HC Deb 24 January 1977 vol 924 cc956-7
38. Mr. Marten

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on statements in the House by Ministers after EEC Council meetings.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

I am glad to say that oral statements after Council meetings have been made more frequently since my statement on 4th August—five in the last two months of the year, compared with six in the first half.

Mr. Marten

I applaud the speed with which the Foreign Secretary made his statement last week, which I am sure is the right pattern. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the biggest offenders in not making statements are Treasury Ministers? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that unless statements are made the House of Commons is being kept in the dark and the Executive is once more bypassing the House? Does the right hon. Gentleman further agree that last year out of 54 meetings only 11 were the subject of statements in the House of Commons? If the other 43 meetings were so inconclusive, would not Ministers do better by getting on with their jobs here?

Mr. Foot

I do not wish to draw any invidious distinctions between one Department and another. I accept the hon. Gentleman's figure that 11 oral statements were made, but the hon. Gentleman must agree that the figures that I gave show that the frequency of making such statements is improving. I think that we should sustain that improvement, although the House must agree that some discretion must be left about when statements are made.