HC Deb 04 April 1944 vol 398 cc1802-4
46. Mr. Martin

asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to set up a Select Committee to consider and report on all appropriate methods of parliamentary reform.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir; not at the present time.

Mr. Martin

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that some measure of Parliamentary reform is fundamental to a great deal of reconstruction?

The Prime Minister

As stated in those very general terms, I should hesitate to range myself prematurely in opposition to any such idea, but, on the other hand, I do not wish to commit myself to changes in Parliamentary procedure, of which the House should be the master.

Earl Winterton

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us have for a long time past advocated—not during the war but after the war—the setting up of a Standing Committee on Procedure and Rules of the House, which committee could make recommendations from time to time; and, without giving a favourable answer at the present time, will he bear the fact in mind?

The Prime Minister

I realise that the Noble Lord has been 40 years in this House and I certainly will bear matters of that kind in mind.

Earl Winterton

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his courtesy.

Mr. Buchanan

In view of the many changes that may be desirable in Parliamentary procedure, will the right hon. Gentleman at least consider setting up a committee to examine the position and make a report on it to the House and the Government?

The Prime Minister

The rules are the result of very long experience. They are extremely difficult and it takes a very long time to learn them. If they are kept continually in a fluid state, through the advice of a committee, I think it would add to the difficulties of Members in finding their way about our procedure. On the whole, I look with a critical eye upon the setting up of a committee of this kind, but I am quite ready to follow the wishes of the House, after a free Debate has taken place. It must be remembered that the function of Parliament is not only to pass good laws, but to stop bad laws.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the somewhat frequent Ministerial declarations—not on behalf of the Government, but on individual responsibility—on this subject of Parliamentary procedure, delegated legislation and the like, it would not be desirable that some body in the nature of a committee should go into the matter fully in order to avoid this outside controversy?

The Prime Minister

The conditions are abnormal. We have not our Standing Committees at work and our hours are quite different from what they are in times of peace. We do not sit on one day of the week which is usually thought indispensable. I have not seen any serious difficulty in getting great Measures through.

Mr. Petherick

Will my right hon. Friend be very vigilant against any insidious attempts to introduce the corporate State?

Mr. A. Bevan

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of recent events, the establishment of a Select Committee on Procedure of the House would not serve the purpose of educating the Government also?

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Prime Minister also consider the question of the Scottish Grand Committee?

Earl Winterton

I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, in view of the answers of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt that it is a proper topic to raise.