HC Deb 28 November 1988 vol 142 cc433-4
84. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Lord President of the Council what consideration is being given to making further facilities available in the House for Members of the Opposition.

Mr. Wakeham

As I confirmed earlier in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham), the relevant Sub-Committees of the Services Committee are already charged with an examination of what further facilities should be provided for all Members, including those of the Opposition. The debate on the Services Committee report on the new parliamentary building (phase 2) this Friday should provide an excellent opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to raise any specific points he wishes to make.

Mr. Banks

When I tabled the question, I had in mind the inequality of treatment between the Government and the Opposition in the Chamber, for example on Report and in Committee on the Floor of the House. Ministers can refer to civil servants in their Box, and notes can be passed backwards and forwards. Opposition Members have difficulties if they wish to consult our advisers sitting under the Public Gallery. For example, our advisers are not allowed to bring in notes or to write notes for us. There seems to be inequality of treatment. I should like the Lord President to examine the matter and make sure that he acts upon it.

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly examine the matter, but I do not believe that the long-held customs and practices of the House need revising. I certainly take note of what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Dykes

The sad reality is that, even if we improve facilities for Opposition Members, we will not improve their arguments and the cases that they deploy. Bearing in mind that we are members of an increasingly successful European Community, would it be more worthwhile to introduce access to our modest facilities for the first time for European Members?

Mr. Wakeham

I am of a more charitable frame of mind than my hon. Friend. Access to information will improve everybody's minds, including those of some Opposition Members.

On the question of access for European Members, as my hon. Friend will know, I have tried to get agreement to make some modest changes in the arrangements. It is right that we should proceed by agreement. At the moment I do not have that agreement, but I shall continue to try to get it.

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