committee did not have the same powers as comparable committees in any other country in the EU, and that that was one of the reasons why he was concerned about what the House was setting up today.

I am following the right hon. Gentleman precisely in those terms and merely saying that the reason why it did not happen in the past was because the House had those powers. We took those powers to ourselves. Now, we have neither given them to the Select Committee nor kept them for ourselves. The House as a whole neither exercises those powers, as was once true, nor has it done what our colleagues in the EU did—given those powers to a Select Committee. Oddly enough, we are in a worse position than any other member of the EU, because we have neither kept what we had nor gained what those countries have chosen to have.

Tonight, we are making that situation worse because we are allowing the Government to insist that we discuss this at 1.20 am and we are only allowed a vote this evening because of the beneficial accident of the manuscript amendment of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South. In addition, we seem to be endorsing a proposal which will not be satisfactory when it comes to the control of the Executive because the people whom we are choosing are none of them capable, by their past experience or published interests, to carry through the kind of investigation which would be proper.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it showed a great deal of contempt for the Select Committee and the Chairman that the Minister's only response to a long speech during a debate on an important constitutional issue was to rebuke the Select Committee Chairman for speaking so late at night and keeping his colleagues up?

Mr. Gummer

You, Madam Deputy Speaker, would not want me to follow my hon. Friend too far down that line, but I was surprised at that. I can only assume that it was because the Minister did not list defence among his interests. Had we been talking about the motor industry, he might have been prepared for us to go on all night.

Mr. Forth

My right hon. Friend should probably wind up his remarks fairly quickly because the Government Deputy Chief Whip is haranguing the Chair, probably for a closure motion on the debate.

Mr. Gapes

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. The accusation has been made that you have been harangued. Can you confirm whether that is the case?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman, but it is entirely up to me to decide whether I have been harangued. At the moment I do not think that that is happening.

Mr. Gummer

It is no criticism of you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to suggest that someone might have harangued you. That would be so only if you took any notice of it, and no one would accuse you of that. The issue before us is too serious for me to wind up immediately.

The Select Committee will not be able to do its job properly because of its membership. It will also not be able to do its job properly because of those who are not among its members. I suppose that I was among those being accused of a certain light-heartedness, but my point was a serious one.

One of the important aspects of a Select Committee is that it has on it a number of people who are mavericks, who do not think in terms of the established position of the Government or the Opposition but look at things in a slightly different way. I often disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), but he is an important Member of the House because he thinks differently from others and puts his point. The hon. Member for Rotherham, whom I tease from time to time about his connections with the Swiss republic, is in many ways a maverick himself, and the House would be the poorer without him.

I am a generous man and it is important to have a wide range of people in the House, but we also need such people on Select Committees. I suspect, although the right hon. Member for Walsall, South did not mention it, that one of the things that he does not like about the Select Committee is that no one from either side on it is likely to give anybody a run for their money. The thing about consensus, which is what the Select Committee should seek, is that it should not be consensus between the experts who have similar ways of looking at things—it should be able to bring into the structure people who will ask tough and difficult questions. That is another reason why we will not get the answer that I would like from the Committee.

There is a further reason, which is just as important. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst was a little unfair in talking about the quorum of three in the Committee, as previous Bill Committees have had a similar quorum. Perhaps it would have been better if my right hon. Friend had begun by saying that he would not have minded a quorum of three if other circumstances were as they previously had been. The problem with the quorum is that those outside might say that it is odd, as it could be filled just with Opposition Front-Benchers, let alone Government Front-Benchers. What an odd quorum, if it could be filled by Ministers and Whips alone. Because the Government do not care about that, the issue is serious. I want to end with that—

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Gummer

It is all right for the hon. Gentleman to say that, but if he had been here earlier he would have heard why many Members on both sides of the House thought the issue to be more serious than is suggested by a sedentary comment from a junior Minister in a different Department.

I am glad that the Deputy Chief Whip is here because he will be able to carry these comments back—not that he will, but I hope that he will—which is important for the health of the Government. They have produced a proposal which turns out to be flawed and, remarkably, does not even satisfy the Chairman of the Defence Committee. The Government have to wait for him to table a manuscript amendment before they recognise that they have made a mistake. They have not talked to him properly and, surely, they were wrong in that. They do not have the experience or knowledge to know that it was necessary to do that in the first place. That was wrong. They have also allowed themselves a system, programme and timetable which make it impossible for the Government to listen to the House of Commons.

