Orders of the Day — European Parliamentary Elections Bill [Money]

– in the House of Commons at 9:37 pm on 30th June 1993.

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the European Parliamentary Elections Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of remuneration and allowances to the members of a European Parliamentary Constituencies Committee established by the Act.—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber 10:31 pm, 30th June 1993

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I right in thinking that we may speak to the money resolution?

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

We have witnessed an extraordinary exhibition by Labour Members, who had every opportunity to defeat the Government, but turned it down. Any more from them about how easy it would be to do that—[Interruption.]—is unnecessary. Why should we not wish to support the money——

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. The money resolution is very narrow and is about the remuneration of the members of a committee. It is not about political parties.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

Is it sufficiently narrow for me to say that the money resolution should not be passed? I would not wish to see the House support a motion which would permit a system of election that is transparently unfair and unjust to millions of people in Britain. I listened with astonishment to the Minister's reply. He spent a great deal of time on the details but ignored the plain fact that the European Parliament does not produce a government, as we do, but exists to provide advice within the institutions of the European Community. So the traditional arguments against having a fair electoral——

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is now going very wide of the mark.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South 10:33 pm, 30th June 1993

I trust that the Minister will reply to this debate because the money resolution is part of the pattern of procedure and must have the authority of the House. Many hon. Members are anxious to hear the Minister, but if he is not prepared to give an outline of the purpose of the measure, we may decide to call a Division, just to emphasise the point. We want to know what the cost of the commission will be because——

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I have explained that the money resolution is very narrow—[Interruption.]—and, in any event, it is difficult for me to ascertain what the hon. Member is saying if I cannot hear him. The House must now quieten down.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I have questions to ask about the costs of this legislation. The issue of proportional representation has been raised. I would be out of order in discussing that. On the other hand, the Minister will want to make it clear that the cost of the legislation is the absolute minimum and that the introduction of a daft system of proportional representation would have been a great deal more costly. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to reply.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 10:35 pm, 30th June 1993

I understand that the purpose of the money resolution is to authorise payments from public funds for the remuneration and allowances of the members of these specious committees, whose purpose is to create the six new European parliamentary constituencies.

My first objection to the provision of any money whatsoever for this purpose is that the exercise would be unnecessary if there were a system of proportional representation. Such a system would remove any need for the carving up of constituencies. Thus, this is a waste of valuable funds.

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

Regardless of the cost, has the hon. Gentleman failed to understand that the system he is proposing is being increasingly rejected throughout Europe? It is bogus, as is shown by the fact that it has almost been accepted by the Labour party as a final solution for lost causes.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I cannot accept that. I shall be interested to hear to what places the hon. Gentleman is referring. If he is thinking about Italy, let met tell him that the system being proposed there is far more democratic than anything we have in this country.

My second point is that the committees for which we are being asked to approve funds will not be allowed to look at the European constituencies for the nation of Scotland. By no stretch of the imagination could that be regarded as anything but a travesty. It is a total waste of money to set up committees that will ignore a constituent part of the United Kingdom. Why should Scottish taxpayers have to pay for these specious, spurious bodies?

I live in the European constituency of the Highlands and Islands, whose northernmost extremity is further north than the southern tip of Greenland, and whose southernmost extremity—the Mull of Kintyre, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie)—is further south than Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is a massive constituency. If the Bill gave Scotland not only its fair share of Members but also constituencies of a more manageable size, there might be some justification for the committee funds that the House is now being asked to approve. As it is, there is no provision for an examination of Scotland. That is another reason for not asking the taxpayers for this money.

The third point is that we are to have committees rather than boundary commissions. During both Divisions tonight, Labour Members were conspicuous by their absence.[Interruption.]

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

We are not having that.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Not all of them. If they had all taken part, the Bill could have been defeated. One must assume that they are being bought off, that they have been told that these gerrymandering committees will give them some-thing. It is totally contrary to the traditions of this country that such committees should be set up, that we should eschew the normal procedure of reference to a boundary commission, with all the safeguards of proper published reports and proper opportunities for consultation and public inquiry. Instead of the inherent independence of a boundary commission, we are moving to more quangos, set up by the Government with the agreement of the Labour party. This is so inconsistent with our democratic conditions that Parliament should not be asked to approve the expenditure of taxpayers' money. This is not the Government's money or our money. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am glad that hon. Members are catching on. Why should we be asked to approve the expenditure of taxpayers' money to set up gerrymandering committees for the purpose of appeasing members of the Tory and Labour parties?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:39 pm, 30th June 1993

For years the House has been asked to spend money by passing money resolutions after Bills have gained a Second Reading and often on ideas from the Conservative party which have wasted billions of pounds. One of the latest examples of what the Conservatives called a democratic institution was the poll tax. The relevant legislation received a Second Reading and through the money resolution Conservative Members, who represent a minority of people in the country, spent millions of pounds on a system which was wholly discredited from the beginning and which had to be reversed.

