Clause 8 — Enforcement

Bill Presented — Sustainable Energy (Local Plans) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 1st July 2009.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State 2:00 pm, 1st July 2009

I beg to move amendment 32, page 5, line 22, leave out from 'IPSA' to end of line 25 and insert

'may refer to the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges any findings it may make in relation to any member in the exercise of its functions.'.

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The Second Deputy Chairman:

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 17, page 5, line 25, at end insert—

'(2A) The Committee on Standards and Privileges may accept, modify or reject as it sees fit a recommendation under subsection (2).'.

Amendment 65, page 5, line 25, at end insert—

'(2A) Any recommendation under subsection (2) shall be deemed to be proceedings in Parliament as expressed in the Bill of Rights 1689 notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act.'.

Amendment 33, page 5, line 26, leave out 'or to make a recommendation under subsection (2).'.

Amendment 46, page 5, line 28, at end insert

', and must ensure that the member is provided with independent advice and counsel on all matters relevant to the said direction or directions.'.

Amendment 34, page 5, line 29, leave out subsection (4).

Amendment 18, page 5, line 34, leave out subsection (5).

Amendment 19, page 5, line 38, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment 20, page 5, line 38, leave out

'Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority' and insert

'Committee on Standards and Privileges.'.

Amendment 21, page 5, leave out line 43.

Amendment 66, page 6, line 2, at end insert—

'(7A) Any statement ("protocol") prepared in accordance with subsections (6) and (7) shall be deemed to be proceedings in Parliament as expressed in the Bill of Rights 1689 notwithstanding any other provision of this Act.'.

Amendment 64, page 6, line 3, leave out subsection (8).

Amendment 36, page 6, line 4, leave out from 'powers' to end of line 5.

Amendment 67, page 6, line 5, at end insert—

'(8A) Where any criminal investigation or proceedings are concerned with the same or related matters which are the subject of an investigation by the Commissioner or of a recommendation by IPSA, the criminal investigation or proceedings shall take precedence, subject to the agreement of the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges.'.

Amendment 97, page 6, line 6, leave out subsection (9).

Amendment 12, page 6, line 6, leave out 'is, or'.

Amendment 22, page 6, line 10, leave out subsection (10).

Clause stand part.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

We now come to what I think are the core clauses, and in my judgment they start to cause considerable difficulties. I hope that the Government will look constructively at ways of avoiding those difficulties, so that the Bill does what the public want—ensure that we are properly regulated, but not destroy the House's ability to be independent and to carry out its job properly on behalf of the electorate.

The clause provides a mechanism of enforcement, and subsection (1) is completely uncontroversial. It provides that

"IPSA may direct a member of the House of Commons

(a) to repay...within a specified time an amount paid...under the...allowances", and,

"(b) to take any steps necessary to correct an omission or inaccuracy...in the (register of financial interests)."

I have concerns about subsection (2), however, which states that

"IPSA may recommend to the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges that the House should exercise any of its disciplinary powers in relation to a member of the House.

The IPSA may publish a recommendation that it has given."

It seems quite clear from the wording that IPSA will be able to make a specific recommendation to the Standards and Privileges Committee about how an hon. Member is dealt with in respect of a transgression. That, I assume, includes everything from an apology in the Chamber, through a suspension from the service of the House, to—the House has exercised this once since the second world war—the expulsion of a Member.

The problem is that the Standards and Privileges Committee will then have to consider whether it agrees with IPSA's recommendation. If the Committee decides to agree, any public perception that it has been influenced by an outside body in reaching its own decision will be unfortunate. Of course, the Committee might decide for whatever reason that it wants to impose a different penalty, which need not be less severe than that which IPSA recommends. However, as the clause stands, it will embody in statute a specific reference to the Standards and Privileges Committee and to its powers, and they would then be judicially reviewable through the courts.

The consequence of the Committee's powers being judicially reviewable through the courts goes to the absolute heart of Parliament's independence and what the Bill of Rights of 1689 was all about, given its insistence that what this Parliament does cannot be called into question elsewhere. From the current drafting of subsection (2), I really do not see how we can escape that conclusion. Indeed, it is noteworthy that witnesses who submitted either written or oral evidence to the Justice Committee stated very clearly that that outcome was undesirable. Professor Dawn Oliver said:

"(2) may be omitted. The House would in any event be able to exercise its disciplinary powers under existing privilege rules."

In earlier evidence she expressed her deep concerns about the manner in which the House might proceed with a major constitutional change in respect of parliamentary privilege.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

No doubt my hon. and learned Friend has also read the evidence from the Clerk of the House. He said unequivocally that

"clause 8(2) brings in the Standards and Privileges Committee", and that

"what would happen if Standards and Privileges concluded that it could not accept a recommendation from the Commissioner, perhaps the recommendation was too severe on the Member, the degree of punishment or whatever was being recommended, the whole matter would then have to be resolved in the courts."

There then followed further evidence from the Speaker's counsel making that position absolutely crystal clear.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

I thank my hon. Friend for saving me the trouble of having to read out that very passage; I was about to move on to it, but I could not have made the point better than he has. Both Professor Dawn Oliver and the Clerk of the House have expressed the same concerns. It is worth reading the totality of the evidence, including the written submissions. It is crystal clear that clause 8 embarks on issues that go to the very heart of Parliament's independence.

There is a solution. It is amendment 32, which would delete clause 8(2) and replace it with the words

"may refer to the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges any findings it may make in relation to any member in the exercise of its functions."

"Findings" refers to findings of fact. IPSA would simply say to the Committee on Standards and Privileges that it had carried out an investigation, concluded that there had been a misclaim of x thousand pounds and thought that that should be drawn to the Committee's attention. That would be a completely neutral thing to do, because it would not be accompanied by any recommendation. The amendment would go a long way towards solving the problem.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne 2:30 pm, 1st July 2009

I have a problem with IPSA. What would happen if the compliance failure was IPSA's failure? If a Member made a claim in good faith and IPSA got it wrong, the Member would carry the can for IPSA. Over the past few months, a lot of Members have carried the can for compliance failures that were out of their hands.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

It is clear from our debate on clause 7 that the actions of the commissioner and IPSA will be judicially reviewable. I have made my point to the Minister and the Secretary of State. If we confine those external regulation functions to our salaries and allowances, that might lead to judicial review proceedings but it would not have a major impact on the independence of Parliament in doing its work.

The difficulty is that, as one starts reading clause 8 subsection by subsection, one sees that it goes further and further into key functions of Parliament and its independence that have hitherto been regulated solely by the Standards and Privileges Committee. They are non-justiciable and are protected by the operation of the Bill of Rights 1689. The House needs to concentrate on that issue if we are to ensure that we can continue to carry out our work properly.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

My hon. and learned Friend is making a powerful case. Under clause 8(6), one of IPSA's first duties is to try to work out the comprehensive muddle that the Bill is making of the situation. It would have to prepare a statement

"with the agreement of the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority" about how it, the commissioner, the Standards and Privileges Committee and other authorities could make sense of this complete jumble. Does that not prove that, even according to the Government's own words, the thing is a comprehensive mess?

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. It all shows how poorly thought through the Bill is. It is rushed legislation. Each of the witnesses who gave evidence—except the Clerk of the House, whose ability to make such comments is a bit fettered—expressed horror at the speed with which the legislation was being carried through. All the independent witnesses asked what on earth the Government were doing in rushing ahead with something of such fundamental importance to the workings of democracy in this country, without giving the matter some proper thought. We will have only two hours on Report this afternoon, and there will probably be no Third Reading. Frankly, the whole thing is a scandal—but we will have to make do with what we have.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Clause 8(2) relates to the recommendation of IPSA. We are all assuming that the recommendation would depend on findings of fact about improprieties in allowances claims or whatever, but nothing in subsection (2) confines IPSA's recommendation to such a finding of fact. IPSA might well decide that although there was no allowances impropriety, the Member needed to be disciplined for other reasons. Is that what the House really wants to achieve? Subsection (2) is certainly couched in wide enough terms to allow that interpretation.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

My right hon. and learned Friend makes a good point, to which I hope the Minister will respond. She may argue that the terms on which IPSA and the commissioner for investigations are set up would not allow them to stray too far from the main remit of our financial affairs. However, my right hon. and learned Friend has made a perfectly valid point, which illustrates some of the difficulties that we face.

