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Select Committee Reports

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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33.

To ask the Lord Privy Seal if he will make it his policy to ensure that all Select Committee reports are the subject of timely and substantive motions in the House.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) on 23 November. With regard to debating all Select Committee reports, I remind the hon. Gentleman that since 1979 there have been more than 500 reports from departmental Select Committees alone.

Should there not be a Select Committee to shadow the Department of the Attorney-General, which would give us an opportunity to have an informed debate, not only on the injunctions on the BBC, which should attract timely and informed parliamentary comment, but on the position of Mr. Charles Elwell? Is it not extremely unsatisfactory that a party committee, albeit the distinguished defence committee of the Conservative party, should invite a former security officer to Parliament? What does the right hon. Gentleman think about that?

The hon. Gentleman's latter point is not a matter for me, but I understand that the invitation is not being pursued. The other matters mentioned by the hon. Gentleman have been decided by the whole House, and I have no plans to make any changes.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Department of the Environment still has to reply to a report on "Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments", published on 18 February last, a report on the "Property Services Agency" published on 8 April last, and a report on "Pollution of Rivers and Estuaries", published on 14 May last? We have been given various excuses, such as an impending general election and the non-reappointment of the Select Committee. Does my right hon. Friend regard those replies as satisfactory? Will he ensure that the convention that Command Papers are placed before the House within three months of the publication of a report is adhered to in the future, and may we have a debate on those papers?

I shall certainly refer my hon. Friend's points to the Ministers concerned. Select Committees are entitled to replies to their reports, and in the majority of cases that has already been done. There is always pressure on time for debates, but I will do my best.

Does the Leader of the House have any plans to have discussions with the broadcasting authorities which deal with broadcasts from the House to ascertain what would happen if, during debates from Select Committees, including the Privileges Committee, references were made to people who had at some time been members of the security services?

From time to time I have discussions with broadcasting officials, and these matters may come up.

The Leader of the House will know that I am anxious that we should debate pretty soon the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on Boundary Commission changes. The changes are already beginning for local government re-warding, and if we are not careful it will be too late to do something. It was an excellent report, and many hon. Members believe that the time has come to change the procedures of the Boundary Commission. But we can do nothing until we debate the report.

I know of the right hon. Gentleman's concern about such matters. I have already discussed the report with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who will have a word with the right hon. Gentleman. As a result of those discussions, we shall decide how best to proceed.