§ 3.9 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Wakeham) rose to move that the first report from the Select Committee (H.L. Paper 40) be agreed to.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ I think that the House is sufficiently familiar with the background to this report for it to be unnecessary for me to go over the ground again at length. Suffice it to say that, following the debate in June on what we have come to know—I am sure with at least some affection—as the Jellicoe Report, the Procedure Committee in July recommended the appointment of a Liaison Committee to keep your Lordships' Committee work under periodic review. That committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, has met twice since the House returned and its report deals with three specific aspects of work of your Lordships' Select Committees.
§ First, we have looked at the proposals put to us for ad hoc Committees. There were a number of interesting proposals, and we thought that two of them in particular deserved further consideration on the basis of expert papers prepared for us by specialist advisers. These are the economics of sustainable development and relations between central and local government. We will re-examine these proposals in the light of the papers put to us, and also any other outstanding proposals, later in the Session.
§ But there was one proposal put to us which we were all convinced would be a suitable subject for a Select Committee of your Lordships' House to examine. This is euthanasia. Recent events have highlighted the public interest in the difficult questions surrounding euthanasia, and we thought that the medical, legal and ethical issues which arise might be scrutinised with advantage by a Select Committee of this House. We were also aware of the possibility that one or more Private Members' Bills on this subject might be introduced in the House of Lords. If such Bills are introduced, it would clearly be open to your Lordships to refer them to the ad hoc committee. Of course, I realise that this is a subject on which some Members of the House may have strong views. I can reassure them that the appointment of a Select Committee would not in any way mean that the House had come to a particular view about the issue, let alone that there was prima facie a need for a change in the law. It 12 would simply mean that, as I say, it was considered an appropriate matter for investigation and perhaps for clarification. In any event, if your Lordships agree to this report today, a separate Motion will in due course be tabled.
§ The second matter which we addressed was the allocation of resources to the European Communities Committee. That, I realise, is a matter on which a number of your Lordships feel strongly. The Liaison Committee heard a very full and very persuasive argument from the chairman of the European Communities Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, that the committee should continue with its present level of activity. But against that, we were mindful of the Jellicoe Committee's recommendation for some reduction in the number of sub-committees and in the resources of the European Communities. We have sought to steer a middle way between these positions and have therefore recommended that the European Communities Committee should be able to appoint five sub-committees rather than the six at present.
§ It might be helpful if at this point I placed our recommendation in the broader context of committee work in your Lordships' House. The European Communities Committee currently absorbs about three-quarters of the committee resources of your Lordships' House, other than those devoted to our internal administration or to legislative scrutiny. If the House accepts our recommendation that the committee reduces its sub-committees by one it will still engage about two-thirds of the resources of the House. This is, I think, by any yardstick a testament of the importance which your Lordships attach to the scrutiny of European issues.
§ Moreover, it is our task as members of the Liaison Committee to make recommendations on the appropriate scale of committee work of your Lordships' House against the background of the available resources, both of staff and of Peers. As your Lordships are already aware, implementation of the other recommendations springing from Jellicoe, if I may use that phrase, and the continuing commitment to other forms of committee work—I am thinking here in particular of work on Private Bills—means that the overall activity of committees is already increasing. That is a point which really must be stressed. Appointment of a new ad hoc committee will add to those activities. In our opinion, it would be extremely difficult for the House to meet these other commitments without a corresponding adjustment in its existing committee activity.
§ I should emphasise that our recommendations, if agreed to today, would not—indeed, should not—preclude a further readjustment (either up or down) in the activity of the European Communities Committee at a later date. One of the great advantages which the House now enjoys as a result of the work of the Committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe is that there is a permanent mechanism in place to continue to review committee activity in this House —to use an intriguing metaphor, a sort of "rolling Jellicoe". If, therefore, it becomes apparent that with its reduced size the European Communities 13 Committee is unable to scrutinise effectively those issues which your Lordships deem should be scrutinised then I would expect, and indeed encourage, Members of your Lordships' House to raise it with the Liaison Committee. Indeed, in our report we expressly suggest that the workload and size of the European Communities Committee should be reviewed at the end of the present Session. I believe that this arrangement will enable the House to respond flexibly in the emphasis which it wishes to attach to any particular area of committee activity, and thus to respond to new and urgent demands as they arise.
§ Our third proposal relates to the Science and Technology Committee. Here we suggest that the Select Committee should continue to be able to appoint two sub-committees for the remainder of the Session. However, we recommend that the work of the Select Committee be reviewed towards the end of this Session in the light not only of other demands for Select Committees in your Lordships House but in particular of the work of the new Committee on Science and Technology recently appointed in another place. Our feeling is that, without pre-empting the outcome of that review, the Select Committee on Science and Technology might expect to reduce its activity in the next Session from two units of activity to one on an experimental basis. I should add that in making that recommendation we had the benefit of the views of the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, the chairman of the Select Committee. Of course, he and his committee would prefer to work through two sub-committees, but I think it fair to say that the kind of timetable that we propose for the committee's work to be reviewed was in response to his submission.
§ Finally, perhaps I may suggest the way in which we should proceed with the debate today. It may be for the convenience of the House if we take first the amendments standing in the the name of my noble friend Lord Aldington. After your Lordships have had the opportunity of debating those amendments, and after they have been disposed of, I suggest that we then proceed to debate other points arising out of the report, including the question of an ad hoc committee on euthanasia. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee (H.L. Paper 40) be agreed to.—(Lord Wakeharn).
§ Following is the report:
§ ORDERED TO REPORT
§ 1. The Committee was appointed on Thursday, 16 July 1992, with terms of reference set out above. In August a notice was issued to Lords drawing attention to the Committee's appointment and inviting Peers to submit proposals for the appointment of ad hoc committees and to signify their willingness to serve on select committees. Subsequently the Committee has met on two occasions.
§ TERMS OF REFERENCE AND METHODS OF WORK
§ 2. The Committee has considered its terms of reference and the way in which it will carry out the work assigned to it. We draw the attention of the House to the following points.
3. The Committee notes the recommendation of the Procedure Committee' that we should not interfere in matters which should properly be left to the committees themselves.Our key role is to continue the process of review initiated
1 First Report, Session 1992–93, HL Paper 11.
by the Committee on the Committee Work of the House ("the Jellicoe Committee") and to make recommendations about how the available resources should be distributed within a basic structure of committee activity.
§ 4. The Committee endorses the findings of the Jellicoe Committee that "there is a finite limit on the number of Lords available for select committee work, which precludes any great net increase in select committee activity'. Our terms of reference require us to keep this matter under review and we will consider it in more detail later in the session.
§ 5. In July the House agreed, on a recommendation of the Committee of Selection2, that in the case of the European Communities Committee and the Science and Technology Committee the rotation rule should be suspended until 31 December 1992 to permit more time for the reconstitution of these Committees. They should now be reappointed on the recommendation of the Committee of Selection as soon as possible so that they can begin work after the Christmas recess.
