In the debate under the title of Committee on Standards after many voices were expressed, two votes took place. Although the Conservatives managed to succeed they only just managed to do so by a few votes. In both vote issues there were Conservatives who opposed the Government that included Peter Bottomley in the second case. The first vote was 249 vs 232 and the second vote was 244 vs 223. The question has to be asked why did far less than 500 MPs vote on both of these two decisions?
All of us will be interested to know which of the MPs chose not to respond. In terms of Sussex here is the following list of the people who did not vote. All of the other Sussex MPs voted as Labour and Green against the change and the Conservatives to make the change. However along with Peter Bottomley who did not vote for one case and voted along with the opposition for the other was Andrew Griffith, Huw Merriman and Henry Smith who did not vote for either of the cases.
The Government has been successful in rejecting the existing arrangements which were placing Owen Paterson in a difficult position that as Peter Bottomley explains, had been in place for nearly 20 years. There were also concerns raised about Owen Paterson. The whole of the debate and the votes can be obtained from here. Here are a few of the elements beginning with the comment raised by Alistair Carmichael who is the Liberal Democratic MP for Orkney and Shetland.
I am not without sympathy for the proposition that the rules require reform in this regard, but the Leader of the House knows, as we all do, that when the House requires reform, it can be done effectively only by building consensus. We build the consensus first and then bring it to the Chamber; I am afraid this Chamber is never where we build consensus. Surely it is already apparent to the Leader of the House that even if the House votes today to constitute the proposed Select Committee, the prospects of achieving consensus in that Select Committee are now as remote as they would be of achieving it in the Chamber today. I am afraid the way the Government are going about this is self-defeating.
Sadly there was no indication that the Government accepted this based on the response from Jacob Rees-Mogg. Then a bit later Peter Kyle from Hove stated:
The Leader of the House is utterly detached from the reality of most working MPs in the House, so let me inform him that most of us do not need to get paid £100,000 to do the job we are already paid for. If we think something is endangering our residents’ lives, we do it for free.
This was the response by Jacob Rees-Mogg:
I am glad that I saved Yvette Cooper for next, because that point was so fatuous that it is not worth answering.
It is very sad that such appalling comments can be made and there is no indication that his position could be challenged. Anyway here is the comment from Yvette Cooper:
A cross-party Committee, including lay members, has already considered this issue and come to a unanimous conclusion. My hon. Friend Mike Amesbury asked the Leader of the House why the House should not just come to a conclusion on paid advocacy, which we are clear is against the rules, and the Leader of the House said that was a matter for the new Committee to consider. The old Committee, including lay members, has already considered it and come to its independent conclusion; why does the Leader of the House think the new Committee will somehow be better than the old Committee? Does he not realise that this just looks to everyone as if he simply does not like the conclusion that the old Committee came to?
A little bit later Caroline Lucas from Brighton spoke:
Can the Leader of the House explain why it is appropriate that this new Select Committee should have an in-built Government majority, while the Standards Committee with its lay members does not. If this is about trying to improve our processes, why is he running the risk of making it look to anybody looking in from the outside that, essentially, this is like someone who has been found guilty of a crime, but instead of serving a sentence, his mates come together to try to change the judicial system? It looks really bad.
The response from Jacob Rees-Mogg was:
Sometimes, to do the right thing, one has to accept a degree of opprobrium, but it is more important to do the right thing to ensure that there is fairness.
Then a bit later Peter Bottomley made a statement. This is the start and the end elements of what he said:
I do not think anyone enjoys taking part in this debate. Were the Government’s motion to be considered unamended, I would vote for it. Had the second amendment been selected, I would vote for it. I will not vote for the first amendment….
….On the decision as to whether the contents of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend Dame Andrea Leadsom are correct, I do recognise that, as my hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin said, the 2003 recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life is worth looking at. But that was 18 years ago, and this is a serious problem. It should have been brought back for consideration by the House or by senior Members of this House during the past 18 years. I am happy to bring it forward now as a way of changing what should be the normal process of upholding the Standards Committee’s endorsement of the standards commissioner’s advice to the Committee.
I refer to the debate in 2010 when Jack Straw was the Justice Secretary and Sir George Young, as he then was, contributed for my party, as did I. We chose the system we are now using. If we want to consider changing it, we should do it in a proper way. I do not regard this as appropriate now.