Foreign Affairs Committee

Part of Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – in the House of Commons at 5:04 pm on 19th March 2019.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 5:04 pm, 19th March 2019

I will not detain the House for long, but I felt the need to stand up and be counted on both the specific and the general contents of this debate.

I oppose the removal of my hon. Friends the Members for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) and for Dudley North (Ian Austin) from the membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee. That is not because I oppose my hon. Friend Conor McGinn or my hon. Friend Catherine West being members of that Committee in future. I am sure that they will, in future, make fine members of the Foreign Affairs Committee should they wish to stand for it. This, for me, is about people being removed because they have held their heads up and said that the membership of the party in which they entered this House no longer represents their values and their views. Because I know both those Members, I know how hard and how difficult that was, and I commend them for their bravery. Over the past almost 22 years of my membership of this House, I have had little interest in the rules of the House, of debate, or of memberships of Select Committees—for me, what matters is what I do in my constituency and how I represent my constituents. I appreciate that people have different views of how they do the job. Surely that is the point, and the strength, of our system.

Kevin Foster may like to look at evidence from the House of Commons Library about how members of Select Committees are dealt with if they leave their party and transfer to another. On 2 March 1981, Robert Maclennan defected from Labour to the Social Democratic party. He was a member of the Public Accounts Committee at the time. He remained a member until the end of the Parliament. On 2 March 1981, John Cartwright defected from Labour to the SDP. He was a member of the Defence Committee at the time. He did not leave the Committee until 31 March 1982—a year later. On 7 October 1981, Tom McNally defected from Labour to the SDP. He was a member of the Defence Committee at the time. He remained a member until the end of the Parliament. On 7 October 1981, James Dunn defected from Labour to the SDP. He was also a member of the Defence Committee. He did not leave it until December 1982, over a year later, and even then he was replaced by an SDP Member.

On 2 December 1981, Ronald Brown defected from Labour to the SDP. He was the Chair of the Committee of Selection at the time and remained so until the end of the Parliament. On 18 December 1999, Shaun Woodward defected from the Conservatives to Labour. He was and remained a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. In 2005, Paul Marsden returned to Labour, having previously defected to the Liberal Democrats. He was and remained a member of the Transport Committee. I would therefore suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the experience in this House, even in the days when Whips had more control over who was on Select Committees, suggests that people could remain.

We all know that this measure is a vindictive one. It shames our Whips—I say that as somebody who has been a Government Whip—to be involved in this manoeuvre today. There is no suggestion that either my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South or my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North have not done their job well, been regular attenders or argued their point of view. They are not being removed for any disciplinary issue or for not being up to the mark. They are being removed because of their politics—because my party has become intolerant and unwilling to listen to other voices.