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The Government has just defeated an attempt by a cross-party group of MPs to widen the remit of the committee investigating the circumstances of the arrest of Conservative MP Damian Green and the search of his office by a mere four votes.

The amendment – moved by Sir Menzies Campbell – was also signed by a plethora of seniors MPs from different parties, including Conservatives David Davis, Michael Howard and Kenneth Clarke. Defeated by 285 votes to 281, it would have allowed for the committee to get on with its deliberations immediately and not necessarily have a government majority.

The main motion setting up the committee was then passed by 293 votes to 270.

Theresa May has just told the Commons that she and David Cameron were recommending that Conservative MPs do not sit on the committee because it "blatantly flies in the face" of the desire the Speaker outlined last week as to its nature.

Simon Hughes said that the Liberal Democrats took the same view.

The debate saw contributions from a number of Conservatives and here are some of the highlights as documented by PoliticsHome:

Theresa May:

"The motion
before us today flies in the face of the Speaker’s statement.  It is
not only a gross discourtesy to the Speaker, but a flagrant abuse of
the power of the executive, a blatant attempt to pack the committee,
and delay its work until the controversy is over.  This Parliament
deserves better from its Leader.

"The Leader should be in no
doubt that if a committee is set up with a government majority that it
would not have the support of the opposition."

"The police will
not think worse of the Home Secretary to ask awkward questions like
‘have you applied for a warrant?’  That is not improper interference.
It is the proper exercise of scrutiny for ensuring that the police are
doing their job.

"If this Committee is stuffed with Government
Officials, we will treat this committee with the same contempt that
this Government has shown to the House.
"

Ken Clarke:

"I do realise how annoying leaks are.  They’re not always heroic.

"I
don’t think that anybody here is in favour of a totalitarian
government.  No one on this side is running spies in the government and
no one on the front bench is advocating a police state.  I think we
have a House of Commons that is committed to parliamentary democracy. 

"We are led in an increasing air of carelessness and indifference.  We don’t all respect the rule of law."

Other robust contributions were made by Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis.

Jonathan Isaby

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