We are now being asked to do something more serious. If the money resolution is passed, we shall be authorising an electoral system that is illegal under European law—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is not rubbish; it is likely that the system will have to be reversed in due course. It will discredit the United Kingdom in the eyes of our neighbours and partners in the European Community.

If we pass the money resolution, we shall be distorting democracy not only in this country—that is bad enough because we are already a laughing stock to the world's new democracies—[Interruption.]When the Government-in-waiting in South Africa travel the world to study democracies on which they could model the constitution of the new South Africa, the one place they do not come to is here. They do not come here because we have a discredited democracy. All other countries, including Italy—I address this in particular to the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor)—have far more representative democracies than we have. The hon. Gentleman's ignorance is such that—

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. It might be helpful if the House would quieten down and if the hon. Gentleman returned to money.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

In many respects and on many other subjects, the hon. Member for Esher is well informed, but his ignorance on this subject is such that he thinks that the money resolution will authorise a system that is more democratic than any in the European Community. I challenge him to get an independent assessment by any professor of electoral law—[Interruption.]The Conservatives are unwilling to do so. They are unwilling to test what they call democracy—for which we are paying. The Conservatives are not paying—they are asking the people to pay.

We shall be distorting democracy not only at home but in the whole of Europe. Next year, the European Parliament will not be democratic or representative because we shall have perverted the course of European democracy. Yet we are meant to be the founders of democracy and we call this the mother of Parliaments.

We are talking about my money—the people's money—and I am blowed if I will authorise the expenditure of my money by allowing a distorted, discredited Government, who were elected by a minority of the people, to push this resolution through. I sincerely hope that, with the help of the Labour party—[Interruption.]Let me correct myself. Those on the Labour Front Bench and the Labour leadership—but unsupported by some of that party's members—will be far more culpable of keeping the Tories in power than they accused us of being in October in passing the Bill and, as a result, condoning an electoral system for next year which may yet be taken through the courts. Even if that does not happen, and even if the Bill is not defeated in Committee next week or the week after, it will produce a result next year which will ensure that Britain, alone of the 12 member states, is the unrepresentative, undemocratic partner in Europe.

Our reputation in Europe for wasting money and being undemocratic is already bad enough. It is a sad day when the new Home Secretary and all his colleagues are willing to try to make cosy deals with those who are otherwise considered to be their opponents on all policies. The deal would enable the Government to spend money on setting up a quango, all of those members will be unelected appointees of the Secretary of State. They will not represent the spectrum of opinion.

We have not heard from the Minister how much money will be spent. If the Government get authority from Parliament to spend that money, because they manage to push their minority through the Lobby, when will it be paid back? If our electoral system is shown to be unfair and unreasonable, will the Government pay the money back? Oh no—as on previous occasions when the Government have pushed through Bills with money resolutions, the people of Britain will pay. The Government, their Ministers or even the civil servants will not pay it—only the people.

I want to say one last thing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I could be encouraged to go on for another half an hour. About 20 years ago, I spent one year at the College of Europe with people from 27 other countries. We were trying to build a new democratic Europe. We had difficulty enough then trying to persuade our colleagues that we were serious about that concept. Twenty years later, despite the pretence of the Prime Minister when he said that we are at the centre of Europe, we go on distorting the electoral system and discrediting our country. That behaviour will ensure that the United Kingdom, of all the member states, is the least democratic.

I want to make it clear that it is not the Liberal Democrats who have countenanced the scandal, but the two largest political parties. We shall go on fighting and, sooner rather than later, democracy will come not just to the European Parliament, but to this Parliament—and it will be achieved at a far cheaper price than that set in the money resolution, which will be paid in silver and pounds and is the price of democracy lost and given away by a discredited Government and a deeply discredited official Opposition.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip 10:47 pm, 30th June 1993

I have been inspired by my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to ask the Minister some penetrating questions.

