HC Deb 16 July 1990 vol 176 cc675-6
36. Mr. Allen

To ask the hon. Member for Berwick upon Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, what proposals have been put forward so far in the management consultancy exercise on the House of Commons conducted by Sir Robin Ibbs.

Mr. A. J. Beith (On behalf of the House of Commons Commission)

None, Sir. The House of Commons Commission has asked Sir Robin to offer his advice to it by the beginning of the next Session of Parliament.

Mr. Allen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the problems of dragging this place into the 20th century so that it is a modern, professional legislature, is that its lines of accountability are rather blurred, there are few clear budgeting functions and responsibility is split between the Commission, the Services Committee and its subcommittees and the Department of the Environment? Will he undertake to ensure that the Ibbs report covers those matters so that we can be clear about where responsibility lies and about how to get things changed in this antiquated place?

Mr. Beith

Yes, Sir. I told the House that Sir Robin's terms of reference were to examine whether the responsibilities at present divided between the Commission, the Services Committee, the Department of the Environment and Leader of the House could be brought together with a view to ensuring that so far as possible there is a co-ordinated management and decision-taking structure under the control of the House".—[Official Report, 23 May 1990; Vol. 173, c. 179.]

Mr. Soames

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the likely findings of the Ibbs report—contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen)—is that the Palace of Westminster copes in the most remarkable manner with the obligations that are increasingly thrust upon it? Does he also agree that one of the tremendous strains on the House is imposed by a battalion of so-called research assistants, who appear to clog our proceedings greatly?

Mr. Beith

The Commission would not have appointed Sir Robin if it had thought that it knew all the answers to all the questions that he has been asked to consider. Many people contribute most effectively to making the House run well. Many work within it—not just its employees, but those who assist Members as secretaries and research assistants. We believe that the work that Sir Robin is doing may assist us to have better systems for doing those things well in the future.