Amendment 32 deals with clause 8(2), but as one reads down the list of enforcement clauses, the whole thing becomes murkier and murkier. I wonder why some of the subsections are there at all. They start dealing with issues relating to the punishment of Members by the House itself. Subsection (6) mentions an agreement between IPSA and the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority on a protocol that requires a number of different people to work together. That protocol includes the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

The House does not need to pause for thought for long to appreciate that if the Committee on Standards and Privileges remains included in subsection (6) it will inevitably be embroiled in court proceedings about its functions and independence. That would drive a coach and horses through the Bill of Rights 1689 and what it was designed to achieve.

The protocol must be judicially reviewable, and it concerns relations with the Director of Public Prosecutions and—wait for it—the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I gently point out that a past incumbent of that post was subject to comment about the infringement of the privileges of the House in respect of the problems faced by my hon. Friend Damian Green, a matter currently under investigation. As one goes through clause 8, one asks oneself what in it is really necessary for achieving IPSA's main functions.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

I am a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee, and we have always transacted our business in complete confidentiality. That will not be the case if we are subject to judicial review; all our papers and dealings and all the matters that we transact will become public. Would anybody wish to be on a Committee dealing with such matters if those things were subject to outside scrutiny by the courts? I doubt it. The change will definitely hamper the Committee's business.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I go back to the evidence given yesterday to the Justice Committee by the Speaker's Counsel; I refer to page 33 of the transcription. He was asked to highlight his areas of concern about clause 8. He contrasted clause 8(2), on which I have touched and whose necessity has been questioned, with clause 8(5):

"clause 8(2) is not really saying anything about the basis of the powers for the Committee on Standards and Privileges to act...I think clause 8(5) might be saying something because it says that the failure may be punished by the House of Commons. If that is interpreted as a kind of statutory permission then there might very well be an issue as to whether the conditions of that permission had been fulfilled. If the Commission had acted unreasonably you would not have the conditions for that permission to operate, whereas contrarily with section 8(2), if I may say so...Dr Palmer is right to say it is simply like some other actor who says something should be done and then the Committee on Privileges does something. It is not a condition of the Committee of Privileges doing something that someone else has probably said something to it."

It is clear that the Government should justify why any of the second part of clause 8—below subsection (2), which I suggest should be amended—is necessary to achieve the House's functions, IPSA's functions and the proper regulation of MPs. That part of the clause is a seriously dangerous step that involves the scrutiny and review in court of how the House of Commons works.

We have tabled amendments. Others have tabled theirs, and will doubtless speak to them. Sir Stuart Bell has tabled a really important amendment that would take away the Standards and Privileges Committee from the protocol set out in clause 8(6). Our amendment 34 seeks to leave out clause 8(4), which, as far as I can see, is completely unnecessary. There is an amendment proposing to leave out subsection (5). Each one of those needs a response from the Minister justifying the necessity for not making those changes: it should not be for us to have to justify every line that we are trying to take out.

If the Minister is wise, and the Government are wise, this clause in its entirety can be substantially altered. She will then find that the Government have met their objectives of enabling IPSA to carry out its investigation and report to the Standards and Privileges Committee, leave it to the Committee, under our present powers, to implement whatever sanctions are necessary, and avoid the extraordinary mish-mash in the provisions as drafted, which will drag the House of Commons and its procedures into the courts.

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Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Independent, Castle Point

I am looking at subsection (9). Would the hon. and learned Gentleman expect that, if there were criminal proceedings against an MP, in order to avoid double jeopardy the commissioner and IPSA should not be investigating the MP at the same time for the same complaint?

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

There are clearly potential issues of double jeopardy. Double jeopardy is a rather complicated subject, and once we start putting it on a statutory basis we run much more risk of landing ourselves in the sands than under the current procedures. The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly reasonable point, but given the limited time that I have had to scrutinise the detail of the Bill, I do not have the answer.

I hope that the Minister is able to answer those questions, and I look forward to hearing from her.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I rise to support my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Grieve in all that he says about the detail of the amendments, which would go some way towards abating the problems with clause 8, and in what he says in general about the need to keep Parliament in charge of disciplining Members of Parliament.

I find the wide-ranging debate that the Government have opened up on this clause and this Bill quite extraordinary. I have not heard any criticism of the Committee on Standards and Privileges. I have never heard of a great public controversy because it was doing its job badly. We have not been told that its justice has been inadequate. We have not felt that people have been hard done by under it. We have not felt that those who deserved to be punished have gone unpunished. It is not an issue. It is extraordinary that we are being asked to overturn that and to make the Committee subsidiary to an outside body when there is no case against it and no charge sheet that anyone has heard about. I would like to concentrate on the need, as my hon. and learned Friend said, to recast the clause, if it has to stay at all, in a way that deals with the big issue of how IPSA appears to be superior to the Committee on Standards and Privileges and how it seems to have overturned the Bill of Rights.

If we look at subsection (6), we can see that the Government themselves acknowledge that the clause is a comprehensive muddle and a huge mess. As currently drafted, it does not make clear the relative powers and responsibilities of IPSA vis-à-vis the commissioner or the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges. The subsection invites us to agree to a form of words whereby, although we know as legislators that it will not work in its current form and that the Government have not had time to work out how it might function, we would ask IPSA to consult the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in preparing a statement saying how all these different bodies could work together smoothly and harmoniously in a way that ensured that no difficult case fell between the gaps and that people were not put through double and triple jeopardy for no good reason. Under the list in that subsection, IPSA has to consult the commissioner, the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and any other person that they may have forgotten about. We can see what an absurd, burgeoning bureaucracy this is.

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Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

My right hon. Friend is making a powerful argument. Am I right in thinking, in parliamentary drafting terms, that because IPSA has been put at the top of the list it has priority in its duties over others?

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 2:45 pm, 1st July 2009

I am not a legal expert, but I would read it in that sense. It seems that IPSA is being asked to take on the main burden and to be the main initiator.

I would have thought that given its wisdom and experience, the Committee on Standards and Privileges should be the guiding body. Many right hon. and hon. Members have given or are giving good service to that Committee. Several amendments drafted by those who have been working on it have already been accepted by the Government in the realisation that that experience is necessary. The Government should take this clause away and ask the Committee how it thinks it could best be phrased to preserve these two fundamental points: first, that Parliament must be sovereign, as the Bill of Rights rightly asserted, so that the people's rights are preserved in this Chamber; and secondly, that the good work and experience of the Committee on Standards and Privileges must continue without being messed up—without being subject to judicial review and intrusions that would not make it fairer or better but might make its work more difficult.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about clause 8(6). Surely the crucial question is this: could the protocol that is drawn up by IPSA end up giving obligations to everybody else on the list? If so, it is extraordinary that IPSA should give obligations not only to the House of Commons Committee but to the DPP and the police. Surely that is a complete violation of the separation of powers.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

It is.

My reading of the drafting suggests that none of this is subject to parliamentary approval. IPSA needs the agreement of the Speaker's Committee, but we are not told what happens if the Speaker's Committee does not agree. IPSA could publish and try to assert its view regardless, because it appears that it is primus inter pares in these matters. No procedure is set down for reconciling disputes between the Speaker's Committee and IPSA. The implication is that once IPSA has published, preferably with the agreement of the Speaker's Committee, then that is the statement from which not only this House but the courts, if they become involved, will have to operate.

That is totally unacceptable. We are being asked to override not only the Standards and Privileges Committee but our own law-making powers by delegating a crucial element in how this complex and bureaucratic system is going to work to a draft from IPSA that it could not possibly undertake for several months until we know who the chief executive is and that person has a staff who can get to work and take advice. Presumably they would then come to see right hon. and hon. Members from the Standards and Privileges Committee. However, as the drafting makes clear, they do not have to take the view of those Members—they can come up with their own independent view and assert that.

