HC Deb 26 March 1979 vol 965 cc26-8
37. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Lord President of the Council what plans he has for linking the proposals of the Procedure Committee concerning the establishment of deparmentally linked Select Committees with the creation of a newly constituted House of Lords.

Mr. Foot

None, Sir.

Mr. Hamilton

Has my right hon. Friend seriously considered the proposal that I put forward in the recent debate on procedure—namely, that we should abolish the House of Lords, divide the elected House of Commons into two, with 300 Members in each place, and then subdivide the other place into a series of powerful Select Committees? Have not recent events strengthened the proposition of the Labour Party that the other House should be abolished?

Mr. Foot

I give due attention to all my hon. Friend's representations and I assure him that I have examined this one. I believe that if the House of Lords were abolished there would have to be some alterations in the way that this House did its business. My hon. Friend asks whether I have considered the rearrangement of affairs in this House to suit the creation of a newly constituted House of Lords. I am not in favour of a newly constituted House of Lords, and I do not believe that that will be Labour policy. All attempts to constitute afresh the other place would be destined to destruction. Therefore, it would be superfluous if I were to embark upon any such attempt.

Mr. Michael Latham

Should not the first priority be a newly elected House of Commons?

Mr. Foot

We shall get round to that, according to normal practices. Let us see how we get on with the rest of the week, the week after that and a few weeks more. There will then be an election, and I have no doubt that the proper way to deal with the other place will figure in the forthcoming General Election.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman does not appear to have given favourable consideration to the suggestions of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) in the recent debate on procedure. Will the right hon. Gentleman, in the not wholly inappropriate process of selectivity, give favourable consideration to my proposal that we should set up a Select Committee to consider European Community legislation, extending to the merits of that legislation, and not in the other place and not confined to the technical jurisdiction of the Scrutiny Committee?

Mr. Foot

I repudiate the idea that I have not paid attention to the suggestions of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). Although I do not agree with all his suggestions, I believe that many of them deserve examination by the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal—I know that it is backed in many quarters—contains some drawbacks. It would detract from the power of the House of Commons to deal with some of these matters, and I doubt whether it is the best way to proceed.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Lord President give a date for the decision to establish departmentally linked Select Committees? Does he give that higher or lower priority than the creation of a newly constituted House of Lords?

Mr. Foot

The hon. Gentleman knows that discussions are proceeding on the Procedure Committee report, in the way that I indicated at the end of that debate. The House of Commons will have to settle those matters before we deal with the House of Lords. I repeat that I am not in favour of a newly constituted House of Lords.