HC Deb 29 October 1979 vol 972 cc819-20
35. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress has been made in the establishment of a Scottish Select Committee.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Member will have seen the motion which is now on the Order Paper.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that in the course of the debate on Wednesday the opportunities for Scottish Members to put their points of view are likely to be restricted? Does he recognise that Scottish Members feel very strongly, for instance, that the size of the Scottish Select Committee should be much larger than is proposed by the Government and that its terms of reference should be much broader? In the circumstances, does he agree that it would be preferable to have a full-scale debate on this matter in the Scottish Grand Committee?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I understand that it is the desire of the vast majority of Scottish Members that rapid progress should be made in this matter. The number is basically the same as for the other Select Committees.

Mr. Henderson

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the proceedings of the Scottish Select Committee will be broadcast and televised, whether the meetings take place here or elsewhere?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is a matter for decision by the House.

Mr. Buchan

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer? Much more important than speed is to get the right decisions. It is totally inadequate, is it not, for a Department covering about nine equivalent United Kingdom Departments to have a Committee of only 11? We would expect at least 21, and I would compromise on 17.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In all these matters I am in the hands of the House, but one has to start somewhere. If this number does not prove satisfactory, no doubt representations can be made for a change. I am also considering, in the inter-party talks on Scotland which are taking place, all kinds of reforms in procedure.