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The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman has probably never met either of those gentlemen. He has certainly never sat and negotiated with them. He has certainly not sat round the table reaching decisions with them. He has certainly not met them in bilaterals time after time after time. The right hon. Gentleman should either speak about things about which he knows or say nothing.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister give us his assurance that any candidate approved by the British Government for the Presidency will pass the test of being in favour of Britain's opt-outs on the social chapter and the single currency and against a further move towards a united states of Europe ?

The Prime Minister : We have those opt outs and we intend to retain those opt outs, so the position of the new President on those is not especially relevant. I shall repeat the point that I made a moment ago. I shall look at each candidate for the Presidency on their individual virtues and make a judgment on that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Would the Prime Minister help the House on a question of straightforward

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fact ? Is it true or is it untrue that, as reported in the press, his Chief Whip told him that if he did not exercise the veto he would be opposed this autumn for the leadership of his own party ?

The Prime Minister : I can tell the hon. Gentleman categorically that no such conversation took place and no such advice was received.

Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham) : Is not it important to the future of the European Union that proper consultation between member countries should take place before the summit meetings ? How can it otherwise be the case that two well recognised figures, both eminently qualified--Dr. Lubbers and Sir Leon Brittan--were bypassed by a secret conclave between the French and the Germans at Mulhouse ? That cannot be a satisfactory way in which to proceed, and it would be a bad day for this country and for the European Union if it were.

The Prime Minister : I agree with my right hon. Friend in what he says, and I have every expectation now that there will be a proper consultation over the next few weeks and that a satisfactory candidate, who will be accepted by all, will then emerge.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Is the Prime Minister aware that, when all the clamour has died down and the flag-waving has ended, in a quieter period, he and others will have to make a choice about who is going to get the job ? It would be fair if I were to ask him if he will he give a guarantee to the House that he will veto each and every federalist who is put up for that job.

The Prime Minister : If that was a job application, I would certainly veto the hon. Gentleman. I repeat the commitment that I gave the House a moment or so ago. I will consider every candidate on his merits, and I will not bind myself beyond that consideration.

Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey) : In stating my full support for my right hon. Friend's cool, determined and far-sighted representation of our country in Corfu, may I invite him to garner support and strength from the fact that the British people instinctively understand that the so-called European Union is increasingly in danger of becoming the latest vehicle for the age-old German desire to dominate Europe so that those who really have the interests of a democratic Europe of co-operating nation states at heart will need to work a good deal more effectively after Corfu to bring that about ?

The Prime Minister : I believe that the Community is a collection of nation states, the voices of all of which need to be taken seriously and considered. There is no doubt that the Community must reach its decisions collectively and that no individual nation should have excessive influence.

Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool) : Does the Prime Minister accept that I am familiar with the European views of Dr. Lubbers ? Will he tell the House precisely how Dr. Lubbers's views on the future development of Europe differ from those of Mr. Dehaene ?

The Prime Minister : Well, he is a free trader for a start. I think that that is rather important. He is much more in

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favour of subsidiarity and deregulation. He is not in favour of extra expenditure ; and he is an Atlanticist. Would the hon. Gentleman like a longer list ?

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, no matter how he had voted on the Presidency, he would still have had the niggling criticisms from the Opposition Benches ? Does he accept that to put the interests of Britain first has to be the aim of any British Prime Minister ? Does he agree that it is wrong for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to make the statement that we have no influence at all in Europe unless we go along with plans that have been pre -arranged between Germany and France ?

The Prime Minister : That certainly is the practical effect of what has been said by the Front-Bench Members of both the Labour party and the Liberal Democrat party. It is all very well saying that we seek co- operation and that a difficult circumstance would never arise so we would never have to use the veto. I am afraid that that is to live in cloud cuckoo land.

The reality is that from time to time, for very good reasons, there are matters in which every nation state finds itself at odds with its European partners. In those circumstances, unless the veto is maintained on matters which may be of vital interest to this country, we would inevitably have to follow the views of others, with no escape route whatever for the British. That is not an acceptable position to the present Government. I regret very much that it is acceptable to the Opposition and to the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : As the relevant article requires common accord, is there not a duty on all members involved to avoid action that could create common discord ? The Prime Minister has told us that the customary procedures of consultation were not carried out on this occasion. If they had been, and bearing in mind the support that Dr. Lubbers had from a number of other countries, is it not likely that we would have had Dr. Lubbers as the President of the Commission ?

