Parliament and Politics: MPs object to select committee nominees

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Indy Politics
COMMONS rows over who should serve on select committees rumbled on yesterday as MPs tabled a series of objections to the list of members and Nicholas Winterton, ousted under a hastily devised rule barring long-servers, claimed nine others should suffer the same fate.

David Trimble, an Ulster Unionist and Alex Salmond, a Scottish Nationalist, put down amendments that the education, employment, environment, foreign affairs, home affairs, national heritage, trade and industry and transport committees should not meet until MPs have debated the rights of minority parties to a minimum of one representative to ensure committees 'properly reflect views from all parts of the House'.

Bill Walker, a disenchanted Scottish Conservative, proposed that Norman Hogg, a Labour member (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) should replace Willie McKelvey, tipped to chair the revived Scottish affairs committee. Mr Walker's move is in protest against Mr McKelvey's connections with Scotland United, the group campaigning for a multi-option referendum on the country's constitutional future.

Mr Walker is also incensed that the Prime Minister and Tory whips did not see fit to consult Scottish backbenchers about the committee, which was boycotted by Tories in the last Parliament. Mr Hogg is incensed that Mr Walker did not see fit to consult him over his nomination.

Mr Winterton, ejected from the health committee under a new ruling that no MP should serve on any select committee for three successive parliaments, renewed his offensive against party managers with a Commons motion saying that Labour's Bruce George, John McWilliam, Greville Janner, Ernie Ross, Andrew Bennett and Jim Callaghan and the Tories' Barry Porter, Robert Adley and Patrick Cormack have served continuously on select committees for 12 or more years.

The motion, inviting Sir Marcus Fox, outgoing chairman of the committee of selection, to withdraw nominations for all the committees, follows the frantic axeing yesterday of Sir John Wheeler, who had chaired the home affairs committee since 1979.

Mr Winterton believes he was the victim of a last minute rule- change inspired by Tory whips. Some of the names mentioned in his motion, however, have builtup service on committees such as Commons services, rather than those shadowing government departments.

In another of the amendments, which MPs will debate on Monday night, Frank Field, the Labour MP, seeks the removal of Marion Roe from the health committee to make way for Mr Winterton.

The reputation of Sir Marcus, the new chairman of the 1922 Committee, has taken a battering because of his apparent readiness to do the bidding of whips. He received 30 pieces of silver in the post for his efforts to inject 'new blood' into the committee system. The sender, it emerged yesterday, was Mr Winterton's research assistant, Christopher Whitehouse.

Mr Whitehouse said: 'I have known and respected Sir Marcus for 20 years as my family MP for Shipley. I was bitterly disappointed that he single-handedly ripped the guts out of the select committee system, the last bastion of defence against over-mighty government.'

The confusion continued as Sir Giles Shaw put down an amendment to replace John Greenway on the home affairs committee with Sir Ivan Lawrence. Sir Ivan, along with Harry Greenway and Peter Fry, was thought to have been eliminated in the first trawl of long-servers.

(Photographs omitted)