Eleanor Laing: I inform the House that Mr Speaker has selected a manuscript amendment in the name of John Stevenson, copies of which are in the Vote Office and which is also available online.
Andrea Leadsom: I can absolutely assure my hon. Friend that I am committed to changes that will accommodate the need for parents to spend time with their new babies.
The changes sought in the motion will first confer full voting rights on lay members of the Committee on Standards. That means, in practice, that lay members will have equal status on the Committee and will hold a majority in any vote, with the Chair holding a casting vote only in the event of a tie, and it goes some way towards meeting Laura Cox’s challenge.
John Stevenson: As my right hon. Friend knows, I tabled an amendment relating to that issue. What I seek from her is an assurance that, when the Gemma White inquiry reports, we shall have an opportunity to revisit the issue and ensure that her analysis can be taken into consideration.
Andrea Leadsom: I spoke to my hon. Friend earlier today, and assured him that the six-month review of the independent complaints and grievance scheme would indeed take into account the issues raised by each of the independent inquiries, and that all issues relating to the way in which the process for managing complaints works would be in scope for that.
John Stevenson: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My comments will be short. I tabled the amendment, but the Leader of the House has reassured me, so I do not intend to press it. I will make a couple of general comments before talking about the motion before us and the changes to the Standing Orders.
The Cox report highlights concerns about behaviour that should trouble us all. Such unacceptable conduct should not and cannot be tolerated and must be stamped out. It is therefore important we introduce the correct procedures and rules to ensure that behaviour improves and that the culture and environment of Parliament is as it should be for the staff. I agree with the Cox report that Parliament has in the past been reactive in making changes and must get on the front foot and become proactive.
The lay members make a valuable contribution to the Committee on Standards, and their wisdom and knowledge from outside the parliamentary estate is valued, so I support the idea that they should have a vote.
John Spellar: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
John Stevenson: There is only a short amount of time for each speaker, so I will not take any interventions.
The only thing that I want to bring to the House’s attention is the fact that we must make this change with our eyes open. There are constitutional issues, so we must ensure that we do this with the full knowledge of the consequences. We must consider the individuals who will become lay members of the Committee, the criteria for their appointment, the appointment committee that will select them, the length of service and how members can be removed, and how they must conduct themselves. Political views must also be taken into account, because the Committee is politically balanced at present, so we must consider whether lay members should have to give some indication of their political background if they have one to declare. Finally, we must be aware of the democratic legitimacy and accountability of the Committee on Standards. It is an important function of this House, and we must get things right. I recognise that many professional bodies have lay members that make valuable contributions, but from our perspective it is important that we get the balance right.
My final observation is that this Parliament is part of our democratic process, so democratic accountability and legitimacy are vital to it. Change is required, but it must be managed and properly thought through. Change must not be reactive to the personalities of today; it must be for the long term and look to Parliaments of which Members here will not be a part. We must ensure that we leave a legacy that works.