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European Parliamentarians (Facilities)

Volume 978: debated on Monday 11 February 1980

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42.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress has been made on the question of the provision of facilities in the Palace of Westminster for Members of the European Parliament.

44.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the latest position over the representations being made for facilities in the Palace of Westminster for Members of the European Assembly.

45.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress has been made in considering the proposal to provide facilities in the Palace of Westminster for Members of the European Parliament.

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to be able to announce a decision on the question of the use of the facilities of the House by Members of the European Parliament.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. St. John-Stevas)

I have nothing at present to add to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) on 14 January.

That is acceptable as far as it goes. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, however desirable increased liaison between the Members of the European Parliament and Members of this House may be, so long as facilities in the House are so grossly inadequate for existing Members it would be intolerable to give facilities to another 81 Members of Parliament and their wives, friends, families and secretaries. If such a proposition were to be put to the House on a free vote, there would be an overwhelming majority against it.

I am sorry to have given such ableak reply to the hon. Gentleman, but it seems to have provoked him nevertheless. I cannot agree with his thesis. If it were a question of offering accommodation to Members of the European Parliament there would be something in what he said, but that is not the issue. He cannot extend from that to the general thesis that no access and no facilities should be granted to Members of the European Parliament. The Services Committee is considering the matter, and I hope that it will put forward reasonable recommendations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the continued opposition to any proposal that facilities of the House of Commons should be given to people who are not elected to the United Kingdom Parliament? It is not simply a matter of accommodation. It is a constitutional question.

I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's views, but other views are held in the House. It is important that we should not go forward in a doctrinaire manner—though one may call it constitutional if one's doctrine is concerned—but should try to be as reasonable and courteous as possible.

On this difficult matter, would it not be better to keep out Members of the European Assembly, on the ground that

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder"?

I think that a modicum of presence could lead to happy relations between the two Parliaments, and I hope that my hon. Friend will take his normal civilised, reasonable attitude to this matter.