HC Deb 09 July 1979 vol 970 cc21-3
46. Mr. Canavan

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will make an additional statement about Government proposals for the reform of Parliament.

54. Mr. Cryer

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what improvements to procedure he intends to introduce.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

As I made clear during the debate on the new Select Committee system on 25 June, the Government will be bringing forward further proposals to enable the House to reach conclusions on the other recommendations in the First Report of the Select Committee on Procedure.

Mr. Canavan

Since the Scottish Office is the most multi-purpose and one of the most bureaucratic Departments of State, why has the establishment of a Scottish Select Committee been omitted from the list of Select Committees already announced by the Government? Is the Leader of the House aware that it will be completely unacceptable for the setting-up of our Scottish Select Committee to be delayed simply because the Government are bereft of any policy on devolution? By the way, what is happening about the inter-party talks on devolution?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not accept the premises of the hon. Gentleman's question. The Scottish Office is as efficient and expeditious as any other Department in Whitehall. I have made clear to the House that the Government intend to set up a Select Committee, but its terms of reference will be best decided after a successful conclusion of the inter-party talks. I have been pursuing with energy and dedication the task of setting up the talks, but there have been some difficulties that have not yet been overcome.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Leader of the House recall that when he was talking about the phased introduction of salary increases for Members of Parliament he said that the arrangement would have to be seen to be fair? Has the Chancellor given some consideration to introducing a necessary reform—that of full-time MPs? Does he not think that factory workers see it as an outrageous disgrace that Members of Parliament earn substantial salaries and yet are able to line their pockets as frequently as they like with the proceeds of parliamentary advisers' posts and directorships? When Conservative Back Benchers talk about miners' productivity, does he not think that that creates a sense of outrageous injustice since it comes from Members of Parliament who have never been down a mine and do not intend to go near one but who can earn part-time as much as they like?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that Question Time is not the time for speeches but for questions. [An HON. MEMBER: " That was very good."] It might have been, but this is the time for questions.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Perhaps I may bring the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) down to earth again. With reforms of this House we must proceed by consensus as far as possible. We cannot introduce changes which are resisted by a substantial minority of hon. Members. As far as I know, in this case the concept of full-time Members means their being unable to take outside employment, which is rejected by the vast majority of hon. Members. The House benefits from the experience hon. Members gain in other spheres.

Mr. Dorrell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that over the years there have been one or two criticisms of the composition of another place? What are the Government's plans to reform the other place, and when does my right hon. Friend expect to be able to announce that reform?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Government have no plans to reform the other place, which is a body respected throughout the country for the quality of its debates and its utility as a revising and amending Chamber.

Mr. Dalyell

What is the criterion of success in the all-party talks?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The criterion of success in the all-party talks will be a solution which will be of benefit to the entire United Kingdom.