HC Deb 15 January 1996 vol 269 cc406-7
39. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Lord President of the Council what assessment he has made of the operation of the Standing Orders governing composition of Committees. [7481]

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

I believe that the Standing Orders in general are operating satisfactorily, although some concerns have been expressed about the operation of Standing Order No. 86 in relation to a Standing Committee on a Welsh Bill. If the hon. Gentleman has some particular cause for concern, perhaps he could let me know.

Mr. Winnick

Standing Order No. 86 mentions the composition of Committees in relation to the House. Is it not a fact that the Government's overall majority has been reduced from 21 after the general election to just three now? Given that the Government's majority will be still less soon, even without further defections and the effect of Lady Thatcher's speech last week, why do the Government not do what the country desperately wants, and call an early general election now?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman may recall that the House spent some time on 11 January 1995 debating the interpretation of Standing Order No. 86 in particular circumstances. Beyond that, even the hon. Gentleman's wishful thinking will not have led him to expect me to comment on such a hypothesis.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in relation to Committees, what is most offensive is the behaviour of those Members who get elected on one ticket and then switch to another without being willing to fight a by-election? The electorate of Torridge and West Devon want such a by-election.

Mr. Newton

I have heard that view expressed in a number of quarters.