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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 7:45 pm on 14th February 2000.

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Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst 7:45 pm, 14th February 2000

This is a tantalising clause because nowhere in part I is there any reference to the functions of the Speaker's Committee. One has to dig a little deeper, in schedule 2, to find a reference to what the Committee does. I know, Sir Alan, that you do not want me to delve into schedule 2 at this stage; we shall come to that debate fairly quickly, so I shall defer my remarks on the Committee's functions until then.

Clause 2 outlines the Committee's membership, and a mere perusal of the clause quickly reveals that it has the potential to be problematic. It includes the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, which is in effect, despite mechanisms and subterfuge, a Government appointment. The Government of the day tend to dominate such key appointments, especially if they have a large majority in the House. The Committee also includes the Secretary of State for the Home Department, which is self-evidently a Government appointment, and a Member of the House who is a Minister of the Crown and therefore, by definition, also a member of the Government. Already we can identify three members of the Speaker's Committee who are members of the Government or of the Government party.

That is all very well, and people might be reassured that subsection (2)(d) requires the Committee's membership to include six Members of the House who are not Ministers of the Crown. My worry is that although subsection (4) states: The members of the Committee mentioned in subsection (2)(d) shall be appointed … by the Speaker of the House"—