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Central Policy Review Staff

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 11 March 1975

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asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint an expert on parliamentary government to the Central Policy Review Staff.

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) on 6th March.

Is it not time that an expert took a long, hard look at some of the existing parliamentary anomalies, such as the "usual channels ", appointments by the Whips' Office to Select Committees, and the bad old continuing practice of appointing only one woman to Committees, and so on? Should not such a person come up with a reform which allows democratic worker participation in the running of the House? Is it not nonsense that although we rank as Members of Parliament for worker participation in industry, we accept such churlish and unsatisfactory situations for ourselves as back benchers?

I should hate to inflict on the Central Policy Review Staff a "long, hard look" at the "usual channels ". This is not a matter for the review staff. It is certainly a matter for the Procedure Committee. If my hon. Friend would care to come and discuss the matter with me, I should be happy to talk to her. I think we are arriving at a point where in a Session of Parliament in the near future the Procedure Committee could examine our procedure depth.

In addition to taking such an expert look at these anomalies— I have the utmost sympathy with the point made by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun)— does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that since two new Parliaments are about to be set up we shall require two such experts, and that because of those new Parliaments it may be necessary to eliminate some of the anomalies?

I hope that before very long two elected assemblies will be set up in the United Kingdom. I also hope that they will profit from the very long experience of this Parliament.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that an expert on parliamentary government, whether or not he is a member of the CPRS, would be able to explain that a referendum on the Common Market or on anything else can only be consultative, and not binding? Would it not be helpful for that to be made clear to the public as a whole?

The House will debate that subject today. I have said before, as has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that the referendum is not binding on Parliament. It cannot be. The Government have agreed that they will accept the result of the referendum. It will be binding on the Government.