HC Deb 26 January 1981 vol 997 cc634-6
27 Mr Ioan Evans

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he has any proposals for improving the arrangements under which reports from Select Committees are debated in the House.

Mr. Pym

I have no specific proposals to bring forward at present. There are always competing priorities for time on the Floor. Subject to this, however, I shall of course seek to meet the wishes of the House in this matter.

Mr. Evans

As there are a number of interesting and informative reports coming from the Select Committees, will the right hon. Gentleman consider bringing before the House a proposal that a certain number of days be allocated for consideration of those reports? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs has made some strong recommendations about the deplorable economic policies being pursued by the Government, with their effect on employment? Although we fitted in a Welsh day, the House could not come to any conclusions on the matter. In addition, the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service is now looking at monetarism. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that would be the subject of an interesting debate which we should have before the Budget?

Mr. Pym

I do not think that it would be right for me—and anyway I do not feel ready—to give any formal commitment of time in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggested. I indicated my thoughts about the matter in the debate on Friday 16 January. The report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs was included in the matters debated by the House on the Welsh day not many days ago. That seemed to be one way of incorporating in a general debate the report of a particular Committee. But I have quite an open mind abut this issue.

As to the particular matter under consideration by the Treasury and Civil Service Committee, many Committees are looking at highly important and interesting topics. I cannot give a time for the debate suggested by the hon. Gentleman, or for a debate on the Committee's work before the Budget. It would not be right to do so. However, I fully acknowledge that that investigation is very important.

Mr. Aitken

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there are some reports from Select Committees which should be given priority and debated promptly, particularly if they have an important bearing in legislation that is likely to come before the House in the near future? In that regard, will my right hon. Friend carefully consider giving such priority to next Friday's report of the Select Committee on the Canadian constitution? Is he aware that such an early debate could head off a good deal of wasted parliamentary time on the Floor of the House later this year?

Mr. Pym

That report has not yet been received by the House. Every hon. Member will have his own view as to the priorities. When the Select Committees were set up, it was not envisaged that they would add enormously to the amount of time required on the Floor of the House. Indeed, part of the concept behind those Committees was that they would be better able to inform the House, without necessarily taking up more time on the Floor of the House. However, that does not mean that some of those reports will not be debated, because some will. When it comes to priority, there are many factors to be taken into account. It would be wrong of me to be unduly optimistic about the number of days that might be available, but I hope that we can conduct our business and make enough time available to debate the work of the Select Committees to the satisfaction of the House.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Bearing in mind that many right hon. and hon. Members have still not declared their financial interest for inclusion in the register of financial interests that was established by the Select Committee on Members' Interests, will the right hon. Gentleman give an indication as to when he expects the House to have an opportunity to debate the report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests?

Mr. Pym

I seem to remember—I am rather rusty on this—that that matter was left over from the last Parliament, not simply the last Session. I shall have to consider the matter. I should not like to give any reply to the right hon. Gentleman now.