HC Deb 24 May 1966 vol 729 cc281-2
Q9. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps to alter the procedure of the House so as to diminish the power of the Executive in regard to membership of Select Committees.

The Prime Minister

The procedure of the House is for the House to determine, but if my hon. Friend has any particular suggestions to make I would be happy to look at them.

Mr. Hamilton

I have plenty of those. Can my right hon. Friend justify the system by which the Executive takes upon itself the right to appoint back-bench Members on Committees which are themselves appointed to investigate the Execu- tive itself? Can he justify the Executive's right to appoint back-bench Members to Committees which are essentially back-bench Committees discussing matters of importance to the House itself?

The Prime Minister

This, together with other questions, can be considered in the discussions we hope shortly to be having, but I should have thought that one of the very strong prima facie cases for the present situation is that as a result of the system which my hon. Friend condemns, he has been a very successful Chairman of the Select Committee on Estimates.

Mr. Rankin

Would my right hon. Friend not at least agree that in a democratic assembly like ours—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—of course it is—we ought to have some say in the election of our own Select Committees?

The Prime Minister

This is an idea which, of course, the House is perfectly free to consider and resolve on if it so decides, but I think the House knows the basis on which not only Standing but Select Committees have been appointed for many years past. If the House feels that there is a strong case for reviewing it, we have plenty of machinery for reviewing these ideas and taking action upon them.

Mr. Heath

Can the Prime Minister tell us when he and his colleagues will have had sufficient time to think out the ideas for Parliamentary reform which he told us were urgent five weeks ago?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we are about ready now. It was right that we should give considerable thought to this, having raised the matter, and we shall be ready to discuss it with the right hon. Gentleman at any time now. Naturally, in view of the importance of the subject, we shall not press him for an answer in the first five minutes. The right hon. Gentleman knows that on other important matters of Parliamentary reform we have been waiting for answers from him for a very long time.