Motion made, and Question put forthwith (
That, at this day’s sitting,
The House divided:
Ayes 290, Noes 6.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it usual or in order for Front-Bench Members to both shout and object on matters that are Back-Bench objections? I gather that Mr Spellar and others may have objected in order to force the last vote, but it is my understanding that that is not the normal convention.
The issue is whether there is an objection. There are matters that some people, including the right hon. Gentleman, might deem unusual, and that may be so in terms of party combat, but that does not necessarily have an implication for the conduct of proceedings in Parliament or for the judgment of the Chair. That said, the right hon. Gentleman has put his point squarely on the record.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Going one stage further as one of those Members who have, perhaps, been around for longer than we ought to have been, am I right that there is a convention that votes follow voices, but that is not invariably the case?
It is not, but I strongly deprecate the suggestion that the hon. Gentleman has been around for longer than he ought to have been. [Interruption.] I am not wishing his untimely end, notwithstanding the sedentary dissent of the Patronage Secretary.
As I was saying, equality is a fundamental issue in respect of Treasury matters. The make-up of this Committee reinforces and exemplifies an historical bias on equality that is a significant bar to effective decision making cross-party and over many generations. One only needs to look at the fact that Chancellors of the Exchequer have been male throughout the centuries. Therefore, in the modern era when all parties rightly, and with increasing success, are bringing women forward into Parliament, this Committee’s membership demonstrates an old-fashionedness and backdatedness that this House should not endorse tonight.
This gets to the nub of the gentleman’s club and the way in which decisions are being made and have been made. I suspect that no such discussions on equality took place as the names were put forward, and that, in fact, the different parties put forward their names in accordance with the usual time-honoured, historical tradition, and nobody then took an overview. I suspect that the bias against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland came about in exactly the same way.
It is good that serious interventions are being made. On Treasury matters, there is a historical bias going back over the centuries, but this Parliament has not got to grips with it. We made exactly the same mistakes when establishing the Select Committees. The usual channels have brought forward names and those names are not reflective of the House or the country. That is a fundamental weakness.
I will not be making frivolous points about the forename or surname of any of the Members put forward for this Committee. However, the question of gender balance is not going to be knocked off the agenda so easily, because it is fundamental to the whole workings of Parliament. If Parliament in the modern era is portraying itself through one of the very first Joint scrutiny Committees to be established and the elected House of Commons manages to get itself in a bind whereby all the Members put forward are English males, we are letting the country down. We are also letting down the principle of modernisation, which, superficially at least, is shared by those on both sides of the House. If we are really trying to encourage a wider array of people to take an interest in this House and, in future years, to stand for this House, how we portray ourselves in the Committees that we create is a fundamental principle.
I put it to the House: in what other way can the House manifest its commitment to an inclusive Parliament—a Parliament that is representative of all parts of the country, of all sections of the country and of both sides of the gender division within the country? There is a fundamental point at issue, which the Government, in failing to give proper time to have this proposal debated, are shying away from. That is a weakness at the heart of government.
My hon. Friend is making a compelling argument. Has he considered the idea that in the future it might be helpful if a statement were attached to each name, spelling out what the usual channels felt were the Member’s qualifications for this Committee or for the Select Committees?
No, I disagree with my hon. Friend. Others were arguing in interventions—they are welcome to make the point at greater length in debate if they wish—that this Committee should be based on experts, but that is a fundamental flaw of logic. The idea that it has to be bankers and specialist economists who investigate, make decisions on our behalf and carry out pre-legislative scrutiny and that the basis of these bodies should be some academic prowess or past profession is part of the old school and the gentlemen’s club. There is no reason why those from manual working backgrounds or care backgrounds should not also be able to participate in making such decisions as effectively as anyone else as members of these Committees.
When the world looks in, and, in particular, our constituents look in, and we examine how far we have modernised or not modernised, as exemplified by the failure in the make-up of this Committee, we find, at the very end of the first part-year of this Parliament and as we go into the summer recess, that the problem is magnified. We are talking about one of the last decisions made by Parliament before the recess. It is a recess that some believe is too long—I tend to share that view—but through which this Joint Committee will apparently be working. If that is the signal we send out to the country of how we see the modern world and financial services and how we intend to influence such services, it undermines our ability to do the kind of things we want to, although we disagree on the precise remedies. To remove such influence from ourselves and to weaken ourselves by having such an unrepresentative Committee is fundamentally flawed, but other weaknesses in the make-up of the Committee must be explored.
