HC Deb 12 November 1969 vol 791 cc405-7
41. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Lord President of the Council what action he intends to take to ensure that increased parliamentary time is made available for the consideration of reports from select committees.

Mr. Peart

I will look at this matter as sympathetically as I can, bearing in mind that more time on Select Committee reports must come from time spent on other business.

Mrs. Short

As my right hon. Friend will be aware, I have raised this matter with him before. Is he aware that, apart from the increased number of Standing Committees in the House, there is the Estimates Committee, which works by a series of sub-committees, each of which produces at least one very good report in a parliamentary session? Will he therefore consider urgently giving more time—never mind how he finds it—to the consideration of these very important reports?

Mr. Peart

I recognise that my colleagues on both sides work hard on Standing Committees and on sub-committees of the Estimates Committee, and that their reports are invaluable. But my hon. Friend will appreciate that I have difficulty in finding time, because I must decide priorities. We may have to sit longer if we do consider this: I accept that.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In considering this matter, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, whatever time he eventually decides to allocate to debating Select Committee reports, the debates themselves will be much better if, before they take place, the appropriate Department has laid a White Paper containing the Department's comments on the report? Are not the Government getting a little slack on this?

Mr. Peart

I accept what the hon. Member says: I think this is right. I know that the hon. Member, who has been a distinguished member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, will accept what I say and understand why I say it. I believe that, if possible, there should be a Government reply. I am not saying that it should be specifically in the form of a White Paper, but I will convey this to my right hon. Friends and colleagues.

Mr. Albu

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some hon. Members believe that it is generally better not to have a debate on Select Committee reports but to use the reports as the bases for further debates on the subjects of the reports, since at present many debates on reports are merely discussions between the members of the committee, rehashing what they have already said in committee?

Mr. Peart

I understand this: this is a point which I must bear in mind.