HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc27-8
38. Mr. Skinner

asked the Lord President of the Council what representations he has received regarding machinery of government.

Mr. Foot

I cannot recall receiving such formal representations but, like many Members, I am often made aware of people's views on how we should be governed.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the machinery of government would work much better if the House of Lords were abolished, if we got rid of the Honours List, if we removed a lot of the patronage from the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers, including my right hon. Friend the Lord President, and if we took away some of the power that is now being used by top civil servants? Has he taken account of the references made by Lord Armstrong on the miners' dispute in 1973–74 when Lord Armstrong seemingly advised the then Tory Prime Minister on the date of the General Election, and also of the recent remarks by Sir Antony Part at the Department of Industry? Bearing those matters in mind, does my right hon. Friend think that it is high time that they were removed from the political arena?

Mr. Foot

I agree with my hon. Friend in some of his earlier comments. I, too, have always been in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords, and I remain in favour of that proposition. There are some other aspects of the matters mentioned by my hon. Friend which are of first-class public importance, but I do not think they can be dealt with by question and answer now. I have also read the comments made by Lord Armstrong in the broadcast to which my hon. Friend referred. They were remarkable utter- ances, but again I do not think they can be dealt with by question and answer now.

Sir John Rodgers

May I ask the Lord President whether his brothers agree with his point of view about the House of Lords?

Mr. Dalyell

Will my right hon. Friend give more attention than the Brewers Society might give to the Band of Hope to the views of Lord Scarman and Lord Wilberforce that the right hon. Gentleman's Scotland Bill will not be workable in the absence of a constitutional court?

Mr. Foot

There are other Lords who took a very different view from those cited by my hon. Friend. The House, according to its normal procedure, will be taking account of the amendments passed in the Lords. Some of those amendments should be accepted by the House and it would be wise for us to accept them, but many of the others should be treated in the manner referred to in the earlier part of the question. I seem to recall that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) may have taken his quotation from somewhere.