§ THE COMMITTEE STRUCTURE
§ Additional Demands
§ 6. On the recommendation of the Procedure Committee, the House has already agreed to the appointment of a Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. It has also agreed, again on the recommendation of the Procedure Committee, that over the next two sessions two or three suitable bills should be referred to Special Standing Committees on an experimental basis. These initiatives will represent significant additions to the committee activity of the House. In addition, the Chairman of Committees told us that select committees on opposed private bills were likely to impose heavy demands on Peers and staff during much of 1993 and 1994.
§ Ad Hoc Committees
§ 7. The Jellicoe Committee concluded that ad hoc committees should become a regular part of the committee structure. We endorse this recommendation and propose (in paragraphs 8 and 9 below) a programme of ad hoc committee work for the immediate future. We stress that Lords will in future be able to submit proposals for such committees for our consideration. We will consider any outstanding proposals later in the session.
§ 8. We recommend the appointment of an ad hoc committee to consider the subject of Euthanasia. If one or more private members' bills on the subject are introduced in the House of Lords, it would be open to the House to refer them to the ad hoc Committee, in which case they will form the order of reference. Otherwise we will recommend appropriate terms of reference for the Committee.
§ Other Subjects
§ 9. We also propose to give further consideration to two additional subjects for ad hoc enquiries, both of which were mentioned in the Jellicoe Committee report, namely:
- (i) the Economics of Sustainable Development; and
- (ii) Relations between Central and Local Government
§ The European Communities and Science and Technology Committees
§ 10. The Jellicoe Committee recommended that the European Communities Committee should develop a more flexible sub-committee structure and that there should be some reduction in the number of sub-committees and in the resources devoted to it. It also indicated that priorities and resources would sometimes dictate that the Science and Technology Committee should operate through one rather than two sub-committees.
11. We have considered these recommendations in the light of the debate on the Jellicoe Committee report on 3 June 1992 and of submissions put to us by the Chairmen of these two Committees. Both were in favour of retaining their respective sub-committee activity at its present level. The Chairman of the European Communities Committee stressed that the Committee was already fully stretched and that its scrutiny work would not be so effective if the sub-committees were
2 2nd Report of the Committee of Selection, Session 1991–92, HL 17.
reduced in number. He also made the point that the new areas of inter-governmental cooperation under the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty), once ratified, might require some form of scrutiny action by the Committee, which would be additional to its present work. The Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee pointed to a wide range of subjects which merited attention by the Committee in coming months. Whilst welcoming the recent appointment of a House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, he emphasised that it was too early to say what the implications might be for parliamentary scrutiny of science and technology as a whole.
§ 12. The Committee recognises the force of these arguments, and we have modified the recommendations of the Jellicoe Committee accordingly. However, if those recommendations are to be carried forward and bearing in mind the decisions already taken by the House on the Procedure Committee report in July, we consider that some redistribution of emphasis in committee work is essential. We recommend as follows:
- (i) The European Communities Committee should be able to appoint five, instead of the present six, sub-committees. This will be reviewed at the end of the present session. It will be for the Committee itself to determine its own sub-committee structure within that limit. Each sub-committee, with the exception of Sub-Committee E, should be served by a single clerk.
- (ii) The Science and Technology Committee should appoint two sub-committees for the remainder of the present session. At the end of the session this should be reviewed in the light of other demands for select committees and of the work of the Commons' Committee on Science and Technology. Subject to such a review, the Science and Technology Committee may expect that for a time thereafter and on an experimental basis the Committee should operate through a single sub-committee, or itself conduct an enquiry in the absence of sub-committees.
§ In future, before the end of each session the Liaison Committee will consider committee work for the next following session.
§ 13. We invite the Science and Technology Committee and the European Communities Committee to consider those recommendations made by the Jellicoe Committee which are applicable to their work and which have not been considered by either the Procedure Committee or this Committee; and to submit their views to us before the end of the current session.
§ 3.15 p.m.
Lord Aldington moved the following amendment:
Paragraph 12, line 2, leave out from ("accordingly.") to ("We") in line 5.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if we also discuss Amendment No. 2 standing in my name. Amendment No. 1 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 2. I wish to thank my colleagues on the Liaison Committee for their deliberations and their report. I have only one quarrel with the report, which is signalled by the wording of my amendment. I am in favour in particular of the idea of a "rolling Jellicoe", suggested by my noble friend the Leader of the House. I have known my noble friend for many years. I have known him to rove and to do many things but I have never seen him rolling. I look forward to that experience.
§ Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that I have an interest to declare in the matter; I have been chairman of Sub-Committee A of the European Communities Committee since December 1989. I should balance the declaration of that interest by adding that I shall cease to hold that position when we rise for Christmas. Therefore, I have no empire to 16 build; I have just a little experience to offer to your Lordships. I know that I have the support of all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who are at present sub-committee chairmen. My noble friend Lord Selborne, who is unable to be present, has written to me indicating that he is fully in support of what he knows I have to say.
The purpose of the amendment is to re-establish what I have always regarded as the normal rule in this House; that Select Committees should determine their own structure and methods of carrying out their own terms of reference. The report of the Liaison Committee implies that rule on two occasions. Paragraph 3 notes the recommendation of the Procedure Committee that we should not interfere in matters that should properly be left to the committees themselves. In connection with the European Communities Committee, paragraph 12(i) recommends:
It will be for the Committee itself to determine its own sub-committee structure".
The report adds the words, "within that limit", referring to the number of sub-committees. I regard that as contradictory.
§ The report asks your Lordships to direct that the number of sub-committees should be five instead of six as it is now. Of course, any committee must act within the limits of its terms of reference. Also, any committee must act subject to the resources made available to it by the House—in this case, the number of Clerks. At least, that is the way that I read the report of the Liaison Committee.
§ It is certainly true that there could be another limiting resource—that of the number of Peers. However, the report makes clear in paragraph 4 that that factor was not borne in mind when the decision was made about the European Communities Committee. If it had been, I would have felt bound to tell your Lordships that my experience over the past three years has been that more Peers wished to join my sub-committee than there was room for them.
§ My amendment includes words of support for the self-imposed discipline, in the European Communities Committee, of a standing review of structure and methods which the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, among the many other excellent things she did, established several years ago and which the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, carries on with enthusiasm and wisdom. It is useful in the first report of the Liaison Committee to bless the principle that Select Committees should accept that responsibility, which my experience tells me they have always accepted and still do accept, each in their own way.
§ The simple proposition that if you hire a dog to bark you do not bark yourself is widely accepted. It is, however, fairly widely breached in a number of places. Perhaps I may explain why it is important not to breach it at this time in the case of the European Communities Committee. It is most unwise to reduce that dog's barking ability by clipping out one vocal chord, which is what is proposed.
