HC Deb 27 October 1987 vol 121 c164
Q1. Mr. Allen

asked the Prime Minister if she has any plans to put before the House proposals for changes in the constitution or powers of Select Committees.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

No, Sir.

Mr. Allen

Does the Prime Minister agree that the continuing failure to set up departmental Select Committees is undermining the role of this House in holding the Government to account'? To ensure that the Select Committees have a life of their own, independent of Government—indeed, independent of shadow Government—will the right hon. Lady consider putting her personal weight behind the proposal that Members of this House should directly elect the members of the Select Committees?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's first point, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said last Thursday at business questions, he is working through the usual channels to get the Select Committees going as soon as possible. I cannot add to that point. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's second point, the membership of Select Committees is ultimately for the House to determine. The membership is determined by the House on an amendable motion tabled on behalf of the Committee of Selection. I am not aware of any strong support for changing the present system.

Mr. Michael Morris

With regard to the powers of Select Committees, does my right hon. Friend not think that the time is now appropriate for the Public Accounts Committee to monitor the nationalised industries, because now there are far fewer nationalised industries that w as the case when they were last considered?

The Prime Minister

Ultimately, I think that this is a matter for the House itself. The Public Accounts Committee does an extremely good job.

Mr. Wallace

I am sure the Prime Minister is aware that 40 per cent. of Scottish Conservative Back Benchers have stated publicly that they do not want to sit on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Given that that will make it difficult for the Government to have a majority on the Committee, is it not time that the right hon. Lady hit the bullet and allowed a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs that reflected accurately the party situation in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the point was put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House last Thursday. The Committee is being considered along with the others, and my right hon. Friend is working through the usual channels to get the Committee going as soon as possible.

Mr. Bill Walker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reason for the difficulties with the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is the way in which that Committee has behaved in a partisan manner in the past? Those of us who worked hard to make the Committee effective were disappointed by the way in which it developed.

The Prime Minister

I note what my hon. Friend says, and I am sure that there is no stauncher representative of Scotland than him.

Forward to