(North East Fife) (LD)
I thank all Members for their presence today and all those who made contributions. Mr Speaker, I hope the tenor of the debate met your expectations. Let me be clear that my intention in applying for the debate was simply what it says in the motion: to make an initial assessment of the consequences, far beyond the case of the former Member for North Shropshire. I was also compelled to act by the comments made in relation to the future of the current independent standards commissioner. I reiterate many of the comments made from throughout the House in support of her.
There are obviously a number of things already under way, including the review of the code of conduct that the Chair of the Standards Committee referred to, but the variety of standards and codes that have been raised in today’s debate suggests that they need to be aligned and streamlined. A number of issues have been raised, such as the work of the Committee, the commissioner and appeals, as well as issues outside the direct scope of the debate, such as cash for honours, the awarding of contracts and ministerial codes of conduct. All those things need to be looked at.
Last week’s vote had direct consequences that need to be addressed. I note the suggestion by the Chair of the Standards Committee, which seems to fit the suggestions of both the hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper). I agree that we should take them forward.
Last week’s actions by the Government were a clear Executive overreach, and the Prime Minister has serious questions to answer. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster suggested that there was regret on the Government side and among ministerial colleagues, so I am disappointed that the Prime Minister is not here. However, when he has had the opportunity to apologise, such as in comments he made to the press today, he has chosen not to do so.
This is about trust. It is about trust in the Government that they will represent the House and not the Government in House business, and it is about trust in us as our constituents’ representatives. That trust, once eroded, is very difficult to regain. Trust in our politics has been eroded in this past week. That includes all of us here in this House. On behalf of all our constituents, we must do all in our power to do our best to rebuild that trust as we take the next steps on standards.
(MP for Maldon)
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
I was just going to put the Question, but yes—John Whittingdale.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I of course understand why it was not possible for you to call me in the debate. However, I am left in something of a dilemma. As I understand it, the House has still passed a motion that establishes a new Committee, which I am supposed to chair. I agreed to chair it on the basis that it would be a cross-party Committee that would have support from both sides of the House. It appears that that is not possible. As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) indicated, I would not wish to chair a Committee that had support from only one side, but I am not clear what is the status of the Committee, given that the motion that the House passed last week, as I understand it, is still in place.
I am going to have to put the Question, but my quick answer is that we do need to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. No Committee can go forward—everyone has accepted that—but we need to draw a line under it, because at the moment there are too many questions that need to be answered. It is in the Government’s hands to resolve that, and I am sure that they will want to do it as quickly as possible, in which case this House can then begin to move on.
Question put and agreed to.