§ In my view and that of many noble Lords who serve on Select Committees, the number of five, which has been chosen, is damagingly wrong. The chairman of 17 the Select Committee told the Liaison Committee why that was so. No argument at all is adduced to the contrary in the report. A possible explanation, which I believe follows from what my noble friend said, for choosing five as the number is that that is half way between the Jellicoe figure of four and the committee's figure of six. That does not seem to reflect on the merits of the matter at all.
§ I remind your Lordships of the role of the Select Committee. The volume of proposals for legislation and other action by and within the Community is well known. Accountability to your Lordships' House for that legislation and action has been, ever since 1973, through the European Communities Committee, which has established for your Lordships a high reputation both with Ministers and the institutions of the Community—the European Parliament and the Commission itself. The Jellicoe report confirmed that.
§ The key to the committee's work lies in the scrutiny of the documents referred to it, even more than in the reports on the subjects which are chosen for inquiries. The level of the load on the committee is governed by the quantity and importance of those documents. There is a commanding time factor in that scrutiny work in that Ministers have undertaken not to join in decisions at Councils of Ministers until we have cleared the documents, and so lifted the scrutiny reserve. That undertaking has lasted over many years.
§ The scrutiny factor fixes the number of sub-committees required. Sub-committees are groups of Peers chosen for their interest in named subjects. In the past there has been a requirement for seven sub-committees. Recently, in spite of the single market and constitutional proposals, we have managed with only six sub-committees.
§ If your Lordships have followed me so far, I hope that I have established that we have no individual discretionary choice about the level of work that we do; that is decided by the quantity of documents put in front of us for scrutiny. I assure your Lordships, as could any Member of Sub-Committee A, that the work load continues to be high. It could become higher with the ratification of Maastricht. The principle of subsidiarity could, and I hope will, lead to a reduction of the scrutiny load. But for the immediate future, each proposal must be scrutinised for subsidiarity, which may add rather than reduce the work level. It must be incontrovertible that the only body in your Lordships' House which can react quickly to changes in the load on your Lordships' Select Committee is your Lordships' European Communities Committee. No one else can react quickly or has the immediate knowledge to do so.
§ It may be said—I hope it will not—that Members of that committee are too closely engaged to make the right judgements. Surely we trust each other sufficiently to eliminate that argument. It may be said also that the committee has asked for one Clerk for each sub-committee and the Liaison Committee appears to have decided that only four Clerks plus the Clerk and the legal advisers for the Sub-Committee E shall he available. There are five Clerks at present. The report does not make that clear recommendation. It is not there for us to discuss as to whether four, five or 18 six Clerks is the right number. However, that appears to be the assumption behind what my noble friend has just said.
§ Certainly, one Clerk for each sub-committee is more than desirable. However, in my view it is for the Select Committee to decide how best to carry on its business with the number of Clerks available. I said that we have five Clerks at present. We have not always had that. I hope that the mention of one Clerk to each sub-committee has not made some of your Lordships think that those excellent Clerks are employed full time on our work. They are not; nor should they be. For example, the excellent Clerk to Sub-Committee A, during the drafting stages of our report on enlargement, was also Clerk to the Advisory Panel on Works of Art and for a while was Clerk to a Standing Committee. I believe that she worked also on a Private Bill Committee. At the same time, she took her turn working in the Minute Room and on Divisions. It is right that that should be so.
§ I have emphasised the importance of the committee's work today and I wish to add one further reason. It has been one of the aims of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, in the build-up to the Maastricht Treaty and since, to secure general acceptance, throughout the Community, of the importance of the role of national parliaments in ensuring the proper constitutional accountability of the Council of Ministers. He has been splendidly successful. I cannot be alone in believing that in Edinburgh at the end of this week Britain will give a further lead in emphasising the role of national parliaments in the life of the Community. Today is not the day, if ever there should be a day, on which this House should agree to an alteration of its procedures which, knowingly, and on the face of the report—your Lordships need look only at paragraph 11 and at what the noble Lord, Lord Boston, said —makes less effective our part in the accountability to national parliaments. Therefore, I confidently move this amendment, as I shall the second amendment in due course, with the support of your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ 3.30 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. I am second to none in expressing my appreciation, which I have every reason to believe is widely shared in the country as a whole, for the contribution made by your Lordships' House in relation to the affairs of the country generally.
Frequently this House has been able to draw public attention to matters which for a variety of reasons —not least the pressure of time in another place—are of vital concern to the nation as a whole. Having said that, more particularly the European Communities Committee performs a valuable public service. Without in any way casting any reflection on similar committees in another place, there can be no doubt that the activities of the European Communities Committee in this House are far more thorough, 19 searching and better documented than any equivalent report on European legislation, whether actual or proposed.
Your Lordships' House, through the Select Committee on the European Communities, has consequently acquired a justifiably high reputation. Indeed, over the past years one finds that it is the Select Committee that has alerted the country and another place, as well as your Lordships' House, to the dangers of uncritical acceptance of many nonsensical pieces of legislation or proposals emanating from the European Commission.
We are living in times when it is even more necessary that a critical eye, supported by expert evidence from all quarters, should be cast over all proposals that come from the Commission or the Council. There is an ever-increasing tendency for proposed legislation to come to the United Kingdom Parliament, not direct from the Council but endorsed by the Council on behalf of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the European Community—a series of civil servants who decide matters in private by majority voting and under whose aegis much of the legislation that is proposed comes to this country. In those circumstances it is vital that the critical eye which examines those proposals, particularly on behalf of your Lordships' House, should be maintained intact. Indeed, there is every reason why it should be increased.
In common with many noble Lords I examined the 1,000-page document issued by the Court of Auditors last week which reveals maladministration and, indeed, fraud on a scale that would certainly not be tolerated by the United Kingdom Parliament in its own finances. In that one area of fraud and irregularity, value for money and control of the budget, all the expenditure of this House and the Treasury on the Select Committees is more than justified.
The affairs of Europe are of increasing complexity. The noble Lord, Lord Aldington, referred to the Maastricht agreement. Even if the Maastricht agreement did not come into operation—it is a lot of nonsense anyway—there would still be increasing scope for the activities of the committee. I cannot believe that a constriction of the funds available—which is what we are ultimately talking about—for the proper staffing and facilities of the European Communities Committee is in any way justifiable at this time. On the contrary, the expenditure of the British Parliament on the activities of the European Communities Committee should be considerably increased. The demand for its services over the years will increase further, aside even from the miserable complexities and ambiguities of Article 3b of the Maastricht Treaty relating to subsidiarity which is absurd.