The Prime Minister : I think that is quite possible.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that four nations which did not have a vote in Corfu will warmly welcome the stand that he took on the question of the successor as President of the Commission ? They are Austria and the three Scandinavian countries, which do not want to join a European Union on 1 January that is dominated by a French and German axis. Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that the House is deeply disappointed that he has not released the remaining quotations from the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), the Leader of the Opposition ? In order that we may be aware of the principles of the Labour leadership on Europe, perhaps my right hon. Friend will release one a day for the next eight days.

The Prime Minister : There might well be occasions when it would be appropriate to release some of the others.

I very much believe that it is vital for Europe that the French-German reconciliation continues. All of us who look over a period of years believe that to be entirely right. I very much hope to see that continue and that the close relationship between France and Germany itself will

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continue. Equally, we ourselves both seek and now enjoy a close relationship with both those countries and our other European partners. That close relationship does not mean accord on every subject ; nor would it ever be likely to be the case with nations of such varied interests. But we seek a common accord wherever we can and we seek the best relationship not only with France and Germany but with France and Germany and our fellow partners in the European Union.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood) : What accommodation does the Prime Minister anticipate will be reached between the Turkish and Greek communities in Cyprus to enable Cyprus to be admitted as a member of the Community ?

The Prime Minister : It is a considerable way off before Cyprus is likely to be admitted as a member of the Community. Certainly, if the dispute between the north and south is unresolved, it will be extremely difficult for Cyprus to be admitted to the Community. What we have said is that we will look at that and consider the case in the next phase of enlargement--that is certainly some years away. But I share a view that I think the hon. Gentleman would accept : first, we must continue with the United Nations' efforts to try to find a satisfactory accommodation to the long-standing problem of Cyprus. We have, for example, had British troops there now for nearly 30 years, and other United Nations countries for a similar period, so we will continue to seek that accommodation. Secondly, although this is not yet a matter discussed with our European partners, clearly we hope that that dispute will be resolved before it is possible for Cyprus to become a member of the European Union.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the importance to the Belgian economy of the presence of European institutions in Brussels, it makes it doubly imperative that any Belgian candidate for the Presidency should receive the unequivocal support of all member states ?

The Prime Minister : I believe that any candidate needs the unequivocal support of all 12 member states. I have no doubt that there are men of talent in each of the European countries--all 12 of them--who could perhaps serve as President of the Commission. It is not the nationality of the candidate that I consider relevant ; it is the attributes that the candidate has.

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Point of Order

4.26 pm

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It arises out of Welsh questions when the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) referred to my constituency of Cynon Valley and the housing situation there. Not only did he not tell me beforehand that he would raise the matter ; he also made a grossly misleading statement which I hope he will correct. He is not known for his courtesy in the House, but I hope that you, Madam Speaker, will point out to him the error of his ways.

Madam Speaker : That is not a point of order for me to deal with. Of course, the hon. Lady can use the Order Paper--I am sure that she knows her way round it--by means of questions or an early-day motion in order to correct the statement.


Public Conveniences (No. 2)


Mr. Jon Owen Jones, supported by Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mrs. Ann Winterton, Mr. Harry Greenway, Mr. Peter Viggers, Mr. Ian McCartney, Ms Jean Corston, Mrs. Mildred Gordon, Mr. Andrew Smith, Ms Marjorie Mowlam, Mr. Simon Hughes and Ms Liz Lynne, presented a Bill to secure a uniform provision of public lavatories by local authorities throughout the United Kingdom ; to set certain minimum standards for such public lavatories ; to require the provision of lavatories designed for persons with disabilities and the provision of nappy changing facilities ; to make unlawful any discriminatory charging in respect of the use of local authority public lavatories ; to make further provision in respect of turnstiles ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 1 July, and to be printed. [Bill 128.]