The financial memorandum makes it clear that the cost resulting from the Bill will be £250,000 in 1993–94. Discussions have gone on all day in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster about what negotiations have been held between the two Front-Bench teams. I was not privy to them but they must have related, either directly or indirectly, to the costs of the Bill.

We are entitled to ask some questions about the money allocated. If the Government had chosen another means to redistribute the reservoir of six European Parliament seats, that could have been done at no additional cost. A well-established apparatus for that purpose is available to the Government, but they chose to eschew it. As a result, an extra bill of £250,000 has been put on the taxpayer; that is incontrovertible. The Government have incurred that charge and it is up to them to justify it.

The Minister is duty-bound to give us more details about how the money is made up, how the expenses and allowances will be arrived at, what the precedents are for establishing what sums of money are paid and for what specific and detailed purposes and how the Government will select the chairman and members of the parliamentary constituency committees.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Has my hon. Friend considered the possibility that, in order to perform the job properly, those who are appointed to this doubtful committee might have to travel extensively throughout England and Wales so that they will know the areas that they are talking about? Does he foresee a substantial amount being incurred in travel expenses and some freebie joy-rides, which would not be needed if we had proportional representation?

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—that was my next point. The Minister must know how costly such visits will be. Have per diem allowances been made for the chairman and the members of the parliamentary constituency committees? All those matters are vital. I do not think that there are any precedents for such an operation. We are entitled to know the exact amount of the expenses and how they are arrived at.

Part I of the schedule to the Bill says: 4. The Secretary of State shall pay to the members of a Committee (including the Chairman) such remuneration and allowances as he may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine. Does that mean that the House will not have the right to say how the expenses of this operation are set up? Are there any statutory instruments and legislation that will bring back to the House, either by a negative or affirmative procedure, the amounts of money that are spent and the way in which they were deployed? It will be a disgrace if that does not happen.

The committees are unnecessary. Today, there have been all sorts of private talks between the two Front Benches. I do not know what accommodations have been reached or how extensive they may have been. How can we possibly scrutinise the results of the negotiations unless negative and affirmative orders are tabled in the House before the money is properly disbursed so that we can make judgments? There is a conspiracy between the two Front Benches. It is unconscionable that we have not been given any more details.

Photo of Mr David Rendel Mr David Rendel , Newbury

As I have not yet been given an office in the House, I should like to know where the accommodation for these committees will he.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

Over the past fortnight, my hon. Friend has been coming to me at half-hour intervals asking for an office in this place. We have not been able to find him one, although we have tried. Somehow, the usual channels have not been able to find him accommodation. I bet that accommodation is found for the chairman and members of these committees to enable them to do their work. Why cannot the Government find an office in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster for my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel)?

There are some legitimate and detailed questions that the Minister must answer. Never mind the high politics about the need for proportional representation and getting a much more democratic and open Europe. All those matters are out of order. I do not want to stray too much into the realms of proportional representation and the need to get a fair system or I will be ruled out of order. However, we need to know why this money, unnecessary as it is, must be spent and why Parliament will not have a chance to scrutinise the details of how it will be deployed.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 10:53 pm, 30th June 1993

I have a question that arises when we take what the Minister said in conjunction with the money resolution. What undertakings have been given to potential members of the committees about the payment of allowances and remuneration to them from the money to be voted in this resolution? In his closing remarks in the main debate, the Minister of State said that contact had been made with several people who are prepared to serve as members of the committee. Some of the boundary commissioners did not have time to serve, but others, miraculously, had the time.

The Minister then said that it was possible that a draft report would be published by 1 August. He was not certain. It appears to me, and it must have occurred to others, because the matter was referred to in one of the amendments to the Second Reading motion, that some undertaking must have been given to the commissioners that if they started work before the Bill had completed its progress, they would nevertheless be paid in due course for the work that they had done from the moneys that are the subject of the money resolution. The Minister nods. He has already given undertakings to people that they will be paid money which we have not yet voted. The Bill on the basis of which they would be paid has not yet passed through Parliament.

The Bill is likely to have a long Committee stage going into many days. The Committee stage may not have finished by 1 August. It may well go into the spill-over session. It is assumed that the commissioners will turn in day after day at some princely per diem allowance on an undertaking which the Minister has given that they will get their money in due course. I have news for them. They may never get their money. That is unless Major-General Wyldbore-Smith or one of those other remarkable characters has pots of gold still undiscovered from which they will be paid. We will then know that the project is not a public project but a Tory party project. Indeed, the Labour party may be willing to subscribe.

