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28 Jan 2003 : Column 829—continued


Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

Question agreed to.

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [28 June 2001 and 29 October 2002],

Question agreed to.



Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6)(Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Northern Ireland

Question agreed to.

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Lord Chancellor's Department

7.15 pm

The Chairman of the Committee of Selection (Mr. John McWilliam): I beg to move,

Let me make it plain at the outset that this is not a question of whether the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) is not an active, able and respected Member of the House or of the respective merits of her and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). It is about maintaining the ratio in the selection of Committees in this House.

The Committee has 11 members, which gives us a ratio of seven Labour members, three Conservative and one other. The one other member is, of course, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, a Liberal Democrat. That reflects the composition of the House, which the Committee of Selection calculates to three decimal places.

If the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) is again suggesting that we move away from a system that selects Committees that reflect the composition of the House, I suggest it is wrong to do that on a Committee that does not cover the whole United Kingdom. I also suggest to him that it is not a good idea anyway. What is more, I suggest to him that getting other parties involved in the selection of members of their own parties to allocated places on Select Committees could lead to all sorts of difficulties.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): May I remind the hon. Gentleman of the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office, who is now on the Front Bench? He pointed out that, on Select Committees,

If that is the view of the Minister, why is it not the view of the convener of the Committee of Selection?

Mr. McWilliam: That may be the view of the Minister on the basis of his sums, but my sums are probably rather more accurate.

Including the Select Committee that we are dealing with, which changes the ratio, there are 464 places on Select Committees. If there were a Committee with 464 places, it would break down as follows: Labour 292; Conservative 116; Lib Dem 38; UUP four; DUP four; SNP four; Plaid Cymru three; SDLP two; and independents one. However, we are dealing with a Committee of 11.

To pick up on the point made by the hon. Member for North Tayside, because of the situation in respect of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs and the need to ensure adequate representation from Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionist party is over-represented in its membership of Select Committees. The

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amendment that he has tabled would exacerbate that enormously, as one can see when looking at the figures that I have just given.

Mr. Salmond: If the amendment would exacerbate the over-representation of Ulster Unionist Members, why would not the motion exacerbate the over-representation of the Liberal Democrats?

Mr. McWilliam: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The Labour party as well as the Liberal Democrat party is over-represented. However, that happens because the size of the Committees is rounded. [Hon. Members: "That's all right then."] Is it all right? I remember intervening on the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) in the debate on the Committee of Selection to ask who would be cut in half. We are considering decimal points and parties that are represented by fewer than 10 Members. The Labour party and the Conservative party are represented in hundreds; the Liberal Democrats are represented in multiples of 10—there are nearly 40 Liberal Democrat Members.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire): Who represents the interests of the minority parties on the Committee of Selection? Liberal Democrat Members always used to try to represent not only their party but the other minority parties. There is a problem only because it appears that the Liberal Democrats have failed to represent the other minority parties. [Interruption.] Let me finish. That is also true of other members of the Committee.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. That was a rather long intervention.

Mr. McWilliam: As Chairman of the Committee of Selection, I act as independently as possible. I have a reputation for that. The minority parties made representations to me some time ago. They were dissatisfied with the Liberal Democrats and they made an agreement with the Government that the Government would represent them. We are dealing with that now. Nominations were tackled in the usual way.

Nominations are routinely made to the parliamentary Labour party and approved before they are put to the Committee of Selection. The other parties have their systems for nominating members. The minority parties operate through the Government Whips Office, and that happened in the case that we are considering.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): My hon. Friend rattled off a load of numbers. I was waiting for the next part of his contribution because he told us the allocation but not the entitlement on a strict pro rata basis. He said, for example, Labour—292; Conservatives—160. To how many members is each party entitled? I support the underdog. We should discriminate in favour of the smaller, minority interests in such a massive Parliament.

Mr. McWilliam: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's contribution. The House agreed last night that the

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Committee would have 11 members. I explained earlier that the ratio is seven Labour, three Conservative and one Liberal Democrat—

Mr. Salmond: One other.

Mr. McWilliam: One other. However, on a strict ratio that should be a Liberal Democrat. We try to stick to that fairly.

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