HC Deb 19 November 1990 vol 181 cc16-7
33. Mr. Jack

To ask the Lord President of the Council what plans he has to improve telecommunications between Westminster, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)

The Services Committee has been asked to consider a package of measures designed to strengthen links between this House and the main European Community institutions. Those proposals include arrangements to enable hon. Members to communicate more easily by telephone and post

Mr. Jack

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Can he give me any idea of the time scale of the conclusion of the discussions about these arrangements? My constituents in Fylde feel strongly that some good British common sense should reach the Commission and other European institutions early on, so that we can have our say before some of the more half-baked ideas creep out of Brussels and sadly become reality

Mr. MacGregor

I hope that the time scale will allow the discussions to conclude reasonably soon. As for the form of the arrangements, they are likely to involve exchange numbers for the main European institutions being made available for direct dialling by Members of Parliament. It will be possible to go beyond the initial 12 once the software on the Palace of Westminster's own exchange is upgraded

Mr. Winnick

Before such improvements are made, would not it be better to try to improve communication within the Cabinet? Is the Minister aware——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's point is miles away from the question. That is not very good

Mr. Winnick

If we are to improve communications with the European Parliament, it might be useful for the Cabinet to be able to communicate better than it can at present. Should not we bear in mind what was said yesterday by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) about what occurred in the Cabinet over the Westland affair?

Mr. Speaker

I really do think that that is a bit wide of the European Parliament.

Sir Anthony Grant

Will the new arrangements include the Council of Europe, which is much wider than the EEC and the European Parliament?

Mr. MacGregor

I am not sure that the European institutions have been fully sorted out yet; however, I shall bear my hon. Friend's point in mind.