I hope that neither the Bill nor the money resolution will be passed. If they are not, the commissioners will find that they have spent a great deal of time doing the Government's bidding for no money, unless it is privately subscribed by the two parties who hope to profit politically from the deal. I am amazed that the Minister has made it clear, by nods of his head, that he has given such an undertaking to the people whom he has invited to serve as pseudo-members of a so far non-existent committee.

We had better tell the commissioners that they may never see the colour of this money. They may never see Howard's shilling, which is what it will become. If by any miracle they get Howard's shilling or Blair's florin or whatever it is, they will have discredited themselves by becoming involved in a partisan exercise. I say to the distinguished people who have taken part in the work of the Boundary Commission that they should steer well clear of this. It must be obvious that this is a seedy enterprise from the way in which the money side is being organised, with promises and undertakings such as, "We'll see you all right. We haven't got the Bill through yet but don't worry, we'll see that you get your money."

Any of the distinguished people who previously served Britain well on Boundary Commissions would be ill-advised to have anything to do with the procedures set out in the Bill.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 10:58 pm, 30th June 1993

I wish to take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). In the first line of the explanatory and financial memorandum, the great city of Edinburgh is mentioned. I want to know what the great city of Edinburgh and, indeed, the great country and nation of Scotland will get out of the £250,000 that we are being asked to vote. It seems to me that Scotland will get nothing.

I also find it odd that the Scottish Conservative party will get nothing out of the £250,000 as it is the only party which might benefit from proportional representation in Scotland—it might secure at least some representation in Scotland under that system.

It is extraordinary that the Conservatives are adamant that they wish to protect the existing system and, indeed, extend it in a rather gerrymandered and corrupt fashion in circumstances in which, given the drift of election swings, the bias to the left is likely to be the main consequence of the Bill being passed.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the Secretary of State for Scotland said that he was aiming high for Scotland? Does he think that no seats and no money is an example of aiming high?

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. He has aimed high because Scotland will pay but get nothing back. This is a simple contribution—a high bill to Scotland for absolutely no return.

It is extraordinary that Conservative Members show such contempt for the European Parliament, which they prefer to call an "assembly" to show how they downgrade it. They do not care about the political distortions that are brought about by arrangements in the United Kingdom. Ironically, they are likely to work against the Conservative party next year and many Conservative MEPs currently in that Parliament will lose their seats as a consequence of this, and might wish that the Government had taken a slightly broader position.

As this agreement arises out of a meeting held in Edinburgh, as the Prime Minister is on record as saying that he is committed to ensuring that Scotland should benefit and prosper within the United Kingdom, and as the Secretary of State for Scotland has said that he is fighting to improve Scotland's representation within the European Parliament, the people of Scotland should not be expected to pay a penny of the £250,000. Can the Minister assure us that there will be no consequences for the Scottish people and that they will find none of their services cut to pay for it?

Under the heading Effect of the Bill on Public Service Manpower the Bill says that staff will be temporarily assigned to the Committees under paragraph 3 of the Schedule of the Bill". Which staff will be seconded to the committee? Where will they come from? And what are they doing that is so unimportant that they can now be taken away from it without material consequences?

As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) asked, will he be further displaced from finding a place to deal assiduously with the substantial amount of work that he has to handle as a result of the Conservative Government who brought him to this House?

Those are serious points. The Conservative party, which is used to wrestling with a deficit of £50 billion, may not regard £250,000 as a matter of any consequence. But spent with the specific intention of ensuring that the Tory and Labour parties do all right, thank you very much, while the rest of the country pays for the consequences, it is not just a waste of money but fundamentally corrupt. It is being spent across all the taxpayers and nations of the United Kingdom in a way designed to secure party political advantage for the Tory and Labour parties and to continue to maintain a distortion which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, is a shame on this country's reputation.

It is a tragic irony that we still have the image of being the mother of Parliaments, yet we are spending £250,000 to perpetuate that distortion. That is corruption. It is a travesty and a shame and may yet be challenged by the European Court. Since we became signatories of the treaty of Rome and acceded to the European Parliament, we have failed to honour our treaty obligations to agree a common electoral system for the European Parliament. We have not even been prepared, as could have been done under the Bill, at least to start to test how that could be done. We are now asking taxpayers to spend £250,000 to perpetuate a distortion which brings shame to this country.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) made a pertinent point: if a challenge is successful in the European Court, the money voted by this Parliament will have been illegally spent, and more money may have to be spent to put the matter right.