When I first learned of the new Liaison Committee which your Lordships in their wisdom had decided to set up I wondered what on earth it was for. I am even more mystified now. I am talking to noble Lords present who are regular attenders of this House. I am at a loss to find out why we need a specific committee 20 to determine the scope and functions of another specific committee, in this case the European Communities Committee, which has proved its worth both inside and outside the country. It does not need a committee composed of people who know nothing about the European Community to tell it what it ought to do and what its resources ought to be. That should be a matter for the House.
I trust that I am speaking across party boundaries; and I trust that I am speaking for those who are in defence of democracy in this country. An increasing number of people in the United Kingdom are beginning to regard this House as a significant safeguard to those liberties and powers that we retain as a national Parliament. I therefore hope that, after mature consideration—indeed deep personal and responsible consideration across party lines—regardless of party loyalties, personal dispositions and perhaps even prejudices, your Lordships will give favourable consideration to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, which I have the honour to support.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal had a difficult and delicate task to discharge as chairman of the Liaison Committee in this matter. As a member of what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, described as a mysterious committee, I feel it my duty to support the Lord Privy Seal both because of the difficulty of his task and on the merits of the issue.
There are difficult and conflicting considerations. On the one hand, in my view, it was his duty as Leader of the House to take into account the recommendations of the Jellicoe Committee. The Jellicoe Committee was set up by the desire of this House, and the noble Earl—whether rolling or not —produced what I believe was widely regarded as an excellent report. Having produced it, it would have been a nonsensical discourtesy not to act upon it. That means that some room must be found in your Lordships' proceedings. It is all very well the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, saying that we should spend infinite money and resources. Even if we spent extremely large sums of money, the number of Clerks could not easily be increased in the short run, and the number of Peers willing to serve on the Select Committees is limited.
The noble Lord, Lord Aldington, who argued most persuasively and who has a remarkable record of service to Select Committees of this House, said that he had no difficulty in persuading people to serve on his sub-committee; they were queuing up to do so. I suspect that there may be something in the fact that he always manages to get hold of the most interesting sub-committees and the ones whose reports have the greatest resonance.
There was a duty to take account of the recommendations of the Jellicoe Report. I am certainly not in the slightest doubt, leading on from what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, was kind enough to describe as our depths of ignorance of the European Community, that the work of the European Communities Select Committee is a real jewel in the 21 crown of your Lordships' House. It has achieved an outstanding reputation. I would be totally against anything which damaged that work.
Persuasive though the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, was, in a way he attempted to prove a little too much. He found a contradiction in the report and in the Lord Privy Seal's attitude. There was a slight contradiction in the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, when he said that we should not go from six to five sub-committees. There used to be seven. There is no particular rationale about it. Then he argued that the work which has to be done cannot really be determined by your Lordships' House. It depends entirely on what is forthcoming from Brussels. That situation has to be met.
If carried to its logical conclusion, that argument would be completely destructive of any attempt to allocate resources here. We would just be a port on the way as regards the amount of resources which have to be devoted. If I thought that the proposal would seriously damage the effectiveness and reputation of the European Communities Select Committee, I would be passionately against it. I find it a little difficult to believe that an adjustment from six to five sub-committees is going to be of such overwhelming effect. It is proposed that we should look at the matter again after a short period. If the Liaison Committee under the Lord Privy Seal is proved to have misjudged the issue, then I would be in favour of going back on it. However, for the moment, in the very difficult job of balancing Jellicoe with Aldington, if I may say so in those terms, the Lord Privy Seal has done the best he can. I propose to support him.
§ Lord Pym
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, has brought a sense of proportion back to this debate. It might have been thought by someone listening outside that what we were concerned with would in some way destroy or seriously reduce the European Communities Committee, but in fact we are discussing the best use of the resources available to this House for Select Committee work. That was the origin of the setting up of the Jellicoe Committee. We had all the evidence before us on that committee on the importance of the European Communities Bill—which we totally support: its success, its reputation and everything else about it—as did the Science and Technology Committee. All the evidence mentioned today was before us.
We came to our conclusions. In its debates the House very broadly accepted them, but not in every detail. It then proceeded to dispatch some of its business to the Procedure Committee. In due course the House decided to set up the Liaison Committee precisely in order to decide how best to use the resources. It was very much in the mind of the Jellicoe Committee that it was extremely difficult, granted the limitation of our Peer resources, to leave the European Communities Bill with the same proportion of resources because it takes 75 per cent. of them. What has arisen now, and is before the House at this moment, is a reduction from 75 per cent. of all the committee resources to 66 per cent. of a rising total of resources.
22 In the circumstances, I do not believe that that is so severe a reduction: it is certainly not one to cause any Member of this House to argue that in some way the European Communities Bill is being threatened. I am absolutely certain that if the proposals of the Liaison Committee are accepted, which I believe they will be, the European Communities Committee will still do its work in a most admirable way; that its reputation will be enhanced and that it will still play the crucial role which my noble friend Lord Aldington believes that it does and that it should play. I do not believe that we are taking any drastic decisions about this. The point about the Liaison Committee is that it is ongoing, carrying out an ongoing review, and that the matter is to be looked at again in this Session.
If we do not go that far we will find that we are stuck in this position: the European Communities Committee and the 75 per cent. of resources which it takes is sacrosanct and that everything else has got to go round that. I do not think that that is right because this House has immensely wide responsibilities to fulfil for the people of this country and as regards our parliamentary responsibilities. This comparatively slight change is something which the House should accept.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Shepherd
My Lords, my understanding of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, is that while, like myself, he possibly regrets the reduction from six to five sub-committees, as suggested in the Liaison Committee's report, that is not really central to the amendment. My difficulty with the Liaison Committee has always been on the composition of the membership. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, felt, as Leader of the Liberal Party, and as a Member of the Liaison Committee, that he should support the Leader of the House, who is Chairman of the Liaison Committee. I do not know what position my noble friends Lord McIntosh or Lord Richard will take as regards the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. The composition of the committee makes it difficult, in a sense, for the ordinary Members of this House to speak in direct opposition, as it may well be, to their respective party leaders.
§ Lord Shepherd
My Lords, perhaps I may develop that. It has been recognised that this is a matter for the whole House. Regrettably, the issue is not between five or six sub-committees as mentioned in the report. We are being required to accept that. The issue is that the Liaison Committee, having established what are the resources available to that committee, should decide how best those resources are to be utilised—that is, whether there are six, seven or three sub-committees. It is that committee which has the knowledge of what is required in its general responsibility to this House and to the country. It is a question of how its resources can be used and maximised to the greatest possible advantage.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who has made an admirable report in many respects, complained about 23 the rigidity of the European Communities Committee. He wanted to see more flexibility. In the report from the Liaison Committee we are seeing the very thing which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, complained about; namely, the rigidity of five sub-committees. We do not know whether we want five. The only people who can make any judgment on that is the Select Committee itself, which this House appoints. The only restriction which that committee has placed upon it is that of resources.
