New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: I am struggling a little to follow the argument the Deputy Leader of the House is making. If it is the case that the present Chair and members of the Committee have been conducting themselves excellently, why change now in a hurry when we are still waiting for a report? If the Government are so concerned about this – perhaps there is a point I have overlooked – why did he not bring in the arrangement he is proposing at the beginning of the process? Why are we bringing it in when the process is well underway, given that the people who have been running the Backbench Business Committee appear to be doing such a splendid job?

[The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): I have already said why. We are doing that now because we are about to have elections, and we do not change the rules of elections after elections. It is normal practice, and normally more constructive, to change the rules before elections, rather than afterwards.

The hon. Gentleman asks why we did not start from a different basis. I accept, and the House is fully aware, that we started with the draft proposals from the Wright Committee, and it was obvious then that what applied to the Backbench Business Committee was different from what applied to any other Select Committee. The precautionary principle in elections to other Select Committees exists for a reason: to stop interference – in a party political way, between the parties – as to who on Select Committees should represent Members. I think that is quite an important principle, but the House must decide whether it considers it to be an important principle. If the House considers it to be nugatory, the House will vote accordingly.]