HC Deb 27 June 1988 vol 136 cc16-7
29. Mr. Alton

To ask the hon. Member for Berwick upon Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission, what is the policy of the House of Commons Commission as to the application of cash limits to expenditure undertaken on behalf of the House.

Mr. Beith

Cash limits do not apply to the Vote for House of Commons: Administration, which is the only Vote for which the Commission is directly responsible. The Commission decided in 1982 not to impose a formal cash limit system of its own, but over the years it has approved a series of measures designed to tighten the control of expenditure by Departments of the House without pre-empting the right of the House to take major decisions on its own facilities and services.

Mr. Alton

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Has the Commission been under pressure from the Government to impose strict cash limits? Does he agree that such limits would have the effect of gagging potential critics, which would be undesirable for the conduct of the affairs of the House?

Mr. Beith

The Commission, throughout its history—I have served on it since it was created nine years ago—has resisted any attempt that would have inhibited the House's ability to carry out its duties by reducing its ability to undertake legitimate expenditure. The Commission has, however, sought to give the Government reasonable notice of public expenditure requirements, wherever possible, while always insisting that the House should decide on the services it requires, and the Commission makes provision accordingly.