Statutory Instruments, &c.

Madam Speaker : With permission, I shall put together the motions relating to statutory instruments.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(3) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.) ,

Fees and Charges


That the draft Seed Potatoes (Fees) (Scotland) Order 1994 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

International Immunities and Privileges

-- That the draft European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1994 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. MacKay.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 96 (Scottish estimates),

That the Estimates set out hereunder be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee :


Class XIV                                 |Vote 7                                   |Housing and environmental services,                                                

                                                                                    |  Scotland                                                                         

Class XIV                                 |Vote 8                                   |Local environmental services and housing,                                          

                                                                                    |  Scotland.                                                                        

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Class XIV                                 |Vote 13                                  |Family health services (part), Scotland                                            

Class XIV                                 |Vote 14                                  |Hospital, community health, family health                                          

                                                                                    |  (part) and other health services,                                                

                                                                                    |  Scotland.-[Mr. MacKay.]                                                          

Question agreed to.

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Select Committees (Role)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn-- [Mr. MacKay.]

[Relevant documents : The Second Report from the Select Committee on Procedure of Session 1989-90 (HC 19), on The Working of the Select Committee System, and the Government response (Cm. 1532.)]

4.27 pm

Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing) : I greatly welcome this opportunity to debate the role of Select Committees. It is 15 years almost to the day-- the actual anniversary was last weekend--since the House approved a motion for reforming its Select Committee system and establishing departmental Select Committees to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the various Government Departments. At that time, Norman St. John-Stevas, who was much involved in these affairs, said that it could constitute the most important parliamentary reform of the century. While that may have seemed a little over the top at the time, none the less there is some justification for saying that it has made a substantial difference to our procedures, and in many ways has been a considerable success. It is almost four years since the Select Committee on Procedure reported on the working of the Select Committee system. The House should be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and that Committee for the report which they produced after taking a great deal of evidence from all those who were concerned about these matters. The Government replied formally to the points raised in the Procedure Committee's report, but it is rather extraordinary that we have had to wait four years for an opportunity to debate it.

The Committee reached the conclusion that the departmental Committee system as a whole had proved itself a valuable and cost-effective addition to the House's ability to perform its proper function of holding Ministers to account. Certainly I believe that, in that respect, it has been a considerable success.

Looking back over the past 15 years to when the change was made and a new Administration came in under the then Mrs. Thatcher, it is strange to reflect that her most lasting contribution to political events may not have been the Falklands war or the miners' strike or even--in the light of what was said a few moments ago--her battles with various members of the EC, but the introduction of the departmental Select Committee system. That may be something of an irony, but nonetheless I think it is interesting.

I recall that some distinguished Members at the time--Michael Foot, Enoch Powell and others--said that we would draw attention away from the Floor of House were we to establish such a system. I do not believe that that has been the case. It is certainly the case that some Members have difficulty being both on the Floor of House and in Committee at the same time. The reality is that that there are no fewer than four Committees sitting at this moment whose Members are therefore unable to be with us this afternoon.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North) : I just wish to correct a factual mistake by the right hon. Gentleman. Enoch Powell was a member of the Select Committee of

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1976 which proposed the system of departmental Select Committees and, while he took some persuading, he came out in favour of that. He was a supporter of that idea.

Sir Terence Higgins : Enoch Powell certainly was a supporter of the idea, but he had some qualms that it would affect the Floor of the House. I do not believe that that has been the case. The crucial thing is that the system has greatly improved the ability of the House to hold Ministers to account. For many years, power seemed to be shifting from the House of Commons towards the Executive. That was reversed.

We all know that, at Question Time on the Floor of the House--not least because the questions change from moment to moment--it can be very difficult to pin a Minister down. It is also very often the case that, during a winding-up speech, a Minister will have little difficulty in avoiding the more difficult questions which have been put to him. It is a different ball game in exchanges in front of a Select Committee, where a Minister can be questioned for two hours or more. If the Minister is clearly on weak ground, the Committee can make that clear.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Can the right hon. Gentleman think of any examples off the top of his head when, on a crunch issue--an issue that really matters--a Minister has been held to account ? I sat there when Leon Brittan, who has been much mentioned this afternoon, came before the Trade and Industry Select Committee on the crunch issue of Westland, and I realised how feeble the Select Committee' powers were.

