As the hon. Member knows, I cannot anticipate the Government's considered response to the report. I shall be replying to that and the other recommendations made in due course
Is not it a ridiculous indictment of the Government that they cannot find enough Conservative Members to man that important Committee? The Scottish Office covers many diverse areas of public life in Scotland, including housing, transport and agriculture. Is not it more rather than less important for there to be a Select Committee that oversees the work of the Scottish Office, irrespective of whether its members are Welsh, Irish or even the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell)? Will he again consider getting Conservative Back Benchers to man this important Committee, so that the work of the Scottish Office can be properly overseen?
I have already said that I shall examine that matter again, but I am equally well aware that there have been several difficulties affecting the issue throughout the lifetime of this Parliament and I am not very hopeful of progress. The hon. Gentleman has raised many points relating to Scotland. As he will know some of those subjects are dealt with by other Select Committees, and the Scottish Office frequently gives evidence to those committees
To follow on from the question of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many Members such as me with seats in the south who would be happy and proud to serve on a Scottish Select Committee, because it would enable many of us to spend a great deal more time in Scotland than we are able to do at present?
I am not sure what sort of time my hon. Friend has in mind, but I shall consider his point
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, at an earlier stage, some of us devoted much time to using our good offices in an attempt to resolve the difficulty? Will he encourage the reactivation of those discussions, to ensure that at least three component parts of the four parts of the United Kingdom enjoy and benefit from the oversight of a Select Committee?
I do not think that I can go further than I have today. I have been looking into the history of the progress of the matter during the lifetime of this Parliament
Does the Leader of the House accept that it is a pretty unfortunate precedent, particularly from a Government on the way out, not to establish democratic machinery simply because it is not in the Government's interests to do so? In this, one of his earliest performances as Leader of the House, will he at least establish clearly that his responsibility to the House is not simply to do what is convenient for the Government, but to do what is in the established, democratic traditions of the House, and set up the Select Committee?
I do not think that it was all one sided. Having looked at the history of it, I believe that there were differences of view on the matter at various times on both sides of the House. As I said, I shall look into it. I entirely reject the hon. Gentleman's belief that this Government are on the way out—quite the reverse.