However, I guess that a Government who were prepared to tell lies about £50 billion before the election will hardly worry about a few hundred thousand pounds here or there on the issue of democracy. It is a matter of no concern to them. But it is a matter of great and growing concern to a wide audience in this country, who will see what has been done in this House and how the Tory and Labour parties corruptly think that they can carve up the system for themselves for ever.

The time is coming when the people of this country will say, "Enough is enough. A plague on both your houses. Drop your Bill and let's have some real democracy."

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray 11:04 pm, 30th June 1993

We have spent many hours on Second Reading of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill and we are now debating the motion on the money resolution. Not one Scottish Conservative Member or a Minister from the Scottish Office has been present for the debate to explain their attitude to the issue. That is to be deprecated.

Scotland will benefit not one whit from the legislation. At the time of the Edinburgh summit, I said that Scotland was being regarded as a tartan waitress by the people at the top table. The £250,000 that we are debating could be regarded as tips to the waitress. It seems that Scotland's taxpayers are to be asked to give money for which they will receive no benefit whatever. That money will be used to pay part of the cost of the new direct elections.

The European Parliament is becoming increasingly important. I do not share the view of people such as the hon. Members for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and for Stafford (Mr. Cash), who were here earlier, that that Parliament should be denigrated. It has a great deal to contribute to the development of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. If benefit is to accrue to anybody, it should also accrue to the people of Scotland who are not to be given additional access to a democratically elected institution. We are being asked to contribute a quarter of a million pounds, but we are not to be allowed to increase our representation and our influence, and that is wrong.

Many hon. Members from other parties and the Member of the European Parliament for the Highlands and Islands have joined me in arguing that west Moray, Argyll and Bute, Cumbrae and Arran should be included in the objective 1 status afforded to the highlands and islands. The agriculture committee and the regional committee of the European Parliament have said that that should be agreed, and the European Parliament has cast 277 votes in favour of that.

If we are to influence economic and political developments in the Community institutions, we must have the right to increased representation. It is strange that the House is in danger of saying that Scotland's taxpayers should support increased funding for the Community, but should not have increased influence.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I noted my hon. Friend's barbs about the absence of Scottish Conservatives from the Chamber. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), has finally joined us. Perhaps she would acknowledge his presence and comment on it. Perhaps he will tell us why Scotland should stump up for no benefit whatever.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that to my attention. I should be grateful for an indication of Scottish Office thinking on the matter.

As I have said, it is strange that Scottish taxpayers are being asked to increase their funding but are to receive no benefit in return. It is important for the development of the Community that one of Europe's most ancient nations should have increased access. Denmark has 15 Members of the European Parliament, while Scotland, with the same population, has only eight. It is fundamental for the people of Scotland to see equity applied. I hope that the Minister will comment on that. If he does, it will be the first such comment in the debate.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham 11:09 pm, 30th June 1993

It became clear in the debate that Liberal Democrat Members were extremely upset by the result of the vote. I understand that, because they are committed to proportional representation. They spoke about party interest in the electoral system and it is undoubtedly true that their interest, as they perceive it, is in a system of PR. They are entitled to feel that, but there are many others who believe, on extremely good grounds, that the most effective way to represent the people in a Parliament is through individual constituencies to which an hon. Member is responsible. They do not want some list system, the shortcomings of which have been highlighted in a number of speeches.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Because I do not have very much time.

Hon. Members:

Give way.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

In talking about PR and Liberal Democrats Members, why does not the Minister remind them that the ex-leader of the Liberal party went to Italy to stand in one of the tinpot elections under the PR system and was thrashed?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

That is a good reminder from the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) appears to be under some misapprehension. There are four Boundary Commissions and if there were also to be changes in the numbers in the other two countries that make up the United Kingdom—Northern Ireland and Scotland—their boundaries would have to be reviewed and the expense would be that much greater.

