Nomination of Members to Committees

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 8:41 pm on 12th September 2017.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 8:41 pm, 12th September 2017

All these great concerns about chaos and arrangements that will lead to this and that are an indictment of the Members of this House. They say, “If we were to respect parliamentary arithmetic when it comes to this, all it would lead to is chaos.” That says something about the membership of this House. More critically and crucially, it goes against the advice of the Clerks on the membership of Committees. I say to the hon. Gentleman: have a look at what the Clerks determine as to how these Standing Committees should be established. The fact that this House is prepared, in this vote, to overlook the good advice of the Clerks on a matter they are obliged to determine is a shame on this House.

I want to come back to Margaret Thatcher. I never thought I would be quoting her in the House. It is a novelty, and I do not think I will ever get used to it or be comfortable with it. Let me get back to what I was saying about the 1970s and to what Conservative Members are asking us to do here. They are saying that just because the Labour party did something rotten in the 1970s, we must do something rotten too, in order to address this. That is totally unacceptable to Scottish National party Members who say, “A curse on all your houses. Deal with the parliamentary arithmetic. Accept the realities and get on with it.”

I will make two points about the 1970s, and again I was intrigued when I looked into this. The Harrison amendment was introduced in the most despicable way to this House, by subterfuge and sleight of hand, but the amendment created this set of conditions for a couple of months. At that point, the Labour Chair of the then Committee of Selection died and it stopped; we went back to the normal arrangements and for the rest of that Labour minority Administration, the parliamentary arithmetic of the House was respected. The second thing about that minority Labour Administration was that it became a minority Labour Administration––that Labour Government actually won an election. The current Conservative Government never experienced that a few months ago, so we will take no lessons on this.

Let me deal with this “chaos” thing. Sometimes democracy is not all that convenient and it throws up strange results. Sometimes we just have to get on and deal with it. What you do not do is try to circumvent democracy; what you do not do is table motions like this one, which is so disrespectful to the people who voted in the election.