HC Deb 30 October 2003 vol 412 cc448-505 1.13 pm
The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain)

I beg to move, That this House—

  1. 1. takes note of the Report of the Review Body on Senior Salaries on Pay for Select Committee Chairmen in the House of Commons presented to Parliament on 17th July (Cm. 5673);
  2. 2. approves the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges on Pay For Select Committee Chairmen (HC 1150); and endorses the principles set out in paragraph 16 of that report; and
  3. 3. expresses the opinion that—
    1. (a) with effect from the beginning of the next Session of Parliament, the salary of a Member should be £12,500 per annum higher than the figure determined in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution of the House of 10th July 1996 in respect of any period during which he is the Chairman of a select committee appointed under Standing Order No. 152 (Select Committees related to government departments), the Environmental Audit Committee, the European Scrutiny Committee, the Committee of Public Accounts, the Select Committee on Public Administration, the Regulatory Reform Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights or the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, other than to the extent that the provisions of sub-paragraph (c) apply;
    2. (b) a period begins for the purpose of sub-paragraph (a)—
      1. (i) with the day on which the Member becomes Chairman of such a committee, or
      2. (ii) with the beginning of the next Session of Parliament, in the case of a Member who became Chairman before that time;
    and ends on the day on which the Member ceases to be Chairman (or, if he is Chairman of more than one such committee, he ceases to be Chairman of the last of those committees);
  4. (c) there shall be disregarded for the purpose of subparagraph (a)—
    1. (i) any period which is of less than 24 hours duration; and
    2. (ii) any period, or part thereof, in respect of which the Member is also entitled to an additional salary by virtue of any provision of the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975;
  5. (d) reference to any Committee in sub-paragraph (a) shall—
    1. (i) if the name of the Committee is changed, be taken (subject to paragraph (ii)) to be a reference to the Committee by its new name; and
    2. (ii) if the functions of the Committee become functions of a different Committee, be taken to be a reference to the Committee by whom the functions are for the time being exercisable;
  6. (e) the provisions of paragraph (2) of the Resolution of the House of 10th July 1996 relating to Members' Salaries (No. 2) shall apply, with effect from 1st April 2004, to a salary determined in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (a) asihey apply in relation to a salary determined in accordance with the provisions of that Resolution; and
  7. (f) the Speaker shall have authority to interpret these provisions and to determine rules from time to time for their implementation.
In response to the last point of order, may I add that there are many such good shops in Neath as well?

The system of departmental Select Committees established by the House in 1979 has grown in stature and influence over the past two decades. The Committees have added significantly to the ability of the Commons to scrutinise and hold to account major Departments. The opportunity for sustained and close questioning in Committee provides a degree of forensic scrutiny that it is simply not possible to attain in other forums such as the Floor of the House of Commons. It is not surprising that the system of Committees that exercises that scrutiny function is generally regarded as one of the most important and effective mechanisms for ensuring ministerial accountability. The Government welcomes that. As my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), was keen to point out, good scrutiny means good government.

Since 1979, the Committees' workload has increased markedly. In addition to the task of holding ministers to account, they are responsible for a range of duties including the scrutiny of draft Bills, independent regulators and executive agencies. It was in recognition of the scrutiny Committees' important role, expanding tasks and increasing influence that the Modernisation Committee, then chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston, examined the extra burden that fell to Committee staff and Chairmen. The report recommended an increase in the resources available to the Committees, including a new central unit of specialist support staff the—scrutiny unit, which is now fully up and running—and a review of each Committee's staffing needs; a significant increase in staffing is now being implemented.

The Modernisation Committee also recommended that the Chairmen of the scrutiny Committees should be paid an additional salary. The additional amount is proposed in recognition of the extra work that those Chairmen are expected to undertake and in the hope that it will go some way towards creating a career path in Parliament as an alternative to the ministerial route, highlighting the value that Parliament and the Government place upon the scrutiny function of the House.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Although there is undoubtedly a compelling argument for the payment of the Chairmen of Select Committees, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a certain incongruity, to put it no more strongly, about the fact that the composition of Select Committees, whose purpose is to scrutinise the Executive, is determined by representatives of the Executive? Is that not something about which a modernising Leader of the House, be he part-time or full-time, should be properly concerned?

Mr. Hain

Obviously, concerns about this matter were debated a little while ago; in fact, it was last year when the House took a decision on it.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

I shall be candid: I am opposed to the proposed payment. I would be more satisfied, however, if there were to 132 a declaration of distance between the Government and the act of nominating or anointing people as Chairmen of Select Committees. For example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) was anointed to be Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after the general election as—one has to say this; I do not say it in a nasty way—a consolation prize for losing office. If there is a new career path structure, Ministers should be kept out of it. There should be a period of quarantine between leaving ministerial office and being Chairman of a Select Committee.

Mr. Hain

My hon. Friend makes his point with characteristic vigour, and it is similar to that made by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), but there is also an additional point—we as the Labour party have addressed this matter by changing the rules under which Select Committee membership is decided. The parliamentary party now has an opportunity to consider names and make a decision. Perhaps that is a practice that other parties in this House might follow.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

There are other parties in the House that would love to follow that practice, but unfortunately do not have fair representation in the membership of Select Committees, as the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) conceded on many occasions when he was Leader of the House. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered in proposing this extension of patronage the fact that no minority party in the House has a Select Committee Chairman, although they would be entitled to one in proportional terms, given the number of Select Committee Chairmen and the percentage of the composition of the House that is accounted for by minority parties? Will he alter these clear inequities before introducing measures for extending patronage?

Mr. Hain

I reject entirely the suggestion that the proposal is about extending patronage. It is a matter for the House to decide. Indeed, the House made its decision last year and requested that the Senior Salaries Review Body look into the matter. I am now following that up. I cannot see what there is to do with patronage in the question whether Select Committee Chairmen should be rewarded more fairly. As to how Chairmen are selected, the Committee of Selection is aware of the concerns of minority parties and is looking at them.

On 14 May last year, following a debate on the Modernisation Committee's report, the House resolved that the Review Body on Senior Salaries should be invited to consider what additional remuneration is appropriate for chairmen of select committees."—[Official Report, 14 May 2002; Vol. 385, c. 723.] The SSRB's report, which was published on 17 July this year, recommended a single level of additional payment for Chairmen of departmental and externally focused cross-departmental Committees amounting to £12,500 a year. I am grateful to the SSRB and its chairman, John Baker, for the work that it has done on this matter and for its usual careful consideration of the issues involved. The SSRB's recommendations form the basis of the motions that I bring before the House this afternoon.

There are two motions on the Order Paper. The first expresses the House's opinion on the matter; the second is an "effective motion" that is designed to give effect to the first "opinion motion" and is required in order that the Queen's recommendation can be signified to the Government expenditure that the motion will entail—in this case, the increased Exchequer contributions to Members' pensions. An explanatory memorandum has been made available in the Vote Office. I turn first to the amount that would be paid. The motion follows the SSRB in proposing that the pay of a Member who is a qualifying Chairman should be increased by £12,500 a year for the period during which they are Chairman. The motion provides for the increased salary to be uprated annually in the same way as Members' pay. The SSRB said that it has taken "a cautious initial approach" to Chairmen's pay and has announced its intention to revisit the issue of the pay of Committee Chairmen as part of its continuing fundamental reviews of parliamentary pay and allowances.

The intention is that the additional rate of Members' pay paid to Chairmen should be taken into account when calculating Members' pensions. The additional rate of pay would be treated for pension purposes in a similar way to Ministers' pay. If the House agrees to that principle today, I will bring forward regulations as soon as possible to amend the statutory instrument that contains the rules for the parliamentary contributory pension fund. The intention is that the regulations will have effect backdated to the beginning of next Session, so that Chairmen's pay would, in effect, be pensionable from the beginning. I understand that the chairman of the trustees is content with what is being proposed.

The House authorities have calculated that the cost of implementing the motion—based on payment of £12,500 to 25 Committees—will be in the region of £420,000 a year, including employer's pension and national insurance contributions, but not administration costs. If any qualifying Chairmen were not to take up the payment, the total cost would, of course, be reduced.

The motion follows the SSRB's recommendation in proposing that Chairmen's pay be limited to the Chairmen of the departmental Select Committees appointed under Standing Order No. 152 and seven externally focused cross-departmental Select Committees—the Environmental Audit Committee, the European Scrutiny Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Administration Committee, the Regulatory Reform Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

As the Leader of the House will know, as Chairman of the Procedure Committee I tabled an amendment that was unfortunately not selected. Bearing in mind that the Procedure Committee was not included among the number of Committees whose Chairmen were to receive remuneration under the Liaison Committee's report, will the Leader of the House reconsider the matter at an early date? Given that my own future time in the House is limited, I do not perhaps have a long-term vested interest, but I believe that the work of the Procedure Committee is very important to the House—and we do travel as part of our responsibilities.

Mr. Hain

I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman's point of view. The Procedure Committee is indeed an important Committee that plays a crucial role; and the hon. Gentleman's role is particularly distinguished. I am sure that the matter will continue to be considered. The Modernisation Committee can, of course, revisit it; and he, as a member of that Committee, can make further representations. I am equally happy to receive such representations from others.

The original Modernisation Committee report and the report of the SSRB were explicit in their recommendation 1 hat the additional salary should reflect the extra work undertaken by those Committees that are actively involved in the scrutiny of Government.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Although we all appreciate the work of the SSRB, many of us, including me, gave evidence to the Committee that it was not a salary that Chairs particularly wanted, but extra help to back us up in fulfilling our responsibilities. When I became Chairman of the Select Committee on Education and Skills two and half years ago, I used all my staff and parliamentary allowance, much of which was diverted to my work as a Chairman. What we really need is extra capacity for help in the office, not a salary.

Mr. Hain

My hon. Friend's point has been recognised, and extra resources are coming into Select Committees. However, that is not an alternative to rewarding Chairmen properly: it is a complement, or a parallel measure, to strengthen Select Committees. The point of the exercise is to reward those who, quite properly, place Ministers such as myself under scrutiny. We want to strengthen the democratic basis of the House of Commons and the role of scrutiny, and that is precisely what this measure achieves.

I understand that some Members are keen to recognise the contributions made by those in other positions in the House, as did the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton). Although there may be a strong argument for such financial recognition, the motions reflect the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, the decision of the House last May, and the opinion of the SSRB.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside)

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the likely response of the public to this extension of payment to certain Members of the House? He will be aware that when the Scottish Parliament awarded an extra payment to its Members, a public outcry followed. Does he not fear that there will be a similar outcry in this case?

Mr. Hain

There is always a reaction in the media and elsewhere when such matters are discussed, but this merits fair and balanced consideration, especially given that the rate was decided by an independent review body that was not influenced by the Government or by me, as Leader of the Commons. The SSRB, reflecting the House's decision that this was a proper matter for award, recommended a level of remuneration. I think that most members of the public would recognise that Select Committee Chairmen increasingly do an onerous and important job in holding the Government to account, especially a Government with as large a parliamentary majority as ours.

In my written statement announcing publication of the SSRB's report, I reported that I had asked the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges whether his Committee would look into the matter of Chairmen's outside interests. I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and his Committee for their work. The motion endorses the Committee's recommendation that there should be no question of, nor any appearance of, any double payment for outside activity arising primarily as a result of the chairmanship. If the House agrees to that principle, the Committee has said that it will develop guidelines for Chairmen.

The motions clarify when Chairmen's pay should be paid—that is, from the day on which a Member is elected Chairman of a qualifying Committee or, for those already serving as Chairmen, from the beginning of next Session until the day on which he or she ceases to hold the post. Ministers and other officeholders would be excluded from payment, as would those who served as Chairmen for less than one day. In case unforeseen circumstances arise, it is proposed that the Speaker be given authority to interpret the provisions and to make rules for their implementation.

I am sure that Members on both sides of the House would support the view that the scrutiny Committees add to Parliament's ability to achieve accountability from Government. The Government is keen to promote and facilitate changes that enhance scrutiny and the public perception of Parliament. The motions before the House reflect recommendations of the Modernisation Committee and the SSRB that are designed to achieve these ends. However, the decision is, of course, one for the House, not for the Government. It is in that spirit that I table the motions for debate and decision by the House.

1.23 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

I want to start by broadly endorsing the remarks of the Leader of the House and the content of the motions tabled in his name.

The House will recall that we agreed this matter in principle, albeit narrowly, some time ago; we are therefore returning to it simply to give it effect. It is important to remember, however, that that narrowness should make us sensitive to the fact that many hon. Members, perhaps some here present, were and are unhappy about the approach that we are taking: we should therefore show due caution.

The fact that the matter was referred to an outside body for determination means that, as the Leader of the House said, it should not in any way be interpreted as this House lining its own pockets. Although we have approved the principle, for reasons that I thoroughly support, it is worth recalling that the amount that was recommended, and is reflected in the motions, was set by that most independent of bodies, the Senior Salaries Review Body.

Mr. Salmond

I presume that the shadow Leader of the House, as a convinced free marketeer, accepts the principle of supply and demand in determining salaries. Has he noticed any shortage of supply of suitably qualified candidates to chair Select Committees? If so, does he believe that that should be taken into account?

Mr. Forth

Funnily enough, I was going to consider that point in a slightly different context. I shall comment later on its relevance to the Chairmen's Panel—a subject that is close to my heart and that I want to raise with the Leader of the House. In a sense, the hon. Gentleman is right. I suspect that if Members were paid nothing, there would be some eccentrics demanding to do the job. But that is not the modern way. We must accept that although some of us thoroughly enjoy the job, we are paid because we have to feed our families and pay our mortgages.

We are considering a different issue, which the Leader of the House mentioned briefly. It is important to set it in context and remind ourselves of where we come from. I have had the privilege of serving in the House for 20 years. I have been a Government Back Bencher and was privileged to be a Minister for some nine years. I have been an Opposition Back-Bench Member and I am currently in the shadow Cabinet. Who knows where I shall be in a week or so's time? All that gives me an interesting perspective. From the moment I arrived, I was conscious of an imbalance in the sense that although there is a career structure for those who want to be Ministers, there has never been such a structure in the House. For colleagues who may not want to become Ministers or may not have that privilege, it is important to acknowledge that there is a proper job to be done as a parliamentarian rather than a Minister. The motion and our votes in principle for the proposals a couple of years ago reflect a move towards that by acknowledging that it is proper to make some sort of payment in recognition not only of the additional responsibilities of being a Committee Chairman but of the alternative career structure that it could offer Members of Parliament. I endorse the motion on that basis.

One of the amendments that were not selected reflects questions about the SSRB's recommendation that only some Committee Chairmen should be paid. Like the Leader of the House, I am for the moment content to accept that we should proceed on that basis. However, I hope that we shall keep the matter in mind. I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton); I suspect that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will shortly make it again in his usual forceful way. He said that the list to which the Leader of the House referred is not sacrosanct and should not be regarded as the final word on this matter. Distinguishing between Select Committees and considering whether the distinction we make today is correct are contentious matters. We should feel free to revert to them after the House approves the motions.

Mr. Hain

I endorse the right hon. Gentleman's points. The motion should not be the final word on the matter. We should ascertain how the proposals bed down and how we proceed.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for those comments. I hope that they will give some comfort to those who are uneasy about the precise form of words.

The same argument applies to the amount of the additional salary that is being recommended. Again, I amplify the comments of the Leader of the House. Paragraph 2.30 on page 8 of the SSRB's report states: Taking all these issues into account we have decided to take a cautious initial approach to the pay of the Chairmen of the relevant committees. In so doing we announce our intention to revisit the pay of Committee Chairmen as part of our continuing fundamental reviews from time to time of parliamentary pay and allowances, the next to occur in 2003–04. By then, we may be better placed to assess whether or not the new "core tasks" become firmly bedded into the departmental Committee structure, and are delivering the wider scrutiny and investigative objectives envisaged by the Modernisation and Liaison Committees, and, if so, the consequences for the work of the Chairmen. That is a signal and a commitment to reconsider the matter so that we can continue to assess whether our actions constitute the right approach and whether the arrangements are having the desired effect.