For all those reasons, I hope that the Minister will realise that this proposal is impractical and cumbersome, that it cannot work, that it will delay justice rather than give justice, and that it will make the House of Commons look ridiculous rather than showing that we take these matters seriously. The overriding of procedures that have worked well is symbolic of a Government who love to railroad their way through traditional institutions that are already functioning in the name of modernisation without thinking about the difficult consequences that may follow. This will not produce more justice or a better administered Parliament; nor will it deal with cases that the present system would not otherwise deal with. It is a recipe for disaster.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

The most painful part of this situation is that we are all now having to confront the reality of the relationship between Government and Parliament. Over the years, all of us—certainly me, in the past 20 years—have subjected ourselves to an incredible amount of self-delusion in thinking that the House of Commons actually meant something, that its powers were important, that it was somehow, if not an equal partner, then at least an elderly uncle whose advice could be taken seriously and had some impact on the parliamentary process and the legislative process.

What the Government are now doing is honestly, although perhaps not deliberately, stripping away from Members of the House any last illusions that they had about the pathetic nature of the parliamentary branch of government, by not even allowing that misconception to continue. They are placing in statute, in clause 8 and other clauses, the fact that the House of Commons is at best a supplicant to Government.

I am reminded strongly of the process that has taken place under all Governments, and been suffered by all parties, of the atrophy of local government. It was never established in a written constitution, and it never had independence, but in many regards it used to have a degree of separation and functions distinct from national Government. Over a period of 20, 30 or possibly more years we have all seen, and those of us with experience in local government have felt at the sharp end, what has happened to our local government. Those who care about our democracy have seen it, too. Through perhaps 40 or 50 Acts of Parliament, the ability of local government to act independently has been stripped or sliced away. Now, virtually everything at local level is guided by statute, by central Government and by the man in Whitehall.

In essence, that is now our fate. Our role is being prescribed in a way that was never the case before because we did not want to disturb the people in the House of Commons or have crowd control difficulties. We wanted them to believe the mythology of parliamentary sovereignty. Just as local government's sovereignty is a thing of the past—we are all poorer for that, although many of us acquiesced in it—so parliamentary sovereignty is being condemned to the dustbin of history, not even with a nod and a wink but by statute.

We let that go at our peril. I am not necessarily suggesting that today is the day when we can halt the process, but we will rely upon the other place, and upon the Government themselves to retreat to some extent when they bring the Bill back to this House. We are relying on them to improve this dog's breakfast of a hurried, precipitate piece of legislation, caused by our fear of what the media have managed to concoct and reveal about goings-on in this place. I hope that the Government will retreat from some of the more extreme things that we see in the Bill. If they do not, that point—it may be only a couple of weeks away—will be a real watershed for our democracy.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Shadow Minister (Defence)

The hon. Gentleman is making an extremely important point. These are vital issues for the future of Parliament. I put it to him that this matter cannot be resolved in another place, because there are issues of privilege. My hon. Friend Mr. Cash and my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Grieve articulated them better than I can. This House will have to resolve the matter, and if it cedes authority, it will be finished as the supreme legislating authority in this land.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I am not suggesting that we should rely upon the other place, but even the fact that the Lords will have had a few more days to read the Bill, which I suspect colleagues in this place have not done, will allow them to table some serious amendments. The Bill will then return here, and I hope that at that point, those of us who have been in the Chamber for these debates will take up the challenge. There have been incredible contributions from all parts of the House, which I hope will be studied in detail in years to come as evidence of some of the days when Parliament said no to this process. I hope that we ensure that all colleagues understand what the consequences will be if we allow provisions such as clause 8 to go through unamended.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I have just a brief point. I agree entirely with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. We are establishing an important precedent that could be invoked time and time again by future Governments. We need to be chary about doing that, because it will be a declaration about the relationship that Parliament deems that it has with our external authorities.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Indeed, and the louder the Government talk about democratising the House of Commons, the more careful we ought to be to study the legislation that comes forward. There is talk about reforming the House through a Select Committee, for example, but at the moment there is no resolution to establish such a Committee, and no terms of reference that command agreement throughout the House have yet been on the Order Paper.

There is ever stronger rhetoric about rebuilding our democracy, but of course the rhetoric can be belied by the lack of means to create that democracy. Indeed, the very means to undermine it further may be in front of us, but some of us may be missing them because of the loudness of the rhetoric about increasing and improving our democracy.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his work over a sustained period to try to get the House to take more power over the Executive. Does he agree that it makes for better government if Ministers see the need to come to the House early and have things exposed to proper debate, as I hope they will with this Bill?

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

That is a measure of the fear with which Governments unnecessarily view this House. If we have a strong House of Commons and a strong Parliament, Government themselves are the main beneficiary. We have better value for money, better legislation and more public involvement, and it does not require eight efforts to get child support legislation right. At least once a year we try to get the criminal justice system right. We should have proper pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny, yet there are those in government who run in fear of that, wishing instead to have legislation drafted by unelected officials in their Departments and rubber-stamped by the House. We all lose in that deal, and we could all win in a deal whereby a strong Executive had self-confidence and the judgment to take the view of the House when it had been properly and responsibly expressed. The only greater beneficiary than the Government would be the British people.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

On the drafting of legislation, to which the hon. Gentleman has rightly referred, the evidence that has been heard in the past few days has had alarming characteristics. The most obvious is that first parliamentary counsel appears to have prepared the memorandum upon which the so-called Lord High Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is relying. It is clear that there is a complete difference of opinion between the Clerk of the House and first parliamentary counsel. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that ought to worry people a great deal?

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I do not want to stray too far from the clause, but one day, when we have a self-respecting and self-confident Parliament, we will have our own parliamentary draftspeople and our own right to legal advice on going to war or whatever it may be. We will have our own capabilities to transform the legislative framework. At the moment, we have an Executive who are not directly elected by the British people taking the advice of a civil service that has no familiarity whatever with the ballot box. Members of this House are being overseen by people who have no understanding of electoral politics and our democracy, but who decide on the rights of Members. Those rights have been sacred—perhaps too sacred, but they have been in place for many years. I hope that colleagues will press their case to the Secretary of State, and that he will take away the expressions of anxiety that he has heard in the past day or so—and will hear until the end of the day—and rework the Bill so that it does what we all thought it intended to do: create a strong parliamentary standards authority to ensure that abuses that have happened in the past cannot happen in future. As part of that, it should construct a much broader framework, so that our legislature, rather than becoming a quango, an advisory body or a quaint but withered part of our constitutional arrangements, can play not only the role that it fulfilled in years gone by, but an important role in rebuilding our democracy and people's trust, which has been so sorely tested in the past month or two.

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Photo of George Young George Young Chair, Standards and Privileges Committee, Chair, Standards and Privileges Committee 3:00 pm, 1st July 2009

The shadow of the guillotine is beginning to fall over our debate, so I will not follow up the very interesting speech of Mr. Allen, with whom I agree about many parliamentary matters, but focus on issues that directly concern the Committee on Standards and Privileges and enforcement.

I want to pick up the comment of my right hon. Friend Mr. Redwood, who said that the aspect of the Bill that we are considering is not the problem. The problem has not been the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Standards and Privileges Committee. We operate downstream, and the problems have been upstream, with processing and making claims. We do not process claims; we process complaints, and I believe that that part of the system has operated well.

The system was set up some 14 or 15 years ago—it is tried and tested and has been improved. The House has been well served by Philip Mawer and now by John Lyon. The Committee on which I serve has tried to operate the rules of the House dispassionately and fairly. In his evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which is now sitting, Anthony King said that that part of the system works quite well. Clause 8 would dismantle it at breakneck speed and try to replace it. By doing that at speed, one may not get it right.

The Government are trying to fetter the discretion of the Standards and Privileges Committee because they believe that the tariffs that we have operated are not tough enough. In the speech that the Leader of the House made a few days ago, she referred to the long time that had elapsed since someone was expelled. My hon. and learned Friend Mr. Grieve did not make it clear that the Standards and Privileges Committee simply makes recommendations on the tariff to the House. It is open to any Member and to the Government to amend the tariffs recommended by the Standards and Privileges Committee if they think that they are too lenient or too tough.

I believe that we could achieve some of the Government's objectives, not by dismantling the machinery, but by re-examining the tariff. If there is a general view that we are not being tough enough, we can tackle that without the proposed paraphernalia.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne

When a Member is suspended, even for as little as two weeks, that can effectively end their political career, as happened only recently.

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Photo of George Young George Young Chair, Standards and Privileges Committee, Chair, Standards and Privileges Committee

All we have are our reputations, which can be destroyed by a critical report from my Committee. That has happened many times. The reputational hit is not fully understood outside the House.

