HC Deb 20 February 1978 vol 944 cc1006-7
32. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will take steps to make additional back-up facilities available to members of Select Committees.

Mr. Foot

I understand that the Select Committee on Procedure is examining a number of aspects of the working of the Select Committee system. I would suggest that the House awaits its report.

Mr. Renton

Does the Lord President share the general appreciation of the work recently done by, for example, the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries and the Select Committee on Overseas Development, and will he personally support the idea that more backup facilities should be available to Select Committees so that they did not have to rely on the staff of the Serjeant at Arms?

Mr. Foot

Obviously I follow the work of all right hon. and hon. Members in all quarters and on all Committees with the same impartial eye, and that applies to these Committees. If there is to be a considerable extension of facilities, I believe that that must be a matter for the Procedure Committee itself to look into and to consider what would be involved.

Mr. John Garrett

Does my right hon. Friend find it odd that the Expenditure Committee, which considers policy, has a support staff of about 30 full-time people, but the Public Accounts Committee, which still considers little more than whether the books balance, has a full-time staff of 600 working in its support? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House deserves an investigatory committee system with substantial backup staff?

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend is an expert on this subject because he is on the Expenditure Committee, but I believe that the proposition that there should be a general extension of investigatory committees is a matter which the House should look at following the report from the Procedure Committee. I do not think that we should take action before the report comes.