We have to accept that situation. One might say, "That is the resource and it is less than what it was, but we recognise the importance. Neverthless, in order to do other things that is the resource available". However, surely it makes more sense to say to the committee, "Use those resources to the maximum advantage, not only to that committee but to this House and Parliament, in scrutinising the various proposals that come from the Community".
That has always been very central and part and parcel of this House—that is to say, we have always sought to avoid rigidity in all our rules and orders, relying on good common sense. I say to the Leader of the House: can he not leave it to the good common sense of the Select Committee, which this House appoints each year, to decide how the available resources are used to the maximum advantage of this House?
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, the noble Lord was unable to give way to me at an earlier stage of his remarks. I merely want to make the point that my noble friend the Leader of the Liberal Democrats is speaking on this occasion for himself and as a Member of the Liaison Committee. He is not speaking from a Front Bench leadership role in our party. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said, I am sure that will also apply to Members on all sides of the House. This is precisely the kind of debate where the Whips take a back seat.
§ Lord Shepherd
My Lords, I am quite sure that the House will accept that because it is a very helpful explanation. But where we see party leaders supporting each other those on the Back Benches begin to be concerned.
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, perhaps I may immediately illustrate what my noble friend Lord Tordoff has said by saying that I support the amendments which have been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. I agree entirely with the concept that there should be a review of the committee structure of this House. As was admirably put by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, the concept of "the rolling Jellicoe" finds favour with most, if not all. My only anxiety is that it does not roll too fast. I think that it does roll too fast in what is proposed in relation to the European Communities Committee. It is difficult to understand why, half way through a Session, we should have to change the structure and then have to look at it again at the end of the Session.
This has been a very difficult year for those of us who are involved in the work of the Select Committees 24 —I happen to be one—and who chair the sub-committees because we have not been clear about the length of time available to us so that we can plan our work. I have been involved with my sub-committee in conducting two very important issues of scrutiny in about half the time that should have been devoted to them because of the constant changes or the prospect of change. In accepting the principle of having a Liaison Committee, I ask your Lordships that we should also have regard to the nature of the work of the committees about which it is making recommendations.
As I am sure that many others wish to speak, I conclude by asking whether, in the light of the amendments which have been moved so effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, the Liaison Committee will not think again and treat the European Communities Committee in exactly the same way as it has treated the Science and Technology Committee—that is, to say that for the time being it will retain its present structure so that it can continue the work that it already has in train. Then, at the end of the Session, let us review the whole thing. That will become particularly important in the case of the European Communities Committee because of all that is happening in the wider world in relation to Maastricht, subsidiarity and the other issues with which your Lordships are well familiar.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment which has been moved by the noble Friend, Lord Aldington. While totally recognising the value of the report which was produced by my noble friend, Lord Jellicoe, and the debate which was held on it, I feel that one or two practical points have been overlooked. They certainly have not been mentioned today.
The first is the question of the timing of the reports from the European Communities Committee. I speak with the experience of having chaired Sub-committee E during the past year. Its terms of reference involve it advising on any changes in United Kingdom law. Presumably, that implies that the reports should be available for the Government and your Lordships' House before decisions are taken in Brussels or by the Council of Ministers.
We have produced three short reports. On the recommendation of my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, which we found very valuable, we were able to produce what might be termed "mini-reports" in order to place the main substance of the relevant matters before your Lordships' House. We produced two of those reports in time for the Government to be able to use them when negotiating at the Council of Ministers. If they had not had those reports they would not have had many of the issues before them. We have received correspondence from the relevant Ministers expressing their gratitude for the points which we raised.
I mention this point only because, if we as a Select Committee or those members who will serve on the Select Committee are to be efficient and effective—two rather popular words at present—we must be able to produce our reports on time so that they are useful to 25 your Lordships, the Government and other institutions of the Community. With the best will in the world and even with our most able Leader of the House, I do not see how we can decide which reports should be produced immediately.
I believe that the scrutiny list which is prepared by the noble Lord, Lord Boston, contains 47 draft proposals which need to be scrutinised soon by the sub-committees. However, having had three months' Recess and five or six weeks unavailable because of the general election, no doubt some of the sub-committees are now way behind in the task that they are meant to perform. Therefore, I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House whether, in view of the points that have been made in great sincerity and to try to help the good functioning of this House, there cannot be a postponement of the decision of the Liaison Committee until the end of this Session. Perhaps we could review proceedings when we see the kind of draft proposals with which the sub-committees will be faced.
§ Lord Flowers
My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words on behalf of the Science and Technology Committee, and change the subject slightly. First, however, I apologise for being unable to attend the meeting of the Liaison Committee at which its report was approved. I was abroad on business at the time. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with the recommendations in so far as they affect the Science and Technology Committee, and I should like to thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the members of the Liaison Committee for that outcome.
Whether we continue in future years with the present two sub-committees will be reviewed later. We are confident that we can convince the Liaison Committee that we should, and we shall proceed on that basis. However, the manner in which the new House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology conducts itself over the coming months may affect the outcome.
Perhaps I may give just one example of why I think that we should be able to continue at the level to which we have been accustomed. Our recent speedy contribution to Mr Waldegrave's proposed White Paper on Science and Technology —so recent that I do not think that many of your Lordships will have seen it—was possible only because it drew on a broad range of deeply researched reports prepared over the past 12 years. That breadth would have been impossible without the work of the sub-committees. Therefore, I hope that it will eventually be agreed that we should continue beyond the current Session.
In passing, I am glad to note the emphasis that has been placed on the ad hoc committees. I proposed that a study of the economics of sustainable development might be profitable. I agree that the other two subjects (euthanasia and relations between central and local government) are both ideally suited to studies by this House.
If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, is asking for a blank cheque in his amendments—not, of course, in terms of money or staff but in terms of the use to which those staff (the Clerks and others) are put. The real issue is the number of Clerks and other 26 staff that the House can afford to provide. Given the staff, the European Communities Committee should be free to make the best use of them. However, unless the number of sub-committees is limited, the natural enthusiasm of the committee might overload its loyal staff unmercifully. I have seen it happen. The staff are first-rate—and we are extremely fortunate that that is so—but even their capacity is limited. I suppose that that is the reason why the limitation on the number of sub-committees has been proposed by the Liaison Committee. Therefore, I do not feel that I can support the amendment although I shall, of course, be happy to support the Motion.
Having said that, however, the whole thing really seems a bit ridiculous. It is only a matter of providing one more Clerk. That is all. The committee work of the House is generally acknowledged to be extremely distinguished and is influential abroad as much as at home. Surely, one more Clerk could be afforded. I am all for Jellicoe (whether rolling or roving), but one more Clerk would be of infinitely greater value than any Liaison Committee however distinguished and gracious its membership. I most earnestly beg the Government to be a little more generous to the committee work of the House.