Clause 8 tries to make the Standards and Privileges Committee the agent of an outside body. The moment we do that, we run into all sorts of difficulties, which the Clerk of the House identified in his memorandum. One cannot make us the agent of an outside body, as subsection (2) would do, without running into all the constitutional difficulties that we outlined.

Amendment 32, which my hon. Friend Alan Duncan tabled, would remove IPSA's power to recommend to my Committee the application of a particular sanction. For that, it substitutes a power to refer its findings to the Committee. That would broadly replicate the current position, whereby the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards reports his findings to the Standards and Privileges Committee, which then determines the appropriate sanction. I support that amendment because it replicates, as far as possible, the current position. I remind the House that my Committee has said that it would be prepared to have lay members serving on it if that helped solve the problem that the Government identified of our being somehow out of touch with the outside world.

Amendment 12 would remove the provision that allows the new commissioner to conduct an investigation into a case that is simultaneously the subject of criminal proceedings—Bob Spink made a point about that—while leaving in place the provision that allows him to carry out an investigation into a case that has already been the subject of such proceedings. That is crucial. We cannot have a position whereby a Member is subject to competing jurisdictions for the same offence. He cannot have his collar felt by the Metropolitan police and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at the same time.

Perhaps I can leave the amendments that Sir Stuart Bell has tabled to him to consider. I have some sympathy with amendment 19, which deletes subsection (6). That would deal with the problem that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield outlined. If subsection (6) is to remain, we must knock out the reference to the Speaker's Committee. The Committee on Standards and Privileges should be responsible for drawing up the protocol; it is nothing to do with the Speaker's Committee, which is solely concerned with appointing and spending plans, not procedure.

I have genuine anxieties about the implications of the Bill. The way through is to follow the path laid out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, which avoids some of the complications that he rightly identified.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

Mr. Allen made some significant points, many of which arise in the context of clause 8. Of course, many go much further, too.

In our debates, we keep coming up against the "there's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza" syndrome. We claim that we want to create an independent parliamentary standards authority, yet, at every turn, we assert the sovereignty of Parliament and say that there must be a dual control brake on anything that IPSA or an investigator might do. We need to get real. The public feel little about the sovereignty of Parliament, which we value and discuss here, but are very angry about the avarice of parliamentarians, as they perceive it and as has been represented over past months. People want to know that we will allow any independent standards authority that we create to be independent. Yes, we should ensure that there cannot be excesses and that there are limits. We must also ensure protection for Members' rights and reputations, individually and collectively. Several sensible amendments have been tabled about that, and some are in the group that we are considering.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Shadow Minister (Defence)

We all understand the public anger, but we cannot simply have a knee-jerk reaction—I see the Justice Secretary frowning, unusually. If we understand the significance of parliamentary sovereignty and the public do not, and we knowingly impair it, we will damage hugely the interests of our constituents and our ability to serve them. It is nothing to do with protecting us, but with safeguarding the fundamental rights of the British people and our powers in this place to represent them. We must not allow the Bill to impair that fundamental principle. If we do so, we do grave damage to our constituents.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point. None of us wants to do damage to the sovereignty of Parliament. However, we will not help the reputation of Parliament if we respond to every measure to try to restore credibility and public confidence by simply boasting about the sovereignty of Parliament. I have heard more from some hon. Members about the sovereignty of Parliament and about standing up to the Executive and not being cowed in relation to this Bill than I heard in relation to measures such as the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, when Parliament really should have asserted itself and when a lot of people should, in good conscience, have known that something was wrong. The same goes for identity cards. I have heard people today celebrating what has happened, yet they were willing to be whipped into voting for them and all the rest of it, so let us be a bit more real about some of these issues. It seems that some people are a bit more assiduous in protecting the sovereignty of Parliament in relation to parliamentary standards and the privileges and rights of Members than they have been in relation to the wider interests of their constituents and the citizens of the United Kingdom. So let us get real all round. It is not just the Executive who have questions to answer; all of us have questions that we should perhaps ask of ourselves and that we should answer.

Amendment 32 is sensible. The idea of the authority making recommendations and just giving them to the Standards and Privileges Committee on a hand-me-down basis seems crude and excessive. Amendment 32 would deal with that, thereby obviating the need for amendments 17 and 65, which would seem to be sensible. Some of the other amendments, however, I am not so sure about. Amendment 34 would mean leaving out clause 8(4), which would in turn mean leaving out subsection (5). I do not know that it would be right to leave those two subsections out. There would then be a hole in the procedures and a hole in the Bill, although some fine-tuning may still be needed.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

It is very simple: if the hon. Gentleman reads the report of the Select Committee on Justice, he will see that everything after clause 8(4) does nothing to add to the regulatory powers of IPSA, but everything to undermine the independence of this House. By taking out one, the rest fall down like a domino, and that is why it should go.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

That is also why, if people think that we have to be cautious, because the legislation has been brought forward in haste, I would be cautious about demolishing parts of it in haste. We need to consider whether we are getting the tuning of the Bill exactly right.

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Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Opposition Whip (Commons)

I can understand the hon. Gentleman's caution. In particular, he was right to remind the House of the importance of the independent handling of expenses, salaries and finances. However, if we are cautious about what we allow to go through in the Bill, so that it focuses on that core function, but then decide after more consideration that there are other functions or ways in which we want to go further, that is surely safer than allowing things to creep through in the Bill that are dangerous or have risks attached, and then repenting at leisure as we try to sort them all out.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

I fully agree. Indeed, I have supported a number of amendments and, even in this bunch, there are a number that I would support and some that, if adopted, would make the need for others disappear. However, I worry that some of the amendments would go so far as to leave a significant hole in the Bill. That might provide a site for which planning permission could be given to do more things in relation to other issues. However, I would prefer to hear from the Justice Secretary or the Deputy Leader of the House before drawing those full conclusions.

On clause 8(6), we definitely need some provisions in respect of a protocol, but I believe that subsection (6) is wrong as drafted. I do not go as far as Mr. Grieve, in saying that it is a recipe for disaster or that the sky will fall, in the way that he colourfully suggested it would. However, perhaps we have all missed something. Perhaps we should have amended subsection (6), so that it said that IPSA and the Speaker's Committee or the Standards and Privileges Committee would seek to agree protocols with "the following". Instead, subsection (6) says that IPSA will prepare a statement or a protocol on how "the following" will work together. That means not just how "the following" will work with IPSA and somebody else, but how "the following" will work together. It therefore seems that something needs to be done about subsection (6).

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

I will endeavour to be as brief as possible, Mrs. Heal. I beg to move amendments 65, 66, 64—

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps I should remind the hon. Gentleman that we are actually discussing amendment 32. He can speak to those amendments, but they do not need to be moved at this point.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

I am out of practice again, Mrs. Heal. I wish to speak to amendments 65, 66, 64 and 67, which relate to privilege and should be read in conjunction with amendment 94, which will be debated under clause 10, should we get that far.

The importance of privilege was underlined by the learned Clerk in the evidence that he gave yesterday. It is well to remind ourselves of the purpose of privilege. He said:

"If there was not that freedom" of speech,

"Parliament could not...function effectively."

He said later:

"I think the traditional view in this country, the United States and a lot of other countries, is that if speech is not free in the House of Commons, it is not free anywhere...we are not unique by any means. All systems have immunities and they are recognised."

Most importantly of all, he made it clear that

"if you start to make exceptions to parliamentary privilege for one reason or another, under one Act or another, eventually you will undermine the whole principle."

The Chairman then said:

"The earlier decisions to do this are now being adduced in support of the current proposals," to which the learned Clerk answered yes. That is why we should tackle the question of privilege in these debates.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:15 pm, 1st July 2009

Is not the short point that the only thing that stands between the people and arbitrary government is this Chamber? If we undermine the position of this House in that relationship, we open up the possibility of dictatorship, arbitrary government and misconduct in government. If we lose sight of that, we might as well give up.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. and learned Friend. I would submit that, not by virtue of the erosion of our sovereignty but by virtue of the imposition of whipping—the whipping on this Bill on the Government Benches is an example of that—the House of Commons is not losing its sovereignty, but simply giving away our influence. We should use this opportunity to wrest it back.