The approach is rightly cautious at this stage but I am happy that the Leader of House has said that it will be kept under review.

Mr. Bercow

Although the Leader of the House dealt lightly and perhaps too briefly with my intervention about the basis for composing Select Committees, does my right hon. Friend agree that the composition of the Committees and the basis for deciding who becomes a Chairman are inextricably bound up with the question of pay? If we do not deal adequately with the need to democratise the chairmanship of the Committees, the Chairmen will literally become members of the payroll vote.

Mr. Forth

I am with my hon. Friend on that matter. His eagle eye will have noted that amendments that sought to deal with that problem were tabled, but sadly not selected. The controversial decision that the House made two years ago about our method of nominating members of Select Committees and the way in which those Committees subsequently choose their Chairmen—or not—means that we must revert to the matter as a result of our actions today. If one argues for an alternative career structure as a parliamentary matter, it is difficult to square that with procedure hitherto, which provides that the usual channels, the Whips, have an iron grip not so much on membership—the Government have probably gone further than us on that—but on chairmanships. If the House approves payment for Chairmen, the issue becomes even more relevant than when we previously considered the matter. When the Deputy Leader of the House winds up the debate for the Government, I hope that he will give us some encouragement.

Mr. Sheerman

The right hon. Gentleman is presenting a good analysis of the position. Although I missed a couple of minutes of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I do not believe that anyone has yet mentioned Lord Sheldon, whose input into all the deliberations was so important. He is the architect of much of the proposals.

Mr. Forth

I am more than happy to pay tribute to Lord Sheldon, a distinguished and long-serving Member of the House of Commons. If anyone feels any guilt about the proposals or the need to blame anyone else, Lord Sheldon can fill that role. That is doubly beneficial and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) for his intervention.

I do not wish to detain hon. Members; I have made my views clear. Although the vote is genuinely free, as it should be on such a parliamentary matter, I hope that my hon. Friends can support my view. I make one last plea to the Leader of the House about a subject that is close to my heart and relevant to the proposals. I believed from the start that those who genuinely deserved increased pay were the members of the Chairmen's Panel. That body carries out extraordinarily important work on behalf of the House in an unglamorous, usually unrecognised way. Without it, the House could not function. If I may say so without upsetting anyone present, Select Committee Chairmen enjoy much more; glamour and travel and are probably able to get more direct satisfaction from their work. They appear in the media and so on. Perhaps that is the wrong way round. Now that we have established the principle of additional pay and a parliamentary career structure, and if we accept the motions today to give effect to that, I hope that the Leader of the House and the Modernisation Committee will consider the Chairmen's Panel specifically, and perhaps other similar matters that they deem appropriate. I say that because I believe that it is important that the Chairmen's Panel attracts Members of the highest calibre and ability, and that we recognise and reward that appropriately. I hope, therefore, that if we can deal with this business satisfactorily today, get the details right and get on with it in a flexible way that is not set in concrete, the Modernisation Committee will allow us to move on and to deal with the matter of the Chairmen's Panel as a matter of urgency. I hope that the House will feel able to agree to the motions before it today, and I wish the Select Committee Chairmen well as a result.

1.40 pm
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

I am very conscious that my comments will probably not win me any friends. Nevertheless, I intend to try to persuade the House that the proposal before us is a very foolish one. I have to declare an interest. in that I do not think that Ministers should be part of the legislature. I would like them out of it. The relevance of that is that they would then be paid a ministerial salary, but not a parliamentary salary as well. A driving force behind my argument is to identify some parallels with junior Ministers.

I believe that people in the legislature should all be paid the same rate because we are doing the same job. We may have different functions within the legislature, but the same intensity, responsibility and integrity is required of each and every one of us. The fact that some people fulfil different functions does not mean that they work harder or have greater decision-making responsibilities. I accept that Ministers take executive action, but those of us who are not Ministers have to judge every day how far we can push, persuade and probe them, bearing in mind all the constraints of party politics—let us be frank about that.

Some Members are the patron saint of hopeless cases. What about the people who take up the really unpopular causes? I have not done that, but there are some who have. Such people show enormous courage, and for that reason they attract every pressure group and lost cause. The burden on them is enormous, but that is not reflected in their salary. It is dangerous to create a disparity between some Members of Parliament and others that is reflected in their salaries. As I have said, the situation is already distorted by Ministers. The gap between ministerial salaries and MPs' salaries is too big. Obviously, I would make an exception for the top echelon, for the people who preside in the Chair, and so on. By and large, however, the disparity is too great, and now we are going to compound it by having two tiers of Back-Bench Members. That is foolhardy in the extreme.

It would be perverse if we were to pass this measure today and exclude the Chairman of the Procedure Committee. That would be stark staring bonkers, frankly, and I hope that, if that happens, it will be remedied pretty damned quickly. But it is the principle of the matter to which I am opposed today, and I urge the House to reflect on that, even at this stage.

I listened carefully to what the shadow Leader of the House said. He made a good point in acknowledging that the members of the Chairmen's Panel do unglamorous work, which is not reflected in their salaries. That is absolutely correct. There will also be new cases; this problem will increase. There is a powerful case, for example, for the deputy Leader of the Opposition to be paid more. There could be a case to be advanced for some reflection of the Liberal party's role. People might disagree with the idea, hut we can advance the case for the leaders of political parties being paid more.

Mr. Forth

And the shadow Leader of the House.

Andrew Mackinlay

And the shadow Leader of the House in particular. He is in constant attendance in the House. Are we really suggesting that he pedals less fast on the treadmill than the Leader of the House? I just do not accept that. We all have different roles, and I hope that we are all working ourselves to the very limit. If some of us are not, people should know about it.

The shadow Leader of the House mentioned the unglamorous nature of the work done by the members of the Chairmen's Panel. They do that work very well. There are other people who do unglamorous work here and who are paid more for it. They are the junior Government Whips. I have nothing against them, but they are paid large sums of extra money, as compared with ordinary MPs, and they only have a walk-on part. They do not have much to say. The only thing they do is to stand up at the end of the day and say, "I beg to move that this House do now adjourn." What has always amazed me is that they cannot learn their line. They read it every night. I invite hon. Members to look, next time. Presumably this does riot apply to my distinguished colleague on the Front Bench this afternoon, but nine times out of 10 they cannot even rehearse their line. They have to stand up and read it from a folder, and they get £12,000 a year more for that.

I know how important the junior Whips are to the mechanisms and workings of Parliament. Of course I accept that. I am referring to the unglamorous nature of their work, because they have no speaking role in the House except to say, "I beg to move that this House do now adjourn."

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that this money should be spread more widely, why should it not be given to shadow Ministers? After all, they have to do an enormous amount of work in shadowing a particular portfolio, and they have very little support. If we are going to give extra money to those who have a high profile, would it not be quite right also to give it to those with a rather lower profile but who have to work extremely hard?

Andrew Mackinlay

The hon. Gentleman makes me feel wholly inadequate because he has made that point much better than I was trying to do. It is absurd to extend this measure to the Chairmen of Select Committees, because there will be a compelling case to compound the error of creating two tiers. There is a case for shadow spokespersons to have facilities, and the list could be endless. In a short space of time, we could have two tiers of Members of Parliament.

Sir Nicholas Winterton


Andrew Mackinlay

I am happy to give way to such a distinguished Member.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

That is very kind of the hon. Gentleman. The Chairmen's Panel consists of men and women who do a lot of unsung work that is vital to the way in which the House operates. In doing so, they forgo the opportunity of speaking in debates in the House, which would give them coverage not only in the national media but in their local media. Their role is very important and deserves to be valued in due course.

Andrew Mackinlay

That is a valid point. The House might like to reflect on whether it should adopt a practice from the House of Lords, where the equivalent of the Chairmen's Panel is much more extensive. Similarly, in the United States Congress, there are people who preside in the Chair when the Speaker is absent. That function should be spread around, and all of us should have the honour and the obligation to fulfil that function over the course of a Parliament at an equal rate. That would be much more sensible and equitable. It would mean that people were not preoccupied with fulfilling the important function of chairing Committees and being denied the opportunity to participate in debates in the House. I want parity of treatment in the House.

Mr. Salmond

Would membership of the Chairmen's Panel also be open to former Government junior Whips who have trouble reading out, "I beg to move that this House do now adjourn"?

Andrew Mackinlay

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, but I am in enough trouble as it is, and I have an appointment later with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) about some times at which I want to be absent from the House.

I was very sympathetic to the point that there is a need for increased back-up for the Select Committees and their Chairmen. I shall give an illustration, although I am not trying to denigrate my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench in any way. The junior Whips have the use of a Government car, but there may not be an overwhelmingly compelling case for them to do so. However, what they have, they hold—that is a good trade union principle—and I do not want to take it away from them. But if the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for example, had to go to the Chinese embassy or the Russian embassy one lunchtime, or if the Chairman of the Health Committee had to go over to the Department of Health at Elephant and Castle, they would have to go by public transport. There is nothing wrong with that, but if the reason for having a car is to expedite and maximise the scarce time and resources of people with a great deal of responsibility, there is a case for allowing the Chairmen of Select Committees to have them as well. The case for a car is much more compelling than the case for increasing their salaries. I am sympathetic to their need for facilities, including cars, but not to the proposal to increase their salaries.

As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), this issue is inextricably bound up with the question of how Select Committee members are chosen. I hope that those who do not share my view that there should be more parity in salary terms, including Ministers, will join me in opposing the motion until we have a better system for the selection of Committee members and the selection—or anointing—of Chairpersons. Regardless of whether Labour, Conservatives or Liberal Democrats are in government, the Government of the day in particular—although this will also be true of Opposition Whips—will have a compelling wish, and the capacity, to mould Select Committees to the best likeness of the Government.

The Leader of the House explained the function of Select Committees, and said that he welcomed scrutiny. I accept that that is his view, and also that it is the desirable view; but I think we are being proud of ourselves prematurely if we imagine we have developed our Select Committee systems to the necessary extent. We have not yet done that, and I do not believe that this proposal will advance the position. In a sense, we have not earned what is being proposed.

I assume that after Christmas we shall have an opportunity to discuss the Hutton inquiry. I do not want to trespass on that territory at this stage—I am putting myself in purdah—but in that context as in others the whole issue of scrutiny is at stake. There is, for instance, a big question mark over whether the Osmotherley rules can be reinforced to prevent people from appearing before Committees. There is also a question mark over whether the green light can be given for public servants, Ministers and people in the private sector to appear before Committees and obfuscate. I hope that at some stage the Standards and Privileges, Liaison and Procedure Committees will consider how we can ensure that such people tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is relevant to what we are discussing because, as I have said, I think it premature for us to imagine that we have reached a satisfactory stage in terms of scrutiny. Independence must be earned, and that returns us to the question of how people are selected.

At the time of the Iraq war, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) resigned ministerial office. I cannot find words adequate to acknowledge how courageous and principled his resignation was. Nevertheless, I was equally amazed by what happened text. The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee became a Minister—I believe, incidentally, that he voted against the war—and there was then a vacancy for the post of Home Affairs Committee Chairman. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen, having been a Home Office Minister, suddenly became Chairman of the Committee.

No matter how distinguished and principled that gentleman was, or is—indeed, that is beyond doubt—I consider it wrong for someone to chair a Select Committee that will scrutinise the Department in which until recently he was a Minister. I think that that is stark staring bonkers.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

That followed a recommendation from the parliamentary Labour party to the Labour members of the Home Affairs Committee. The key question is this, however: if the parties are to be instrumental in placing people on Select Committees, should their procedures be published? It is, after all, openness and transparency that are so important.

Andrew Mackinlay

My hon. Friend and I have discussed the issue informally. He attaches great importance to the fact that Labour's parliamentary committee—the equivalent of the 1922 committee—decided that the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen should chair the Home Affairs Committee. I think he sees it as something of an advance. I want to be generous this afternoon, but it is at best a marginal advance.

We are talking about party patronage. What if it became the norm in our party and thereby, ipso facto, became part of the British constitution? Along with others, I joined Conservative Members to install the late Sir Robert Adley as Chairman of the Transport Committee in place of the person nominated by agreement between the Conservative Whips in 1992. I would have been denied that opportunity had the parliamentary committee said "No: this is the person for whom you, Mackinlay, must vote". In fact it said that anyway, but I felt confident enough, as I was following the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). She and I, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Keith Hill), baulked at being told who to choose. We honoured the choice of a Conservative Chairman, but it was Robert Adley whom we chose—and we could not have done so under the system proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice).

Before agreeing to these motions, the House should take account of an arrangement that has just been implemented by our cousins in the Ottawa Parliament. They have instituted their first ever secret ballot—we know how interesting those are, do we not?—for committee members to choose their chairpersons. If we did the same here, there might be a case for these proposals.

Mr. Forth

Just to dot the i's and cross the t's, may I ask whether the, hon. Gentleman favours the continuation of a rough apportionment of Chairs according to party before Committee members are allowed to select? Otherwise, given an imbalance in the House of the kind that currently exists, there would be a risk that every Chairman would be a member of the Labour party.

Andrew Mackinlay

That is a racing certainty. Yes, I think there should be an apportionment. I also think—as, I believe, did Gladstone, whose fingerprints were on the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee—that in some instances there should be a presumption that the Chairperson is not a member of the governing party. That would mean a sacrifice, but it would he in the interests of democracy. I hope that the Leader of the House will leave office—having, I hope, held it for longer than his immediate predecessors—knowing that he has revolutionised some of our procedures. I am thinking both of changes in our methods of selection and of the possibility of a presumption—I use the word advisedly—that some Committees should be chaired by a member of a party other than the governing party.

I want to frame my final point in the form of a question, phrased somewhat facetiously. The Foreign Secretary and I have argued repeatedly about the Intelligence and Security Committee. He claims that the fact that it is not a Committee of the House of Commons constitutes a distinction rather than a difference. I say that it has absolutely nothing to do with the House of Commons. It is not paid for by the House of Commons, and it is not clerked by the House of Commons; it is clerked by the Cabinet Office. The chairman and secretary are anointed by the Prime Minister.

What do the Government intend in regard to the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee? She cannot be paid with House of Commons money, because the ISC is not a parliamentary Committee. If she were paid with Government money through some Executive action, it would mean that she held an office of profit under the Crown, and she would therefore be disqualified from holding office in the House of Commons. If the concept that the ISC is somehow equal to or comparable with a parliamentary Committee—the concept of a distinction without a difference—is to survive, primary legislation will be required. I am, in a sense, saying to the Leader of the House, "Discuss." I should like to hear his views.

All that should take place against the backdrop of the Foreign Affairs Committee's recommendation that the ISC should be made a Committee of the House of Commons, appointed by the Howe of Commons, inadequate though its appointment procedures are. As I have said, I should like them to be improved.

This is another increment my argument to the House that the motion is premature and has not been adequately thought out. There is the question of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and the heart of the matter is how we select the members and appoint the Chairmen of our Select Committees. We have not yet earned the reputation for providing adequate scrutiny in this place; we are only scratching the surface. We know of the obstructions that have been put in our way; every Committee could give evidence on how it has been obstructed and misled. Until such time as we grapple with these big issues, it is wholly wrong to advance money for the so-called Chairmen of these Committees.


Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), and not for the first time; I hope that that does not embarrass him. Indeed, I represented some of the views that he has expressed when the Modernisation Committee discussed this matter, a point to which I shall return. However, I should draw to his attention the fact that there are precedents for Members receiving additional salary, over and above their parliamentary salary. I am talking not just about the Speaker and the Deputy Speakers, who, as we all accept, hold very onerous positions. The Leader of the Opposition receives a considerable salary—[Interruption.] Well, there is a problem here to which attention needs to be drawn. Let us consider a hypothetical situation in which, numerically, the two Opposition parties are within one seat of each other after the next general election. If one Member transfers from the Conservative Benches to the Liberal Democrat ones, he comes with £500,000. That is a considerable incentive, perhaps, although I am not making an offer. That could be a very interesting transfer fee, and some percentage might be considered.

I should draw the attention of the hon. Member for Thurrock to appendix F of the Senior Salaries Review Body report, on page 18. Considerable sums are involved, and I should also point out that a car and driver are made available to the Leader of the Opposition at public expense. The point that the Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee made about the resources available to the Chairmen of Select Committees is very valid, and although we have made some modest improvements in that regard, that remains the core issue, rather than the question of salary incentives. I shall return to that point a little later.

This afternoon's discussion is extremely important. As the Leader of the House and the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) said, we are talking about not servants of the Executive or those who are simply aspirant Ministers, but servants of Parliament: those who believe that serving the nation and their constituents in an effective Parliament that holds the Executive to account is not just an honourable profession, but an extremely important one. In that respect, I very much share the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst.

Naturally, those colleagues on both sides of the House who endorsed my amendments appreciate and respect the decision not to select them. We understand the dynamics of this place, but I would be letting them down if I did not express some disappointment at that decision. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House can give us explicit assurances in respect of concerns already expressed—not least by the hon. Members for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) and for Thurrock—about the way in which the package has unravelled, a point to which I shall also return.

The clear mood of the House this afternoon is that this is not a full stop. I hope that the Government will make it clear that the wider concerns already expressed today—they were expressed extensively during the debate of 14 May last year and are reflected in the reports—will be considered very carefully in an appropriate forum.

In the meantime, I yield to absolutely nobody—whether inside or outside this House—in my admiration and support for the increasingly effective scrutiny by Select Committees. It is clear that the question of the leadership of those Committees is extremely important. The hon. Member for Thurrock, in his usual modest way, expressed some reservations about the extent to which the Hutton inquiry has demonstrated that our own processes are not fully adequate to the task that we set for our colleagues who do that job. I accept that, but at least we are moving in the right direction. What we must make clear this afternoon is whether the effort to improve the way in which Select Committees operate in future is being helped or hindered. I would suggest that, to some extent, the jury is still out.

I am not selective in my admiration for Select Committees, so I shall not be selective in my admiration for the Modernisation Committee, of which I am delighted to have been a member since its inception. I want to draw the attention of the House, and of the Leader of the House in particular, to the package of recommendations put to the House in February 2002. It was not just a one-off proposal to pay the Chairmen of Select Committees; it was an entire package. We have referred to the resources issue, which is extremely important. On that occasion, we made an important point about limitation on term. It was clear that, if we were to pay Members to be Chairmen of Select Committees, it would unreasonable to specify an unlimited period, given that there are many volunteers. So we recommended a period of two Parliaments, with special provisions applying if a speedy change should occur between general elections. Indeed, when we last debated this issue, we effectively wrote in a limitation on term, so to some extent that concern has been met.

Other concerns were expressed, however. Although it is clearly right to try to devise an alternative career path, it has to be done in the context of specific safeguards. Limitation on term is one safeguard, but it is not the most important. It is even more vital that the House regain overall responsibility for and the right to supervise the appointment of members of Select Committees. Here, I very much endorse the concerns expressed by the hon. Members for Buckingham and for Thurrock—in other words, on both sides of the House—about unfinished business. I do not want to take away from the parliamentary parties the right to make nominations, but there must be a safeguard. Some opportunity must exist for appeal—for this House to take responsibility for who is to serve it on Select Committees; otherwise, there will always be a question mark about increased patronage on the part of those who, although they may not want to muzzle Select Committees, may want to finesse the way in which they are led.

I have the greatest respect for the current team of Select Committee Chairmen, regardless of party. I hope that I am not embarrassing the one or two who are present. Many of the Chairmen have past ministerial experience, and I suspect that that helps. I am not sure that the immediate jump from one part of the political spectrum into that role is quite as admirable as some would suppose. I yield to no one in my respect for the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), but the hon. Member for Thurrock makes a good point: does leaving a Department and then becoming Chairman of the relevant Select Committee provide an opportunity to find the skeletons that much quicker? That is possible. On the other hand, does the new Chairman arrive with a mindset that makes scrutiny less effective?

Safeguards are extremely important. We should consider the question of it being thought, whether inside or outside this House, that the Whips Offices have effectively given themselves extra leverage over existing Select Committee Chairmen, whereby they say, "Take it easy, boy, because we've got an important and difficult job to do. By the way, you do remember that your salary is to some extent dependent on the support of your Whips Office." That is an extremely important issue. Even if that were not the reality, but the perception was that in some way or other, the effectiveness of a Select Committee and its leadership was in any way being hampered by the new financial pressures that the Whips Office could exert, that would be very damaging indeed.

Mr. Bercow

Given that, under our procedures, a period of time must elapse between the departure of a Minister and his assumption of commercial responsibilities relating to the Department of which he was previously part, does the hon. Gentleman think, further to the intervention of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), that the same principle should apply to departing Ministers who take over the chairmanship of Select Committees?

Mr. Tyler

That is a very positive suggestion, to which I was about to come. The comparison that the hon. Gentleman makes with a ministerial exit is very valid; indeed, I had not thought of that way of approaching the issue. It would be a good solution. I very much hope that the Government will respond to that specific point.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

To reinforce the hon. Gentleman's case, I recall that when the Conservatives came to office, Labour took control of the Social Services Select Committee and wished to appoint the immediately prior Secretary of State for Social Services—David Ennals, who became Lord Ennals—as the Chairman of that Select Committee. I have to say that some colleagues, including Labour Members, and I prevented that from occurring for the very reason that has been suggested. We had the chairmanship put in the safe hands of the then hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field).

Mr. Tyler

Many of us will recall that example, even if we were not Members of Parliament at the time. It demonstrates the value of having a degree of independence, which leads to effective and independent scrutiny.

I want to refer to a couple of other issues that were the subject of the amendments. I find it odd that there is such confusion about the dividing line between the Committees that should receive the additional remuneration for their Chairs and those that should not. The Modernisation Committee had a different dividing line, as did the Liaison Committee in its original report—I see the Chairman of that Committee in his place—from the one that is specified now.

I am unclear about how the dividing line has been drawn. Have the Government leaned on the SSRB, or has it come completely independently to the view that,

for example, the procedure of the House is less important than the work of the Environmental Audit Committee? Or is that Committee being treated somehow as a domestic Select Committee rather than a scrutiny Select Committee? I do not understand that. The reference in paragraph 2.02 of the SSRB report does not deal with that particular problem, but leaves it open as to where the dividing line should be drawn. I would like to be assured that the concerns expressed to the House this afternoon—they reflect issues raised in our debate of 14 May and again in the SSRB report—have been properly addressed.

I understand the point of view of the nationalists. Although, thank goodness, I no longer have any role in those concerns, it is a matter for direct negotiation with the Government and both sides were happy to take the issue on. However, it is a private fight, in which I do not want to indulge—

Mr. Salmond

As the hon. Gentleman has indulged himself a little, I will allow him to indulge himself some more. Surely, if a change is being proposed in respect of the payment of Select Committee Chairman, it is only reasonable that any outstanding issues concerning the method of selection are addressed before further changes are made. Is that not a relevant matter?

Mr. Tyler

I am not saying that it is irrelevant, but that it is a dialogue to which I do not intend to contribute. I take the point that several outstanding issues have not yet been addressed.

I shall return to the motion. Given the comments of the Leader of the House, an outside observer might consider that there was consensus on all the issues, but that is simply untrue. It is clear even in the SSRB report that there was far from consensus on the critical issue. Paragraph 41 of the original report of the Modernisation Committee referred to the principle of payment of Select Committee Chairs, and I hope that the House will forgive me if I read a few lines because it is highly relevant. It states: This is not a matter on which there is any consensus in the House. The Chairman of the Liaison Committee in his evidence to us was frank that the chairmen themselves of the select committees hold opposing views. This difference of opinion was reflected in our own Committee. We are unanimous in agreeing that the post of chairman of departmental select committees attracts a heavy workload and a substantial responsibility. There are some, however, who attach importance to the principle that all backbench Members should receive the same salary and believe that there would be dangers in relating pay to workload which can vary for many reasons among Members. That is far from a ringing endorsement of the principle that has been put before the House this afternoon. There are a great many outstanding issues, such as those highlighted in the Select Committee report from which I have just quoted—we are paying tribute to the work of Select Committees this afternoon. I take those issues from the report as our starting point this afternoon.

The question of incentives has already been mentioned. I believe that the incentive to attract talent to this job has nothing to do with salary. I am sure that all hon. Members who have served in that capacity would agree. What about salary or pension eligibility?

Are they uppermost in the minds of former Ministers and other hon. Members when they reflect on whether to take on the additional responsibility? That is surely nonsense. I do not believe that that is what discourages hon. Members from contemplating that alternative career path to the ministerial route.

We then come to the issue of volunteers. When I was my party's Chief Whip and had some minor considerations to reflect on—sadly, we do not get very many opportunities—I can tell hon. Members that there was no lack of very able volunteers. I have never heard that other political parties ever had difficulty in getting people to volunteer to be Chairs of Select Committees. The incentive argument is, frankly, absurd.

Mr. Forth

Without wanting to tread on overly delicate territory, would the hon. Gentleman concede that his argument might not apply in respect of the Chairmen's Panel? The work and the perception of the work of a Chairman of a Select Committee in comparison with that of a member of the Chairmen's Panel is very different. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the incentive argument might apply to the one, if not to the other?

Mr. Tyler

I agree precisely with the right hon. Gentleman—indeed, that was my next point. It looks as though we collude on these occasions, but far from it. I would not want to put the right hon. Gentleman in a difficult position with the new leader of his party. Yes, of course what he says is true: the service that hon. Members give to the House in chairing Standing Committees is unparalleled. Taking on that responsibility certainly brings hon. Members no benefit as regards constituency or media coverage. However, that is not the only responsibility that Members accept.

I can spare the right hon. Gentleman's blushes by acknowledging that some colleagues spend a lot of time serving on the House of Commons Commission, which can be an onerous responsibility. Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is spent on the administration of the House, and the Commission supervises that to ensure that the job is done effectively. I am not aware of any significant personal benefits from carrying out that function. Occasionally, the Speaker might call someone on the Commission to speak, but I suspect that it would be on the grounds of their contribution to the debate.

Andrew Mackinlay

I wholly agree with the hon. Gentleman in pointing out the extra work and additional contribution made by hon. Members in those positions, but the $64,000 question is where one stops and draws the line. That is what has to be answered this afternoon. What the hon. Gentleman says makes a compelling case to pay those Members more in a future Parliament and we will end up with two—tier MPs.

Mr. Tyler

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, which is why I tried to widen the debate, as he did, a few moments ago. If we do not discuss the context of the proposals, we are not doing our duty. I am sorry to see that the Leader of the House has left us temporarily and I hope that the Deputy Leader will be able to call him hack. Without proper assurances, many of those who supported the amendments that I tabled will feel that they have to vote against the motion and divide the House. If we had been allowed to vote on those amendments, that embarrassment could have been avoided. The natural inclination of many of us would be make our points on the amendments and then let the motion proceed. I have no doubt that others will share the view of the hon. Member for Thurrock—now that we have been denied that opportunity, if the House is divided he will gain support from other hon. Members. I want to return to the issue of incentives. The remit that the House gave—or was it the Government; I am not sure exactly how it was devised—to the SSRB precluded a discussion about the wider issue of incentives and who else should be considered. In that respect, the SSRB has answered the question that it was given, but it was the wrong question. That puts us in an invidious position.

I endorse the point made by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), which is accepted on both sides of the House: adequate resources to ensure a degree of independence from reliance on Government information and data is critical to making Chairs of Select Committee as effective as possible.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

The hon. Gentleman is displaying his case in an analytical way that is very helpful. I remind him that the SSRB was fairly specific in respect of the list of Committees whose Chairmen would receive remuneration, but that its recommendation clearly states that the final decision on which Committees to include should be determined by the House itself. However, the House is being denied that opportunity this afternoon. I ask the rhetorical question: why?

Mr. Tyler

I echo that rhetorical question. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will ask it again later, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

My central point is that I believe that we are being asked to adopt a piecemeal approach to a matter that is very important for the reputation of Parliament, the way that it operates and the sort of people that are attracted into different jobs here. We have been taken into this rather absurd and narrow cul de sac by the way in which the SSRB remit was devised, by the report that it made and by the way in which we are having to deal with the motion this afternoon.

That is most unfortunate. It would not be appropriate for the SSRB to look at the wider issues. It is asked to do very specific tasks. Its responsibility, background and experience are not appropriate when it comes to deciding how the House should remunerate those key people who serve the nation through serving the House.

Another body—perhaps the Modernisation Committee, I do not know—will have to look at the wider issues. I hope that the Minister will give the House a specific assurance that the matter is not a fait accompli and that we have not reached the end of the road in respect of it. The Government must recognise that there are wider and very serious concerns on all sides of the House. Those matters have been represented in the amendments in today's Order Paper, and in this afternoon's debate. It would not be appropriate to refer the matter again to the SSRB. Only this House, with the advice of an appropriate Select Committee, can make these important decisions. The future reputation of hon. Members as effective scrutineers of what the Executive do is at stake.

2.22 pm
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

As Chairman of the Liaison Committee, I should like to make a few remarks in response to the arguments that have been advanced. First, what we are discussing today is not a choice between pay and extra staff. When I first became Chairman of the Committee, I had discussions with every other Select Committee Chairman. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the sheer inadequacy of the support provided to the Committees.

I made a recommendation to the House of Commons Commission, which fortunately it accepted, that we should have an independent review and that that review should include the membership of the National Audit Office, so that everyone could see that it was absolutely objective. The review took place, and made major recommendations in respect of changes to the back-up provided for Select Committees. In fairness to the Government and to the Commission, I must say that both have accepted the recommendations.

The problem of those in the process of being recruited at the moment is thus being addressed. The problem that we are discussing today is separate, and I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) somewhat.

I spent 22 years on the Front Bench, but for most of that time I was on the wrong side of the House. I want to assure Opposition Members glumly anticipating a similar experience that the House must recognise that Front-Bench Members of all Opposition parties put in an enormous amount of work, with minimal back-up. Often, they have to respond at very short notice to statements and so on. If they go unrewarded, they do so in the hope of rewards in the future, when their party comes to government.

Today's proposal is, like the proposal on staffing, the result of an independent review. The recommendation comes not from the House of Commons but from the Senior Salaries Review Body. The list that was referred to was compiled by the SSRB, not the Government. My reading of the report suggests that the list is based on the division into investigative and non-investigative functions. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Wintertor.) is the Chair of the Procedure Committee, and I make the point to him that the report recommends that the final choice in respect of the list should be left to the House of Commons.