I assure the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) that the expenditure is precisely the same as the expenditure that would have been made had the Boundary Commission been doing the reviewing. The hon. Gentleman may be upset to know that, in fact, the process will be rather less expensive because the changes apply to only two of our four countries. He may be disappointed to learn that there will be rather less travelling about the country because, as has been discussed this evening, the possibility of local inquiries being held is constrained by the time scale involved. There will be less travel and less expense.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) spoke about wasting billions of pounds. I do not think that, at that point, he had read the Bill. If he had, he would have known that the expenditure will be £250,000. There is nothing illegal in the process. The Government have authority to pay money out of the contingency fund. When the money resolution is passed this evening, as I am sure it will be, it will be before any expenditure is undertaken.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Government have already made the arrangements.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

It is true, of course, that we had to check whether members of the Boundary Commission would be willing to serve on the informal body, which will operate in the same way as the Boundary Commission. Obviously, those members expect to serve on the same terms.

The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) asked, in particular, how the money would be disbursed. The £250,000 allowed for in the money resolution covers all the expenses likely to be incurred by the committees in fulfilling their duties. The probable expenses are the payment of members' remuneration and expenses; the provision of staff to assist them in their duties—they will number about four; we expect them to be found from existing resources and there will be no increase in the gross number of permanent Government staff—the purchase and production of special maps; and the cost to publicising the preliminary recommendations of the committees.

To have a review of England and Wales done quickly, effectively and fairly for £250,000 constitutes reasonable expenditure and I am sure that the majority of hon. Members will endorse that view.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. May I point out that Northern Ireland already has proportional representation, so adding a seat there would not require a Boundary Commission? From what date does he anticipate the expenses starting to run?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

The expenses will start to run as soon as the committees start their work, which we hope will be very shortly indeed.

If the hon. Gentleman had attended the debate this evening—I think that he looked in from time to time—he would know that I agreed with the Labour Front Bench that it was no secret accommodation; it was across the Dispatch Box and the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) will be kept informed—to look closely at the timetable to see whether it can be achieved within the limits that we require and with the maximum amount of consultation. That we will do. There will be consultation; the question is how much and how many times it will be possible to repeat it.

Opposition Members proclaim their allegiance to the idea of Europe and the European Parliament. Unless we proceed with the timetable and keep to it, not merely will the extra seats not be taken up by Britain, but no other country will be able to take them up either.

Question put:—

The House divided:Ayes 236, Noes 27.