I support the principle of independent regulation. Indeed, I do not think that anyone speaking in this debate has suggested that we should take the principle of independent regulation out of the Bill. The scheme that I propose with the amendments standing in my name would mean that the process of independent regulation would become privileged itself. We should put an envelope of privilege round the entirety of the Bill's operation, with the exception of the criminal offences, which is another matter that I shall not try to address. However, the principle is that privilege should envelope the entire Bill.

Therefore, my amendment 65 proposes a new subsection (2A) of clause 8, which reads:

"Any recommendation under subsection (2)"—

I am led to understand that that would also mean any direction under subsection (1)—

"shall be deemed to be proceedings in Parliament as expressed in the Bill of Rights 1689 notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act."

That would have the effect of making the activities under clause 8 privileged—that is, beyond question by the courts, so that they could take in evidence what Members of Parliament had said in this place, because their proceedings would be privileged. There would then be no question of any of our proceedings leaking into the jurisdiction of the courts outside Parliament. I have also proposed a similar amendment to clause 7, for debate on Report, which would mean that all investigations would be regarded as proceedings in Parliament.

My amendment 64 would remove clause 8(8). I have read subsection (8) many times, but I simply do not quite understand what it means. It seems to me to have been drafted highly ambiguously—although that probably means that parliamentary counsel are much cleverer people than I. However, even the explanatory notes say that subsection (8)

"preserves the right of the House of Commons to exercise any disciplinary powers which it may have."

I do not know why we need to legislate in the Bill to allow a sovereign House of Commons to continue to exercise its own disciplinary powers. Why is that in the Bill?

The explanatory notes continue:

"It is not to be limited to acting only following an investigation by the Commissioner or a recommendation from the IPSA."

If we believe that we are sovereign, how could any implication in the Bill limit what the House of Commons does? The very fact that the Government have sought to put this provision into the Bill at all underlines the weakness of their case that so much of this is justiciable: they are putting provisions in legislation to try to prevent the actions of the House from becoming justiciable and limited.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman with some care, but if I may say so, I think he is making a bit of meal of subsection (8), which is there for clarification. That is its purpose, although I would be happy to give it further consideration, if necessary.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

I will move on as swiftly as I can.

My amendment 67 addresses the question of what should take precedence. Even if there is, as I propose, an envelope of privilege around the entire activities of IPSA and the commissioner, there would still need to be some means of deferring to criminal proceedings if they were in progress. It is in any case something that we do automatically on an administrative basis within the House. The amendment proposes:

"Where any criminal investigation or proceedings are concerned with the same or related matters which are the subject of an investigation by the Commissioner or of a recommendation by IPSA, the criminal investigation or proceedings shall take precedence", and I add,

"subject to the agreement of the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges", which should surely be the final arbiter of such a case.

Finally, I shall briefly refer to amendment 94, which I appreciate is in a different group. It would amend clause 10, and it states:

"Where proceedings of the IPSA and proceedings of the Commissioner arise from section 7 (investigations), section 8 (enforcement) or section 9 (offences), they shall be deemed to be proceedings in Parliament in accordance with Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689."

My amendments may be imperfectly drafted and they may not create a perfect envelope around the activities that need to be enveloped, but I honestly believe that they provide a solution to the Secretary of State's problem. He wants independent regulation, he wants the independent regulator to be able to look at all the evidence, and he wants the commission to be able to conduct investigations as freely as possible, but he really does not want the courts interfering with these processes and he does not want to provide an avenue for the courts to look at what has been happening in Parliament and to have a chilling effect on free speech.

If my amendments are accepted, along with those in the name of my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Grieve that strike out the final subsection of clause 10, we will have created a perfect envelope to allow the Bill to go forward—enveloped by privilege exactly as I believe the Secretary of State intends, but as the Bill fails to deliver at the moment, which is completely unacceptable.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

I am grateful, Mrs. Heal, for the opportunity to participate in the debate on what Mr. Grieve has said is possibly the heart of the Bill. I shall speak to amendments 18 to 21, which I tabled.

The essence of this part of the Bill, as Mr. Jenkin has said, is the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which is not a matter of question in the House, as it has been fully accepted and agreed by the parties themselves as well as by the party leaders. What has been a cause for concern is the determination of privilege in this House, and particularly whether it should stay within its precincts or whether, in line with Congress in the US, it can be subordinated to the Supreme Court in that case, or to the courts of law in our case. It has always been my view that conveying parliamentary privileges to the courts for them to determine our actions, our speeches, our proceedings in Committee and the like not only destroys the essential pillar of our democracy—the pillar that protects to the Member of Parliament on the Floor of this House—but prevents a Member from seeking to defend the constituents who sent him here. The principle of redress would be somewhat diminished if our proceedings were to be interpreted elsewhere and a determination of them made elsewhere. That would certainly destroy the essence and basis of the House of Commons as we know it, which would do a great disservice to past generations and also to future generations of parliamentarians.

I am grateful to Dr. Malcolm Jack and the Clerks for putting together a very important and significant document to deal with the problem. If I may, I will happily paraphrase liberally what it says. As I understand clause 8, which deals with enforcement, it raises a number of questions of principle relating to privilege. Clause 8(2) identifies recommendations to the Committee on Standards and Privileges that would be covered by parliamentary privilege, but if the Committee declined to act on a recommendation, it could presumably become the basis of legal proceedings in which the Commissioner, or someone else, sought to require the Committee to comply. In my humble and respectful submission, Mrs. Heal, it is not enough to argue that clause 8(2) speaks only of a recommendation, as the extent to which a reasonable recommendation should be accepted would itself become a matter for determination by the courts and a matter of interpretation.

Clause 8(5) appears to make the exercise by the House of its disciplinary powers a matter of statute, since it seems to confer on the House a statutory permission to exercise those powers in the circumstances provided for in the subsection. If the circumstances in which the House may exercise disciplinary powers became a question of law, it would then be open to challenge before the courts. There are a number of examples that I could provide here, but I am aware of the guillotine on our proceedings and I would not wish to delay the Committee in its consideration of my amendments and others. It could be argued, however, that it is only the "failure" under clause 8(4) and no other, that may be punishable by the House. That would be a question requiring determination by the courts.

Clause 8(6) requires IPSA to prepare a protocol on how IPSA, the Commissioner, the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and any other person whom IPSA considers appropriate, are going to work with each other. Given the various examples of the intervention of the police in our precincts and their involvement in politics over the last few years, I am not entirely sure that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis will be very enthusiastic about embracing that concept. I would not imagine, or dare to suppose, what the Director of Public Prosecutions would say to that, either. It is not clear to me whether this is meant to impose any obligation on any of the parties to observe the protocol. Again, this will be a question of law to be determined by the courts. If it imposes an obligation—and there seems little point in having such a protocol unless it does impose some sort of obligation—it raises the question of whether IPSA should be entitled to bind a Committee of the House as to how it is to conduct its own work. An analogous issue arises for the DPP in the exercise of his discretions as to whether proceedings should be fettered.

I believe that there are dangers in this enforcement clause. It could lead to litigation, or constrain the House in the use of other sanctions that might be regarded as disciplinary. The issue of a formal reprimand and a formal requirement for an apology are within the powers of the House, but are not covered. The clause might also prevent the House from adopting other sanctions required by certain circumstances. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield mentioned some of the sanctions currently available to the Committee on Standards and Privileges: for example, the ability to ban a Member from the use of certain facilities of the House.

I intend my amendments to help the House to preserve its privileges and to avoid a determination of those privileges by the courts.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

When I speak about privilege, I do not do so as a member of any kind of club. It is the privilege of the people whom I represent that I am defending today, rather than anything to do with me personally or with any other Member. Similarly, when we talk about sovereignty we are talking about the sovereignty of the people, and we should hold that sacrosanct as well.

In evidence submitted in a memorandum yesterday, Professor Dawn Oliver of University college London said:

"I am afraid my general reaction is that the issues about MPs' salaries, allowances and standards are too important to be dealt with in a bill rushed through Parliament without any prior consultations, Green Papers, etc., especially since the Committee on Standards in Public Life is considering some of the issues covered by the Bill along with others."

Viewing the reality of the situation, however, she went on to say:

"Having made those points I assume that much of the Bill will be passed, and my remaining points are on details and how some of the problems about parliamentary privilege might be avoided. I go through the Bill clause by clause."

