I beg to move,
(1) this House approves the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards, Session 2013-14, HC 357, on All-Party Parliamentary Groups, and the Rules for All-Party Parliamentary Groups contained in Annex 1 of that Report.
(2) the Resolution of the House of
(a) leaving out paragraphs 3 and 4; and
(b) inserting a new paragraph 3:
“Chairs of All-Party Parliamentary Groups shall be responsible for registering the matters specified in the rules for such groups and for the group’s adherence to the Guide to the Rules for All-Party Parliamentary Groups”; and
(3) the Committee on Standards shall have power to update the Guide to the Rules for All-Party Parliamentary Groups from time to time and to make such minor changes to the Rules for All-Party Parliamentary Groups as are necessary to ensure the effective operation of the Register of APPGs and the regulatory regime applying to such groups.
I am delighted that the House is able to debate the report, which sprang out of Mr Speaker’s recognition that all-party group regulation needed to be reconsidered to ensure that it remained appropriate. As I recall, both you in a previous life, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I were members of the working group that was set up. It was chaired by my right hon. Friend Mr Straw, who unfortunately is unable to be with us tonight, although he would have liked to have been here. The Select Committee on Standards built on the proposals of the Speaker’s working group but we also conducted our own investigation. The lay members of the Committee played a full part in this investigation and their presence meant that we had the power for the first time to see ourselves as others see us. I can assure the House that lay members may be friends but in private they have no hesitation in being critical friends. In my view, their ability to be critical friends is precisely what makes them worth having on the Committee. I am sure that view is shared by all members of the Committee. As a result of their involvement we know that the Committee’s proposals command the support of people who have taken the trouble to inform themselves about the way this place works and the wider issues involved in all-party group regulation.
As part of our work, the Committee joined with the Public Administration Committee to get some hard facts about the way in which all-party parliamentary groups operate. We surveyed all APPGs to find out the range of support they received and the frequency of their meetings, and besides that quantitative evidence we took qualitative evidence from colleagues from external organisations involved with APPGs, from those who reported on them and from critics as well.
I do not think we should be embarrassed about APPGs. Indeed, I would be surprised if more than a handful of us were not involved in APPG work. APPGs enable groups of Members to inform themselves about policy. They allow us to work across party lines and to work across both Houses. They allow us to educate ourselves. Today’s all-party Whip shows that Members have opportunities to meet with UK ambassadors from many different countries, hear about the launch of the Green Investment Bank’s new scheme to help local authorities install energy-efficient street lighting, look at the links between mental health and problem debt, or hear about immigration detention in the UK from Shami Chakrabarti or social work from Martin Narey—that is only some of the meetings that are taking place today under the all-party group system. There is a great opportunity for Members of this House—for legislators—to hear from experienced people on many issues.