One such weakness is the fact that the balance between Government and Opposition does not reflect the balance in Parliament. That seems to me to be fundamentally wrong. There may or may not be a desire to have votes in the Committee, but, as regards the contribution, input and perspectives raised when four of the members come from the Government side and two from the combined Opposition side, that distribution does not seem to be democratic or appropriate. It does not reflect the election results.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but there is no suggestion of any name being added—certainly not from me. The suggestion is merely to remove one name to create a better balance of 3:2. Of course, one never could and never should attempt to use an entirely mathematical equation to resolve such matters, but the principle that the balance in Committees should reflect the balance in the elected House is surely one this House would have to abide by. The hon. Gentleman is right; there could have been other ways of doing this, such as adding another member, but it seems to me that adding another member, perhaps from one of the smaller parties, is rather a hostage to fortune, because we must ask which Member it would be and from which party. Back Benchers could not simply be nominated at random without some process to enable consultation—the very consultation that the Government failed properly to carry out for this Committee. We all know why the make-up of the Committee is as it is and what the Government’s agenda is.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, from a sedentary position, says that that is inconsistent, but there is no requirement for those proposing an amendment to agree on every remedy that would emanate from it.
My purpose is not to make any comment on individual Members but to ensure that because there is a balance between the other place and this place the Government take the issue back and rethink the entire make-up of the Committee in order properly to reflect the Parliament that we have, the elections we have had and the modern world we live in. I seek no more than that, but of course my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife, who has added his name to the amendment, may have other, additional and different reasons. That does not negate the argument; indeed, one could argue that in a democracy it strengthens the case because there are different arguments from different perspectives with different options provided. The principle remains the same, however: it is invidious to have a balance of 4:2, four from the Government side and two from all the combined Opposition parties. However one looks at it, that in no way reflects the result of the last election.
It seems to me rather demeaning for this Parliament to go into such a long summer recess with this Committee apparently sitting through it with such imbalance and such bias. This question of priority and of why the Committee is sitting through the summer is another reason why the amendment has been tabled. If the amendment was passed, one would hope that the Government would be forced to rethink at this late stage. They chose not to table the debate earlier, although they had the opportunity to do so, but one would hope that the time for reflection they would have over the recess would also mean that the proposal for this biased and unrepresentative group, in relation to the general election, to Parliament as a whole, to the nations of the United Kingdom, to the gender balance in the House, to democracy and to the world in which we live, could not happen. It seems to me a wrong priority in the month of August, when there are many important things that we could be deliberating and engaging on, for this Joint Committee to be establishing its work. A slight delay allowing the Government to rethink, reformulate and re-democratise the proposal would be wholly in order. I am sure that in their heart of hearts that is exactly what hon. Members are thinking tonight, having heard the arguments that have been put forward. No hon. Member would want to go into this long recess having taken a decision so unrepresentative of our country, our Parliament and the world in which we live.
There is another fundamental issue at stake that has not yet been addressed, which the amendment would also allow reconsideration of—the giving away of financial control and powers to the other place. Important debates and deliberations on the future of the other place are currently going on, such as whether it should be partially elected—80% elected—how many should sit in it, where they should come from and what the time scale for reform should be. Those are all important issues, not least to parliamentarians in this House. Pre-empting that by giving financial powers to the other place—as the proposal is, in essence, a move towards doing—by having it scrutinise the draft Financial Services Bill jointly with this House is a start on a slippery slope in relation to the historical division on financial matters that has existed ever since democracy in this place was established. The proposal begins to unravel that and one might think that there are some within the coalition whose very agenda that is—those who want a proportionally elected second Chamber that has those financial powers. It seems to me that they have managed to sneak in, through this proposal at this late hour and this late stage—indeed, it would have been without this debate had we not tabled this amendment—potentially a constitutional issue of profound ramifications. It would mean handing over, albeit the very first semblance of doing so, financial powers, decision making powers and authority to a second Chamber that some want to become an elected Chamber in the very near future.
