Parliament and Politics: Deposed health chairman condemns 'dictatorship'

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Indy Politics
NICHOLAS WINTERTON, the deposed former chairman of the health select committee, yesterday accused the Government of arrogance and dictatorship in a highly- charged Commons debate on how committee members are chosen.

The fate of Mr Winterton was decided late last night as a move by Labour's Frank Field to substitute his name for that of Marion Roe was defeated by 210 votes to 147. An attempt to reinstate Sir John Wheeler to the home affairs committee also failed, by 21 votes.

Earlier, in an emotional attack on his Tory colleague, Sir Marcus Fox, chairman of the committee of selection that ousted him, Mr Winterton declared: 'The sooner he is gone the better.'

Sir Marcus had defended a rule that MPs should not serve on departmental select committees for more than three parliaments. Mr Winterton insisted that the committees - the 'last bastions of defence' against excess of government - had been severely compromised because Sir Marcus's committee had succumbed to whips' blandishments.

'After nearly 14 years of Conservative government I believe a government year after year can create an arrogance that can lead to dictatorship,' he said.

Mr Field told MPs earlier: 'I believe this rule, arbitrarily thought up when other rules to get Nick failed, weakens our democratic process.'

At the start of the debate, backbench Labour MPs retaliated against the Government's decision to bring out the 'payroll vote' - ministers and Parliamentary private secretaries - on the occasion of a free vote by forcing divisions on minor legislative orders.

Amid rowdy scenes that saw much of the Government's front bench, including Douglas Hurd, Michael Heseltine, John MacGregor, Gillian Shephard and Malcom Rifkind, shuffling to and from division lobbies, business managers responded by pulling six motions so that the select committee business could be reached.

Labour MPs on the Treasury and Civil Service select committee have agreed to John Watts, Conservative MP for Slough, chairing it on condition that he resigns as parliamentary adviser to the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

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