HC Deb 29 October 1979 vol 972 cc816-9
31. Mr. Renton

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he proposes to bring forward a further motion implementing further recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure.

34. Mr. Cryer

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proposals for reform he plans to introduce to the House of Commons.

37. Mr. Spearing

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to announce the groups of recommendations which he expects to place before the House pursuant to the proposals in the report of the Select Committee on Procedure in the last Parliament.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There will be a debate next Wednesday on the Select Committee's recommendations on the organisation of Sessions and sittings and certain of those relating to Public Bill procedure, together with the outstanding reports of the Sessional Committees on Procedure.

Mr. Renton

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he tell the House when he proposes to bring forward a motion supporting recommendation No. 71 of the Select Committee on Procedure, which is that on opposed specified business 200 Members must vote to suspend the Ten o'clock rule if a Division is called? As an increasing number of Select Committees will be meeting in the mornings, is not that recommendation especially important for those who are members of Select Committees? If they are to do their job properly, they will have to be bright and alert, and not up at all hours for four nights previously.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not wish to anticipate next Wednesday's debate. However, it is not the Government's intention to introduce such a motion. It is an issue that will have to be decided by the will of the House.

Mr. Spearing

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. Does he agree that the form of the motions tabled for Wednesday might, with advantage, be adjusted? Has he specific plans for other groups of recommendations that he will bring before the House? Is he able to give us any indication when they might arrive?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The procedure that we have followed may not be ideal, but it was the procedure that we tried when the previous debate took place before the recess. It seemed to work satisfactorily on that occasion. As for further batches of measures, it is my intention, having had consultations with hon. Members on both sides of the House, to make further progress. In the few months that we have been in office we have proceeded with as much haste as could reasonably be required.

Mr. English

Did the right hon. Gentleman adopt the customary practice of consulting the Department of the Clerk of the House over the drafting of his motions? If he did not, is it accidental or intentional that two of them contradict each other?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot answer the second part of the question, but of course I consulted the Clerk of the House on the drafting of the motions. All those who are customarily consulted on these matters were consulted, and the hon. Gentleman—who is an institution on procedure—while not being consulted on the drafting, was consulted on the issue.

Mr. Hardy

Now that there are more Privy Councillors in the House than ever before, and since their number will dramatically increase as occupants of the present Treasury Bench are tested for competence and acceptability, would it not be appropriate for the Select Committee to consider or to clear up finally the question of Privy Councillors' privileges in this House?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As a comparatively new member of the Privy Council, I am not an enthusiastic advocate of cutting down whatever privileges they may have, but I understand that any position they may have in this House is a matter purely of convention and is not a rule of this House as such. As to the increase of Privy Councillors, I point out to the hon. Gentleman that some are gathered, while others are left behind.

Mr. Rooker

Is it not a cause of concern to the Leader of the House that when we have our debate on Wednesday and come to a conclusion, there will be many right hon. and hon. Members who will not, on the vitally important issue of the procedure of the House, be allowed a free vote? Does he not think that disgraceful in this Mother of free Parliaments?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As I understand the position, it is clear that Members of the House will have a free vote. But if Government propositions are put down, one would expect that members of the Government would support them.