§ 4 p.m.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, following on from what the noble Lord has just said, perhaps I may draw the attention of the House to the fact that a basic question predates this whole study; namely, the number of Clerks that we have. The Clerks are grossly overworked. They are wonderful people. They work with great intelligence and dexterity but they are absurdly overworked. One consequence of their being too few in number is that documents coming before sub-committees are not themselves properly gutted in advance.
I draw attention to this matter and support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, as being myself a long-standing satellite of the sub-committee dealing with energy. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is our chairman. I was chairman of that committee years ago. I was chairman for five years but then I was found out and I was pushed off. Now that the Department of Energy has disappeared into the Department of Trade and Industry ours is the only official committee in either House of Parliament which deals with energy. With the disappearance of the Energy Department, the Select Committee on Energy in another place disappeared too. So it is only our sub-committee in this whole building which deals with energy. A few months ago we had a great row—we shall have more—about the mines. I mention it because it is one of the sub-committees of the Scrutiny Committee which does very important work on this and other subjects. If we cut the number down they will do less work. I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Aldington particularly because I believe that the number of staff is quite inadequate and grossly overworked.
§ Lord Varley
My Lords, I want to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord 27 Aldington, and I shall not take more than a minute or two to do so. When I was a Member of the other place I regarded Select Committees as vehicles for under-employed politicians with time on their hands. That is not the case in your Lordships' House where the work of the Select Committees equals the work of the Chamber itself. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, has already said, the reports are well researched and well thought out and invariably they are debated in this House unlike the reports in another place.
The Leader of the House ought to be prepared to admit that he has disregarded the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Boston, and the evidence he gave to the Liaison Committee; namely, that the scrutiny work of the European Communities Committee would not be so effective if the number of sub-committees was reduced. That is certainly the case. I have only been a member of the European Communities Committee for a relatively short time. Twenty years ago or so I started out as a Euro-sceptic. I suppose that I am a Euro-enthusiast now. But it does not diminish my enthusiasm for the scrutiny work of the European Communities Committee. It is absolutely essential, as noble Lords have already said.
It is quite wrong for the Liaison Committee to try to lay down how the European Communities Committee should conduct its work. It may well be, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd said, that four sub-committees would survive or seven would be required depending on the work. While it was extremely superficially attractive when the noble Lord, Lord Pym, said that we are only going down from three-quarters of the resources available to the European Communities Committee to two-thirds, we have to take into account what is going to happen over the period ahead.
For example, I have in my hand a letter which the Foreign Secretary addressed to the chairman of the European Legislation Committee of another place. It was copied to my noble friend Lord Boston of Faversham. In the letter the Foreign Secretary said:I believe there is a real opportunity now for national parliaments to involve themselves more closely in Community business".The Foreign Secretary actually wants us to do that. He copied his letter all over the place but I see that he did not copy it to the Lord Privy Seal. No doubt the Lord Privy Seal or his office received a copy. The Foreign Secretary attached to that letter a memorandum in which he said:Finally, the Government hope that the increasing contact and co-operation between specialist committees and national parliaments and the committees of the European Parliament may be developed further".That is why we need the European Communities Committee. We need that committee to decide exactly how it should conduct its work.
The answer to the dilemma was given by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, who said that the Liaison Committee has already conceded that all this will have to be reviewed at the end of the present Session. Rather than have disruption now, why cannot the European Communities Committee determine its own work 28 within the framework of existing resources and that review take place at the end of this Session? Surely that would be the best way to go about it rather than try to bludgeon this through at this time. I hope that the Leader of the House will agree that a pretty strong case has been made out by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, and that he can accept the amendment. If he cannot, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, will test the opinion of the House.
§ Lord Thurlow
My Lords, I am sure that there is no question of the noble Lord the Leader of the House trying to bludgeon anything through anybody this afternoon. I am what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, described as an ordinary Member of the House —a very ordinary Member of the House. I have served on your Lordships' Select Committee for only four or five years. I have no experience to match the authority and experience of those who have already spoken but what I would say is that we are dealing with a question of balance.
As a member of the Jellicoe Committee, and then of the Liaison Committee, I can say that we were presented with nearly all the arguments that we have heard today. We had to form a balanced judgment. It has been suggested that there is bad logic in first of all taking a certain resource and then not letting the European Communities Committee decide for itself how the resource should be used. But there is another form of logic—a balancing logic—that applies. I refer to the practical logic. It is important and necessary in the light of experience that each Clerk should have one sub-committee to work for. The noble Lord, Lord Aldington, suggested that the number of Clerks available to the European Communities Committee is being reduced. That is not my understanding. My understanding is that with four Clerks for sub-committees it is practically desirable and necessary that the number of sub-committees should be reduced to four. That is a practical thing. If at the end of the Session it appears that it does not work and will not work and that we need more Clerks for the European Communities Committee—they cannot be conjured out of the air quickly: suitable Clerks do not grow on gooseberry bushes—I hope and believe that reconsideration by the Liaison Committee and the co-operation of those concerned will result in the necessary increase. In the meantime, I hope that your Lordships will agree to the recommendations of the Liaison Committee.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I was present at the meeting of the Liaison Committee on behalf of my noble friend Lord Richard who was not able to attend. I repeat the assurance already given. We consider that these are matters for the House and not for political parties or the usual channels. Therefore the views of my noble friends and their right to vote as they please will always be respected on these Benches.
A few points need to be made about the recommendations of the Liaison Committee. That involves marginally widening the scope of the debate. I went to that meeting determined that the opportunity given by the Jellicoe Committee to extend 29 the range of ad hoc committees of the House should not be lost. I want to record my satisfaction with the decision of the Liaison Committee to appoint one extra ad hoc committee now and to make a choice between two others in the coming weeks. That of course involves a considerable increase in the burden both on the House and on Peers available to take part on these committees. It is in that context that the House should consider the proposals now before us for the European Communities Committee.
The second point I want to make is that at the committee meeting I sought an assurance from the Leader of the House that the proposal was not motivated by a desire for economy or because of staff considerations. I received the assurance from the Leader of the House that, although the overall level of committee work and the costs involved were relevant factors, they should not determine the outcome of the committee's deliberations. In other words, I believe that the committee reached its conclusions not on the grounds of cheeseparing; and that is an important element to be considered.
Therefore, as one who was present, I am bound to support the proposals of the Liaison Committee. But I hope at the same time that the Leader of the House when he replies will feel able to express some support for the views of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, who I thought modified the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, quite effectively and had a genuine and valuable point to make. The fundamental point about the European Communities Committee is that at the end of this Session nobody knows the amount of work that is going to be placed on the committee. It could be double or even treble the amount now if Maastricht goes through.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I was a member of the Liaison Committee of my noble friend the Leader of the House, and I wish to say only the briefest words in support of what he proposes. Like the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, from the Cross-Benches, when we sat on the Liaison Committee I felt that we needed to face what had been served to us by the Jellicoe Committee. There were the twin recommendations that came from Jellicoe of a more diversified committee structure and also a greater use of ad hoc committees. It is right this afternoon to remember that this is not pie in the sky but something that is happening now.
