HC Deb 21 November 1980 vol 994 cc146-7
Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the Votes and Proceedings of the House there appeared for the first time this morning a notice that the Heavy Goods Vehicles (Drivers Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 1980 and the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1980 had been ordered to lie upon the Table of the House on 14 November.

"Erskine May" in chapter 22, page 579, of the 19th edition, states that the laying of statutory instruments on the Table of the House also involves placing a copy in the Library and making copies available to Members of the House in the Vote Office. No copy of either of the instruments had been placed in the Library up to yesterday. No copy had been placed in the Vote Office up to today. This morning I checked with the Vote Office and found that both of the instruments had been in operation since 15 November. They have been in operation without any copies being available.

I have reason to believe that the instruments raise a highly controversial issue, namely, giving to the Defence Council the right to exempt young members of Her Majesty's Forces from the Road Traffic Acts. Is it in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for these regulations to remain in force in breach of the clear procedures of the House? Does this not constitute a blatant disregard of the rights of hon. Members to control this important delegated legislation?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to inform the Chair that he intended to raise this point of order. I have made inquiries and have found that the documents were laid as required. I am sure that the Minister will have noted the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the availability of the documents.

The Parliamentary-Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

There has been an oversight in my Department, and I must apologise to the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) and to the House. The instrument was laid in the usual way and copies were provided to the members of the Select Committee on statutory instruments. Unfortunately, our usual procedures for delivering copies to the Library and Vote Office were not put into effect. When the right hon. Gentleman asked for a copy this morning, I discovered that there were no copies available in the Vote Office. We have taken steps to try to have copies brought to the House. I am sure that 100 copies will be delivered to the Vote Office and the Library within the next half hour.

The instrument has come into effect but it has had limited results so far. The only change made by the instrument is that young Service men of 18 years and over who hold heavy goods vehicle licences and who are used to driving heavy goods vehicles can, if necessary, drive "green goddesses" if the Defence Council so wishes.