§ 25. Mrs. Castle
asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the desirability of enabling Questions to be asked in the House, he will seek powers to enable the Leader of the House to answer Questions relating to the allocation of accommodation in the Commons' section of the 19 Palace of Westminster, the provision of secretarial facilities for Members and the increase in the establishment necessary to secure the better servicing of Members and committees; and whether he will allot the Leader of the House a place in the rota of Ministers at Question Time for this purpose.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
No, Sir. I am not in favour of disturbing the present arrangements.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is the Prime Minister aware that under present arrangements hon. Members have no regular machinery whatsoever for expressing their needs and their views upon this question of accommodation and establishment, which vitally affects their working efficiency? Does he not think it is time that there was such regular machinery established, and if he will not give us the House of Commons Commission for which we ask, will he not at least give us the opportunity of asking Questions in this House about these matters which are of direct concern to Members in their capacity as Members?
§ The Prime Minister
It is a very long tradition that no Questions are put to the Leader of the House in that capacity, and I would be unwilling to make a breach in that tradition at the present time. There have been many methods by which these questions have been raised, and I think it would be best to see whether the present machinery can be made satisfactory before making any change in it.
§ Sir T. Moore
May I ask the Prime Minister to accept the view that this question of Members' accommodation has been grossly exaggerated? Is he aware that for years past I have had a desk in a room upstairs where there are 14 other desks available, that I have used it daily, and that during all those years I have never been joined by more than two companions?
§ The Prime Minister
All this shows the variety and complexity of this problem. I would only say that I feel sure that the House of Commons as a whole in its corporate capacity wants us to do what we can for its convenience. We had a debate the other day. I hope that as a result of that debate we shall be able by one means or another to meet 20 some of the needs which hon. Members feel, but I do not really believe that it would be a good thing to establish the Leader of the House, who has a long recognised position and particular functions in the House, as the appropriate Minister to answer a large number of Questions which affect many other Ministers.
§ Mrs. Castle
If the Prime Minister thinks that the Leader of the House is not the appropriate person, will he not give serious consideration to the suggestion of the Opposition and of the Stokes Committee that there should be a House of Commons Commission, the vice-chairman of which could answer questions in the House on these matters affecting the working efficiency of Members? This was a unanimous all-party recommendation, and of the Stokes Committee Report? It is for this that we are pressing, and the suggestion I made that the Leader of the House should answer was merely an alternative because the other had been turned down, though we should much prefer the Commission.