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The Speaker's Committee

Part of Orders of the Day — Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 14th February 2000.

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Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire 6:45 pm, 14th February 2000

Yes, but on what basis are they to be appointed? The convention is that the usual channels play an important part.

I am not attacking the integrity of any Member of the House. That is the last thing that I would do. For about 16 years, I sat on the Chairmen's Panel. I know that, when a Member of the House chairs a Committee, he or she conducts the proceedings with an impartiality that emulates that shown by the Speaker in the Chair of the House. When we cease to chair a particular Standing Committee, we can take part in the full hurly-burly of debates on the Floor of the House.

The Opposition believe that the Speaker's Committee is so special that it should have a unique status among the Committees of the House. It should emulate the House of Commons Commission by having the Speaker in the Chair and by including only one Minister—the Leader of the House—and only one member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The other members should be elected, after debate, by the House.

The amendment is modest, but far-reaching. We believe that it will strengthen the new procedures that will be established by the Bill. We believe that it will strengthen the Commission. We hope that the Government will accept it; we can see no valid reason for their not doing so.

We are not attempting to change the powers, functions or responsibilities of the Committee. We are acknowledging that the Government have gone one step further than Neill by establishing the Committee. Neill referred to monitoring—the Committee is the form that the Government have chosen. The Opposition applaud them for choosing that form, but we want to make it as strong, effective and widely respected as possible. How could we do that better than by selecting a Committee that has the Speaker in the Chair and has the type of membership suggested by the amendment?

I hope that the Minister will respond by accepting the amendment with alacrity, so that we can move on to the next matter.