The Government has acted appropriately in putting forward the list recommended by the independent SSRB review. Unfortunately, there is no provision today to allow hon. Members to discuss amending that list. For example, hon. Members might have decided to remove some Committees from the list: one that is listed, which I will not name, incurs a minimal amount of extra work. By contrast, if the amendment tabled by the Chair of the Procedure Committee had been selected, I would have supported it, as I think that there is a case to be made for his Committee's inclusion. I hope that that will be borne in mind, and that we will be able to put forward some recommendations before the next SSRB review in the spring.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but the SSRB recommendations state that the final decision on the Committees to be included in the list should be made by the House. That means that the House does not have to accept the SSRB's recommendations. Does it not seem extraordinary that we have no opportunity today to consider amendments that might amend that list—bearing in mind the reservations expressed by the right hon. Gentleman about a Committee that has been included?

Mr. Williams

I believe that that would have been much more in the spirit of the findings of the report—but I must be careful, as I value my good relationship with the Chair. I am not aware of the procedural background or the precedents in respect of amendments to motions of this kind. It might have been helpful if the House had been able to amend the list, but the hon. Gentleman must pursue that matter with the Chair.

Some of the men and women who chair Select Committees have indicated that they may not take the pay. As I pointed out, that is up to them, and it is no reason for them to oppose the recommendation. No one is going to force feed them money, but they are able to choose whether they take the salary on offer.

The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) is Chair of the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges. I have served with him for some time. His Committee has recommended that Chairs should not be able to have a double income. Does he believe that they should be allowed to accept an income from articles about the work of their Committees? I think that the answer may be implicit in what he has said, and I do not expect him to answer me now. He has undertaken that he will give advice to Select Committee Chairmen, and I hope that he will consider the matter before he and the House of Commons Commission compile that advice.

The salary involved is not princely like a Minister's salary. It is less than half what a Parliamentary Private Secretary gets. In terms of career structure, being a Select Committee Chairman is a start, but it is not on the same track as a PPS. I shall say why that is doubly unfair.

Most hon. Members want to have experience as a Minister. Any hon. Member who has carried out the duties of such a post will recognise the privilege of being able to do something with politics. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) and other hon. Members have pointed out, it seems wrong that there is a tendency for those, such as myself, who have enjoyed the enormous privilege of being a Minister to step down from the preferred track and immediately or relatively quickly switch across to the other track, thereby excluding those who have never had ministerial experience.

Andrew Mackinlay

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for saying that. I did not wish to interrupt his flow because I totally agree with him. Equally, it should at least be a convention in the House that, if a person accepts the chairmanship of a Select Committee, he or she will not accept an offer from a Prime Minister to become a junior Minister in the lifetime of that Parliament. What happens is that the Prime Minister phones up and says, "Would you like to be Under- Secretary of State for paperclips and statues?" and they say, "Yes", and ditch the Select Committee pretty damn quick. That is the great tragedy.

Mr. Williams

Part of the trouble is that most hon. Members are in politics not just to chair Committees, with respect. We chair Committees because we feel that it is a job that needs doing, and some of us get a perverse sort of kick out of doing it. Very few people who are elected to the House do not have some ministerial ambition, and there is nothing wrong with that ambition. The chairmanship route is limited in the time that the post can be occupied. A ministerial post is only limited by the good will of the Prime Minister of the day. Many people carry on for 10 or 15 years in government; others never have the good fortune to experience that. So it is important that the chairmanships that are on offer should not be given as compensation to those who have experienced ministerial office, as they have already had a Minister's salary and the redundancy pay that they get as a Minister.

May I put in a bid to the Minister in support of what various hon. Members have said? Other hon. Members do jobs that are singularly unrewarding. I am enjoying my job as Chairman of the Liaison Committee, but frankly, I can think of nothing more horrendous that being condemned to chair Standing Committees. Many Members enjoy that very much, but they give up an enormous amount of time. They also lose a lot of political opportunity to spend their time in more politically advantageous activities. So I ask the Minister—again, he need not make any firm commitment—to discuss with the Leader of the House the possibility of setting up a similar review for the Chairmen's Panel to find out whether those Chairmen should also be included in some way. I leave that open, but my inclination is that they should be included and an independent review would at least be advantageous.

Of course I support the proposition before the House, but my final point is that, if anything, the role of Select Committees must become more important, or they will begin to wither. Hutton has presented Parliament and the Government with a clear choice. We must not fail to get our act together properly in allowing Select Committees to investigate the Executive by sorting out which witnesses they can call and what papers that they can demand, after the gulf that has been demonstrated by Hutton in what has been available to the Foreign Affairs Committee compared with what is being made available to the external inquiry.

If we do not grasp the nettle now and revisit the Osmotherley rules, which have been referred to, I suspect that more and more pressure will come from the public to take significant inquiries outside the control of the House and put them into more judicial hands. That would not be advantageous for democracy. We are here to investigate and interrogate the Executive, but the Executive have to understand that that imposes duties on them to be as co-operative as possible with the Committees.

Mr. Tyler

I am listening with great care to the case that the right hon. Gentleman is making, which reflects concerns on both sides of the House, and it is extremely helpful to hear it come from him. Given that, to some extent, the Liaison Committee started the ball rolling about reviewing the role of Select Committees, will he consider whether his Committee might take the initiative in looking again at this issue, with the example of the Hutton inquiry in mind?

Mr. Williams

I have already initiated the start of such a review by the Clerks to the Liaison Committee, and the Public Administration Committee is undertaking such an inquiry. It is inconceivable that, post-Hutton—we have to let Hutton get out of the way so that we can take a less impassioned perspective—we will not try to pick out what lessons need to be addressed by the House and by the Government if the Select Committees are to be seen by the public, which is what matters, as fully able to hold the Executive to account. That is crucial for the House of Commons.

2.36 pm
Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)

I do not wish to be a fly in the ointment, but I am afraid that even though I would stand to benefit and my Select Committee is one of the four biggest in the House, I think that the entire concept of there being a scrutiny role separate from a Front-Bench or ministerial role is deeply intellectually confused and does not work in practice. I say that because it represents an attempt to graft the concepts of a Congress on to the practice of a Parliament, and I do not think that that works.

If we have separation of powers—if the Executive are separate from the legislature—we can have scrutiny Committees that work effectively, and people know when they are elected to that legislature that they are not aspiring to ministerial or Executive office. However, in the House, the attempt to make a distinction between those two things is very difficult to achieve in practice. I can see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) is getting agitated.

Mr. Forth

How well my right hon. Friend knows me. Does he believe that this pass was sold when we set up the Select Committees back in 1979–80? What we are discussing is a more mechanistic aspect, but the role and functions of Select Committees was an aspiration that we expressed back then and subsequently turned into practice. If he wants to query the role, purpose and existence of the Select Committees, I might be rather with him on that, but does he not think that we have passed that point?

Mr. Curry

I do not think that we have passed that point. I am not aware that the rationale for setting up the Select Committees was to create a parallel career path. That notion has been introduced a great deal more recently to the debate. If we look at the reality, one wonders whether we will see a break between what is happening now and what will happen in the future.

Those Select Committee chairmanships that are in Conservative hands are very largely in the hands of ex—Ministers. I am an example and, although I hasten to add that my right hon. Friend the Member for North—West Hampshire (Sir George Young) would not benefit from the proposals, he is another example. Let us consider the most spectacular example of recent Labour practice. I think that I am right in saying that the Under—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), was Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. He was then made a Minister. He then reverted to being Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, in which role he made some serious points about how much more preferable it was to be in that position. He then became a Minister again. The Chair of that Committee was filled by the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), who had recently resigned from the Government. That is an example of the practice. Are we going to say that there will be a total break from that practice? I regret that example—there is much that is ill about it. The arguments for some sort of quarantine period are valid.

I am pointing out the extent to which the present practice is likely to change if there is supposed to be a decent ethos. When we swap sides in this House, which I am sure will happen much more rapidly than the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), suggested a short while ago, I bet my bottom dollar that there will be a great many ex-ministerial candidates lining up to chair Select Committees. That is not a bad thing. The Select Committees are there to scrutinise Government Departments. Knowing how Departments work is an asset that can be brought to that role. It is not an indispensable asset—I am not saying that other qualities are not required—but it is important to have that asset too.

Of course, it would help if the control of the Whips were relaxed. The Leader of the House said that it has been; I will describe in a minute why I do not think that that has made a great deal of difference to the functioning of the Select Committees.

A practical consideration comes to mind. When people enter the House, are they going to sign up to say that they want to be on the scrutiny or on the ministerial ambition side? Will there be a red, green or blue channel—a trajectory that we describe for ourselves? Will it be possible to change channels? Can one buy oneself out of one channel and into the other if circumstances change? If the Prime Minister is good enough to say, "You've impressed me so much in your scrutiny role that I would like that dialectical and analytical mind at the service of my Government", is one going to say, "Sorry, guy, I've signed up for this role and I will forgo the services I can render to the nation in ministerial office"?

Andrew Mackinlay

Would it be unreasonable to expect someone who is selected to chair a major Select Committee at the beginning of a Parliament to shun offers from the Prime Minister during that Parliament? That is the point. It does not need to be in perpetuity, but there should be a convention—a discipline that if one signs up to chairmanship, one should see it through that Parliament.

Mr. Curry

That would be one way to deal with my concerns. It depends on how prescriptive we want to be—creating ghettos, as it were, in which Members of Parliament function. There is a serious problem attached to that idea.

If we want to pay Select Committee Chairmen and get people to focus on the scrutiny role, what about members of the Committees? What about the handful of members of each Committee who do most of the work, if we are blunt about it? Should we not reward them too? After all, the competitive demands on hon. Members' time make life difficult if they are going to be assiduous Committee members, especially with our silly new hours where Westminster Hall, the Chamber, Standing Committees and Select Committees are all competing for the same windows of opportunity for work.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

My right hon. Friend has raised an interesting point. How would he treat those who do all three tasks to which he referred: Westminster Hall, Standing Committees and Select Committees? Does he believe that they should receive some form of recognition?

Mr. Curry

It is a simple matter of calendar. If one is working on a Select Committee it is difficult to attend debates in Westminster Hall. One has either to walk out of the Select Committee to do so or to renounce doing so, as one can never be sure what time one will be called to speak.

It is important that Select Committee members do not have to forgo membership of Standing Committees. We have to be in touch with the normal scrutiny work of the House. I like to serve on Standing Committees dealing with Bills that interest me and not simply to be confined to a particular activity. That is why my Select Committee meets on Wednesdays. We leave Tuesdays and Thursdays free, although Government managers often take six or seven members of my Committee to work on Bills, making it difficult for the Select Committee to function.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West)

In essence I agree, if my right hon. Friend is saying that these new hours turn being a Member of Parliament from being a vocation into having a vacation, except for those who want to work hard. Is not the underlying truth that one can pay people equally to do different amounts of work, but one cannot pay them unequally to do the same amount of work?

Mr. Curry

I think that I will agree with my hon. Friend, but I hope that he will give me some time to reflect on whether I do. I am too cautious a man to agree to a happy formulation of words without realising what they actually mean.

We must not exaggerate the role of Select Committees, and I say so as a Select Committee Chairman. Their role is to supervise the administration of business and the way a Department discharges its responsibilities, to allow the ventilation of issues of current political concern or those that are likely to be of immediate concern, and to create a forum in which ideas can come together—to look over the hill a little—about future policy issues. Occasionally, it may be necessary to broaden one's experience to undertake that role.

Select Committee members are like geologists: they can only sink an occasional core into the work of a Department. The idea that they can scrutinise all the activity of the Department is nonsense. With my Select Committee, we have three Committees sitting all the time because we have used the rules that allow us to have two Sub-Committees in permanent session, which rotate and succeed each other, but we only touch the surface of the work of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We can never do more than that.

I do not wish to make myself unpopular, but the real problem is attendance at Select Committees. The Labour party may have a new nomination system, but even in the case of people who have volunteered for a Committee—I am told that their colleagues have chosen them—their attendance is not always as assiduous as it perhaps ought to be. On occasions, we find ourselves scratching around for a quorum. It is a real problem. My Committee has 17 members. If one allows for people who come for a brief period and are recorded as being present but play little active role in the Committee, it boils down to a handful of people doing the work over and over again. That is a greater threat to Select Committee work than nobbling by the Government.

People have too many competing pressures placed upon them. Too many people are unwilling to select and to focus on one activity, given those competing pressures in the constituency and here. Added to that, we sometimes have a problem getting ministerial attendance and there can occasionally be the problem of ministerial interference. We need to tackle the practical workings of the Select Committees.

I am also apprehensive about what payment will do to the relationship between a Chairman and his or her members. My Select Committee is run extremely informally. I cannot remember the last time we had a division, and that is because a great deal of work goes on quietly, people know each other very well and trust each other—and I think we probably like each other. We are a highly productive Committee because of the way we work.

That work depends a great deal on trust. It depends, for example, on members being willing to allow me to decide which amendments matter to a report and which are simply technical tidying-up or improvements. If they did not give me their trust, we would not get through the amount of work that we do. I do not want to institutionalise my position to such a degree that it becomes part of the political contest itself. I am therefore very apprehensive about that aspect.

If I reject the concept of there being a separate scrutiny role, I am free to say that if we are going to start to pay people we should be looking a great deal more widely at the people whom we pay. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, on a point of agreement, mentioned the Chairmen's Panel—its members chair Standing Committees—and the Chairmen in Westminster Hall. Some of them are the same people. The real heart of scrutiny is what happens in this Chamber. It is wrong to suggest that scrutiny in the Select Committees is a substitute for, or comes anywhere near, the scrutiny of Government Bills as they appear.

I regret the timetabling of measures, which now happens so automatically. It has done more damage to scrutiny than almost anything else. I am now told that the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill is to have a colossal additional part added on further consideration. That is a real affront to scrutiny. The most important people as regards scrutiny are the shadow Ministers who have to take Bills through Standing Committees. They have to do a colossal amount of work and give a colossal commitment in time, but have precious little support to enable them to do so. My hon. Friends who take complex Bills through Committee are the unsung heroes of this place and they certainly deserve more support. They may well deserve more reward than they get at present.

Mr. Tyler

I have some sympathy what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but I am sure that he realises that the specific purpose of the Short money is to give the Front Benches of both Opposition parties some resources to assist with that role. His points about other Members are extremely valid.

Mr. Curry

The Short money cannot solve the problems that I am talking about. There is little practical support when Bills are going through Committee. As the hon. Gentleman knows, however substantial the Opposition parties may be in the House, they are enormously dependent on lobby organisations pursuing measures to generate amendments and to give them the type of back-up and support that they should perhaps receive from somewhere else. Equally, it is true that, when the House is as unbalanced as it is at present, both the principal Opposition party and the Liberal Democrat party have problems stretching their resources widely enough to man Committees.

There are many issues that we should consider. We should look more generally at the systems and structures of rewards in Parliament. As I said, I reject the notion of a separate career path, but we should think hard about the issues. I realise that the House has taken a decision in principle, but the pay of Select Committee Chairmen is postulated on assumptions that would be difficult to sustain in practice and which could create tensions and difficulties that might act as grit in Select Committee procedures rather than facilitating them; nor would they provide incentives.

2.51 pm
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

I have only a few observations. The proposal is premature; it puts the cart before the horse. We are talking about awarding some Select Committee Chairs an additional £12,500, yet we have not resolved the central conundrum: how do we appoint people to Select Committees fairly in the first place?

How did the issue come about? A couple of years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) were dumped by the Government as Chairs of their Select Committees. That provoked huge outrage. The Modernisation Committee went into conclave and, on 14 May last year, presented us with proposals to set up a committee of nomination.

I agreed with that proposal and voted for it, but many Members did not. Indeed, in a free vote, no members of the Cabinet supported the proposal made by the then Leader of the House, yet I recall that Labour Whips were pointing to the No Lobby, saying "PLP, this way". I raised the matter on a point of order and in the parliamentary Labour party committee, from which I stood down last week. There was supposed to be a free vote, yet someone—the situation did not materialise out of thin air—instructed Labour Whips to torpedo a proposal that had been made by the Leader of the House. That situation should never have occurred.

