HC Deb 15 December 1983 vol 50 cc1173-4

4.4 pm

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise this matter with you, Mr. Speaker, because of the responsibility which you have for what is or is not available from the Vote Office. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment made a statement to the House which began in column 1003 in the Official Report, in which he said: I should like to make a statement on the rate support grant settlement in England for 1984–85. The necessary order is being laid today and there will be debate early in the new year. I sought to obtain a copy of the order today. Any order which is laid on the Table of the House is supposed to be available to hon. Members. After the Table Office had been good enough to make inquiries of the Department, I was informed that no such order had been laid or would be laid. If any hon. Members are looking for a non-existent order, as I was, which has not been laid, they will be wasting their time.

In the second paragraph of the statement my right hon. Friend said: The rate support grant report"— that is an entirely different document— which is published today, copies of which will be in the Library, deals with three elements which bear on the level of local authority current spending."— [Official Report, 14 December 1983; Vol. 50, c. 1003.] That report, though it was presumably published yesterday, was not and is not available in the Library. Instead, it is available in the Vote Office. It is apparently —I am grateful to the Table Office for unravelling this —not the non-existent order that the House will debate early in the new year, as my right hon. Friend said. The debate will take place on a motion to approve the report which is in the Vote Office and not the Library. The House will be invited to debate that motion and to come to a conclusion on it in the new year.

I am raising this point of order because it is wrong that the Vote Office should be blamed for not having available an order which has not been laid and that hon. Members should waste their time trying to obtain in the Library what, contrary to the Minister's statement, has been put in the Vote Office and not in the Library. It might be helpful to right hon. and hon. Members to have that information.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has answered his point of order far better than I could.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is this further to the point of order?

Mr. Lamond

It is on another point, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Then we should hear the Minister first.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I may be able to assist the House. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State regrets that he cannot be here to correct his mistake. He made the slip of the tongue to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) referred. He referred in the first pargraph of his statement to an order, when he should have said "report". My right hon. Friend has asked me to apologise to the House for that small mistake, and that is what I do.

Mr. Janner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to resume his place. He must understand that we are now to move on to business questions, after which, I understand, a statement is to be made. I am not prepared to call the hon. and learned Gentleman again.