Sir Terence Higgins : That is the exception which may prove the rule. The reality at that time was that it was difficult to pursue matters to a conclusion, and I think that that was an exception. In many other cases, it has been possible to pursue Ministers very effectively--not least, for example, on the Treasury Select Committee.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) : My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked for an example of someone being held to account, and Professor Joad would ask what we meant by "being held to account". It is noticeable that the person mentioned by my hon. Friend is not now a Member of this House.

Sir Terence Higgins : That may be the case.

May I also make an important point suggested during the rather excellent debate on procedure which we had only last week : that the House would be very different if it sat in a semi-circle, rather than in confrontation across the Floor of the House. I believe that current design of the Chamber is undoubtedly the right set-up. There is no doubt, however, that the semi- circular arrangement in Select Committees, where witnesses appear before an all-party group, has created an effective forum. That is especially clear, for example, on television.

It is also extraordinary that Select Committees seem to reach unanimous conclusions and publish unanimous reports, which never seems to happen on the Floor of the House. In the past 15 years, one of the undoubted strengths of the system has been the fact that Select Committees have published unanimous reports, across party lines. Those reports have correspondingly had a greater influence than would have been the case if those Committees had simply divided on party lines.

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Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : Does my right hon. Friend also agree that it was extremely wise of the Select Committee on Broadcasting to insist that Select Committees, rather than merely the Chamber should be broadcast on television ? As a result, although the public regard what goes on in the Chamber with some cynicism and contempt, they are greatly impressed by the work of those Select Committees.

Sir Terence Higgins : My hon. Friend has made a good point. In common with all hon. Members, I have received letters from constituents complaining about the behaviour during Prime Minister's Question Time, which is what most people watch on television. In contrast, I have received a number of letters from those who watch the affairs of Select Committees on television. They believe that those Committees provide a much more in- depth, civilised and sophisticated approach to dealing with political issues. That is extremely important to the standing of the House.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke) : Will the right hon. Member give way ?

Sir Terence Higgins : I shall gladly give way later.

Apart from holding Ministers to account, Select Committees have given officials a much higher profile than before. They are now subject to more stringent scrutiny than that which they may receive from their Ministers, who might be preoccupied with a great many other issues.

The role of the Liaison Select Committee

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East) : Will the right hon. Member give way ?

Sir Terence Higgins : Let me make a little progress, please. The Liaison Select Committee normally meets in private and rarely publishes reports, so its work is not generally understood. It has the important role of co-ordinating the work of the various Select Committees and resolving difficulties between them.

I have had the privilege of chairing that Committee for seven years, and it is surprising to note that I have co-operated and worked with no fewer than six different Leaders of the House. I seem to have survived in my position rather better than they have. Every one of them has been a great supporter of the Select Committee system. On the whole, the interface between the Liaison Committee and Government has worked remarkably well. I have also enjoyed similarly successful discussions with and co-operation from the Opposition, which is important.

There are problems of co-ordination from time to time--for example, because of the overlap between the work of the Public Accounts Committee and a departmental committee, when covering the same ground. Problems have also arisen about getting information from the Government, particularly when it is classified or confidential. We have, however, worked out a reasonable modus vivendi.

I should like to comment, on an all-party basis, on the role of the Whips in Select Committees, which I believe should be limited. I recognise that, if we are to have a Government majority on each Committee, while ensuring that some of those Committees are chaired by Opposition Members, that can be achieved only by consultation through the usual channels.

That system has worked pretty well on the whole, but I

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believe that, once the chairmanship of Committees has been agreed at the beginning of a Parliament--always a difficult task--the actual election of those Chairmen should be left to the Committees themselves. I have become concerned about the role of the Whips, for two reasons.