On clause 8, she said:

"(2) may be omitted. The House would in any event be able to exercise its disciplinary powers under existing privilege rules.

(4) (5) are unnecessary. The House has these powers anyway.

(6) amend to omit (c). Under (f) it is obvious the IPSA will consult HC bodies.

(8) is unnecessary. If omitted (10) is unnecessary. Both should be omitted.

(11) would be unnecessary if the above measures are omitted as suggested."

Members might consider that a rather iconoclastic and Luddite response to the Bill, but it comes from a professor of constitutional law who knows a thing or two about the field that we are discussing.

In the interests of brevity I shall concentrate on amendment 32, which I regard as a very elegant way of achieving what the learned professor wanted. I think that we are trading on extremely dangerous ground. We are driving a coach and horses through the constitution of this place. I do not say that through any love of this place. Mr. Allen made some very good points, and I want to align my position with his.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 3:30 pm, 1st July 2009

The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on what concerns me. At present we have a rule called parliamentary privilege, to which there are certain exceptions. We are in danger of moving slowly towards a rule—the supremacy of the courts—with certain exceptions based on parliamentary privilege. There is a very strong difference between those two concepts.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

That is absolutely true. If we meddle with parliamentary privilege we shall start a torrent of litigation, and, more to the point, we shall find that we are unable to do the work that we should be doing on behalf of our constituents.

As I said yesterday, and as Members know, we sometimes hide behind the cloak of privilege. We do it rarely, but we do it to good purpose when an overbearing person or company treads on an innocent constituent who is unable to fight back. We can often redress the balance in this place, but we shall soon find that we are unable to do that if our deliberations become subject to the law of the land. If that power were abused I would say, "Fine, let's get rid of it," but it is not abused. It is an essential tool for us as parliamentarians, and we should not allow anyone to start chipping away at it.

Amendment 32 deals with the issue sensibly. It preserves the role of the Committee on Standards and Privileges. Although I speak as a member of that Committee, I think that it has done a good job. I echo what was said earlier by its Chairman, Sir George Young. I hope that if the amendment is pressed to a Division, Members will see fit to support it, in the best interests of this place and, more importantly, in those of their constituents.

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Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Opposition Whip (Commons)

I shall speak briefly, because we must try to reach clause 10 somehow, although I fear that in view of the way in which this debate is proceeding, we shall not manage to do so.

All the speeches so far have been extremely important, and have focused effectively on the issues at stake. The message to the Government is that we should have been allowed more time to scrutinise the legislation properly, and the message to the other place is that it will have to work very hard to ensure that we do not let slip anything that we should not have let slip. As has been said, when we talk about protecting privilege we are talking about the privilege of our constituents. It is extremely important to remember that.

As Mark Durkan reminded us, we must acknowledge the context of the wider debate: the fact that we need to rejuvenate by introducing the external handling of allowances, expenses and finances. We should not go too far too quickly, however, and do other damage to the way in which this House works. In the long run, we do need major reforms: constitutional reform, such as a proper written constitution, and other ways to tackle issues that come before the House. That is not going to happen in Committee today, however. Therefore, I urge the House to support amendment 32 and to take on board the wise words of Sir George Young about protecting the role of his Committee.

I urge Members to make sure that the Bill remains focused on the key political imperative of addressing the aspects of this House that the public have concerns about. It should not go wider than that at this stage. We should look at other issues in more measured times; thereby we can ensure that we do not do any more damage that could undermine the workings of the House. If we were to do such damage, undoing it would be almost impossible. It is therefore very important that the Bill remain narrow in focus—and that is even more important given this short debate, and the lack of time.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

Hon. Members in all parts of the House are making valiant attempts to improve this part of the Bill. I support most of the amendments, but this is essentially a fruitless exercise because we are trying to improve a Bill that is irretrievably broken. The debate we have had on this clause highlights that; it shows the problems caused when an attempt to fix the allowances system becomes, during the course of the Bill's passage, an attempt to reform large chunks of the British constitution. If that was the aim, it should have been admitted right at the start, and the attempt to achieve it should have been approached with due humility and after a good deal of deliberation. Instead, we are now stumbling around the constitution, touching on very delicate matters of immunities, rights and privileges. If such reforms are necessary, they should be the subject of an entirely different piece of legislation.

What we are doing in this Bill is setting up new bodies and creating new appointments with new powers and responsibilities, but the relationships between them all are very unclear. They overlap, and they conflict in a number of important respects. That is very well illustrated by subsection (6), under which this entire matter is to be postponed to a "protocol" to be drawn up by one of the new bodies—the super-quango itself, IPSA—to try to find a way of ordering the relationships between the bodies, both old and new. If the protocol is to be effective, it will have to be an extraordinarily long document.

I do not know who in IPSA will do this work, as I do not know what the staffing arrangements will be, but they are going to have to try to order the relationship between the police and this House, for instance. We all know that that is a very difficult matter and we glimpsed that in the police raid on an hon. Member's office. One aspect of that was that a computer that was seized probably contained material that touched on matters of the House and proceedings in the House; it certainly contained files that held material relating to other hon. Members. Wisely, the police did not proceed with that prosecution, but that matter of privilege was said to be the subject of an extensive document—which I have not seen yet. That is just one tiny example of the problems under an unwritten constitution of ordering the relationships between the external enforcement authorities—the police—and this House and its Committees. So if we are to codify the entire relationship, not only the one between the House and the police, but the one between the Director of Public Prosecutions and other persons unknown, and the relationships involving IPSA and the commissioner, that will require a real volume in itself and it is all unnecessary.

The dangerous part is that the protocol will, by definition, restrict this House. If it were not to do so, it would be a completely pointless document. There is no point having a protocol that does not do something, because it, thus, merely becomes a declaration. It becomes a bit of a new Labour totemic label: something that is desirable but has no effect. If something is in an Act of Parliament, it is designed to bind and to impose obligations, and one of the bodies on which this Bill will impose obligations is the Standards and Privileges Committee. It is wrong that that should be done in a protocol drawn up by an external body. If the Bill is intended to bind this House in this way, that should be openly admitted by those on the Treasury Bench. Of course, our Committees work to rules in Standing Orders, but this Bill means that they will obtain instructions in a protocol drawn up by other people. If that is intended, it should be admitted. If it is not intended, it should be withdrawn.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne

Over the past 17 years, whenever there has been a crisis of confidence in this country, Parliament has created a quango. We are now reaping what we have sown because we are creating a super-quango to regulate ourselves, and that is a retrograde and extremely worrying step. I say to Mark Durkan that of course the public are concerned when we seem to get on our high horse about sovereignty—

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman says that this body will be a super-quango. He may wish to describe it pejoratively as such, but may I remind him that on 10 June his own party leader actively supported its establishment?

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne

The Secretary of State makes my argument beautifully. This is a House matter, and I am raising my concerns as a Member of Parliament who is defending the sovereignty that goes with being an MP and that belongs to my constituents. I do not think that the British public really despise us because of our expenses—that situation is a manifestation of their frustrations; they despise us because we have become supine lickspittles, who are more concerned with sucking up to the Executive than with representing the public's views in this place. We are in grave danger of handing—

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The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is going to continue with his remarks in relation to amendment 32.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne

I just wish to support my Front-Bench colleagues in introducing their amendment. This is a very imperfect Bill—it is an appalling one—but at least they are trying to make it a little better and a little more tolerable.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The 17 amendments in this group make it the largest that we will discuss today, so I hope that hon. Members will bear with me as I go through them. First, I wish to touch on a matter that a great number of the people who have contributed to this lively debate have discussed: privilege and concern for their constituents. There is a danger—some of the later contributions started to approach this—that that view could become self-serving, and we must be careful to avoid that. A number of the contributions reflected the fact that we must keep reminding ourselves that we are in the middle of a recessionary downturn and that what people are worried about is not the issues that some hon. Members have raised. What people are worried about is their jobs and their homes. In the middle of all that, we have faced a scandal with which we have to deal. That is the key matter.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice)

I hope that the hon. Lady is not going to allow herself to be misled by the ancient word "privilege", which is a confusing one. I appreciate that those who do not think about it might find it difficult to understand its meaning. Perhaps we should use terms such as "trusteeship" or "duty"—words that are more widely understood. However, for shorthand purposes—thanks to the Government's guillotine we have to speak in shorthand—the word "privilege" is the one that we will use and understand in this Chamber. That may require us to explain the term to those outside, but that should not allow her to misbehave in introducing her remarks by traducing those who have spoken not only passionately, but very seriously about the questions relating to the privileges of this House.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 3:45 pm, 1st July 2009

I am not doing that: I am just seeking to remind hon. Members of the context in which we are operating. It is easy, when we get absorbed in a three-day debate, to forget the context outside the House.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

May I refer the Minister to the words of Lord Bingham when he gave evidence to the Joint Committee on parliamentary privilege in 1998? He said:

"The term 'privilege' is, I think, plainly unfortunate, although hallowed by long usage. It wrongly suggests some perk or special right or dignity, which certain office-holders enjoy, when attention should be concentrated on the limited exemption from the ordinary law which the effective performance of a public duty requires."