Mr. Tyler

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the majority was only 14? It was extremely narrow. I entirely endorse what he says. I voted with him and it was extremely disappointing that the Government Whips achieved that small majority.

Mr. Prentice

Yes, the proposal squeezed through on a tiny majority and we are left in a situation where political parties make their own nominations. That is why I told my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) that all the parties, not only the Labour party, should publish their procedures so that the matter is open and transparent.

My good friend, the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), is now Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs after a minuet in which the former Chair of the Committee has gone back into the Government. I was astonished when the matter came before the parliamentary committee and I found out for the first time that it had the powers, buried somewhere in the rules of the parliamentary Labour party, to recommend someone to the PLP as the Chair of a Select Committee even though he was not even a member of the Select Committee at that point. That was astonishing.

On reflection, I am disappointed in myself because I did not make an issue of that at the time. I thought that I was some kind of expert on Labour party rules, yet even so, I did not appreciate that the committee had that power. It is wrong. I am not being personal; I am making no personal asides about the competence or otherwise of my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen, but the procedure stinks.

There are many other things that stink about how people get on to select Committees. In the current Session, there are 65 Labour Back Benchers who sit on no Committee. That is a disgrace. As the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) said, it is disgraceful that people who have the privilege to serve on a Select Committee cannot be bothered to turn up. People who constantly absent themselves from a Committee, without good reason, should be kicked off and other more assiduous Members should be appointed.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I entirely endorse the hon. Gentleman's last remark. Does he recall that part of the Modernisation Committee's report on Select Committee nominations and chairmanships noted that if Members did not turn up they could be reported to the Committee and removed, and that a Member who was prepared to give the time to serve should be appointed?

Mr. Prentice

I agree with that; such a reform is long overdue. My Labour colleagues, as well as Members from other parties, deserve a fair crack of the whip.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. Friend agree that not all Select Committees are equally popular? I chair the Select Committee on Regulatory Reform, which has great difficulty in attracting a full membership. Conservative Members rarely attend, and Labour finds it hard to fill the numbers.

Mr. Prentice

I realise that some Committees are more popular than others. Post-devolution, it is extremely difficult to find people to serve on the Scottish Affairs Committee because all the action now takes place in Edinburgh; recently, a vacancy went unfilled for about four months. Other Select Committees, however, are very popular—for example, the Foreign Affairs and Treasury Committees. Often, between 10 and 15 Labour Members apply for each vacancy on those popular Committees. The situation varies.

People should be given a fair chance to get on to a Select Committee. In the current Session, 17 Labour Parliamentary Private Secretaries are serving on Select Committees, which is unacceptable. People on the Government—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

Order. May I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that his remarks should relate to the payment of Chairmen of Select Committees?

Mr. Prentice

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall get back to the point at issue. However, it is central to our debate that we clarify the issue of how people get on to Select Committees in the first place. That is integral to the whole debate. Earlier, I said that it was premature for us to agree the £12,500. It is premature because we have not agreed on a fair system for putting people on to Select Committees, thus, with respect, I think that what I am saying is germane.

Fifty-six Labour MPs serve on more than one Select Committee. That, too, is wrong. We cannot have people serving on multiple Committees while a large number of colleagues are straining at the leash to serve on just one.

Mr. Salmond

I did not know that people served on multiple Select Committees. Does that mean that, theoretically, someone could be the Chairman of two Committees simultaneously and be paid twice under these proposals?

Mr. Prentice

I speak from memory, but I think that that point is covered in the motion. The hon. Gentleman may not have read it closely enough.

Now, what should I say next? There is so much to say and I do not want to stray out of order.

Let me finish on this point: after the Dunwoody Anderson furore, the Labour party changed its procedures. It used to be the case that the Chief Whip, without consultation, would bring forward names to the parliamentary Labour party, which would rubber stamp them, and that would be it. Now, a kind of intermediary phase exists, in which the Chief Whip brings forward names to the parliamentary committee, which is like the 1922 committee, which can amend those names and then put them to the PLP for endorsement. It is important that people understand the procedures and feel that they are fair. There will always he some element of judgment somewhere in the system, but openness and transparency are absolutely paramount.

I will not support the motion before the House today, and I hope that we can revisit the issue in a way that allows us to resolve the problems that have been identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock and other Members in relation to how we introduce fairness into the appointments system in the first place.

3.1 pm

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), who twice during his speech mentioned the saga of some two years ago in respect of the Chairmen of the Transport Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. Of course, that was not the first occasion on which there had been flagrant and blatant interference in the appointment to select Committees. That happened in 1992, when my party, displaying complete arrogance towards the House, ill-advisedly created a law or rule whereby a Member of the House could not sit on the same Select Committee for more than three Parliaments. It did it with one intention—to prevent my reappointment to the Health Committee. It did not want me to be re-elected as Chairman of that Committee, which, with members such as the late Member for Preston, Mrs. Audrey Wise, and others including the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), had done a wonderful job and had got the confidence of those throughout the country who were interested in health care and the health service. It acted quite wrongly.

The repeat of that was two years ago. The House will rue the day when it rejected by just 14 votes the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, which sought to introduce impartiality into the appointment of members of Select Committees. Of course, were there impartially and properly appointed members of a Select Committee, such a Committee would should select its Chairman.

Mr. Pike

Is it not true that to do the deal to prevent the hon. Gentleman being the Chairman of that Select Committee, a Labour Chairman was also removed from his Select Committee to comply with the arrangement, and that there was collusion on that?

Sir Nicholas Winterton

Indeed, the hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. Those who were responsible for that plot, which is exactly what it was, failed to go through the list thoroughly enough, however, and other distinguished Chairmen of Select Committees were affected, particularly the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, who had to resign and was not reappointed. It is time that the House of Commons took control of the appointment of Members to Select Committees, because the role of those Committees is to scrutinise the legislation brought forward by the Government of the day and to hold the Government of the day to account.

I will reluctantly support the motion because I am strongly in favour of there being an alternative career structure—another option—to ministerial preferment. Some people want to serve the House, and do not just come to this place to become Prime Minister or a Minister. Although they may change their mind, believe that the role of the Back Bencher is essential to the successful and proper operation of our democratic procedures here in Parliament. I shall read out, if I may, a small extract from the Modernisation Committee's report, which started this whole debate. Paragraph 41 states: As long as Government office is the principal Parliamentary role to be recognised by additional payment, it need not be surprising that the role of scrutiny should be regarded by the world as inferior. Accordingly we recommend that the value of a parliamentary career devoted to scrutiny should be recognised by an additional salary to the chairmen of the principal investigative committees. I deeply regret that no amendments to the motion have been selected and that we are not able to debate what the House seeks to establish. The report continues: We envisage such committees including the departmental select committees and other major committees of scrutiny such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Administration Committee, together with the Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee, European Scrutiny Committee and Procedure Committee. Clearly, it is somewhat invidious for me, as Chairman of the Procedure Committee, to speak on that, but I do so because, as I said in an intervention earlier, I am in the last quarter of my parliamentary career and I therefore believe that I can speak with impartiality about the importance of that Committee. I believe that the Senior Salaries Review Body was wrong to remove the Procedure Committee from the list of Committees whose Chairmen it particularly specified should receive remuneration. I say that because the Procedure Committee is not just a domestic Committee of the House. It goes way beyond that. For example, let us consider the inquiry that we are currently undertaking into Sessional Orders and resolutions of the House that are moved at the beginning of every new Session of Parliament. That is not just domestic—we needed to take evidence from the Home Office, a very important Department, on that matter. Local government issues are also involved in respect of that matter, as is the whole issue of law and order. Not only are we doing an important job of scrutiny but we are doing an investigative job at the same time.

I also emphasise, as I did in an intervention earlier, that the SSRB, in recommendation 1, which relates to paragraph 2.21, states: Payment should be made only to the Chairmen of the departmental Select Committees, and to the Chairmen of the externally focused 'cross-departmental' committees such as the following: Environmental Audit, European Scrutiny, Human Rights, Public Accounts, Public Administration, Deregulation and Regulatory Reform and Statutory Instruments. It then goes on to say, rightly, that the final decision on which Committees to include should be determined by the House itself. That was the very point made by the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), who chairs with great distinction the Liaison Committee. It seems extraordinary to me that the House is being denied the opportunity, in this motion, of properly debating and deciding which Committees should be included among those whose Chairmen are to be paid.

Mr. Alan Williams

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification from the Chair on a point arising from what the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) said. Was it decided that the motion could not be amended, or was it Mr. Speaker's decision that amendments that would have encompassed the SSRB report's recommendations would have allowed changes to take place?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

I tell the right hon. Gentleman that the motion before the House was certainly amendable, but Mr. Speaker had to make a selection in the usual way and no amendment was selected.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

It is for that very reason that I have not questioned the Chair. I am merely expressing a view in the light of the words in the SSRB's report, which I repeat: The final decision on which committees to include should be determined by the House". The meaning of "the House" is this Chamber and especially its Back Benchers because the motion will be decided on a free vote. However, we have not been given the opportunity to decide which Committees to include. We have been limited—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be careful about his choice of words lest he appears to be questioning Mr. Speaker's impartiality and judgment when determining amendments. The House has a decision to make on the basis of the motion before it. It is in the hands of those who drafted the motion to advise the House on the Committee Chairmen who should be remunerated, if that is what the House decides.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I am grateful for your good, sensitive and sound advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am merely pointing out to the House, as I believe that I have the right to do, that the SSRB report on which the House is making a decision indicated that the final decision on which committees to include should be determined by the House itself. I am pointing out, as a matter of fact, that the House is not being given the opportunity to decide that.

Mr. Tyler

I wonder whether I can help the hon. Gentleman because there might be a way out of his dilemma. If he were to vote against the motion, it would give the Treasury Front Bench the opportunity to come back with a revised motion reflecting adequately the SSRB recommendation.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

The hon. Gentleman is my colleague on the Modernisation Committee. I am delighted that the Leader of the House entered the Chamber when the hon. Gentleman made that point because I was extremely supportive of one of his predecessors, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), who spent some time as Chairman of that Committee. I believe that the present Leader of the House will try to guide and drive through positive and progressive changes to this House.

Mr. Forth

Oh no!

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I tell my right hon. Friend that I am a pragmatic man. We are not in government at the moment and the Leader of the House and his party are. When the Deputy Leader of the House winds up the debate, he may tell us that matters relating to the Committee Chairman who should remunerated could be the subject of speedy review and consideration. If he does, I shall certainly continue with my original intention of supporting the motion. However, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) has told me that the best way to achieve such review would be to vote against the motion. Between now and the end of the debate, I shall clearly have to give that suggestion careful consideration.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that contrary to the implication of the SSRB report that we should be able to add to or take away from the list of Committees when it said that it was for the House to decide the final list, we are confronted with a situation in which our only choice is all or none, which is hardly much of a choice?

Sir Nicholas Winterton

The right hon. Gentleman, who has been a Member of the House for somewhat longer than I, has uttered some wise words. It is unfortunate that the House faces such a decision. I want an indication from the Deputy Leader of the House in his winding-up speech of whether the matter might be subject to further review and attention.

Mr. Hain

I said in response to the shadow Leader of the House that the motion should not be the last word. However, I urge the hon. Gentleman not to vote the motion down because if he and his colleagues do that, that will be the end of it. We would not have an SSRB-supported recommendation, so there would be no authority for me to proceed. Surely the sensible way for him to achieve his objective is to establish the system with the motion and build from there.

Mr. Forth

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that it would help the House if you could guide us. The Leader of the House suggested that despite the fact that the House has passed a motion in principle saying that there should be a provision for additional pay for Chairmen, if we reject a detailed motion to give effect to that today, that will be the end of the matter. Is it not more properly the case that if the motion were rejected, the Leader of the House would be obliged to put a new motion before the House to give effect to the vote of principle on a more acceptable basis? I would have thought that that is more likely than his suggestion that today is somehow final and that if we say no, that is the end of the matter. Surely the House's vote in principle is determinant. The motion is an attempt to implement the detail of the proposal but if we say no today, surely we could return to the matter.

Mr. Hain

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not think that there is anything between the right hon. Gentleman and me.

Mr. Forth

There is.

Mr. Hain

Well if there is, it is this. The House asked the SSRB to consider the matter and it has done so independently of any Government or House influence. It is proper for us to consider whether we agree with its recommendation. If we were to disagree, we would be left in a vacuum.

Mr. Forth

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There cannot be a debate on a point of order, and I have not forgotten the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), who is hoping to resume his speech at some point. The House has the choice of whether or not to approve the motion. If it does not approve the motion, it is the end of the motion. Of course, it would be possible for another motion to be brought forward but whether such a motion would come forward is not a matter for the Chair.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst for making his point of order. I have great respect for his abilities and great affection for him because he is a considerable parliamentarian. However, I am something of a pragmatist. If we feel a bite on a measure that I support, we should reel that fish in. The motion would be a move in the right direction by giving additional recognition to those who play a vital part in the running of the House and its ability to scrutinise legislation and hold the Government of the day to account. Although I am still considering the suggestion made by the hon. Member for North Cornwall, it would be a little churlish of me to vote against a measure of which in principle I am in favour. I merely regret the fact that the House of Commons is not able to do precisely what the SSRB suggested by saying that the final decision on which Committees to include should be determined by Members of the House.

Many people who have not served on, or taken an interest in, the Procedure Committee might fail to appreciate some of its duties and responsibilities. In recent times, especially since the Labour Government came to office in 1997, the House has faced matters relating to devolution. Devolution has a substantial impact on how the House deals with things. Many matters that we dealt with before are now delegated to the Parliament in Scotland, the Assembly in Wales and, when it sits again, the Assembly in Northern Ireland. Need I remind hon. Members that the House is increasingly affected by matters relating to the European Union? Again, the Procedure Committee, which the SSRB wrongly considered to be domestic and inward, looking, has responsibilities that are very much outward looking, into all parts of the UK and the ever-enlarging EU. We have a duty to ensure that the procedures of the House enable Members of the House properly to scrutinise legislation and to comment on issues that have an impact on the people whom we all represent in our respective constituencies.

The Leader and Deputy Leader of the House increasingly understand that fact. I appreciate the close working relationship that has existed for a number of years between the Modernisation Committee since it was set up and the Procedure Committee.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the use of the term "such as" in the SSRB's report shows that it regards the list not as carved in stone, but as something that could be amended by the House? As it is a relatively short time until the next review, perhaps the best way forward is to make a further submission to it and the Leader of the House for the review that is due next Easter.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

The right hon. Gentleman, who deals with Liaison Committee matters extremely effectively and positively and who has been a Minister of the Crown—he was also a shadow Minister; I remember him performing from the Opposition Benches on many occasions—is helpful. If the Liaison Committee, which he chairs, makes further representations to the Leader of the House, and if the Minister responding to the debate gives us some encouragement, as the Leader of the House has done, my voting for the motion will be a positive stand.

I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who was also a Minister, misunderstood the point made articulately and appropriately by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). He did not say there is a taboo on accepting a position with a Government if someone is or wishes to be a Chairman of a Select Committee. His point was that if they were elected a Chairman, that appointment would be for the length of a Parliament and should be accepted on that basis. The question is whether they should, for reasons purely of ambition, give up that chairmanship if they get enticed by a ministerial job. The hon. Gentleman is right. We need to establish the tradition in a code of practice so that an individual who accepts the chairmanship of a Select Committee automatically knows that he is unable to accept a ministerial appointment during that Parliament. Chairmen should take the job on in that knowledge.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon, who has done an extremely good job as Chairman of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, should recognise that we need people with knowledge, experience and commitment to serve as Chairmen of Select Committees. Without them, the Committees will not do their job properly. It was a great day for parliamentary democracy and the ability of the House to hold the Government to account when the departmental Select Committees were established in 1979–80 as a result of the St. John-Stevas recommendations.