First, in the debate that took place on 13 July 1993, the view was clearly expressed that there was a rule that Committee Chairmen should not serve more than a certain length of time. I believe that there is no such rule, and that it was invented by the Select Committee on Selection at the time. It was absurd to suggest that such a rule applied only to one side of the House. I hope that we shall hear no more of that rule. On the other hand, we would not want to end up with a seniority rule such as exists in the United States. I say all that with no personal interest, because I had already decided that I should not continue as Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee. I hope that a similar case, in which the hand of the Whips is clearly discernible, will not arise in future.

Similarly--as Chairman of an all-party Committee, it is appropriate that I be even-handed--I was deeply concerned about the events of recent months when restrictions on travel by the Opposition Whips inhibited Committees' work. That was totally counter-productive. Committees were not just prevented from travelling abroad, but the Education Committee, for example, was prevented from travelling around the country to visit schools. The Opposition's idea that that would annoy the Government was ridiculous. I hope that we can treat it as a one-off event. It is important that Committees established to serve the House should be able to operate in an uninhibited manner.

Mr. Faulds : In case my earlier "Hear, hears" were not recorded, I stand simply to put it on the record that I thought that the nonsense a few months ago was absolutely ridiculous, and typical of some of the rather raddled minds of the Whips. I strongly endorse the comments which the right hon. Gentleman has just made.

Sir Terence Higgins : It is clear from the expression on the face of the Opposition Whip that the hon. Gentleman's views have been duly noted.

May I say a word about overseas travel ? Some of the comments that have appeared in the press are entirely misplaced. We operate on a budget which, compared to those of other countries, is extremely limited. The Liaison Committee seeks to deal with the matter stringently, so that we get value for money. In its report, the Procedure Committee suggested that there should be a sub-committee of non-travelling members on the Liaison Committee. At least we have moved some way in that direction.

I was originally elected as Chairman of the Liaison Committee because I was serving on that Committee and had a base, in that I was also Chairman of the Treasury Committee. In this Parliament, the view was taken that it was a conflict of interests if the Chairman of the Liaison Committee also held the chairmanship of another Committee. So it was decided that the Chairman of the Liaison Committee should not have a base Committee. That is the position in which I now find myself. It follows that I do not travel overseas with Select Committees, and can be impartial.

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I strongly stress that travel proposals are examined stringently. Anyone who has been on one of those visits knows that they are hard work and of value to the Committees concerned.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman. I have sat under his chairmanship and believe that he is an extremely impartial, hard-working and intelligent Chairman of the Liaison Committee.

Will he emphasise strongly that, despite its best endeavours, the Liaison Committee is so mean with Parliament's money that Select Committees have to rush across time zones with little respect for the work which they are supposed to carry out ? I have been on Select Committees on three occasions when insufficient time was allowed to members physically to recover from the travel which they were expected to do. That is damaging, and I hope that it will be taken into account in future.

Sir Terence Higgins : I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the commercial at the beginning of her intervention. Clearly we must strike a balance on those matters, and I hope that we do so as far as possible, taking account of the important point which she has just made.

The House may not be fully aware of an interesting development that has occurred largely at the initiative of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. It has carried out an experiment on so-called "video conferencing", whereby, instead of travelling overseas, a video conference links the Committee with witnesses abroad. It raises some technical problems with regard to the evidence that is taken, the procedure of the House and questions of costs. None the less, we must examine it to see whether it enables Committees to take evidence from people overseas without the expense of them coming here, or the expense and time consumed by colleagues going overseas. That development may not commend itself to everyone, but it is well worth considering. We shall need to take careful account of the implications for the formal procedures of the House.

The other formal duty of the Liaison Committee concerns the selection of estimates days, of which we have three a year or, in practice now, six half days a year. I wish to disagree with the report of the Procedure Committee, because it suggested that those estimates days should be replaced by days for debate on Select Committee reports generally.

Estimates days are the only occasion when the House can debate the detail of public expenditure. They were introduced because the House was in an absurd position, with literally no opportunity to debate the detail of public expenditure. Although, to some extent, estimates days are a little artificial as, under Standing Orders, the House is allowed to debate only a reduction in public expenditure and not an increase, they provide an important opportunity for it to study the detail.

