asked the Prime Minister when he expects to complete talks with the leaders of the Opposition on the establishment of the proposed new specialist committees; and when such committees can be expected to start functioning.
I have as yet nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 5th May to a similar Question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the talks have begun, or whether proposals have been put to the Opposition? Can he further indicate whether these committees will be fully operative, staffed, and manned, before the end of this Session?
The talks have not begun, and the responsibility for this lies entirely with us, because we are going in some depth into the issues which have been raised, and are considering suggestions which have been made since the debate on the Gracious Speech.The strengthening of staffs is something to which we are giving a lot of thought, and we hope to be ready to talk to Opposition leaders in the very near future.
Is the Prime Minister aware that it is now three weeks to the day since he announced in his speech on the Address that he was going to ask us to take part in consultations—and of course we welcome these proposals—but so far there has not even been a suggestion as to when the discussions might start? Does not this indicate that this was again an ill-thought-out proposal by the Prime Minister, put into his speech to cover the barrenness of the Queen's Speech?
I should have thought that that was rather a churlish approach to this problem. I am aware of the date calculations which the right hon. Gentleman has worked out for himself, but it is the fact that when the talks start we should have these things worked out in some detail. There has not been very much time since the election, which occupied us all quite considerably, to work out new proposals for the new Parliament. There has been very little time in which to do that, and I thought it right to get the matter aired during the debate on the Address.