HC Deb 11 June 1979 vol 968 cc26-8
38. Mr. Skinner

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to introduce measures for reforming the House of Commons.

42. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he intends to introduce measures for reforming the House of Commons in the present Session of Parliament; and if he will make a statement.

43. Mr. Hooley

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will bring forward proposals on the future of Select Committees of the House before the Summer Recess.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As I have previously assured hon. Members, the House will have an early opportunity to debate the recommendations made by the Procedure Committee in the last Parliament for the reform of our procedures.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Chancellor of the Duchy aware that before we reform the House of Commons we must get rid of the House of Lords? Since the right hon. Gentleman is unlikely to recommend that, will he guarantee that the terms of reference of any Select Committee on Procedure will include the proposal that all Members of the House of Commons shall be full-time Members and there shall be no moonlighting on the side?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sure that Members of both Houses will have heard the hon. Member's remarks and that they will pay them the attention that they deserve.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the right hon. Gentleman give his mind to a mundane but deserving subject—namely, the way in which tickets are allocated to visitors? Did he see the empty seats in the Strangers' Gallery even at three o'clock? Does he know how many hon. Members queue for tickets but cannot get them, and what queues there are outside? We are all guilty of pocketing tickets from time to time and the system does not lead to an efficient allocation of seats.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will certainly, in view of the hon. Gentleman's representations, look into the whole question.

Mr. Hooley

Would the right hon. Gentleman be a little more explicit about his previous answer? Can he give an assurance that the House will have an opportunity to decide on the structure of Select Committees before the Summer Recess, so that if a new system is agreed, which I hope will happen, we can proceed to implement it from October when the House resumes?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

Mr. Cormack

Can my right hon. Friend define "imminent", "soon "and "early"—all of which terms he has used this afternoon—and tell us which comes first?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I think that they come in the ecclesiastical order of precedence, with the greatest at the end.

Mr. Hooker

Will the Chancellor bring forward a proposal to put the register of Members' interests on a statutory basis? Most new hon. Members will have filled in a form recently which is an absolute scandal. It is a farce that the register has not been published. In all equity, the register ought to be put on a statutory basis so that all hon. Members know where they stand and the House can then explain to people outside what the present position is, and so that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is not left in the position in which he finds himself. I happen to support his stand on this, but the register ought to be put on a statutory basis.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend, within the next week, please, give the House the opportunity of deciding a quite simple matter—that is, the recommendation of the Procedure Committee of a change in the hours of sitting on Fridays—so that this question, which is of great importance to hon. Members whose constituencies are a long way from London, can have the decision taken one way or the other and make their arrangements in their constituencies accordingly?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As my hon. Friend knows, there are 76 recommendations in the report. We have to arrange them in some order of priority. We are following the priority as suggested by the Procedure Committee, but I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.