I look forward to working closely with the Leader of the House, not only as a colleague on the Modernisation Committee, but also in my capacity as Chairman of the Procedure Committee. I want the House to be more meaningful. The Leader of the House, the Chairman of the Liaison Committee and the right hon. Member for Livingston, when he chaired the Modernisation Committee, are right: giving an alternative career structure to Members who are committed to Parliament is a move in the right direction. It is important that we understand the situation properly and that those Committees and Committee Chairmen who do a good job should be fully recognised.

My final point relates to the Chairmen's Panel, which is, of course, relevant to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Those hon. Members who act as Standing Committee Chairmen or as Chairmen in Westminster Hall, our complementary Chamber, do an unsung job. It takes them away from high-profile political activity. It frequently prevents them from speaking in debates on the Floor of the main Chamber. It also prevents them from participating in high-profile political activity in other parts of the Palace.

I hope that in due course the Leader of the House suggests to the SS RB, perhaps after a debate in the House, that they both consider the remuneration of members of the Chairmen's Panel. I have been involved in such work voluntarily for 18 years. I enjoy it. It gives me a buzz to be involved in the detailed scrutiny of important legislation. Although Mr. Deputy Speaker cannot participate in the debate, as the senior member of the Chairmen's Panel I can say that it is getting more and more difficult to get people to come forward to do the job. Without those people, the House could not operate. Let the House never forget that.

3.27 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), who said that he was in the last quarter of his parliamentary career. It is in the nature of one's job as a Member of Parliament that one is never absolutely certain which quartile one is in.

My hon. Friend touched on two frustrations that have been a constant theme of our debate. The first was the lack of an explicit link between the recommendations that we are considering and the Modernisation Committee's recommendations on a nomination committee. The fact that there is not a link was referred to by the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) who, in view of that absence, is not minded to support the proposals. The solution is for the Deputy Leader of the House to say something about the Government's intentions regarding those proposals, the vote on which was narrowly lost. We have heard about the background to the Division, and the fact that a number of Members who, if they had reflected on what they were about to do, might have acted differently. It would be helpful if the Deputy Leader of the House would say in his winding-up speech that he is minded to give the House another opportunity to reflect on the Modernisation Committee's recommendations.

Another frustration that the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield and others have touched on concerns the Committees specified in the proposals. My view is that it is unrealistic of the SSRB to decide which Committees should have paid Chairmen and which should not, as that is a matter for the House to resolve. It would be helpful if the Deputy Leader of the House could tell us how he plans to respond to the feeling that has run right through our debate that, for understandable reasons, the SSRB may not have got it quite right. We have been unable to amend the motion, but the feeling in the House is that we would like to revisit this soon. The Deputy Leader of the House has a responsibility to address both those concerns, which have run right through our debate this afternoon.

The Government motion approves my Committee's sixth report, and specifically endorses the two principles that we set out in paragraph 16. I shall speak briefly about the report, then make some even briefer remarks about the broader issues.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

It was a very good report.

Sir George Young

I am obliged to my hon. Friend.

My Committee was not asked whether Chairmen should be paid, which Chairmen should be paid, how much Chairmen should be paid or when payment should start, and I was pleased about that. We were asked a specific question about what should happen to Chairmen's outside interests if they were paid. In compiling our report, we were greatly assisted by views and representations of a large number of Select Committee Chairmen and others, whose names appear in the annexe. There was no unanimity, as one might expect, but the centre of gravity of the representations is broadly reflected in our recommendations.

We noted that Members of Parliament who are paid officer holders, but are not members of the Government—incidentally, such officer holders are paid more than is recommended for Committee Chairmen in the SSRB's proposals—were not subject to any restrictions on their outside interests. Having discovered that receipt of a salary from public funds had not hitherto been seen as grounds for imposing restrictions on Members' outside interests, we saw no reason to apply a different principle to payments to Select Committee Chairmen. Although our research was not exhaustive, we found no other country, Assembly or Parliament in the UK where paid Chairmen have to renounce there outside interests. Our first conclusion was that Select Committee Chairmen who are paid as such should not, subject to what I shall say in a moment, have to relinquish their outside interests.

We qualified that recommendation by referring to work that arises directly from Committee work as set out in paragraph 17. Besides the work that Chairmen do in the House in leading their Committees, many of them also undertake a lot of outside work—articles, broadcasts, conference addresses and so on. That is beneficial both for the Committees—it spreads knowledge about their work and enhances their visibility and their reputation—and the House, as it helps to enhance its public profile and the public's knowledge of its scrutiny work. Paying chairmen will not, and should not, result in any need for change in that outside work. However, in the view of my Committee, it changes the question whether Ch airmen can properly accept payment for work set out in paragraph 17 that arises from their chairmanship.

We therefore asked the House to endorse two principles. First, there should be no question, nor any appearance, of any double payment from a Chairman's salary and an outside activity arising primarily from that chairmanship. Secondly, Chairmen should not gain private benefit from work done in whole or part with assistance from public resources. The differential between MPs and Chairmen, which the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) mentioned, would be widened unacceptably if Chairmen got a salary and were paid for activities arising from their chairmanship. It would also go down badly with the general public.

Mr. Salmond

A few moments ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that his Committee had looked at the situation in other Parliaments and Assemblies in the UK. If my memory serves me correctly, in the Scottish Parliament, Committee Chairmen are not paid, but in the Welsh Assembly they are paid £5,000. The Northern Ireland Assembly is obviously not in existence at present. Was it the National Assembly for Wales that determined the recommendations made by the right hon. Gentleman's Committee?

Sir George Young

We discovered that there are no restrictions on the outside interests of Committee Chairmen, whether paid or not, other than those that apply to everyone else. In one body, there is a payment for Chairmen, but the principle that we were looking at was whether Chairmen should have to renounce certain interests.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West made a point about transitional arrangements, but we have dealt with that, and recognise that a change in mid-Parliament may cause problems for some Chairmen. We therefore propose that for the remainder of this Parliament Chairmen should have the option to decline the proposed payment, in which case their existing freedom in relation to accepting outside interests would remain unaltered. We stated that if the House endorses what we propose, we will bring forward some guidelines to help Select Committee Chairmen, and the Registrar can give advice. We also said that if Chairmen are to be paid, the interests that they declare prior to being chosen should become public knowledge as quickly as possible. Finally, if the basis for paying Select Committee Chairmen changes, we might want to reconsider the matter. In other words, what may be right at £12,500 might not be right if the figure were higher.

On the broader issue, I spoke and voted for the payment of Chairmen last time we debated the matter. I have no interest to declare, as my Select Committee is not in the frame for payment. I understand the reservations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) about the cohesion of Committees being at risk if Chairmen are paid. I understand the issue about rotating sub-committees and the argument about two classes of MPs, which the hon. Member for Thurrock mentioned. We do not have the separation of powers that exists in the US and the position is not comparable, but I take a strategic view of the question.

Over recent years, Parliament has conceded much of its authority to the Executive, and we need to change the terms of trade. There is no one solution that puts that right, but there are various measures relating to how we manage the business of the House, how we programme Bills, how we resource Select Committees, how the House becomes more accessible and more intelligible to the public we represent, and how we hold Ministers to account. Those other measures are for another day, but part of the solution, in my view, is the development of an alternative career structure within the House. We need measures to counter the gravitational pull of ministerial office, and some public statement that the job of scrutiny has proper recognition and status.

I see paying Select Committee Chairmen as an important step in the rebalancing that I propose. That is why I voted for it and will vote for it again today. I have two qualifications, however. First, I think the SSRB has undervalued my colleagues and there is a risk of sending out the wrong signals. It is not at all clear how the SSRB arrived at the figure of £12,500. The Hansard Society report and Norton considered much higher figures. But with the promise of a further review, which should take place in the near future, I am prepared to risk the undervaluation of my hon. Friends and Labour Members. Also, if the House is to vote itself extra payments, it is better to do so under cover of the SSRB report, rather than going for a figure of our own.

My second caveat is one that we have touched on. I see Select Committee chairmanship as an alternative career structure, but it should not be a complementary career structure. If I blink, I may see the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) back in the Liaison Committee as Chairman of Home Affairs. As we heard in the debate, the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) moved seamlessly from office to being Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee.

Part of the package that we voted on last time was a different method of appointing Select Committees, prising the fingers of the Whips off the process. I voted for payment and for independent nomination as two sides of the same coin. I got one, but I did not get the other. I shall vote for payment today, but I very much hope that there will be some reassurance from the Deputy Leader of the House on the issue of nomination, and that we can revisit the matter in the near future.

3.37 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

I regret that I have only a couple of hours to develop my argument as to why the motions cannot be supported given their unsatisfactory state. I say that not to threaten the House with a lengthy speech, but to reflect the fact that the debate hardly seems to have grabbed the attention of all our colleagues, judging from the number of contributions that we have heard compared with the time that the Leader of the House allocated for that. Compare that with yesterday's debate on drugs, with one and a half hours allocated and many Members wishing to speak.

I do not know the reason for the poor attendance at today's debate. It is an important issue. The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) used the phrase "under cover". Perhaps some of our colleagues are under cover on questions of making additional payments to Members of Parliament.

I am not certain whether there is an overriding principle that should make us votes against the proposals. I understand the argument from the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) about two classes of MPs. With his rapier-like logic, he identified many deficiencies in the motions. There could well be an argument for supporting them, but the Government should be clear that they have met the preconditions.

They should explain which Chairmen of which Committees will get the payments and why, and the process whereby Members end up with such appointments should be made transparent both within and among parties. None of those conditions has been met, as has been made perfectly clear in contributions that were excellent in quality, although limited in number.

I can reassure the hon. Member for Thurrock, who is desperately concerned about his popularity these days and has added the junior Whips to his long list of political enemies, that he is not unpopular with me. Indeed, he will not become unpopular with me as long as he uses his contributions in the House to prick the bubble of pomposity that surrounds many of the recommendations. I thought that his logic was commendable. He told us that, on the basis of the arguments advanced today, a case could be made for suggesting that just about everybody in the House should receive an extra payment. Indeed, I thought at one stage that the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) was about to argue that nobody in the House did not deserve an additional payment. Such questions must be answered.

The Chairman of the Liaison Committee, the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), made a devastating contribution. His knowledge of Select Committees is probably more detailed than that of any other hon. Member, as he chairs the Committee of the Chairmen of Select Committees. He did not suggest that additional Committees should be paid more, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) did, but considered that one Committee on the list—he was coy about naming it—should not be included, as his knowledge told him that the duties of its Chairman were not worthy of extra payment. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will intervene to tell us which Committee he was referring to—a question that I have been thinking about for the past hour and a half. None the less, in the light of his knowledge, there is a severe question about the list.

It is not good enough for the Leader of the House to say that if we voted the motion down, it would never come back. Perhaps it would come back in a form allowing those with detailed knowledge to contribute in deciding which Committees should feature on the list and with a rationale explaining why the Chairmen of 25 out of 35 Select Committees should be awarded payment, while the other 10 Chairmen are not. Such a motion might also explain why other Committees are excluded, as has been mentioned. It would be perfectly reasonable to allow the right hon. Member for Swansea, West and others to contribute in trying to formulate a better list.

Much the most worrying of the contributions pointing to the difficulties raised in the motion was that of the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), who referred to fairly widespread malpractices—let us call them that—in terms of multiple involvement in Committees and the non-filling for weeks on end of vacancies on unpopular Committees. I can tell him that there are volunteers on the minority party Benches who could fill such vacancies, which are apparently not taken up. He rightly pointed to the previous debate on this matter, in which there seemed to be tremendous enthusiasm among the Whips about blocking some key points that might have made the recommendations acceptable, including checks and balances on how nominations are arrived at. Given the narrowness of the majority in agreeing to the original motion and the activities of the Whips on that occasion, the Leader of the House cannot seriously tell us that there is a huge consensus behind the proposals, as there clearly is no such consensus.

Three aspects would have to be addressed before the recommendations could be approved. The first is the question of openness in the process by which people are nominated—an issue that has not teen resolved. I think that everybody agrees that Select Committee places and chairmanships should be apportioned between the political parties, but we have pointed to recent occasions on which only intervention by some parties has saved others from making the wrong appointments. I remember that, when the hon. Member for Macclesfield was being bumped from the Select Committee on Health, he had enthusiastic support not only from those on the Government Benches, but also from people such as me. When attempts were made to bump out the Chairman of the Select Committee on Transport and the voting took place, it was only the ability to mobilise cross-party support that saved the House from making a decision that clearly would have been wrong. So although it is correct that the balance should be apportioned between parties, there has to be some sort of check—possibly in the form of the nominations committee that has been suggested—because there are many examples in the recent past of things not being done properly.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I am listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman's constructive speech. Can he tell me whether he took part in the debate on the nominations committee and supported the recommendations put forward by the then Leader of the House on behalf of the Modernisation Committee?

Mr. Salmond

I think that I was here and that I supported the recommendations. I seem to remember that I discussed the representation of minority parties I am about to do so again—and mentioned some of the more unseemly activities that were alluded to by the hon. Member for Pendle. I have not checked the record—I may have been elsewhere on vital business—but I think that I was here, contributed to the debate and voted.

Mr. Tyler

The hon. Gentleman is in the clear.

Mr. Salmond

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan is innocent, OK.

That brings me rather neatly to the second point, which is that there remains a huge suspicion of patronage. It would be extremely unwise to reinforce that, even with a relatively modest payment—the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire even objected that it is not enough—before clearing up the suggestion that it is an additional reward to those who can be depended upon not to be too truculent in the great manner of previous Select Commit tee Chairmen such as the hon. Member for Macclesfield. We do not want to reinforce the suggestion that such positions are yet another bauble to be traded in the parliamentary atmosphere.

My final point is the subject of my amendments, which unfortunately were not selected. Will the Deputy Leader of the House accept that it is high time that he and his boss acted to prevent the shabby practice of excluding minority parties from their fair share of Select Committee places and a proportional share of Select Committee chairmanships? The proposal is that 25 Chairmen should be paid. More than one in 25 Members of this House belongs to a minority party, so minority parties should have a Select Committee Chair. Those parties are happy to agree among themselves who that should be. Forgetting payment for a moment, that could also give a Member from one of the minority parties a place on the Liaison Committee. At the moment, the minority parties are prevented from having an opportunity to question the Prime Minister in his regular appearances before that Committee.

It is ridiculous that almost a year after the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) accepted in the debate on 28 January this year that there was an imbalance and an injustice—as was reinforced in the debate on 14 May—the Leader of the House has not moved to redress that imbalance. It is not good enough for him to say, "That is a matter that has been considered by the Selection Committee." If we can move with such alacrity on this controversial proposal for payment of Select Committee Chairmen, surely he will want to move with even greater alacrity to correct an unfairness that was identified and accepted by his predecessor and by the right hon. Member for Livingston.

I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House can give the minority parties some reassurance that the situation whereby we are under-represented by three Select Committee places and do not have a Select Committee Chairman will be addressed and put to rights.

I can speak from the experience of being Leader of the Opposition in the Scots Parliament. I was in a position of some authority for some minority party Members—namely the three independent Members in the Scots Parliament in 1999. Although the three Members—one Green, one Independent and one Socialist—were not entitled proportionately to membership of Committees, the late Donald Dewar and I agreed that the Parliament would regard itself as reduced unless minorities were given the right of expression. The sin is much greater in this place, where the minority parties are statistically entitled to more places and a chairmanship, yet continue to be denied them. No action is being taken to redress that injustice. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will deal with that.

