Orders of the Day — House of Commons (Administration) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 1978.

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Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby 12:00 am, 12th April 1978

Southwark or Bermondsey—whichever it is, I would not mind the seat myself, and I am younger than he is, so I may be in with a chance.

Perhaps I ought to declare an interest. I suspect that I am the only shorthand writer on the Committee. My right hon. Friend said that he had represented his constituency for 30 years. I am not expecting to represent mine for 30 years and I keep my shorthand going. I may well be one of the few Members in the House who sits there recording the speeches of hon. and right hon. Members as they take place. I have my own personal "Hansard", and it is just possible that one day I shall be seeking a job upstairs. Therefore, in that sense I had better be careful that any commitment that I offer is a personal one rather than on behalf of the Government.

But I am sure that there would be widespread sympathy for the case put by my right hon. Friend. Certainly the Government would not object in any way if it were decided by the Commission, by the House or whoever it may be that Hansard should be a separate Department. We all have the greatest admiration for Hansard. I say quite seriously, as one who is a shorthand writer, that I am astonished at the job Hansard does. It is the most remarkable service that I have come across. If that is decided, the Government would not object. But we are saying that there is all the scope that could possibly be required within the Bill for that to happen if required.

The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) asked about the basic structure. The Bottomley Report said that there should be four Departments—the Clerk's, the Serjeant at Arms', the Library and Administration. As things stand, it envisages that Hansard would go to the Clerk's Department and that the Vote Office would go to the Library. Also, as things stand at present, Mr. Speaker will have a department of his own, but it is expected that the Commission will reduce it to his own small staff of 12 or so people. But, again, that is a matter for further consideration. I can only tell the Committee what we think might be the possibilities.

The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) referred to the printing of papers. The Commission could consider taking over its own printing in due course. That matter is covered in paragraph 4.12 of the Bottomley Report, which states: The Commission's overall responsibility for the Estimates of the House would provide a valuable annual framework for reviewing the future needs and consequential development of the services of the House I believe that that covers the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.

It has been an extremely agreeable morning, which does not always happen when dealing with matters concerning the office of the Leader of the House. I am grateful for the support that there has been for the Bill, and perhaps I ought to leave it there.