I come back to the serious issue that, today, we are supposed to have a Second Reading, then a 45-minute discussion of a guillotine, and then a discussion of the nature of the Committee considering the Armed Forces Bill. We are supposed to do all those things, but the Government have not given themselves time to listen to what the House of Commons says in the meantime. It is all right for the Executive, who are all happy, as they know that they have won the day—[Interruption.] However, it is the civil servants who have won the day. This is about the Ministry of Defence saying, as it has always said, to all other members of the Government, "Is it not better to have a nice, tidy, clean, clear system, instead of those inconvenient people called Members of Parliament to whom you have to go and listen?"

Mr. Gerald Howarth

I do not think that my right hon. Friend heard the sedentary intervention of the Minister, who said, with the arrogance that characterises the Government, "And we will carry the day every day for the rest of this Parliament".

Mr. Gummer

Of course, the Minister is right, but he is wrong in one respect, as a majority of 170 ought to make someone more reticent, rather than triumphalist. Even if that were true of other Governments, the Minister should remind himself that he ought to do better than them. He should not say that they were wrong, but he was merely following them. Do not tell me that; it is the answer of the coward through the ages: one does what is wrong because someone else has done it.

The Under-Secretary should be ashamed of himself. Even more important, he should bear it in mind that no previous Government have treated an Armed Forces Bill in such a manner. The Under-Secretary should not tell us about the power of a majority because no previous Government have behaved in such a way. He cannot sit, self-satisfied—

Dr. Moonie

Yes he can.

Mr. Gummer

He can, but he would be wrong to do so, and I believe that he wants to be right. He is factually wrong; he claims that others have done what only he has had the arrogance to do. That is sad because the Under-Secretary is better than that. He should not have made such a comment to the House, which is treating the matter seriously.

The Government are wrong for a third reason: they thought that the House would allow them to get away with their behaviour. In practical terms, they can get away with anything. However, the Government and the Under-Secretary should remember that they have been warned by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and by the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence. If the Under-Secretary had seen some of the faces behind him earlier, when more of the experts were present, he would have realised that some other Labour Members believed that he was wrong. When the country knows what has happened, it will feel that he is wrong. The Government have damaged democracy tonight. They have been overweening in the use of their majority; they have removed from Parliament a duty that it has always had. In doing all that, they have done a grave disservice to Britain.

Mr. Blunt

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Government are about to attempt to move a closure motion. When you consider whether to accept it, I hope that you will bear in mind that I have been trying to catch your eye as a former service man and—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. That is hardly a point of order. Calling hon. Members to speak is entirely at the discretion of the Chair.

Dr. Moonie

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put—

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 72.