The appointment of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee and the experimental use of the special standing committee procedure are already happening and will represent a significant increase in committee work in your Lordships' House. Then, as my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal said in moving his Motion today, we have a proposal in the report for an ad hoc committee on euthanasia and serious consideration to be given to a further ad hoc committee or committees either on local and central government or on sustainable developments.
We are conducting the discussion this afternoon in the context of wanting what the House obviously wants and what Jellicoe wanted, which is a more diversified committee structure. In this mix of course we have to defend the splendid work of the European Communities Committee. Any of your Lordships who 30 have had even a passing knowledge of what is done in these Select Committees, both the Science and Technology Committee and the European Communities Committee, would be absolutely mad if we did not say that this afternoon. But that is what we are going to do under the proposal put forward by my noble friend. Even then, if we agree to my noble friend's proposal this afternoon, two-thirds of the available resources for committee work in your Lordships' House will be taken by the European Communities Committee for the future, and I support that and believe it is absolutely right.
Before sitting down I must address what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said. With the greatest of respect to the noble Lord, who can forget more about the work of this House than I think I will ever learn, if this afternoon we simply leave it to the European Communities Committee to decide how many sub-committees it wishes to have, the words of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, will be proved both prophetic and true —under the splendid leadership of the European Communities Committee we will find that the committee Clerks will be worked harder and harder, even though that is not actually the intention.
Because I believe that the balance is right in what is being proposed by my noble friend from the Government Front Bench —namely, that we forge ahead with a more diversified and increased use of committees but at the same time be careful about how our existing Select Committees continue to move forward—I support what he has put before the House this afternoon.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Belstead because in general there are two quite different problems before us. One is the proposed expansion or alteration of the committee work of the House and the other, which in my view is much more immediate, is the capacity of the European Communities Committee to continue to fulfil its role at a time of extreme complexity in Europe's affairs.
I speak, I regret to say, with little intimate knowledge. For the usual three-year span I was a member of Sub-Committee E, the legal sub-committee, but my efforts to get back onto the committee after the expiry of the statutory year were frustrated. Whether I am alone among available Members of your Lordships' House or whether there are other unused resources is a question that we might discuss along with the question of the Clerks, because obviously if there are no Peers there are no committees. But on the basis of one Peer's experience, I venture to question that, particularly since we have been so mightily reinforced on all sides of the House in recent months.
It would be wise if my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal were to accept broadly the amendment on these grounds. It is almost impossible to be certain—I think that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said this—of the kind and volume of work in the future, and, as my noble friend Lady Elles said, it is often necessary to investigate certain matters quickly. Sometimes the result may have an immediate impact on the 31 negotiating position of Her Majesty's Ministers; sometimes the benefit of the consideration may be delayed. When I was on Sub-Committee E, for instance, under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, we investigated in detail the matter of frontier controls after the coming into being of the single market, and that work certainly should not pass unnoticed now.
It is not only that the volume of the work cannot be foreseen but also its division—the subject matter into which it falls. The number of sub-committees does not seem to matter. That could be argued about in terms of resources and Clerks, not overworking them, and so forth. It might also be for the European Communities Committee to decide that it needed a different division of labour. To take an extreme and optimistic example, let us suppose that the common agricultural policy was finally ditched, to the benefit of most people. That would mean that we would not need an agriculture sub-committee any more and the resources there could look at some other aspect of Community affairs that might be more alive and challenging.
It would be singularly ill-timed in the week of the Edinburgh summit to limit the capacity of the European Communities Committee to organise its own business within the limits of its own resources and to look after its own affairs. The arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that the matter might be postponed until the end of the Session when we have a better idea of where Europe is going, if it is going anywhere, may be arguments that my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal will wish to consider.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, I should like to state that I am not trying to bludgeon anything through your Lordships' House. My whole political life has been one of gentle persuasion. Bludgeoning is totally alien to my nature.
The report that I have presented to the House is a unanimous report by noble Lords from all parties and those with no party affiliation. It is for the House and not for me to decide such matters: they are certainly not party matters.
Following the debate on the report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the subsequent report of the Procedure Committee, which was approved by the House, we felt that our report was very much in the spirit of those reports. Paragraph 193 of the Jellicoe Report recommends a reduction in the number of sub-committees and in the resources devoted to the committee, particularly the number of noble Lords who serve on it. We could hardly have recommended any lesser move in that direction and we acted within the spirit of the way in which the House debated Jellicoe and in the light of the Procedure Committee report which it subsequently approved.
As I anticipated, my noble friend Lord Aldington moved the amendment with his customary persuasiveness. I do not think that there is very much between us. I entirely agree that the European Communities Committee has built up an impressive reputation both in your Lordships' House and outside, and that the role of the committee in ensuring that the Council of 32 Ministers is accountable to this House is one which your Lordships much value. Equally, I am sure that the House will join with my noble friend in supporting the efforts that will be made by my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary at the Edinburgh summit later this week.
Nevertheless, I do not think that your Lordships will be well advised to accept the amendments. They would grant to the European Communities Committee the power to determine its own sub-committee structure within its terms of reference, making use of the staff resources that are allocated to it.
I believe that there are major problems with that approach. It goes against the whole rationale of the establishment of the Liaison Committee to allow Select Committees themselves to determine their own scale of activity. I should like to emphasise that the Liaison Committee has not sought to, and will not, seek to monitor committee work closely or interfere with that work. However, its function is to allocate resources and take decisions about priorities in a balanced and sensible way. The thrust of the Jellicoe Report was that some such mechanism was needed to continue the oversight of committee activity on behalf of your Lordships' House and to report thereon with recommendations to the House from time to time. That mechanism has now been established in the form of the Liaison Committee. For my own part, I think that the work of the Liaison Committee would be circumscribed—perhaps fatally circumscribed—if the European Communities Committee were to continue to determine the number of sub-committees that it may appoint.
Our terms of reference, agreed to by the House, include that of advising the House on the resources required for Select Committee work and of allocating resources between Select Committees. I cannot see how we can properly exercise that function, and how the House can consider our advice, if the European Communities Committee, or any other committee of your Lordships' House, is able to establish independently its own scale of activity. That might lead to a situation where the resources required by the European Communities Committee, both in terms of the efforts of your Lordships and in the demands made on the staff of the House, were such that it would become impossible to meet other requirements which your Lordships may have for an extension of Select Committee work. I recognise that that is not an outcome which my noble friend intends, but I fear that if your Lordships were to accept the amendments, it would be a possible result.
