Active consideration is currently being given to ways in which British Members of the European Parliament can have improved access to the House. The relevant Sub-Committees of the Services Committee have been instructed to consider what refreshment facilities can be extended to them, and to what degree they may be given formal access to the Chamber and to Committees of the House. I hope to receive some recommendations shortly.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that those of us who support the democratic role of the House and recognise its importance would regard it as being of great value if members of the European Parliament were able to speak, but not vote, in our Committees—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—so that we might have much earlier warning of what happens in the European Parliament? Would not that be in the interests of this House? [Interruption.] What do we have to be afraid of?
My hon. Friend will be aware that his suggestion has turned out to be somewhat controversial, at least among hon. Members in the Chamber at the moment. However, I agree that it is right to explore ways in which closer exchanges might take place. In the context of the intergovernmental conference on political union, it is important to remember that this House is one of the most active legislative bodies when it comes to scrutinising European Community legislation. We want to see a similar situation elsewhere and that will involve some degree of co-operation.
Is the Leader of the House aware of the standards that Members of the European Parliament enjoy? If he is thinking about inviting them to share our dining facilities, he will have to ensure that the standard of the food in this place is greatly improved. I have been a Member of Parliament for 20 years and the menu in the Harcourt Room has not changed once in that time.
I think that the menu has changed. The question of access to our refreshment facilities, particularly some of those that are available to hon. Members, is currently being considered by the Sub-Committee. I do not think that relative standards are being taken into account; the question under consideration is access.
I do not think that there is any question of pooling facilities. Given that Members of the British Parliament have access to facilities of the European Parliament, the question is whether some facilities here may be made available to Members of the European Parliament with a view to widening the exchange of views.