HC Deb 20 October 1998 vol 317 c1093 4.21 pm
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance on two related matters.

First, I want to mention the number of statutory instruments that are published and come into force during the summer recess. Is there any way in which you can get the Government to ensure that, when statutory instruments are laid in that way, the House has an opportunity to debate them in a timely fashion, not allowing them to come into force while the House is not sitting?

To put this matter into context, I shall point out that a statutory instrument on the working time directive was laid on virtually the last day before the summer recess. It dealt specifically with people employed in this place. I told you some time ago, Madam Speaker, that I thought that the regulations would apply to the way in which you are employed by the House, because you are required to be on duty for greatly more than 48 hours a week. If I am seen as one of your employers—I say that in a respectful way—my colleagues and I do not want to break the law.

I hope that we have written to you asking you whether you are prepared to work more than 48 hours a week and that you have responded in writing to say that you are; if not, we will not be able to employ you in the way that we are doing now. Under that directive, the House may have to look again at the way in which we employ our Speaker, including the requirement for that Speaker to be on duty for such hours. I think that we are breaking the law by requiring you to do the wonderful job that you do for us.

Madam Speaker

Hear, hear.

I have had no communication with anybody about the number of hours that I work in the House. The hon. Gentleman gave me no notice of his first comments in the point of order, and I understand that there are probably good reasons for that. However, if he wants me to look at that matter, I will do so when I have looked at the Official Report tomorrow to see precisely what he has said. It is rather complicated and I cannot give him a ruling immediately. I will look at the matter as soon as possible.