§ Q1. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Prime Minister whether he will take steps with a view to the appointment of an official, equivalent in status to the Comptroller and Auditor General, to serve the Estimates Committee.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I think that such an appointment would be a matter for Parliament rather than for the Government. It is a question which has been considered in the past, and the possibility will no doubt be considered by the Select Committee on Procedure which the Government will be proposing the House should appoint in the near future.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Does my right hon. Friend recognise the importance of increasing the power and effectiveness of the control of the Legislature over the Executive? As in recent weeks he has rightly strengthened the power and the effectiveness of the Executive, to the extent that he does not do something similar for the Legislature he is increasing the gulf between the two. Does he regard that as wholly desirable?
§ The Prime Minister
As a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I can say that my hon. Friend is preaching to the converted on this matter. The whole House will be aware of the tremendously increased impact of the Select Committee on Estimates in the last two or three years and of the very valuable work done in that Committee by the appointment of members of the Clerks' staff to work on that Committee. However, this is still an open question and I would have thought that the right place to consider it would be the Select Committee on Procedure.
§ Mr. Peyton
Will the Prime Minister look at this again and instead of sitting 1186 on the fence come down on one side or the other and lend his support to his hon. Friend's proposal? Does he not realise that it is high time that the balance of power, which has shifted against the House of Commons in favour of the Executive, was redressed? It lies in his hands to help and he is not doing so.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not aware of any diminution in the powers of the Legislature, the Public Accounts Committee, or the Estimates Committee. If the hon. Member is saying that the balance of power has shifted because there is a more effective Government, that is for him to say and not me.