Moreover, my noble friend appears to accept that it will be for the House to determine the best allocation of staff resources. He therefore suggests that the European Communities Committee should be able to determine its own activities within that framework. He has told the House that he would envisage those activities exceeding the five sub-committees that we recommend. I should like to point out that we did not recommend five sub-committees. It will be seen from the report that we stated that the 33 committee should be able to appoint five sub-committees instead of six. In our view five was the minimum reduction that moved in any way towards the Jellicoe Report and the subsequent Procedure report which the House has approved. Therefore, we recommended five sub-committees.
That situation might lead to one of two outcomes. Either the number of sub-committees will exceed the number of staff available to man them, thus going against a key recommendation, originally made by the European Communities Committee, that each sub-committee should have its own Clerk; or there will be a number of active sub-committees and a number of inactive ones. I suggest to my noble friend that there is an alternative means of securing his objective, and that is to increase the flexibility between the five sub-committees which we propose the European Communities Committee should have. There is nothing to prevent the committee from establishing a new sub-committee to cover an area which demands urgent scrutiny and closing down, for the duration of the inquiry in question, one of the existing sub-committees. Alternatively, the committee could take up the recommendation that was made by the Jellicoe Committee and establish an ad hoc committee which could consider any urgent matters that are referred to it which do not fall within the remit of the other sub-committees.
I am sure that noble Lords would wish the Liaison Committee to be as flexible as possible. I have heard expressions of concern from noble Lords, many with deep and long experience of the work of the European Communities Committee, in all parts of the House. If my noble friend feels able to withdraw the amendment, I give an undertaking to have discussions with the chairman of the European Communities Committee and others in order to find some flexibility which will enable concerns to be met while at the same time adhering to the report which appears to us to be the correct response to the Jellicoe Report and to the Procedure Committee report which this House has approved.
§ Lord Aldington
My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords for the part that they have taken in this very valuable and important debate from the point of view of the procedure of the House. I thank my noble friend the Leader of the House very much not only for the care with which he replied to the debate but also for the tone of his response.
There is a fundamental cleavage between the line that I have taken and that adopted by other noble Lords who have spoken. It arises from the fact that we exist to scrutinise the proposals—there are 47 before us at the moment—that come from the Commission, the Court of Auditors, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. It is that, not our predatory nature as somebody indicated, that forces the load of work upon us; and it is that knowledge that makes us suggest to the House that we should be left to decide at any given moment how we organise ourselves, how many sub-committees there should be and what, if any, extra demands we should make upon Clerks in relation to an urgent position. Leave it to us because we understand what has to be done. I have to say to 34 my noble friend Lord Pym, and to the Leader of the House, that until one sees the scrutiny process in action one simply does not understand it. It is all very well to say, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said, that one would be cutting by only one, but we all know the argument that it is "only one" or that it is "only a little one".
I have to say that there is an uncontradicted statement from the one Member of your Lordships' House who should know and who has responsibility that to do what we are being asked is to make our scrutiny less effective—in the week in which the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are asking other countries to follow more closely our procedure for bringing the Commission, the Council and liaison with Parliament closer to the national parliaments. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Beloff had to say.
I regret to disappoint my noble friend the Leader of the House as I intend to press my amendment.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 106; Not-Contents, 106.35
|Division No. 1|
|Ackner, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Aldington, L. [Teller.]||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Hunt of Tanworth, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Barber of Tewkesbury, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Birdwood, L.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Boardman, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Brentford, V.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Bridges, L.||Longford, E.|
|Brightman, L.||Macaulay of Bragar, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Cadman, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Carter, L.||Moran, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Morris, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Cockfield, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Mulley, L.|
|David, B.||Nathan, L.|
|Denman, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Elles, B.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Finsberg, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Portland, E.|
|Galpern, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Quinton, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Rea, L.|
|Gray, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Greenhill of Harrow, L.||Roskill, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Grey, E.||Seear, B.|
|Gridley, L.||Serota, B.|
|Hanworth, V.||Shackleton, L.|
|Harding of Petherton, L.||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Harrowby, E.||Sherfield, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Slim, V.|
|Slynn of Hadley, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Stedman, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.||Varley, L.|
|Taylor of Blackburn, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Templeman, L.||White, B.|
|Terrington, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Thomson of Monifieth, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Thorneycroft, L.||Zuckerman, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Howe, E.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Astor, V.||Ingrow, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Belstead, L. [Teller.]||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Kintore, E.|
|Blyth, L.||Knollys, V.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Lindsay, E.|
|Borthwick, L.||Long, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Melville, V.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Merrivale, L.|
|Chilver, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L||Moyne, L.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Munster, E.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Cranborne, V.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Cross, V.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Pender, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Pym, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L. [Teller.]||Renton, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Ridley of Liddesdale, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Rix, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Elton, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Erne, E.||Seccombe, B.|
|Flowers, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Strange, B.|
|Geraint, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Henley, L.||Wakeham, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Wigram, L.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Hood, V.||Young, B.|
|Hooper, B.||Younger of Prestwick, L.|
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
My Lords, there have voted: Contents, 106; Not-Contents, 106.
There being an equality of votes, in accordance with Standing Order No. 54 which provides that the Question before the House shall be resolved in the negative unless there is a majority in its favour, I declare the amendment disagreed to.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ [Amendment No. 2 not moved.]
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, I should like to seek guidance on a point arising from paragraph 8 about the proposal to set up a Select Committee on Euthanasia. In consultation with a number of noble Lords, I have been considering the possibility of introducing a Bill which would enable persons to give directions in advance to their physicians regarding the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in a terminal condition.
My difficulty is that this is not, as I understand it, euthanasia. It has no relevance to the two cases which have given rise to so much publicity, one of which is still before the courts. But it arouses rather similar emotions and reactions and, I suspect, controversy. I cannot quite see how the House could consider such a Bill in isolation from the proposal put forward for a Select Committee. But equally, it seems to me that it would be unfortunate if the Select Committee concentrated its whole attention on what is almost a side issue compared with the considerations arising from euthanasia taken as a subject on its own.
I have decided not to introduce such a Bill, but perhaps I may, at the very least, ask that, when the Select Committee's terms of reference are prepared, they should be wide enough to cover the kind of legislation which I have been trying to describe.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, I can give the noble Lord this assurance. I should have thought that the best way to proceed would be for us to have discussions about it. Obviously, to give a definite answer on the noble Lord's point one would wish first to see what were the terms of reference of the Select Committee and they would have to be brought before this House to be approved. One would wish to see the Bill which the noble Lord is thinking of introducing, but it might be helpful to all of us if we had discussions beforehand on how best to deal with it.
Perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Aldington that it seems to me that flexibility is the order of the day in these matters. Referring back to the previous point, I gave an undertaking that we would approach the matter flexibly and that still stands, notwithstanding the result of the vote.