HC Deb 15 November 1982 vol 32 cc17-8
38. Mr. Robert Sheldon

asked the Lord President of the Council what arrangements he proposes to ensure prompt publication of the minutes of evidence of Select Committees.

Mr. Biffen

I am not aware of any serious problems in the publication of minutes of evidence taken by Select Committees, but I shall gladly arrange for any matters the right hon. Member raises to be looked into.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the Leader of the House aware that minutes in evidence can take several weeks to prepare and produce for hon. Members to read and that such evidence may have a bearing on many debates that take place here? Does he agree that it would be sensible to align more closely the way in which proceedings of Standing Committees and Select Committees are prepared?

Mr. Biffen

The right hon. Gentleman may well have a point. I shall consider that factor. The House may like to know that, at the moment, evidence takes an average of about six weeks to be published. I am glad that the Liaison Committee is examining whether all the evidence that is given to a Select Committee needs to be published.

Mr. Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to ask how many people read the proceedings? Does he agree that there is a danger of swamping Parliament with unnecessary paper?

Mr. Biffen

I agree. This is one of many areas where modishness is fast outstripping common sense.

Mr. English

Does the Lord President agree that he should go in for productivity, not a reduction in service? Is it true that the last time the Services Committee came to a decision on the matter it said that a proof copy of the evidence should not be submitted to people? Is the Lord President now saying that evidence should not be published? Is the idea to reduce or to introduce more efficiency into the service provided for the public?

Mr. Biffen

I did not say that evidence was not to be published. I said that I welcomed the Liaison Committee's asking for a modicum of discrimination in such matters.