§ 50. Mr. Stokes
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on Government policy with regard to the unanimous report of the Select Committee on Accommodation, &c., of the Palace of Westminster that a House of Commons Commission should be set up to take over the powers at present exercised by the Commission for regulating the offices of the House of Commons and other matters concerning the amenities of the Palace.
§ The Prime Minister
The Government are grateful for the careful thought which the Select Committee has given to these matters. They have reached the conclusion that what appear to have been the main objectives of the Committee could be substantially achieved in a simpler and speedier manner than by special legislation. In addition to the measures described to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir Winston Churchill) on 24th March and in order to establish a channel through which hon. Members can make their views known on proposals for improving facilities and services available in the Commons part of the Palace of Westminster, the Government suggest, as an experiment for this Session, that a Select Committee be set up with the following terms of reference:To advise Mr. Speaker on matters concerning the facilities, including accommodation, available to Members in and about the Palace of Westminster.My right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House, will move a Motion for the setting up of the Select Committee, after consultation through the usual channels.
§ Mr. Stokes
While this would appear superficially to be a step in the right direction—having had no warning of this I have had no time to study it—will the Prime Minister bear in mind that the Committee was unanimous and emphatic that the Commission set up under the Act of 1812 was completely inadequate and consisted only of Ministers and Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not saying anything against the Chair—and no back bencher. The recommendation of the Committee was that the Commission had outstayed its usefulness, as it had nothing to do with the amenities of 503 the House but only with salaries and offices. The demands of public service today in the House is such that what is really wanted is a practical committee of back benchers to advise Mr. Speaker on what is required in order to provide hon. Members with the best possible service.
§ The Prime Minister
I am aware of the view expressed. I think that the proposal which I have just made will, in fact, go a long way to meet that. I have suggested an experimental period—this Session—during which we could see whether a Select Committee set up by consultation through the usual channels would not provide, without legislation, the answer we need.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Is my right hon. Friend aware that recently a House of Commons advertisement for an assistant-librarian stated, "Men only"? This gave great offence to the Civil Service. I want to know whether, if we are to have this Select Committee, which I think is quite a good idea, we can make representations on this matter to it? We are supposed to be a House of Commons where equality reigns.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I add to what I have said that I should not like the Prime Minister to think that we are not grateful for what he has done. All I do is to view with some suspicion whether it goes far enough.