There will be different views about that and I do not intend to go into what those views are—that is for another day—but it is relevant to the amendment to point out the consequences. Hon. Members who vote through this unwise, undemocratic, unegalitarian, anti-regions, anti-nations, badly thought out, badly timetabled, rushed and last-minute proposal will be opening this House to potential ridicule from future generations who come here. They will ask when was the moment when we handed over to the other place that first little bit of power in relation to financial matters. When did we allow the second Chamber—
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I was listening intently and I was about to say, which I shall now do, that we are concerning ourselves in this debate with the establishment, composition and remit of the draft Financial Services Bill Joint Committee, upon which subject John Mann is tabling and, I think, speaking to an amendment relating to a narrow part of the matter—namely, a particular member of the Committee. A wider dilation about possible future transfers of power, which might haunt the hon. Gentleman, are not subject matter for this evening’s debate, to which I know he will now return.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your advice. I seek your clarification on one important matter. It was my intention, as demonstrated by my previous remarks, to confine myself to one contribution, looking at the substantive motion as well as the amendment. I may be in error in so doing and may require a second speech. It was my intention to restrict myself to a single speech, and I seek your guidance in relation to that.
The hon. Gentleman should proceed with his speech according to his own lights. It is not the normal practice of the Chair to conduct a running commentary on the speech of any hon. Member or to advise an hon. Member in advance of when he might inadvertently be about to slip beyond order. The hon. Gentleman can protect himself.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for that helpful guidance.
The final point that I wish to make in relation to the amendment is that the randomness of selection of an individual member to remove can have many motives and be for many reasons. This important proposal by the Government is fundamentally flawed in its make-up, as I have outlined, being English only and male only, with the Committee meeting as a priority during the summer and being a Joint Committee with the House of Lords.
The weakness of the usual channels, inspired by Government and the Government’s timetabling, has meant that we have not been able to have this debate without amendment. I therefore urge that in future when such matters are before the House, they should not be tabled to be nodded through at 10 pm with no debate or require objections from individual Members or groups of Members in order to stop that process, requiring an amendment to allow a debate both on the amendment and on the issues underlying the make-up of the Committee and the flawed and biased decision of Government in that regard. That is the Government’s responsibility. We as a House have a responsibility to hold the Government to account and to ensure that they do not get away with such sloppiness in their programming of legislation that they put legislation—
I am rather disappointed that my hon. Friend seems to be coming to the end of his speech, which I am enjoying so much. Does he agree that there are far too many tight programme motions in the Chamber and that we should have more thorough debates to make sure that every point can be thoroughly discussed, as my hon. Friend is doing?
I shall therefore humbly ignore my hon. Friend’s intervention and conclude my remarks. As guardians of our democracy, albeit within the confines of the gentlemen’s club and the usual channels, and despite the weaknesses imposed upon us by the lack of modernisation, it is our responsibility and duty to expose flawed proposals, such as how the Government have unnaturally put together this unrepresentative and biased group without allowing us a debate that is timetabled in a proper and normal way. It is the Government’s responsibility to get that right, and I implore them to do so in future to save us having to object repeatedly at 10 o’clock at night to the flawed logic and bad politics that they have had to use—we all appreciate that it is a difficult time for the coalition—in order to try to hold these two ramshackle coalition partners together.
It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend John Mann. As he knows, I was born in his constituency, so I have a fond spot for the area in north Nottinghamshire that he represents. I wish to oppose his amendment, but also to raise some concerns about the motion.
It is important that the work of the Committee focuses on the importance of getting this right. We all remember, certainly those of us from the north-east, that the first domino to fall in the financial crisis was Northern Rock. We saw people quite rightly queuing round the block, fearing for their savings and worrying what would come next. Getting regulation right will be very important, and therefore the work of the Committee will be very important not only for this generation, but for future generations.
It is clear that this Government, the previous Government and the previous Conservative Government grappled with getting the balance right between regulation and having a free market that allows markets to generate the capital and finance that industry and individuals require. Therefore, the Committee will be very important. The task we have set it, in quite a short time scale, which I will come on to in a minute, is rather intriguing. It is a little like the ark of the covenant, in the sense that I will be amazed if the Committee finds the perfect system for regulation.
