HC Deb 08 June 1976 vol 912 cc1223-5

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be grateful for your assistance on a matter that is causing great inconvenience to the whole House, to no one more than yourself. Because of the change of business, no printed paper was available until 1.30 p.m. for the business now to be discussed. Indeed, papers became available only because of the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks). So far as I am aware, neither the Department nor the Leader of the House did anything to secure the availability of those papers to enable you, Mr. Speaker, to make your selection of amendments, and hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House to know precisely what business they would be discussing today.

Again and again, similar incidents occur. I should like to express the hope, Mr. Speaker, that the Government will look, not for the first time, at the question of ensuring that the papers necessary for the conduct of our business are available in time.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am certainly prepared, as the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) suggested in the latter part of his remarks, to look at this question for the future. I regret that the marshalled list of amendments to the Bill was not available in the House before 1.15 p.m. today. Because of the abnormal number of amendments tabled yesterday, the final copy was not available for the Parliamentary Press until 2.5 p.m. today.

Marshalled amendments, totalling 223 pages, were required for the consideration of nine Bills today. Priority of production was given to amendments to be considered in Committees at 10.30 a.m.

I apologise for the inconvenience caused to the House by this delay, but the House owes a great debt of gratitude to the servants of the House in the Stationery Office who worked very hard last night to try to meet the requirements of the House. The fault does not rest with them. [HON. MEMBERS: "It rests with you."] Yes, but it is also a matter of courtesy that the House should pay tribute to those who worked hard last night to meet an abnormal flood of amendments. I apologise to the House for the fact that the documents were not available, but the House also owes a debt of gratitude to the workers who produce the documents.

Mr. Peyton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to the Leader of the House for the apology that he has made, and I accept it. I wish to make clear that I am in no way reproaching the staff of the House or of the Stationery Office, who have to deal with a great volume of business at short notice. It is the short notice from which my complaint stems. If the Government reorganise their business at short notice, for whatever reason, they must take special measures to ensure that the necessary papers are available. If they cannot be made available for good reasons, the Government should cancel the business.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall listen to the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) in one moment. I allowed the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) to make his point, which is not a point of order that I can deal with, because the House has the right to an expression of opinion when papers are late.

Dr. Hampson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In what circumstances can the expensive machinery downstairs be used by the House? As the onus rests on the Leader of the House to service hon. Members, should not he have checked whether the printed papers were ready by 11.30 am, when the Stationery Office and the Clerk's Office expected them? Surely, the Leader of the House should keep a watchful eye on these matters and use our emergency procedures if necessary.

Mr. Foot

If there has been any mistake in the operations, I shall inquire into it. All I am saying, as I am perfectly entitled to say, is that an abnormal amount of work was thrust upon the servants of the House last night, and it is right that this should be mentioned in the House because those responsible worked very hard to try to meet the requirements of the House.

Mr. William van Straubenzee (Woking-ham)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. On a different but related point, may I ask for guidance? We have in our hands only your provisional selection of amendments up to New Clause 50. I make no criticism of the Chair, which must have had to work at very short notice. Will you tell those of us who want to follow these matters with appropriate expedition and care when we shall know the selection of amendments? The Government's intention is that we shall deal with this business at this sitting, and it hardly seems reasonable that we should do so without knowing the amendments selected for debate.

Mr. Speaker

I can inform the House that I have signified a provisional list of amendments up to New Clause 45. I thought that would be adequate for the House until 6 o'clock, when I shall be able to produce the rest of the list.

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