HC Deb 30 June 1966 vol 730 cc2189-90
Q5. Dr. David Owen

asked the Prime Minister if, before completing his discussions on extensions of the committee system of this House, he will move for the appointment, for a trial period, of all-party regional committees of this House, with powers to examine witnesses from the regional economic planning councils and boards.

The Prime Minister

This was one of the ideas I put forward in my speech in the debate on the Address, but I think we had better await the outcome of the discussions before taking action of the kind suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Owen

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is considerable all-party support for such committees, that regional planning is at a very critical stage and that the councils are just about to report and that there is a feeling on both sides of the House that there is a considerable two-way traffic of ideas which would enhance regional planning?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend will realise that one of the difficulties is that in different regions and areas there is not exactly parity with the differences between the various parties in the House. In the region which my hon. Friend represents there is a very big Conservative majority, while in others there is a preponderant Labour majority. That is one of the difficulties which would have to be overcome.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister recognise that we are not obsessed by the difficulties of party balance—[Laughter.]—and that there is all-party support for this method? Will he recognise that those concerned with this problem, of whatever party, who have campaigned for realistic regional development are now finding themselves bypassed by the planning councils and boards affecting their constituencies?

The Prime Minister

I can quite understand the hon. Gentleman's lack of interest in the party balance in some of these areas. I would not consider that hon. Members who have been campaigning for more regional activities have been bypassed. The actions of both the regional boards and the regional councils are of an executive and advisory character and jobs which have not been done before are now being done. But that does not cut across the responsibilities of Members of Parliament.