HL Deb 14 November 1984 vol 457 cc318-9

3.11 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the causes and implications of the deficit in the United Kingdom's balance of trade in manufactures; and to make recommendations.—(Viscount Whitelaw.)

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, before the noble Viscount—

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

I must put the Question first. The Question is, That the Motion standing in the name of the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council be agreed to?

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, I apologise for being a bit precipitate, but I want some information about this. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House will agree that this is a matter of supreme importance. It is the question of whether we can restore our manufacturing position. I should like to know in the first place: is there a similar Select Committee in the other place? If so, how long has it been operating, and with what result? Is it necessary to duplicate the effort? If so, would it not be desirable—here I raise a point that I intended to raise in a previous Question but was unable to do so because I was ill at the time—to arrange that a Select Committee of your Lordships' House could, of its own volition, enter into discussions with the Select Committee of the other place with a view to using their combined talents, experience and knowledge in order to deal with the aforesaid subject?

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I appreciate his interest in this matter. This particular committee was set up following representations from the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and, indeed, from noble Lords in many parts of the House who thought it was desirable that an important committee of this House should look into the problems of our manufacturing trade over recent years. This desire was, I think, widely felt in the House. A committee was set up in the previous Session. This committee has to be reappointed in the new Session. The purpose of this Motion is to reappoint it for the new Session. I do not think that there is a strictly comparable Select Committee in the House of Commons. It is concerned specifically with manufacturing trade.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, following upon the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, may I ask: is this not the time to consider the possible benefits that could flow from there being a Joint Committee of both Houses? This is a matter that affects both Houses. Rather than have discrimination and difference of view, would it not be better that my noble friend the Leader of the House should perhaps think along the lines of a Joint Committee, so that the matter can be considered with the extra authority that such a Joint Committee would give?

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, it may be that a Joint Committee would have extra authority; and it may be, on some occasions, that it would not. I believe that it can be said that some of the Select Committees set up by this House have had very considerable authority indeed. Some very important people have been prepared to give their time to them. I think that on many occasions—I say this with all respect to the House that I left such a short time ago—they might easily have more to give to public knowledge than a Select Committee of another place.

On Question, Motion agreed to.