HC Deb 09 July 1968 vol 768 cc209-11
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will move to set up a Select Committee to consider the working of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949.

Q8. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with those concerned on the question of publishing the details of agreements so far reached in the inter-party talks on reform of the House of Lords.

Q9. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that, in the light of the Government's policy on wages, prices and incomes, his proposals for the reform of the House of Lords will not include any alteration in the 4½guineas per day tax-free expenses allowances or any further payment either as a salary or in any other form.

The Prime Minister

As to a Select Committee, No, Sir; as to any other aspect of the reform of another place I have as yet nothing to add to the statement I made on 20th June and the Answers I gave to Questions on 25th June and 2nd July.—[Vol. 767, c. 236 and 1301.]

Mr. Marten

Does not the Prime Minister think that such a Select Committee could very usefully discuss the purely hypothetical case where a party has been returned to power with a very large majority and then in, say, the next 18 months has lost a series of by-elections and has therefore clearly lost the confidence of the country? Would it not be in the national interest, rather than in the party interest, if at that stage a General Election was held? This is a purely hypothetical question.

The Prime Minister

To follow out the implications of that hypothetical case, there would have been a strong case for another place throwing out the Rent Act, 1957. So far as the timing of General Elections relates to the results of by-elections held in the middle of a Parliament, I seem to remember that it was the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a member that carried on to the last minute allowed under the constitution.

Mr. William Hamilton

Who is opposing the publication of the details of the agreements that were reached before the talks were concluded? Is it my right hon. Friend, the Leader of the Opposition, or the Leader of the Liberal Party? Let us know who it is and then we might get somewhere.

The Prime Minister

We have not yet reached that stage. My hon. Friend would be quite wrong to assume that anyone is opposing publication. It is too early for anyone to give an answer to my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend categorically deny the statements which have been made in most of the Press that there was a tacit understanding or agreement that£1,500 a year plus the expenses allowance was to be paid? Will he give a further definite undertaking that no such payment will be made or recommended?

The Prime Minister

I can neither confirm nor deny what has been going on in a Committee which has not yet published its findings, but I had not heard of any such suggestion as that to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Mr. Maudling

Can the Prime Minister explain to the House why he considers it preferable in the national interest for the reform of the Upper Chamber to take place on a partisan rather than on an all-party basis?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman had better await the proposals that we put before the House for dealing with this situation. It is not this side of the House but his own that has used the House of Lords for partisan purposes.

Dr. Winstanley

Is the Prime Minister aware that his statement last week that no consideration was being given to the possibility of any Members of the House of Lords being elected to that place has diminished the enthusiasm of hon. Members on this bench for reform of the Upper Chamber and that we would oppose any extension or perpetuation of the other place's powers in the absence of any proposals for election?

The Prime Minister

I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman is disappointed, particularly in view of the very objective language he used two or three weeks ago when describing his attitude to another place. I should have thought that there is not much support in any part of the House—I would be very surprised if there was on his own bench—for strengthening the House of Lords or purporting to strengthen it by a system of elections.

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