HC Deb 13 May 1992 vol 207 cc619-20 3.31 pm
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that, before long, the House is likely to debate the most important issue to come before it during this Session of Parliament—indeed, this Parliament itself—the Maastricht treaty. I am sure that you, Madam Speaker, will agree that it is absolutely essential that the House should have sufficient information in front of it before it debates that treaty. At present in the Vote Office there are copies of the treaty on European union, known as the Maastricht treaty, but no copies of the treaty of Rome.

Page 47 of the Maastricht treaty states: Article 175 shall be replaced by the following: There then follows a new article 175. Unless one has both the treaty of Rome and the Maastricht treaty before one, it is impossible to assess what changes are taking place or to know what the House is being asked to vote on. May I ask you, Madam Speaker, to use your good offices to ensure that anyone who asks for the Maastricht treaty is also given a copy of the treaty of Rome, as one without the other is meaningless?

The legislation is about adding titles two, three and four of the treaty of European union, together with other provisions of the treaty as far as they relate to those titles. Would it be possible for the House to know in advance what other parts of the treaties relate to those titles and are therefore to become legislation in this country? I am thinking particularly of article B on page 7 which mentions the "acquis communautaire"—I hope that I have pronounced that correctly. I do not know whether that is Norman French, but if it is not and if, through the treaty, it is to become the law of this country, should it not be in the English language? Madam Speaker, you are better educated than me and may know what "acquis communautaire" means. I do not, but I believe that the House should know before considering the matter further.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. First, I imagine that the Government have some form of document offering guidance on understanding the treaties. May I ask that you, Madam Speaker, suggest to the Government that they put those documents of guidance in the Vote Office? Secondly, it is almost certain that the Attorney-General will have issued some guidance on the legal consequences of those documents. Could that advice also be lodged at the Vote Office? My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is absolutely right in saying that, at present, the House is in the dark. Surely it cannot be in the interests of anybody for such a vital subject to be debated in such circumstances.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I think that I can now deal with the point of order. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has been extremely helpful, and has taken the words out of my mouth. It is the Government's responsibility to ensure that documents are available. I am sure that, in this case, they should be made available in a simple and helpful form for all hon. Members so that they do not have to wade through the enormous number of documents that we have to consider.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I refer to the East Coast Main Line (Safety) Bill which was mentioned when private business was dealt with? One of your duties, Madam Speaker, is to appoint examiners to look at private Bills. One of the requirements for anyone wishing to introduce such a Bill is to convince you, the examiners, and the House that the Bill's purpose cannot be achieved in any other way. In the last Session we passed the Transport and Works Act 1992 which could be used to achieve exactly the same ends as the East Coast Main Line (Safety) Bill. Therefore, the examiners should find that the Bill is unnecessary and should report to the House at the earliest opportunity so that petitioners such as the Ramblers Association, which objects to the Bill, would not have to incur further expense in opposing it.

Madam Speaker

The Bill has already passed the examiners and is in a satisfactory form.

Mr. Gill

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)—

Madam Speaker

Order. I have dealt thoroughly with that point of order. We had two further points of order to which I responded. There can be no further point of order on the matter.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is said that information for hon. Members is available from the Vote Office. But it is available as non-parliamentary papers published by the European Community. We have been misled because no material has been published by the Government.

Madam Speaker

If I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is being helpful by saying that information is available to Members from the Vote Office, as long as they point their noses in the right direction.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I think that I heard you say that it would be wise to have all the documents available. You are absolutely right. In order to ensure that we have a comprehensive set, we should have a copy of the Single European Act and a list of all Tory Members who voted for the guillotine to force that Act through.

Madam Speaker

That is an interesting point, but it is not a point of order for the Chair.