Division No. 314][11.15 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter(East Surrey)Ancram, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael(Selby)Arnold, Jacques(Gravesham)
Amess, DavidArnold, Sir Thomas(Hazel Grv)
Ashby, DavidGriffiths, Peter(Portsmouth, N)
Atkins, RobertGrylls, Sir Michael
Atkinson, Peter(Hexham)Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Baker, Rt Hon K.(Mole Valley)Hague, William
Baker, Nicholas(Dorset North)Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie(Epsom)
Baldry, TonyHamilton, Neil(Tatton)
Banks, Matthew(Southport)Hampson, Dr Keith
Bates, MichaelHanley, Jeremy
Batiste, SpencerHargreaves, Andrew
Beggs, RoyHarris, David
Bellingham, HenryHaselhurst, Alan
Bendall, VivianHawkins, Nick
Beresford, Sir PaulHeald, Oliver
Blackburn, Dr John G.Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bonsor, Sir NicholasHendry, Charles
Booth, HartleyHicks, Robert
Boswell, TimHill, James(Southampton Test)
Bowden, AndrewHoram, John
Bowis, JohnHordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Brandreth, GylesHowarth, Alan(Strat'rd-on-A)
Brazier, JulianHughes Robert G.(Harrow W)
Bright, GrahamHunt, Rt Hon David(Wirral W)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHunter, Andrew
Brown, M.(Brigg Cl'thorpes)Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Browning, Mrs. AngelaHutton, John
Burns, SimonJack, Michael
Burt, AlistairJackson, Robert(Wantage)
Butcher, JohnJenkin, Bernard
Butler, PeterJessel, Toby
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Carrington, MatthewJones, Gwilym(Cardiff N)
Carttiss, MichaelJones, Robert B.(W Hertfdshr)
Chapman, SydneyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Clappison, JamesKey, Robert
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyKilfedder, Sir James
Coe, SebastianKirkhope, Timothy
Colvin, MichaelKnight, Mrs Angela(Erewash)
Congdon, DavidKnight, Greg(Derby N)
Conway, DerekKnight, Dame Jill(Bir'm E'st'n)
Coombs, Anthony(Wyre For'st)Knox, Sir David
Coombs, Simon(Swindon)Kynoch, George(Kincardine)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnLait, Mrs Jacqui
Couchman, JamesLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Currie, Mrs Edwina(S D'by'ire)Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Curry, David(Skipton & Ripon)Legg, Barry
Davies, Quentin(Stamford)Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Davis, David(Boothferry)Lester, Jim(Broxtowe)
Day, StephenLidington, David
Deva, Nirj JosephLightbown, David
Devlin, TimLloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Dorrell, StephenLord, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLuff, Peter
Dover, DenMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Duncan, AlanMaclean, David
Duncan-Smith, IainMcLoughlin, Patrick
Dunn, BobMadel, David
Dykes, HughMaginnis, Ken
Elletson, HaroldMalone, Gerald
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterMans, Keith
Evans, Jonathan(Brecon)Marland, Paul
Evans, Nigel(Ribble Valley)Martin, David(Portsmouth S)
Evans, Roger(Monmouth)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Faber, DavidMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Fabricant, MichaelMerchant, Piers
Fishburn, DudleyMilligan, Stephen
Forman, NigelMills, Iain
Forsyth, Michael(Stirling)Mitchell, Andrew(Gedling)
Forth, EricMitchell, Sir David(Hants NW)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanMolyneaux, Rt Hon James
Fox, Dr Liam(Woodspring)Monro, Sir Hector
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerMontgomery, Sir Fergus
French, DouglasMoss, Malcolm
Gamier, EdwardNelson, Anthony
Gillan, CherylNeubert, Sir Michael
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairNicholls, Patrick
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesNicholson, David(Taunton)
Gorst, JohnNicholson, Emma(Devon West)
Greenway, Harry(Ealing N)Norris, Steve
Greenway, John(Ryedale)Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Oppenheim, PhillipStreeter, Gary
Ottaway, RichardSumberg, David
Page, RichardSweeney, Walter
Paice, JamesTaylor, Ian(Esher)
Patnick, IrvineTaylor, John M.(Solihull)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyTemple-Morris, Peter
Pawsey, JamesThomason, Roy
Pickles, EricThompson, Sir Donald(C'er V)
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelThompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnThornton, Sir Malcolm
Renton, Rt Hon TimThurnham, Peter
Richards, RodTownend, John(Bridlington)
Riddick, GrahamTownsend, Cyril D.(Bexl'yh'th)
Rifkind, Rt Hon. MalcolmTredinnick, David
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynTrend, Michael
Robinson, Mark(Somerton)Trotter, Neville
Ross, William(E Londonderry)Twinn, Dr Ian
Rowe, Andrew(Mid Kent)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame AngelaViggers, Peter
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Sackville, TomWalden, George
Sainsbury, Rt Hon TimWaller, Gary
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasWaterson, Nigel
Shaw, David(Dover)Wells, Bowen
Shephard, Rt Hon GillianWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)Whittingdale, John
Smith, Tim(Beaconsfield)Widdecombe, Ann
Soames, NicholasWiggin, Sir Jerry
Spencer, Sir DerekWilletts, David
Spink, Dr RobertWolfson, Mark
Spring, RichardWood, Timothy
Sproat, IainYeo, Tim
Squire, Robin(Hornchurch)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, AnthonyTellers for the Ayes:
Stephen, MichaelMr. Andrew MacKay and Mr. James Arbuthnot.
Stern, Michael
Stewart, Allan
NOES
Allason, Rupert(Torbay)Loyden, Eddie
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyMaclennan, Robert
Barnes, HarryMahon, Alice
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Michie, Bill(Sheffield Heeley)
Bruce, Malcolm(Gordon)Rendel, David
Campbell, Menzies(Fife NE)Salmond, Alex
Cann, JamieSkinner, Dennis
Carlile, Alexander(Montgomry)Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Corbyn, JeremyTaylor, Matthew(Truro)
Cryer, BobTyler, Paul
Ewing, Mrs MargaretWallace, James
Foster, Don(Bath)
Godman, Dr Norman A.Tellers for the Noes:
Johnston, Sir RussellMr. Archy Kirkwood and Mr. Simon Hughes.
Jones, Nigel(Cheltenham)
Lewis, Terry

Question accordingly agreed to

Resolved,That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the European Parliamentary Elections Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of remuneration and allowances to the members of a European Parliamentary Constituencies Committee established by the Act.