HC Deb 05 May 1966 vol 727 cc1861-3
Q4. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister when he will announce more detailed proposals on specialist committees of the House.

The Prime Minister

As soon as the necessary consultations have been completed, Sir.

Mr. Strauss

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever benefits might result from these specialist committees, any formal participation by such committees in day-to-day decision and policy-making by Ministers would seriously impede good government?

The Prime Minister

Such day-to-day interference of the kind my right hon. Friend refers to has not been the position in the Estimates Committee or in the P.A.C.—everyone will agree on the value of their work—but there are many policy problems, long-term ones, on which the wider wisdom of the House would be useful instead of concentrating it on the knowledge and experience available to Government Departments.

Sir E. Boyle

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that he will consider the possibility of a specialist committee on science and technology, as proposed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in addition to the proposals which he made himself in the debate on the Loyal Address?

The Prime Minister

Yes. This idea has been put forward a number of times and there is a parallel suggestion—although the two would probably overlap—for one on productivity. Another suggestion has been that, since there is a Committee on the Nationalised Industries, there should be one on efficiency in privately-owned industry. All these questions could be considered.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend consider how he can safeguard the right of the House to discuss foreign affairs? Does he realise that, with Questions once in six weeks and a general debate once in four or six months, the share of the House in forming policy and thought has been reduced almost to zero?

The Prime Minister

I would not accept my right hon. Friend's conclusions. Of course, there are facilities for debates, including Supply Days, but, although Foreign Office Questions come up infrequently, it is my experience that there are Foreign Office Questions twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mr. Heath

When will the Prime Minister be putting these proposals before the Opposition parties for consultations?

The Prime Minister

Quite soon. I agree that responsibility for the failure to make progress in the consultations lies on our shoulders. We shall be ready shortly to talk to the Opposition parties.

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