HC Deb 19 March 1969 vol 780 cc491-3
Mr. Sheldon (by Private Notice)

asked Mr. Speaker whether he will direct that a document placed in the Library, recording Peers' attendances, is made available to Members.

Mr. Speaker

In view of the Ruling that I am about to give, I should first say how much the House appreciates the courteous, devoted and skilled service that the Librarian and his staff give to hon. Members at all times.

The question raised by the hon. Member is clearly one of importance to the House. Upon receiving the Question, which I have decided to allow him to ask by Private Notice, I made inquiries from the Library of the House about the document for which he asks, and I have now received the following information: The document was loaned to us by the House of Lords Journal Office in order to provide a short cut to figures on the attendance of Peers in Session 1966–67. The original document, which is marked confidential, was produced for their own office purposes by the House of Lords Journal Office, and consists of an alphabetical list of Peers enumerating their individual attendances during the Session. The document was provided on the understanding that, while it might be freely used by the Library for statistical purposes, details of individual attendances of Peers should not be disclosed, nor should the document itself be passed on to a Member.

I am sure the House will agree with me that the Library has in this instance done everything possible within the limits of its authority to meet the needs of Members. I think, however, that nothing which reaches the Library should be withheld from Members seeking information. Consequently, if information comes into the possession of the Library, the restriction that the document is confidential, while it should apply to members of the public seeking information, should not apply in the case of hon. Members.

In future, therefore, I am directing the Library to make available to Members all documents which relate to their work in the House, whether marked confidential or not.

Mr. Sheldon

While thanking you, Mr. Speaker, for that reply, might I point out that this whole matter was raised on the advice of a right hon. Member, whose judgment in these matters I deeply respect, as providing a possible solution to the impasse which we reached in the debate on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill last night, and in the resumed debate this morning—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must not discuss with Mr. Speaker anything which happens in Committee, of which he has no official knowledge.

Mr. Sheldon

I was just thanking you, Mr. Speaker, for making it clear that a solution is possible, and I was pointing out that the unfortunate happening that led to this can now be readily solved. I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House if he will add to this to find the complete and final solution to this problem.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

I do not wish to add anything in the way which my hon. Friend mentioned, but I made a statement earlier on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, and I will communicate with the Leader of another place to try to make arrangements for the document to be made available.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that we can now move on.

Mr. Hastings

I wonder if you, Mr. Speaker, would help us with another matter which was raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General in the same context. He produced this morning what seemed to many of us to be a new doctrine with regard to the document in the Library, which was that we could seek to secure the document, or any other document which was being withheld, only by a Resolution of the House. This seemed to us to be a new method; will you advise us on this?

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker must not take up bit by bit points that were made in debates in Committee. If the hon. Gentleman has a serious point to put to me, he must let me know and I will look at it.

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