Division No. 41] [1.33 am
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dalyell, Tam
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Darvill, Keith
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Davidson, Ian
Austin, John Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry Dawson, Hilton
Battle, John Dobbin, Jim
Bayley, Hugh Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Beard, Nigel Donohoe, Brian H
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Doran, Frank
Berry, Roger Dowd, Jim
Betts, Clive Drew, David
Blackman, Liz Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blears, Ms Hazel Efford, Clive
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Ennis, Jeff
Brinton, Mrs Helen Etherington, Bill
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fisher, Mark
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Flint, Caroline
Browne, Desmond Follett, Barbara
Burgon, Colin Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gerrard, Neil
Cann, Jamie Gibson, Dr Ian
Casale, Roger Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Goggins, Paul
Chaytor, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Clapham, Michael Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clelland, David Grogan, John
Coaker, Vernon Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Coffey, Ms Ann Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cohen, Harry Hanson, David
Colman, Tony Healey, John
Connarty, Michael Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Cousins, Jim Hendrick, Mark
Cranston, Ross Hepburn, Stephen
Crausby, David Heppell, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith Pond, Chris
Hoey, Kate Pope, Greg
Hoyle, Lindsay Pound, Stephen
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Powell, Sir Raymond
Humble, Mrs Joan Primarolo, Dawn
Illsley, Eric Prosser, Gwyn
Jamieson, David Purchase, Ken
Jenkins, Brian Rapson, Syd
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Joyce, Eric Rooney, Terry
Keeble, Ms Sally Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Roy, Frank
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Ruane, Chris
Kilfoyle, Peter Sarwar, Mohammad
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Savidge, Malcolm
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Sawford, Phil
Laxton, Bob Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Leslie, Christopher Skinner, Dennis
Levitt, Tom Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Linton, Martin Smith, John (Glamorgan)
McAvov,Thomas Spellar, John
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
McDonagh, Siobhain Stevenson, George
Macdonald, Calum Stoate, Dr Howard
McDonnell, John Sutcliffe, Gerry
McFall, John Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McNamara, Kevin Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
McNutty, Tony Taylor, David (NW Leics)
MacShane, Denis Temple-Morris, Peter
McWilliam, John Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Mallaber, Judy Tippinq, Paddy
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Todd, Mark
Martlew, Eric Touhig, Don
Meale, Alan Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Miller, Andrew Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Mitchell, Austin Tynan, Bill
Moffatt, Laura Vis, Dr Rudi
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wareing, Robert N
Morley, Elliot Watts, David
Mountford, Kali Whitehead, Dr Alan
Mudie, George Wicks, Malcolm
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Wood, Mike
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Worthington, Tony
Osborne, Ms Sandra Wray, James
Palmer, Dr Nick Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin Tellers for the Ayes:
Pike, Peter L Mr. Mike Hall and
Pollard, Kerry Mrs. Anne McGuire.
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evans, Nigel
Baldry, Tony Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Bercow, John Fraser, Christopher
Blunt, Crispin Gale, Roger
Boswell, Tim Gibb, Nick
Brady, Graham Green, Damian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Grieve, Dominic
Browning, Mrs Angela Gummer, Rt Hon John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hammond, Philip
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hawkins, Nick
Burnett, John Hayes, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Heald, Oliver
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Chope, Christopher Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Clappison, James Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Keetch, Paul
Cran, James Key, Robert
Day, Stephen Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Duncan Smith, Iain Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward Sanders, Adrian
Letwin, Oliver Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Lidington, David Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Luff, Peter Spring, Richard
McIntosh, Miss Anne Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maclean, Rt Hon David Swayne, Desmond
McLoughlin, Patrick Syms, Robert
Moss, Malcolm Tapsell,Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Nicholls, Patrick Tyler Paul
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Walter, Robert
Öpik, Lembit Waterson, Nigel
Pickles, Eric Wilshire, David
Robathan, Andrew Yeo, Tim
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Ruffley, David Tellers for the Noes:
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Mr. John Randall and
St Aubyn, Nick Mr. James Gray.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment made:—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 9.

Division No. 42] [1.47 pm
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dawson, Hilton
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Dobbin, Jim
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Austin, John Donohoe, Brian H
Bailey, Adrian Doran, Frank
Barnes, Harry Dowd, Jim
Battle, John Drew, David
Bayley, Hugh Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Beard, Nigel Efford, Clive
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Ennis, Jeff
Berry, Roger Etherington, Bill
Betts, Clive Fisher, Mark
Blackman, Liz Flint, Caroline
Blears, Ms Hazel Follett, Barbara
Blunt, Crispin Gapes, Mike
Bradley, Keith (Withington) George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gerrard, Neil
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Gibson, Dr Ian
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Browne, Desmond Goggins, Paul
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Golding, Mrs Llin
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Burnett, John Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grogan, John
Cann, Jamie Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Casale, Roger Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hanson, David
Chaytor, David Healey, John
Clapham, Michael Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hendrick, Mark
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hepburn, Stephen
Clelland, David Heppell, John
Coaker, Vernon Hesford, Stephen
Coffey, Ms Ann Hill, Keith
Cohen, Harry Hoey, Kate
Colman, Tony Hoyle, Lindsay
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Cranston, Ross Humble, Mrs Joan
Crausby, David Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jamieson, David
Dalyell, Tam Jenkins, Brian
Darvill, Keith Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Rooney, Terry
Keetch, Paul Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kilfoyle, Peter Roy, Frank
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Ruane, Chris
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Laxton, Bob Sanders, Adrian
Leslie, Christopher Sarwar, Mohammad
Levitt, Tom Savidge, Malcolm
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Sawford, Phil
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Linton, Martin Skinner, Dennis
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McDonagh, Siobhain Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Macdonald, Calum Smith, John (Glamorgan)
McDonnell, John Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
McFall, John Spellar, John
McNamara, Kevin Squire, Ms Rachel
McNulty, Tony Starkey, Dr Phyllis
McWilliam, John Stevenson, George
Mallaber, Judy Stoate, Dr Howard
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Martlew, Eric Swayne, Desmond
Meale, Alan Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Ms Dan (Stockton S)
Mitchell, Austin Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Moffatt, Laura Temple-Morris, Peter
Moonie, Dr Lewis Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Morley, Elliot Tipping, Paddy
Mountford, Kali Todd, Mark
Mudie, George Touhig, Don
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Öpik, Lembit Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Osborne, Ms Sandra Tyler, Paul
Palmer, Dr Nick Tynan, Bill
Perham, Ms Linda Vis, Dr Rudi
Pickthall, Colin Watts, David
Pike, Peter L Whitehead, Dr Alan
Pollard, Kerry Wicks, Malcolm
Pond, Chris Wood, Mike
Pope, Greg Worthington, Tony
Pound, Stephen Wray, James
Powell, Sir Raymond Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn Tellers for the Ayes:
Purchase, Ken Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Rapson, Syd Mr. Mike Hall.
Baldry, Tony McIntosh, Miss Anne
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Nicholls, Patrick
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Tellers for the Noes:
Gummer, Rt Hon John Mr. David Wilshire and
Leigh, Edward Mr. Christopher Chope.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put:

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 20.

Division No. 43] [1.59 am
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Beard, Nigel
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Berry, Roger
Austin, John Betts, Clive
Bailey, Adrian Blackman, Liz
Barnes, Harry Blears, Ms Hazel
Battle, John Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bayley, Hugh Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Hendrick, Mark
Browne, Desmond Hepburn, Stephen
Burgon, Colin Heppell, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hesford, Stephen
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hill, Keith
Casale, Roger Hoey, Kate
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hoyle, Lindsay
Chaytor, David Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clapham, Michael Humble, Mrs Joan
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Illsley, Eric
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Jamieson, David
Clelland, David Jenkins, Brian
Coaker, Vernon Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Coffey, Ms Ann Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cohen, Harry Joyce, Eric
Colman, Tony Keeble, Ms Sally
Connarty, Michael Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Cousins, Jim Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Cranston, Ross Kilfoyle, Peter
Crausby, David King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Dalyell, Tam Laxton, Bob
Darvill, Keith Leslie, Christopher
Davidson, Ian Levitt, Tom
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Dawson, Hilton McAvoy, Thomas
Dobbin, Jim McDonagh, Siobhain
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Macdonald, Calum
Donohoe, Brian H McDonnell, John
Doran, Frank McFall, John
Dowd, Jim McNamara, Kevin
Drew, David McNulty, Tony
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) McWilliam, John
Efford, Clive Mallaber, Judy
Ennis, Jeff Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Etherington, Bill Martlew, Eric
Fisher, Mark Meale, Alan
Flint, Caroline Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Follett, Barbara Miller, Andrew
Gapes, Mike Mitchell, Austin
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S) Moffatt, Laura
Gerrard, Neil Moonie, Dr Lewis
Gibson, Dr Ian Morley, Elliot
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Mountford, Kali
Goggins, Paul Mudie, George
Golding, Mrs Llin Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Osborne, Ms Sandra
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Palmer, Dr Nick
Grogan, John Perham, Ms Linda
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Pickthall, Colin
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Pike, Peter L
Hanson, David Pollard, Kerry
Healey, John Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg Sutcliffe, Gerry
Pound, Stephen Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Powell, Sir Raymond
Primarolo, Dawn Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Prosser, Gwyn Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Purchase, Ken Temple-Morris, Peter
Rapson, Syd Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland) Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Rooney, Terry Touhig, Don
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Roy, Frank Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Ruane Chris Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Sarwar, Mohammad Vis, Dr Rudi
Savidge, Malcolm Wareing, Robert N
Sawford, Phil Watts, David
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Skinner, Dennis Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Wood, Mike
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S) Worthington, Tony
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Wray, James
Spellar, John Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Tellers for the Ayes:
Stevenson, George Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Stoate, Dr Howard Mr. Mike Hall.
Blunt, Crispin Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Maclean, Rt Hon David
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Öpik, Lembit
Burnett, John Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Chope, Christopher Sanders, Adrian
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Swayne, Desmond
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Tyler, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Tellers for the Noes:
Keetch, Paul Mr. David Wilshire and
Leigh, Edward Mr. Eric Forth.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That Rachel Squire, Mr. John Spellar, Dr. Lewis Moonie, Mr. David Clelland, Mr. Dave Watts, Ms Dari Taylor, Mr. David Crausby, Mr. Robert Key, Mr. Quentin Davies, Mr. John Randall and Mr. Paul Keetch be members of the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers, either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity relating to the provisions of the Armed Forces Bill.