I have listened to the shadow Leader of the House in many debates. I finally agreed with something he said today—his point of order was absolutely correct. However, every time the Modernisation Committee presented a proposal on, for example, votes, procedures, timings of sittings—he was right about the latter—he greeted them as if they represented the end of parliamentary democracy.

Mr. Forth

I was right.

Mr. Salmond

I believed that it had ended some time ago in this place, but that is beside the point. The right hon. Gentleman warmly greeted the proposal that we are considering, although there is no consensus about it because it means that some Members of Parliament will receive more money. Yet suddenly the shadow Leader of the House decided that one specific proposal would not mean the end of parliamentary democracy, and might be a good thing, despite his reservations. I begin to wonder whether some pressure has been applied to him. Perhaps the Tory Whips have got at him in the way that Labour Whips got at Labour Members in order to defeat genuinely modernist proposals.

If the House of Commons votes to pay some of its Members more money, we had better have good reasons for our choice of Members and be able to demonstrate that the system is equitable and balanced. That is not the case, and unless there is a dramatic change of direction, the minority parties will vote against the motions.

3.52 pm
Mr. David Cameron (Witney)

At the outset, I acknowledge that I have arrived in the House only recently and therefore have less experience than many who have spoken. Indeed, I worked out that I have approximately only a twentieth of the experience of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams). However, there is no harm in a new look at Select Committees, their job and whether Chairmen should be paid.

I became a member of the Modernisation Committee only recently and therefore did not participate in its report on Select Committees. However, when I was hiding from various groups of arm-twisters yesterday, I took the time to read that excellent report in full. I stress the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) to the effect that the proposals are free-vote territory for Conservative Members. I assure the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) that no arm-twisting has occurred. We have a sort of double free vote because of our position, with a new leader in the offing but not here yet. It is like the Prague spring—we are allowed to say exactly what we think. Such movements are often subsequently crushed with bloody force.

Mr. Salmond

I accept that the Conservative parliamentary party does not need arm-twisting to vote for extra money.

Mr. Cameron

I was about to say something polite about the hon. Gentleman, but I shall have to reconsider that.

Our debate has been short but excellent. My view is clear: the payment of Select Committee Chairmen is justified on two grounds. The first ground is their work. I appreciate the point of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) that all hon. Members do all sorts of work. However, the Select Committees play a key role in scrutiny. They were set up in 1979 by Lord St. John of Fawsley, and they have now grown into their role and do a brilliant job.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), has been given rather a hard time in the debate today. I served with him on the Home Affairs Committee and I would like to put on record what an excellent job he did as its Chairman. No one could accuse him of being a Government stooge.

The work of the Chairmen of Select Committees includes the preparation of the Chairman's draft report, helping to sift the evidence, the setting of agendas, the arranging of meetings and working with the Clerks. Crucially, what has changed recently is the level of pre-legislative scrutiny. I was complaining yesterday to the Leader of the House that we sometimes have to scrutinise a Bill before it has even been published. I pay tribute to the Government, because they have tried to move ahead with pre-legislative scrutiny. At one stage, however, the Home Affairs Committee was scrutinising three or four Bills at the same time. There is a lot of extra work involved.

More importantly, the second ground for paying Select Committee Chairmen is the alternative career path. Obviously, Conservative Members could all be pursuing alternative career paths soon, depending on what happens. I really believe in the point about the alternative career path. If we want the House to have more independence and to do its job of scrutiny well, we need to encourage a parliamentary path as well as a governmental one.

I welcome the Senior Salaries Review Body report. It tries to distinguish between what it calls outward-facing and inward-facing Committees. I am not sure that that is entirely consistent. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) made a good point when he said that the report states that the House should decide these matters. On the other hand, page 3 of the report states: Our analysis leads us to the view that the roles and responsibilities of depart mental and other scrutiny committees are entirely different in kind from those of the 'domestic' committees, or from other committees with a focus purely on the internal workings of the House of Commons itself. My hon. Friend made a powerful case for there being other Committees that are worth looking at, and I am sure that the deputy Leader of the House will consider that when he comes back to the matter.

I felt that the judgment of the SSRB report on the level of pay looked about right. I rather disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) on this. The report says that we should examine the equivalent of a Parliamentary Under-Secretary and adjust the calculation bearing in mind the amount of time that they work, which I think is reasonable. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said, we should see that as a first step. I mean we as individuals, because of course we have a totally free vote on this issue.

I would like to respond to one or two of the points raised in the debate. I have sympathy with what the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan said about the minority parties. In sheer numerical terms, it is difficult to argue against his point about allowing the minority parties greater representation on Select Committees. I was interested that he mentioned membership of the Liaison Committee in his amendment, which was not selected. I have often seen him ask questions of the Prime Minister, and now the Liaison Committee questions the Prime Minister. It would be an excellent idea to co-opt him on to that Committee. I can see merit in that idea.

Mr. Curry

Regarding the representation of minority parties on Select Committees, the Conservative party is quite stretched in trying to man all its commitments, the Liberal Democrat party is seriously stretched in that way, and the minority parties are impossibly stretched. If we were to have a deliberate policy of having more minority party Members on Select Committees, we would need some assurances about attendance. I would extend that to Members of the other parties as well.

Mr. Cameron

I agree with my right hon. Friend. This debate has brought out a lot of very interesting points that have not been made before. I think it was the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) who said that there should be penalties for absenteeism. That is a very good suggestion and I hope that it will be taken up. Perhaps that would address the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry).

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I think it was also the hon. Member for Pendle who gave the House what I considered an extraordinarily surprising statistic, namely, that a very large number of Labour Members of Parliament sit on more than one Select Committee. Given their numbers in the House, that seems rather odd. Does my hon. Friend think it right that an individual should sit on more than one Select Committee? Is this a matter that the House should look at? Obviously, the Chairman of a Committee rightly has to sit on the Liaison Committee, so I would not count that as membership of a second Committee.

Mr. Cameron

I think it is a matter that we should look at.

The hon. Member for Pendle produced the fascinating statistic that 65 Labour MPs were not members of any Select Committee. I wanted to ask him—but deemed it a bit partisan on a day like today—whether there was any correlation between those 65 and Members who habitually vote against their own Front Bench. Perhaps we could return to that question at some point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield should be given credit for being open and up front. No one could accuse him of lurking in the shadows. He made a strong case for the inclusion of the Procedure Committee on the list. As I have said, I think the response from the Government Front Bench may well be, "If the Procedure Committee is to be included, what about the Standards and Privileges Committee? What about the Modernisation Committee?" I should hate to think that we were increasing the pay of the Leader of the House still further, but I shall be interested to hear what the Deputy Leader has to say.

I agree with the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) that we need to deal with the issue of patronage and nomination. He seemed to be saying that we had put the cart of payment before the horse of nomination. I shall vote for the motion because I think it makes some progress, but I think it vital to deal with both horse and cart even if we do not deal with them in the right order.

To me, the principle is clear. If we are to introduce an alternative career path and if we are to provide some payment for it, we need greater independence for those who receive the payment. The SSRB could be said to have hinted at the existence of a problem in its report. In its evaluation of the job done by a Select Committee Chairman it concluded, on page 6, that the technical know how of Select Committee Chairmen was considerably greater than that of backbench MPs. Chairmen need to combine substantial accumulated wisdom about politics and the House itself with in-depth knowledge of at least part of the subject matter covered by the committee. (The consultants accepted that this assessment was not entirely consistent with the selection processes currently employed to appoint committee Chairmen.) That, I think, was a shot across our bows.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall mentioned the Modernisation Committee report. I think that it got the principle of nomination processes right. It said: Any new method of nomination needs to be independent, authoritative, transparent and able to command the confidence of the House on both sides. I think it also got current practice right when it said: The Committee of Selection has come to interpret its role as limited to confirming the proposals put to it by the front benches on both sides. I see merit in the establishment of a nomination committee as proposed by the hon. Member for North Cornwall and as outlined by the Modernisation Committee, and I would support it if we were voting on it today.

I am probably a little naive, but I still think there are weaknesses in the Modernisation Committee's report. I feel that it placed too much weight on seniority. My naivety extends to a belief that there could be some role for election. When I looked at the proposal, I thought of Strom Thurmond and the seniority system in the Senate as it was. I would favour either indirect elections to a nomination committee, or direct election among Back Benchers to Select Committees. There could even be cross-party elections, in which seats on Committees could be allotted to the various parties—

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

You would not win any seats.

Mr. Cameron

I think I have answered that point.

Places could be allotted to the parties on the basis of a vote by all Back Benchers. Of course there would be a danger of all of us voting for each other's troublemakers, and playing party games. The hon. Member for Pendle would probably get a record poll, but people would not necessarily behave like that. We will not know until we try, and on the whole we should consider methods of election, rather than other methods, in choosing Select Committee members.

The splendid speech of the hon. Member for Thurrock was an advertisement for why we should not have time limits in every debate. When he said that we should not have two classes of MP, I was taken back to a speech that I heard as a student—he will not like this— when I sat in the Gallery and watched Enoch Powell make the same point. The hon. Gentleman may be called in for a career development interview after his remarks about the Whips, but his was a powerful speech. He made a very interesting point, which was backed up by the right hon. Member for Swansea, West, about whether Select Committees have the powers to do their job properly. He also mentioned the Hutton inquiry, and perhaps the Modernisation Committee or the House in general will have to return to this issue in the light of that inquiry, to ensure that we give Select Committees the power to call papers and witnesses, for example.

In a strong speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon said that we should not try to combine elements of a Parliament, in which the Executive also sit, with elements of a Congress. Consistency can sometimes be the enemy of progress, and my concern is that we need to do more to make this place more independent of the Executive, and to improve its powers of scrutiny. Although I would not go the whole hog with the hon. Member for Thurrock, who wants to throw all Ministers out of this place, we can do some things to improve our independence and the way in which we legislate and scrutinise. What we are talking about is a first step. The hon. Gentleman and many others mentioned the problem of Ministers and Select Committee Chairmen swapping places, and in a good intervention my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) came up with a very good answer to it: a quarantine period between being a Select Committee Chairman and a Minister. The hon. Member for Thurrock offered an alternative suggestion: if someone becomes a Chairman, they should accept the post for the duration of that Parliament. I am attracted to both suggestions, and I hope that we can return to this issue in order to ensure that, if we are to have paid Select Committee Chairman and proper nomination procedures, such posts do not simply become retirement homes for former Ministers. That said, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South did a splendid job on the Home Affairs Committee.

As I said, the right hon. Member for Swansea, West pointed out that support for Select Committees is not adequate, and the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) made the same point. He believes that the problem is not paying Select Committee Chairmen, but providing the resources to enable them to do their job. I have some concern about that argument. A Chairman can work with the Committee Clerk and make use of the Clerk's resources to do the job. That is surely the right way to improve resourcing of Select Committees, rather than giving greater cost allowance to Chairmen. The hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) said that there could be a public outcry if we voted for paying Select Committee Chairmen. But if we think it right to have an alternative career path, and if there is cause for paying Select Committee Chairmen to help enhance that path, we should have the courage to do it.

The hon. Member for Pendle made a very interesting speech, in which he referred to some of the practices that go on in his own party. I am sure that the Whips will have some interesting words with him about that. My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire called on the Deputy Leader of the House, whom I am about to allow to speak, to make clear his intentions as to whether we should have a nomination committee, and whether the Government remain committed to returning to the Select Committee report. I hope that he will make that clear, because the theme of today's debate has been pretty clear. There are Members who are opposed to paying Select Committee Chairmen and Members in favour, but there has been virtual unanimity about one thing: we must take more of the patronage out of the way in which we choose the members and Ch airmen of Select Committees, and ensure that the process is independent and transparent. As a result, Select Committees will be able to work better, which is what all Members of this House want.

4.9 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Phil Woolas)

We have had a good and useful debate. We have heard many different points of view, but there is unanimity on the desire to promote the good name and reputation of Parliament. I want to return to that as a central point within my speech.

On behalf of the House I want to say how grateful we are to the Senior Salaries Review Body and the Standards and Privileges Committee for their reports. I particularly thank the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, who has spoken in today's debate.

Having been a Whip for the last two years, I find myself in an unusual position. I can tell hon. Members that the common frustration of a Whip is that he or she is not allowed to address the House. I should like to shine a chink of light on to some of the Whips' practices. In my experience, far from being a sinister bunch of arm-twisters—as they are commonly portrayed and as I used to be portrayed—Whips are, in fact, more like personnel managers who are helping MPs in many ways. Hon. Members on both sides of the House often complain about the presence of a Whip, so it amuses me to reflect that, what often results when debates and decisions take place in the absence of a Whip is utter chaos. I suggest that the debate on House of Lords reform would have benefited in respect of stability and certainty if a Whip had been present. The issue of nomination and pay is important and I shall come back to it.

I would also say in further defence of the Whips that page 6 of the SSRB's report states that the consultants accepted that assessment of the knowledge and know—how of Committee Chairmen was not entirely consistent with the selection processes". However, I put it to the House that an open election of Back-Bench Members would not necessarily guarantee a Chairman with know-how and expertise either. Some processes of the House that has built up over decades, even centuries, may, on first sight, look as if they are not as open and transparent as they should be. However, on further investigation, one often finds that there are good reasons why the usual channels have acted as they have.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

Does the Deputy Leader agree that we have to deal with the nominations to Select Committees? As he knows, I strongly supported the proposals advanced by the Modernisation Committee. However, once a Committee has been established, should it not be up to members of that Committee to elect the Member to be given the chairmanship through the usual channels? Is not that preferable to exerting pressure on who the Chairs should be, which has happened in respect of all parties—and certainly the two major parties—all too often in the past?

Mr. Woolas

I recognise, of course, the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. However, I put two important points to him. First, the number of occasions on which that accusation can with justice be made—I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out that it has occurred on both sides of the House through the years—is very slim. On only very few occasions have controversial appointments been made. Secondly, custom and practice show that hon. Members appointed as Chairmen or ordinary members of Select Committees are seldom of a particular persuasion within their respective parties. The truth is that lion. Members are appointed as members and Chairmen of Select Committees because they have relevant expertise and interests, or because of the work that they have done as a Minister or as the chair of an all-party group. Appointments are made according to reasons that are many and varied, as well as according to party—political circumstances, and the practice shows that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) made an interesting point about the number of Back-Bench Labour Members who are not on Select Committees. He asked whether there was any correlation with their voting record in the House. There is, but it works the other way around: members of the so-called awkward squad often make very good Select Committee members, precisely because of their predilection for awkwardness.

Mr. Salmond

I am beginning to miss the reforming zeal of the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) on these matters. However, does not the Deputy Leader of the House see something wrong in principle with the helpful guidance given by the Whips Office in respect of the choice of Chairman of the Committee whose job is to scrutinise the very Executive whom the Whips defend?

Mr. Woolas

I shall answer that after I have made my second point, which is that it would be very difficult to achieve the party political balance that we all want in the Select Committee process if the usual channels were not involved in allowing the arithmetic to work out. For example, there are 35 Select Committees, each of which has about 15 members, and there are 659 Members of Parliament. The arithmetic required to get a party balance on Select Committees without the involvement of the usual channels in the allocation of places would, I suggest, bring the whole system into disrepute.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) asked whether I thought that the present system contained a contradiction in principle. I do not, because the alternatives would not provide the result that he seeks. The suggested nomination committee—or elections held solely by Select Committee members—would not achieve the balance that I have described, and no such system would prevent interference by the party-political nature of the House. In fact, if elections were held. I imagine that a Whip would have to be involved. Justifiable complaints and worries were expressed in the debate about non-attendance at Select Committees. The irony is that the best way to get attendance up is to put a Whip in each Committee. To avoid such a contradiction, we must take account of custom and practice. On the whole, I believe that Select Committees work well, and increasingly so.

