HL Deb 29 July 1998 vol 592 cc1510-1
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

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

Moved, That the Second Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 133) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I wish to express my regret that the Liaison Committee in its recent consideration of possible subjects for ad hoc Select Committees has decided for administrative reasons that the inquiry which I had proposed into our overseas trade should not be undertaken now, but reconsidered at some later date. If ever there was an issue which I feel should be considered for parliamentary scrutiny at the present time, it is this one. The latest trade figures showing a major adverse balance, the difficulties of the Rover company, the recently published CBI trends survey, the trends survey of the Engineering Employers' Federation, and the views expressed by the TUC and many other organisations suggest that there is deep unease about the situation affecting our overseas trade. I regret therefore that we shall not use the clear knowledge and experience in this House to look at this urgent issue. If we are not to do so, I very much hope that will be done in another place because I feel that this is a matter which deserves urgent parliamentary scrutiny.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I quite understand the disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, that at this stage your Lordships' Liaison Committee did not find it possible to recommend that an ad hoc committee should be set up straightaway on this matter. However, I ought to tell your Lordships that the committee regarded this proposal as a powerful one, as indeed it did the proposal which it is recommending to your Lordships for an ad hoc committee on monetary policy. The Liaison Committee was torn between those two powerfully advocated proposals. It was not divided, but it was torn between those two proposals. However, it was unanimous in its decision.

Perhaps I may bring a certain amount of comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra. As your Lordships will have appreciated from the report before the House, the matter is to be returned to in the autumn. I received a substantial number of recommendations for the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, not only from within your Lordships' House but also from organisations outside. Those who wrote to me were in the main leading people from those organisations. Therefore it has not escaped the attention of the committee that this was a powerful proposal.

The only other point I wish to add is the following. While I am sure your Lordships and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, will appreciate that I am not in the circumstances able to give any guarantee, I have no doubt whatever that when the Liaison Committee reviews these matters in the autumn, although it will have to do so in the light of any other proposals which have emerged in that time, it will return to this proposal with some sympathy. I shall also ensure—Members of the committee will have already appreciated this—that the additional comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, are borne firmly in mind.

On Question, Motion agreed to.