That is what we are talking about. Does the Minister agree that we throw that away at our peril?

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Indeed I do, but I do not think that the sensible measures in this Bill would do that.

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Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Deputy Leader of the House dismisses the comments of my hon. Friend Mr. Carmichael with one line, but she earlier prayed in aid the fact that we are in a recession with which the Government do not seem to have been coping. A recession should not be an excuse for failing to take seriously the constitutional position of this House.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I agree, and I hope that I have not given that impression.

Amendments 32, 33 and 36 would remove the power of the new body—IPSA—to make recommendations to the House about possible disciplinary sanctions and the provision that the recommendations might be published. Mark Durkan made the point that we cannot have a dual control system. This is not a driving lesson: we need to change the system and we cannot have dual control.

As my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary mentioned, we have all agreed that we need to set up an outside body to take over the running of our allowances and the financial rules. We cannot continue to be wholly self-regulating in such matters. The approach that we have adopted is to provide for IPSA to recommend—or, in some cases, direct—action, but to leave it to the House to enforce it. That is the key point, and that approach best treads the path between responding to the real public anger on this issue and respecting the position of the House.

There has been reference to the work of the Standards and Privileges Committee, and we have to weigh the excellent work that it has done in most cases with the very real public discontent with our processes. It would not meet our objectives of transparency and independence if all IPSA could do were to make a report to the Committee. One of the key messages that we have to take from the public anger about these matters in recent months is that the old way of dealing with them is no longer judged to be adequate. We are not overriding procedures that the public perceive as working well and we cannot return to a system that is entirely managed within the House.

The proposals in the Bill would give the House as large a continuing role as is compatible with meeting the concerns of our constituents that we must be seen to be subject to proper regulation and supervision.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Does the Minister think that the public might be extremely angered by the idea that they as electors should see such decisions taken by the courts rather than by those whom they have elected? That is a fundamental question of democracy. I suggest that an opinion poll would be guaranteed to show that at least 85 per cent. of the electorate would prefer to continue with their democracy, not hand it over to judicial supremacy.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The point that I keep asserting is that we need to be clear about the public confidence, and the public do not have confidence in some of the processes that we have been talking about.

I want now to turn to amendment 17.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I shall give way, but time is very limited and I have a large group of 17 amendments to work through.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Can the Minister not understand that the public were unhappy about the generosity of the scheme and the lax administration in some cases, not about the enforcement of cases against Members who had misbehaved? She is tackling the latter, not the former. How does that make any difference to the issue that annoyed the public?

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am going to have to start repeating myself, Mrs. Heal, if people keep asking me the same questions.

Let me turn to amendment 17, which was tabled by my hon. Friend Sir Stuart Bell. I understood the concern expressed in this amendment that, as the clause is drafted, it might make a decision of how to respond to a recommendation justiciable, or at least that the Standards and Privileges Committee would be obliged to act on a recommendation in some circumstances. The key point is that nothing in the Bill takes away the inherent powers of the House to discipline its Members as it thinks fit. In fact, there is a provision that makes it clear that nothing in the Bill prevents the House from exercising its disciplinary functions other than following an IPSA process. IPSA has the power only to recommend, not to enforce its recommendations, so it is quite clear from the Bill that the Committee and the House have a free hand to do with the recommendation what they think fit.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

That simply cannot be right. If the Minister has bothered to read the report from the Justice Committee and the opinions of experts, she will know that the decisions will become justiciable because they have been incorporated in statute. We cannot get away from that—it cannot be magicked away—and so far, I have to say, she has said nothing about that.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

To return to amendment 17, I understand that the Members who tabled it might be prepared not to press it to a Division because of the key point that I have just made. The amendment carries the risk of fettering the Committee's discretion.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I need to make a little progress.

Let me turn to amendments 65 and 66, which were tabled by Mr. Jenkin. I understand that amendment 65 concerns fears about how the courts will react to a new regulatory scheme. In particular, there is a concern that the Standards and Privileges Committee could be subject to judicial review for failing to follow a recommendation. The Bill does not repeal article IX of the Bill of Rights—nor does it disapply it. In the absence of an explicit provision or necessary implication, a court will continue to read article IX as applying. There is clearly no necessary implication in these provisions that article IX should be taken to be amended in any way. That would mean that it is more likely that a court will consider that any proceedings of the Standards and Privileges Committee would remain within the protection of article IX.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

The Bill contains other clauses, which have been put in for clarification, such as that which makes it clear that the House can continue to use its disciplinary procedures unfettered by IPSA. Why not have a clarification in the Bill of exactly what the hon. Lady has just said that she believes that the Bill will do? A great many people, including the learned Clerk of this House, do not agree with her.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

We have to be in a situation of clarity—[Hon. Members: "Absolutely."] Okay, well, we can try to move to that.

Let me move on to amendment 66. A number of amendments tabled by right hon. and hon. Members concerned the protocol in clause 8, which was actually meant to be helpful. The Justice Secretary and I have been surprised at the extent to which difficulties have been expressed about that, and we are prepared to take it away and to consider it. I wonder whether the hon. Member for North Essex might be prepared to withdraw amendment 66, as it links in with matters of the protocol that we will be considering.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Will the hon. Lady clarify whether the Government's intention is for the protocol to create obligations on the people on the list in clause 8? If that is not the Government's intention, a lot of the problems will fade away when they come to reconsider the matter.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

No, it was not the intention to create binding obligations. The provision was expressly limited to a statement about the way in which the bodies would work together. It was meant to be helpful. It will not create binding obligations, but it is clear that Members have concerns about it. A number of amendments in this large group relate to the proposal, and the Justice Secretary has said that we are prepared to reconsider the matter.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

I come back to my point about justiciability, about which the Minister must have a view. I believe that incorporating references such as to the protocol or the role of the Standards and Privileges Committee means that the process must be justiciable henceforth—contrary to the previous position under article IX of the Bill of Rights. The Government must have an opinion on that, but the Minister still has not given it to us.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

We have said that we are prepared to have a look at the matter. We are going to have to leave it there.

I have just touched on amendment 66. Amendment 46 is about giving advice to Members, and I hope that the hon. Member for North Essex will accept that we have dealt with that already.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

The Minister must realise that this is a matter of acute concern. The Bill of Rights has been there for 300 years. It has protected the liberties of our people and made us the most law-abiding democratic nation in the world. Will she now please reply to the point put carefully to her by my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Grieve? She is replacing the Bill of Rights with a provision that renders matters pertaining to the House justiciable. We must have an answer before we move to a vote.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

We do not believe that those matters will be justiciable. Opposition Members have said that they want to reach the later amendments, so we are going to have make progress.

I believe that we dealt with amendment 46 in an earlier debate, and I turn now to amendments 34 and 18. We have deliberately devised a scheme in the Bill so that the House retains the power to discipline its Members. Apart from the criminal offences in clause 9, the ultimate decision about what action to take against an MP remains with the House. It will be for the House to decide whether to punish a Member for not supplying information or for failing to comply with a direction, and it will be for the House to decide what to do with a recommendation from IPSA for other sanctions.

We believe that concerns that the provisions are breaches of privilege are misplaced, because they have been carefully drafted precisely to preserve those privileges of the House. The alternatives would have been to make every breach of the rules on allowances or the registration of interests into a criminal offence, or to give IPSA itself a power to enforce its decisions.