Mr. Salmond

I see that the Deputy Leader of the House has carried a Whip's antipathy to the proposed nomination committee over into his current role. However, if the Whips are so good at achieving party balance in these matters, how is that they have not done so on behalf of the minority parties?

Mr. Woolas

That has to do with my second point on the arithmetic involved. Achieving balance in individual Committees and across all Committees is a difficult task, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept. In my experience, not all parties co-operate in that respect, although I do not accuse his party of that. However, I recognise his point about the statement from my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), which will have to be resolved one way or the other. I am not in a position to do so in this debate.

Mr. Salmond

I desperately hope that the Deputy Leader of the House is not stepping back from the commitment given by the right hon. Member for Livingston, and by his own predecessor, that the matter would be addressed. The right hon. Gentleman recognised the imbalance and the grievance, and said that it would be resolved. I can give the references if necessary, but I hope that there is no retreat from the original commitment.

Mr. Woolas

I have said that the matter will be addressed one way or the other. I cannot give the commitment that the hon. Gentleman seeks today, but I hope that he will recognise the valid and reasonable point that I made—that the process is not as straightforward as he rather naively believes. The House would want me to move on, and I wish to deal with many other points.

The Government are strongly committed to the idea of paying the Chairmen of Select Committees not simply because that is a recognition of the work load that is involved—although that is a valid point, as hon. Members have said—nor just because of the good desire to have what has been described as an alternative career prospect, although the Government recognise that there are very good arguments for that as well. However, I hope that it will not be implied that there is a difference between those who choose the career path of Select Committees and that type of scrutiny work, as opposed to being Ministers or Front-Bench spokespeople. In my experience, those Ministers and Front-Bench spokespeople are very committed to Parliament. They are proud of Parliament and are respectful of it, and the Government's actions have reflected that.

The main reason why the measure should be supported is that, by making a salary payment—although it is perhaps modest in respect of Cabinet Ministers' salaries and others—we are sending a message to the country that says that we take the role of scrutiny very seriously and that we take Parliament very seriously. The House wants the public to be reassured about that. As always, there is a difference between perception and reality. If the public perceive that scrutiny is not as strong as it should be, it is right to adopt such measures.

The SSRB has done a very good job, having been asked a difficult question by the House, as assessing work load was part of its work. Right hon. and hon. Members may remember the work done by the Clegg commission, and anyone who has been engaged in comparative job studies will know that it is a very difficult job. The SSRB is keen to point out—it is repeated throughout the recommendations—that this is an initial, cautious approach. The SSRB is committed to returning to the scope and the amount in its review. It is locking in such things, so that they can be reviewed in the relatively near future. I hope that, in itself, that will reassure hon. Members not only about the amount and the scope, but particularly about those Committees that have not been included in the report today.

The report has had to balance the arguments about work load—there is perhaps an implication in the report that the amount of money should be greater, taking a fair and straight comparison—with the second point that this is an initial approach, a toe in the water, and with my third point that this represents a strong symbol about how the House of Commons sees itself and what it wants to say to the public.

Hon. Members have asked me to repeat what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said in an intervention on the shadow Leader of the House at the beginning of the debate, and I am more than happy to do so. The Government are committed to revisiting these matters in relation not only to the scope of the list of Select Committees in the report and to consider other Committees such as the Procedure Committee, but to the amount, to which the SSRB says it will return.

Mr. Tyler

By inference—the Deputy Leader of the House is not referring to this—he does not accept that an incentive is needed to get the talent that we require for the Chairmen of Select Committees, so the incentive of additional payments is not in the Government's mind. Is that right?

Mr. Woolas

I confirm that that is absolutely the case. The Government certainly believe that, as the hon. Gentleman said earlier, financial incentives are not the reason why hon. Members put themselves forward for the chairmanships of Committees, but there is a paradox in the hon. Gentleman's argument. It is contradictory to say that financial incentive is not the motive while referring to the role of the usual channels, the coercion that he implies and the patronage that has been mentioned. I suggest that he cannot have it both ways.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving us that assurance. I shall support the motion. However, my concern for the Committee that I chair is that it was recommended in the Modernisation Committee report, but it was dropped from the motion that was debated by the House. Could it be that because it was dropped—I do not know for what reason—it was overlooked by the SSRB'? I do take the assurance that the Leader of the House and the hon. Gentleman have given that this matter will be looked at as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Woolas

I should deal with a core question that has been asked, which relates to the selection of amendments, the scope of the report, and the difficulties that some hon. Members who wanted to table amendments have had. To highlight the point made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I must make it clear that the motion comes before the House as a result of the recommendation in the report of the SSRB. It is a House motion. That limits the remit of the motion that the Government are able to put before the House.

In essence, I ask the House to consider that what is behind the motion is the SSRB's recommendation that the House give its permission to spend money. We will be spending public money if the motion is agreed. If we wanted to extend the scope of the motion without the authority of the SSRB, the House would have difficulty with that.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

In several parts of the report, the SSRB states categorically that the decision as to which Committee chairmanship should be eligible for remuneration is one for the House, not for the SSRB and is not based on what it says in its report. Obviously, we can take the report into account, but the House should take the final decision and I think that the Chairman of the Liaison Committee shares that view.

Mr. Woolas

I recognise that that is the case, but we must read recommendation 2.22 very carefully. The hon. Gentleman is right that it says: The final decision on which committees to include should be determined by the House itself. The list includes the Select Committees—both domestic and external—and what the report describes as the "cross-departmental committees". It is also true that the amendments have not been selected. That is not a matter for me. That is what the House is facing.

My difficulty is that several hon. Members assumed in the debate that if the motion were defeated or withdrawn, we could revisit the issue with an extended list as quickly as is possible. That is not the case. We would have to go back to the SSRB because of the nature of the triggering of the expenditure.

Mr. Forth

indicated dissent.

Mr. Woolas

We will have to agree to disagree. That is the advice that I have been given.

Mr. Forth

I suspect that you are quite as puzzled as I am, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to why the Deputy Leader of the House is saying what he has said and what it is supposed to mean. Does he not really mean that the Treasury limits the amount of money involved and what the Government can agree to in the resolution? There is no other limit.

The SSRB has made a recommendation, but it is for the House to take the decision, based on any resolutions before it and any amendments that may have been selected. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is trying to fool us that there is some other inhibition on what we do. We have a motion, we make a decision and it surely has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Speaker or his selection of amendments.

Mr. Woolas

With due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, it has everything to do with the selection of amendments. The recommendations make clear which Committees the proposals should cover and the motion reflects that. The Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House have no authority to bring such motions before the House other than that given us by the SSRB. The difficulty has arisen due to the decision that the motion is not to be amended.

Sir George Young

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is digging himself quite a big hole. It is within my memory that many recommendations made by the SSRB have not been implemented by the Government and were amended before they were put to the House.

Mr. Woolas

I am aware of that, but the point that is perhaps being lost in these interventions is that we have to carry public confidence in the measure. To do so, it is important that we can point to clear recommendations from the SSRB. I do not think that anyone would disagree with that.

Mr. Alan Williams

My hon. Friend may be getting into a mess on this, but it is not of his own making—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is."] No, it is not. Whether we like it or not, the decision of the Chair was not to accept amendments. It was implicit in the report by the use of the words "such as" that the motion was amendable by the House. The decision not to select the amendments was not that of my hon. Friend and he should not give the impression that it was; it was a decision of the Chair.

Mr. Woolas

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. What he says is true.

Mr. Tyler

Just now, the hon. Gentleman gave himself a let-out. He, rightly, indicated the difference between the defeat of the motion, which would put everybody in some difficulty, and his withdrawing the motion. That is a clear way out, which would enable him to take into account the concerns on both sides of the House about what is being proposed.

Mr. Woolas

I think that Mr. Deputy Speaker would suggest that we do not take that road. If we accept that we want to recognise the status of the Chairmen of scrutiny Committees, the best way to achieve that is to accept the report and the motion.

Several other important points have been made, including suggestions from some Members about the role of Chairmen of Standing Committees. No one, either in this debate or in the House as a whole, would suggest that Chairmen of Standing Committees do anything other than a difficult job, which, as has been said, involves sacrifices on their part in terms of the restrictions on their other activities in the House. To add to the point made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), people often do not realise that the Chairman of a Standing Committee is not allowed to vote on a Bill of whose Committee he has been the Chairman. On occasion, that can put those Members into extremely difficult situations vis-à-vis their constituents and their other commitments.

I do not want to give the impression that the Government does not recognise the hard work of Chairmen of Standing Committees. In response to several comments made during the debate, I point out that the Leader of the House has only an influence over pay or remuneration for Standing Committee Chairmen. The matter is for the Chairmen themselves and for the Speaker and his Deputies, although of course the Leader of the House can take a view. However, today we are debating the merits of the case for pay for Chairmen of Select Committees, not the other points that have been raised.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) made an impassioned speech, pointing out that all Members should be treated equally. However, some Members are already remunerated for their work on behalf of the House, including, of course, the Speaker, his Deputies and some Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. The principle already exists.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock attacked the Whips and this measure, which he described as foolhardy, perverse and bonkers at various points in his speech, and asked where this principle would stop if we started to pay Chairmen of Standing Committees and Select Committees and other Officers of the House, it occurred to me that, given his expressed views, he might end up being the only hon. Member not to get extra remuneration if he were to go down that road. He even went as far as questioning why the junior Whips get paid—a very dangerous precedent. I would not confuse the lack of speeches that they are able to make in the House with their importance in the running of the House, and I suggest that that would not be a good road for him to go down.

Several important points have been made by right hon. and hon. Members. It was suggested that a time limit be put on the ability of a Member to be a Chairman of a Select Committee after having been a Minister. Again, the motion does not address that question, and of course there have been arguments for and against both points of view. What I would ask, however, is for the House to consider what has happened over the years under Governments of both parties. My view and the Government's view is that, on the whole, the Select Committee system has worked—it has been in place for nearly 25 years. It can improve, this is one measure that will improve it, and we ask the House to support that. Accusations cannot be fairly made, and it cannot he fairly imputed in any way, that any Chairmen of Select Committees have been subject to undue pressure or improper influence. I ask the House to consider the custom and practice in that regard.

A number of questions were asked, which I shall try to answer as quickly as I can. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan expressed his opposition to this measure, and set down some criteria that he would require to be met before he would feel able to support it. He talked about the openness of appointments, and I have tried to justify the arrangements in saying that there are good reasons why the usual channels system works. He made points about representation of minority parties, which I have tried to answer as best I can within the constraints of the motion before the House. He also raised the question of suspicion of patronage, which I hope that I have answered satisfactorily.

In conclusion, the system of departmental Select Committees has been in place for almost 25 years. It has grown considerably over the years in strength and in visibility. The Government are committed to strengthening the Committee system. As has been said, we have supported the recent increase of staff resources. The introduction of additional payments for Committee Chairmen is a further step intended to acknowledge the importance of their role and their work and to help create a parliamentary career path. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 86, Noes 59.

Division No. 346] [4:38 pm
Ainger, Nick Linton, Martin
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Loughton, Tim
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen) Love, Andrew
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Austin, John McFall, John
Bailey, Adrian McIntosh, Miss Anne
Barker, Gregory Mackay, rh Andrew
Barrett, John McLoughlin, Patrick
Barron, rh Kevin Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Boswell, Tim Ottaway, Richard
Brady, Graham Palmer, Dr. Nick
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Bruce, Malcolm Pound, Stephen
Cameron, David Randall, John
Carmichael, Alistair Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Cash, William
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Coaker, Vernon
Colman, Tony Rosindell, Andrew
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Salter, Martin
Cruddas, Jon Sheerman, Barry
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden) Soley, Clive
Spicer, Sir Michael
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W) Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Fitzpatrick, Jim Tipping, Paddy
Forth, rh Eric Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Fox, Dr. Liam Tyrie, Andrew
Francois, Mark Watkinson, Angela
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Whittingdale, John
Goodman, Paul Wicks, Malcolm
Grogan, John Wilkinson, John
Hain, rh Peter Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart) Wilshire, David
Hawkins, Nick Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Hinchliffe, David Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Horam, John (Orpington) Woolas, Phil
Jenkin, Bernard Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Kidney, David Wyatt, Derek
Kirkwood, Sir Archy Young, rh Sir George
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lamb, Norman Tellers for the Ayes:
Lazarowicz, Mark Gillian Merron and
Liddell-Grainger, Ian Paul Clark
Allan, Richard Khabra, Piara S.
Amess, David Lloyd, Tony (Manchester c)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Llwyd, Elfyn
Benton, Joe (Bootle) Mackinlay, Andrew
Bottomley, Peter (worthing W) Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Burstow, paul Miller, Andrew
Cable, Dr. Vincent O'Neill, Martin
Calton, Mrs patsy Pollard, Kerry
Chidgey, David Perentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Quinn, Lawrie
Corbyn, Jeremy Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Cotter, Brian Rendel, David
Cousins, Jim Robathan, Andrew
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Curry, rh David Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Russell, Bob (colchester)
Dismore, Andrew Salmond, Alex
Doughty, sue Shepherd, Richard
Drew, David (Stroud) Skinner, Dennis
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Stunell, Andrew
George, Andrew (St. Ives) Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Grayling, Chris Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon) Thurso, John
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Heath, David Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David Weir, Michael
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Holmes, Paul Tellers for the Noes:
Hopkins, Kelvin Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak) Pete Wishart

Question accordingly agreed to.


That this House—

1. takes note of the Report of the Review Body on Senior Salaries on Pay for Select Committee Chairmen in the House of Commons presented to Parliament on 17th July (Cm. 5673);

2. approves the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges on Pay for Select Committee Chairmen (HC 1150); and endorses the principles set out in paragraph 16 of that report; and

3. expresses the opinion that—

  1. (a) with effect from the beginning of the next Session of Parliament, the salary of a Member should be £12,500 per annum higher than the figure determined in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution of the House of 10th July 1996 in respect of any period during which he is the Chairman of a select committee appointed under Standing Order No. 152 (Select Committees related to government departments), the Environmental Audit Committee, the European Scrutiny Committee, the Committee of Public Accounts, the Select Committee on Public Administration, the Regulatory Reform Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights or the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, other than to the extent that the provisions of sub-paragraph (c) apply;
  2. (b) a period begins for the purpose of sub—paragraph (a)—
    1. (i) with the day on which the Member becomes Chairman of such a committee, or
    2. (ii) with the beginning of the next Session of Parliament, in the case of a Member who became Chairman before that time;
and ends on the day on which the Member ceases to be Chairman (or, if he is Chairman of more than one such committee, he ceases to be Chairman of the last of those committees);

(c) there shall be disregarded for the purpose of subparagraph (a)—

  1. (i) any period which is of less than 24 hours duration; and
  2. 505
  3. (ii) any period, or part thereof, in respect of which the Member is also entitled to an additional salary by virtue of any provision of the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975;

(d) reference to any Committee in sub—paragraph (a) shall—

  1. (i) if the name of the Committee is changed, be taken (subject to paragraph (ii)) to be a reference to the Committee by its new name; and
  2. (ii) if the functions of the Committee become functions of a different Committee, be taken to be a reference to the Committee by whom the functions are for the time being exercisable;

(e) the provisions of paragraph (2) of the Resolution of the House of 10th July 1996 relating to Members' Salaries (No. 2) shall apply, with effect from 1st April 2004, to a salary determined in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (a) as they apply in relation t o a salary determined in accordance with the provisions of that Resolution; and

(f) the Speaker shall have authority to interpret these provisions and to determine rules from time to time for their implementation.