It is important that Committees' terms of reference say clearly that they are responsible for looking at the expenditure, policy and administration of the Departments concerned. No one who serves on Select Committees could doubt that the first of those

items--expenditure--is not dealt with as thoroughly as the other two. The reason is largely technical. The form of the estimates is scanty, consisting of bare titles and figures, and Committees have found them difficult to assess.

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Over the years, and since I left the Chair, the Treasury Committee has been assiduous in looking at the form of those estimates, and we have gradually seen the development of the departmental Select Committee reports, which incorporate much of the information that used to appear in the raw state in the estimates. Technically, it is important to have estimates days, but the new departmental reports provide Committees of the House with a real opportunity to study expenditure in a broader framework, and to deal with the merits of the case.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : Will my right hon. Friend take into account the fact that, in proposing subjects for debate that were not concerned with the estimates, on a number of occasions Committees put in rather fallacious factors about estimates, so that they could come forward, on an estimates day, and have those debated ? I do not disagree with my right hon. Friend about the need to ensure that estimates can be debated, but, equally, an important Select Committee report that is not concerned with estimates should not be ruled out from debate because it does not deal with estimates.

Sir Terence Higgins : I entirely take my right hon. Friend's point. I suggest that we retain the estimates days, but also have an opportunity each year for a certain number of debates on departmental reports and the expenditure described in them, on the basis of the reports from the various Select Committees. Perhaps, as with the estimates days, the choice of which reports to debate should be left to the Liaison Committee.

This year, a "unified Budget" has been introduced--but it is a myth. It is not really a unified Budget. We have always debated public expenditure and taxation together, in the autumn statement and during the Budget debate. Nothing has been gained in that respect. However, there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of time that the House has for debating economic affairs.

Instead of the autumn statement and the public expenditure White Paper in the spring, and the Budget running through until August, we are now down to a single event each year.

At the moment, we spend nearly all our time debating taxation, not public expenditure. With a unified Budget, insteadof having more debate on public expenditure and therefore bringing the two sides together, we now have even less time for debating public expenditure.

I say to the Leader of the House that there has been a considerable saving in Government time as a result of the so-called unified Budget. I believe that a reasonable amount of that time ought now to be allocated to the debates on the Select Committee reports on the public expenditure described in the annual reports of the Departments.

The third leg of this argument, which emerges very clearly from discussions in the Liaison Committee, is that time is needed to debate other Select Committee reports. Some Committees, such as the Defence Committee, have set opportunities during the year for doing so ; the Treasury Committee also, although on the limited basis that I have described, has a regular opportunity for doing so ; many of the reports are "tagged", as the expression is, so that they can be used in debates on specific subjects, but still no regular time is available to debate the reports of Select Committees in general. We need a separate allocation for

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that, which would reflect the growing importance of the Committees and the growing respect in which they are held.

I shall briefly mention one or two subjects before concluding--one, mentioned in the Procedure Committee report, concerns Standing Order No. 116 and the issue of advanced copies of reports. There have been some problems about that. I know that one of the Committees, whose Chairman is unable to be here this afternoon, is concerned about it. I hope that we could amend the Standing Order to two sitting days instead of 48 hours. That would enable Committees, in exceptional circumstances, not to publish reports before the weekend, but to release them on an embargo basis and publish them on the Monday. I hope that it will be possible to do that.

The Procedure Committee has dealt adequately with powers. Committees have very great powers to require the production of persons and papers, but those powers do not extend to the summoning of Members of this House or Members of the House of Lords. I think that that is right. The Procedure Committee rightly draws attention to the fact that, although there was a slight problem with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) some time ago, it is unlikely that anyone will refuse to give evidence if they are asked to do so by a Select Committee. The Government have adhered to their promise to ensure that Ministers do.

It is true that we may not summon Members of the House of Lords, although I was rather surprised at the comments of Lady Thatcher, who was invited recently to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee, saying that she was not prepared to do so, as an ex-Prime Minister. She was entitled to say that she would not appear as a Member of the House of Lords, but to my knowledge no similar rule extends to ex-Prime Ministers. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) and Lord Callaghan have, I think, appeared before Select Committees.

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