HL Deb 16 November 1995 vol 567 cc22-4

3.5 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

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

In moving the Motion, I should like to offer your Lordships profuse apologies and add my gratitude to the noble Lord who pointed out to me that, unfortunately, there are three spelling errors in the Motion on the Order Paper whereby the word "committees" in lines 1, 2 and 5 has been spelt with only one "t" instead of two. I hope that your Lordships will not feel that that alters the sense of the Motion.

Moved, That in accordance with Standing Order 62 a Committee of Selection be appointed to select and propose to the House the names of the Lords to form each Select Committee of the House (except the Committee of Selection itself and any committee otherwise provided for by statute or by order of the House) or any other body not being a Select Committee referred to it by the Chairman of Committees, and the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees; and that the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the Committee—

  • V. Allenby of Megiddo,
  • V. Cranborne (L. Privy Seal),
  • L. Denham,
  • L. Graham of Edmonton,
  • L. Harris of Greenwich,
  • L. Jenkins of Hillhead,
  • L. Moms of Castle Morris,
  • L. Richard,
  • L. Strathclyde,
  • L. Weatherill.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I trust that it is in order for me to welcome the new Committee of Selection as proposed and to raise one aspect of its work very briefly. I refer, as some noble Lords have done in the past, to the composition of your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities and its five regular sub-committees.

As noble Lords will know, the primary duty of your Lordships' European Communities Committee is to scrutinise and report on legislation from Brussels. The point that I want to make again, if I may do so without trying the patience of your Lordships' House too much, is that the varying degrees of enthusiasm, or lack of it, for legislation which flows from Brussels do not follow party lines in your Lordships' House.

I know that it is a far from perfect yardstick but I still feel that the best indication of opinion in your Lordships' House about our involvement in Europe remains the referendum vote of 14th July 1993 when 445 of your Lordships voted against a referendum and 176 voted in favour. So some 28 per cent. of noble Lords who voted—or nearly a third—felt that the Maastricht Treaty was of sufficient importance to be put to the people. I am aware that some of the 176 were in fact in favour of the treaty—not many, I believe, but some. On the other hand, it was not exactly a free vote for either of the main parties. As I said, it is not a perfect yardstick but it is perhaps the best that we have.

Be that as it may, at the moment there is only one Member on your Lordships' European Communities Committee who supported a referendum out of a full complement of perhaps 20. There are six vacancies.

Turning briefly to the five regular sub-committees, it is my understanding that in effect it is the chairmen of the Select Committee and of those five sub-committees who decide which noble Lords to invite to join the sub-committees, where most of the work is done.

I have had the privilege of serving on your Lordships' European Communities Committee for four years. I should not want to be understood as saying anything to detract from the quality of your Lordships' Select Committee reports, which are justly famous in Europe. Indeed, it is probably not going too far to say that they are the most respected reports on the European scene. Nor would I want to say anything against any of the chairmen under whom I have served and for whom I have the very greatest respect. That is especially true of the noble Lords, Lord Boston of Faversham and Lord Tordoff. I only hope that what I have said may be of help to the deliberations of the Committee of Selection in the next few days.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, as, I am sure, is the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, my noble friend Lord Tordoff, for his kind, personal remarks.

Perhaps I should say first that I am sure that, generally speaking, considerations of balance are always borne in mind in the course of the consultations that always take place before we approach matters of this kind within the usual channels and elsewhere. I am sure too that those considerations of balance are always brought to mind by Members of your Lordships' House who serve on the Committee of Selection.

Perhaps I may add a point that from time to time has been raised, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, will know, within the European Communities Committee of your Lordships' House. In accordance with your Lordships' customary practice in the course of the scrutiny work undertaken by the committee and its sub-committees, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said, your Lordships always bring to bear an independence of view. Your Lordships probably regard that as the fundamental approach to take in the work of Select Committees, not excluding this one. I hope that that helps to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Pearson.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, the Question is whether the Motion, as corrected, be agreed to.

On Question, Motion agreed to.