Both options would lead to giving a body outside Parliament far more of an incursion into the proceedings of the House, and would certainly be a breach of the principle of exclusive cognisance. Therefore, I urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

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Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

I think that the Minister is confusing things that involve proceedings in this House and things that do not. The payment of allowances is not a proceeding in this House. It is possible to deal with it through measures that do not impinge on parliamentary privilege. They may give rise to the problem of justiciability, but they do not raise issues of privilege. If the Government recognised that they can deal with pay and allowances without interfering with privilege, they would not have to disapply article IX of the Bill of Rights—as, contrary to what she said earlier, clause 10 does.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

There does need to be that independent authority.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

No, as I am going to work through the rest of the amendments.

Amendment 19 would omit subsection (6) of clause 8. I have said already that that subsection, on protocol, was meant to be helpful. Clearly, Members are not finding it helpful and we have agreed to look at it again to be helpful as the Bill progresses further through the House.

Amendment 20 would substitute the Committee on Standards and Privileges for the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the first line of clause 8(6). That is a sensible thing to do, and we are prepared to accept both that amendment and amendment 21.

Amendment 64, which is in the name of Mr. Jenkin, would remove the provision in the Bill that makes it clear that the House's powers to discipline its Members are not constrained by the Bill. The point of that provision is to confirm that the House continues to have the freedom to discipline its Members in any way that it chooses, and in any circumstances that it considers relevant. For example, the House will continue to have the power to punish breaches of those parts of the code of conduct that are not transferred to the authority of IPSA. That power is not conferred by the Bill. The Bill, of course, does not give the House permission to exercise its powers; the provision is simply a statement of fact, included for the avoidance of doubt.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex 4:00 pm, 1st July 2009

The Minister mentioned the term "exclusive cognisance". Can she explain to the House what she means by that, and what she understands by that term?

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

No. I will not lengthen the debate by that method. Given that amendment 64 is about a simple statement of fact that is included in the Bill, for the avoidance of doubt, I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it. Amendment 67 is, again, on a matter that is linked to protocol. We have decided during this debate that there are a number of matters that should be looked at. We can support the principle behind the amendment, and can look to make some drafting changes as the Bill progresses, if that is acceptable to the hon. Gentleman.

On amendment 97, we accept the point made about double jeopardy. We definitely need to get the wording right. If we have not got it right, we need to do so, and I hope that Sir Alan Beith will accept the assurance that we will ensure that we get it right. We accept the principle behind amendment 12, and will look at the matter later in the Bill's passage.

That leaves us with amendment 22. The powers of the House to discipline its Members are inherent in its jurisdiction—a point that I made earlier—so the powers set out in the clauses are all powers that the House already possesses. There is no suggestion that the powers will be limited in any way in future, or that the list of powers is exhaustive. Nor is there any suggestion that the powers are conferred by the Bill. We are trying to make it clear that we are talking about, and recognising, powers of the House that already exist. Clause 8(10) makes it clear that the range of sanctions that IPSA can recommend include withholding salary, suspension and expulsion. That is a clear indication of the range of sanctions that a Member who has broken the rules might expect to have imposed, including the most serious sanctions.

We feel that it would be unacceptable if IPSA had the power to recommend sanctions when there was no public indication of what they might be. The public, to whom I keep referring, need to know such things. We feel that that approach best treads the path between responding to public anger and respecting the position of the House. Given my comments on those amendments, I commend clause 8 to the House.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

If the Bill goes on the statute book and does not get repealed or altered soon, I think that the Minister's speech in response to the debate will stand as an absolute monument to the way in which the Executive now treat this place. She was unable to answer any of the questions about the maintenance of our independence. The high point of the Government's position was their telling us that their own analysis was that it was more likely than not that our independence would not be undermined as a result of the proposals in clause 8, yet she was unable to provide any coherent argument on why amendment 32 would not improve the Bill.

As Sir Alan Beith rightly says, let us start moving the process in a direction that provides clarity to the role of IPSA, while protecting our independence in matters that concern the internal discipline of this House and that ultimately touch on the way the House operates. That is the point where justiciability and privilege start to run together. If we could just keep that in mind, the Minister would find there was widespread consensus across the House on the changes that the Government have tried to introduce. Instead, every time we look as though we are about to approach that consensus, we get diverted into a strange, nightmarish regulatory regime that will stand us in endless discredit with the public and undermine our ability to do our job. In those circumstances, I believe that amendment 32 has real benefit, although it is just a small step in the right direction, and I wish to put it to a vote.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Let me refute what Mr. Grieve said in an unusually temperate set of remarks. My hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House dealt carefully with each amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman's implication was that we have simply sat here and resisted all the amendments, but he knows very well that that is the reverse of the truth. I am not supposed to talk about this but, as the record of the notes going backwards and forwards between Ministers and the official Box will disclose, what I have sought to do with my hon. Friend is listen to the debate. On a number of occasions, I have come to the Chamber with one view, but I have changed it in the light of debate, which is the purpose of parliamentary debate. There is a legitimate argument to be had about amendment 32, but I have to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman and the Committee that the Bill is not remotely about undermining the independence of the House, something for which I have stood—

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Nor is it an unintended consequence. I am ready to accept the amendment that the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough have tabled to clause 10. Furthermore, we will continue to examine it, and that will not necessarily be the end of the matter. I recognise the sensitivity of the matter of privilege but, to pick up a point made by my hon. Friend, privilege at its best is not about our privilege but about the privileges of our electors, and through that, the rights of this House. Mr. Leigh is no longer in his place. [ Interruption. ] I am sorry, he is. I am looking at him; usually, he sits somewhere else. He spoke eloquently on the subject, but we must all understand that the term, which means many things, can also become self-serving. I think it was the hon. Member for North Essex who described it as trust.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I apologise—perhaps it was the hon. Member for Gainsborough.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice)

The right hon. Gentleman should listen to him more often.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I listen to him all the time, and I compliment him on what he said. However, there was a breach of trust by the House in the way it dealt with the expenses regime, which is why we are in this mess. Certain consequences, I am afraid, must follow. Second Reading was approved on a vote of 291:1. It was open to the House to vote the Bill down, but it decided not to do so. The measure involves a modification not of privilege as privilege but of powers previously exercised directly by the House. What we are doing, by the authority of the House, if the measure is approved—

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice)

On a point of order, Sir Alan. I wonder whether you would advise me. We are very short of time but we are now having a second Government winding-up speech on the debate. I fully appreciate the fact that the Secretary of State is loyally defending the junior Minister, but he is eating into our time. If we do not debate the Bill properly, we will be roundly accused of not doing our duty.

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Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I myself was about to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that his speech was turning into a Second Reading speech, and was not closely germane to the amendment.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I will bring my remarks to a close, Sir Alan.

Certain consequences follow, like night follows the day. If we voluntarily decide to set up the authority, it means that some of the authority's enforcement will be dealt with outside the House.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

May we return to the most germane point, which relates to amendment 32 and the accompanying amendments 33 and 36? They seem to me to be reasonable, measured and sound. If the House were to reject them, we would be reckless and feckless in doing so.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I cannot accept the amendments at the moment. I am certainly ready to give them active consideration, but they raise important points of principle.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State

The time for the amendments is now. It is our one opportunity to make these decisions. Every Member of the House must look to their electorate and to their own conscience as to whether we wish to see our independence disappear for no good reason, when the Bill can be improved to make it workable and do what the public want and what we are required to do.

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Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided: Ayes 234, Noes 274.

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Division number 175 Bill Presented — Sustainable Energy (Local Plans) Bill — Clause 8 — Enforcement

Aye: 232 MPs

No: 271 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Abstained: 2 MPs

Abstaineds: A-Z by last name

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Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: 17, page 5, line 25, at end insert—

'(2A) The Committee on Standards and Privileges may accept, modify or reject as it sees fit a recommendation under subsection (2).'.— (Sir Stuart Bell.)

Amendment made: 85, page 5, line 31, leave out 'financial interests rules' and insert

'code of conduct relating to financial interests'.— (Mr. Blizzard.)

Amendments made: 20, page 5, line 38, leave out 'Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority' and insert 'Committee on Standards and Privileges.'.

Amendment 21, page 5, leave out line 43.— (Sir Stuart Bell.)

Clause 8, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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