The House of Commons Commission

Part of House of Commons (Administration) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1978.

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Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby 12:00 am, 27th June 1978

My hon. Friend and I have met somewhere in the middle. This change is designed to ensure that, if necessary, there will be a voting majority on the Commission. Some of us believe that the intention of the Bill in setting up the Commission is to keep it on a non-voting basis, and certainly one which does not have too much regard for the politics in this Chamber. That is why I resist the amendment.

The Bottomley Committee recommended a Commission of six members: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the House, the official Opposition's nominee and three Back Benchers. It will be for the House to choose the three Back Benchers. But assuming, as recommended by the Bottomley Committee, that one of the Back Benchers were from the minority parties, the party representation on the Commission would probably be one Government Front Bencher, one Government Back Bencher, one Opposition Front Bencher, one Opposition Back Bencher and one minority party representative. In so far as Mr. Speaker as Chairman would be unlikely to vote, except in the event of a tie, the party balance would be likely to lie with the minority party representative. If Back-Bench representation were increased to four members, as proposed in the amendment, the Government would he likely to have parity, even if opposed by the minority party representative, and Mr. Speaker would be more likely to be placed in the position of having to exercise his casting vote.

I repeat, the Commission is envisaged as essentially a House of Commons, not a party, body. It was not expected by the Bottomley Committee that it would have recourse to voting. In Committee I offered to look at this matter because I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) had a good point. Having looked at it, I think that on balance we should leave the position as it is.