HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc25-6
36. Mr. Rooker

asked the Lord President of the Council if he has any further proposals for amending the rules governing the Register of Members' Interests.

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

I think that in the first instance the House would look to the Select Committee on Members' Interests for further proposals.

Mr. Rooker

That answer is unacceptable. Will my right hon. Friend accept that the Government have failed in their manifesto commitment to have a genuine Register of Members' Interests until he takes action to meet the case of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)? Until we have legislation on this matter, does he not agree that we shall not get local authorities to follow the lead that was supposed to be set by this House?

Mr. Foot

I do not accept that we have gone back on our manifesto commitment, because the register is still compiled. There was a recommendation from the Select Committee on the subject, which I do not regard as a sensible way to deal with the matter. However, that does not alter the fact that the register is still being compiled.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

But, as the Lord President has said that he does not regard this as a sensible way to deal with the matter, does he after this long interval propose to give the House time to consider the matter and the report of the Select Committee?

Mr. Foot

Of course there is a case for the House to consider the matter, but the House has had a number of other more pressing matters to discuss. The principle of the register has been accepted by the House and the register is sustained. I believe that that is the most important aspect of the matter. But at some stage no doubt there will be some further discussion in the House on the subject.

Mr. Skinner

In considering the time that would need to be allocated to this issue, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it would take only a relatively short time, since almost every Member of the House, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), has agreed to the principle of the register? Therefore, the matter will be almost unanimous and could be disposed of in a few hours.

Mr. Foot

I do not think my hon. Friend is correct in that matter because the recommendation of the Committee on the subject raises quite different issues involving how the matter should be dealt with. I do not believe that it could be disposed of in the way my hon. Friend suggests. I do not think it right that the House should dispose of an issue involving censure of a Member in that way.

Mr. Anthony Grant

In view of all the other pressing commitments which the Government and the House have before them, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to waste not one second more time on such an utterly trivial matter?