The nature of the Committee was referred to earlier. The Government brought forward the White Paper setting out the draft regulation. I am a big supporter of draft legislation. I do not think that the press and public have quite got a handle on it yet, because when Governments change draft legislation it is seen as a defeat for them, and that should not be seen as the way forward.
I very much agree with what my hon. Friend is saying. Does he not agree that more pre-legislative scrutiny would improve the quality of legislation and that we should have more of it?
I agree. To be honest, my answer to the question of the second Chamber is ultimately to vote to abolish it. I have always been a unicameralist and think that if we did the job here better we would get legislation that was not only better, but more timely and well drafted, and we would not have the theatricals that we have to go through with the other place.
The draft legislation is being put forward and I welcome that process. I sat on one of the very first Joint Committees in 2003—the Joint Committee on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill. As a new Member, that was a very good process and learning curve, because it included young and inexperienced Members of this House, such as Patrick Mercer and myself, and Members of the House of Lords, such as Lord Archer, a former Solicitor-General, and Lord Condon, who is a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner. They brought a wealth of experience to that process, which was a good one in that it could not be replicated by the usual way in which we conduct legislative scrutiny in this place. The most important thing was that out of the 130 amendments that were tabled, well over 100 were accepted. The important thing about this Committee will be whether it genuinely conducts pre-legislative scrutiny and whether the Government will really consider changing their proposals.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw talked about the House of Lords. I feel uncomfortable not about joint legislative scrutiny with the House of Lords, which is a good process, but about having it for financial matters. That makes me a bit nervous. Not only the membership of the Committee from this House, but the selection process in the other place, which is nothing to do with us, as I well know, have not been thought through. Getting the balance right is a difficult job. The supremacy of this place in dealing with financial issues has to be maintained. I would not like, as my hon. Friend said, for this to be a chink in the armour that breaks the convention that this House, not the other place, deals with finance. Unfortunately, that point seems to have been glossed over in the way that the Government and the usual channels have put the process together. The Procedure Committee or others might want to look in detail at how such Joint Committees come into being. I would not want it to become a regular occurrence for Joint Committees, including those considering financial issues, to have Members of the other place sitting on them and determining what is taken forward.
It will be difficult to get the Bill right. It will be like finding the ark of the covenant to find a regulatory system that everyone agrees with and that protects the public from the scenes that we saw a few years ago. It is interesting that we hear the Conservatives say these days that they are now for more regulation, even though in the 1980s they deregulated the financial markets and then called for less regulation when the previous Labour Government of whom I was a member were bringing in legislation.
I am concerned about the short time scale that is being allowed for the Bill. The motion says that
“the Committee should report on the draft Bill by
We are about to go into a long recess and the Committee will have to work through that to keep to that timetable. I wonder why that date was inserted. Getting this right is more important than any headlines the Government wish to create so that they can say they have solved the problem of the regulation of the banks. The date needs to be reconsidered and the timetable extended.
If the date is so important, why did not the hon. Gentleman table his own amendment? Why does he think that the Committee that this House is about to appoint is incapable of reporting to the House if it feels that it has not completed its deliberations? Its members have a mind of their own—they do not need the supervision that he is attempting to give them.
The hon. Gentleman is being a bit petulant—[ Interruption. ] Pedantic, even. I do not understand why. In my conversations with him, we have never agreed about anything, but we usually get on quite well.
Without wanting to be diverted by my right hon. Friend, I certainly do agree with the hon. Gentleman about defence expenditure and the shambles that this Government are making of defence, but I shall not digress on that.
It is important that we get this right, so I do not think that having
We must look at what is being put forward. The motion states that the Committee shall have five powers:
“to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House; to report from time to time; to appoint special advisers; and to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom.”
I will go through each of those because they are relevant to the work of the Committee. On the power to send for persons, papers and records—
Question accordingly agreed to.
Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made.
Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House concurs with the Lords Message of
That a Select Committee of six Members be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Lords to consider the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on
That the Committee should report on the draft Bill by
That the Committee shall have power—
(i) to send for persons, papers and records;
(ii) to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House;
(iii) to report from time to time;
(iv) to appoint specialist advisers; and
(v) to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom.
That Mr Nicholas Brown, Mr David Laws, Mr Peter Lilley, David Mowat, Mr George Mudie and Mr David Ruffley be members of the Committee.