HC Deb 26 July 1977 vol 936 cc304-5
Mr. George Cunningham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to interpose this point today of all days, but it is a matter that needs your brief attention. The documents available to hon. Members in the Vote Office as a matter of course include not only parliamentary documents but non-parliamentary papers. This is enshrined in "Erskine May" somewhere or other—on page 258, in fact. One of the indispensable works for any hon. Member interested in tax law is the four volumes of the up-to-date version of the Taxes Act 1970, as amended. No hon. Member who is trying to do anything on the Finance Bill or on anything else to do with money would want to be without it.

The other month, I sent in a green form asking for this document—as I am entitled to do under the rules of "Erskine May". I had to sign—as does every hon. Member in such circumstances—to show that it was required not for keeping up a table but for the performance of my parliamentary duties. I then received a letter from a civil servant saying that this work was not available to hon. Members on their signature alone but that if I gave him an extra reason for thinking that I needed it—and hon. Members should remember that it is our Finance Act, not his—he would reconsider his refusal not to supply it to me.

In response to my urgent message to the Minister of State, Civil Service Office, who is in charge of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, I received the document the next day. However, the Minister persists in the view that this publication is not one that ought to be available to hon. Members on their signing the green form. He says that it comes in the same category as documents about getting fleas out of pigs' ears and other such technical works that can be s applied to me only if I can say, not once but twice, that they are required for the: performance of my parliamentary duties.

I do not think that there is a single hon. Member—except the Minister of State—who would be prepared to put up with such an absurdity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I rest my case.

Mr. Speaker

I undertake to look into the matters raised and to make a statement tomorrow.