HC Deb 08 September 2004 vol 424 c835
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is widely expected that a Bill to ban hunting will be announced in business questions tomorrow. However, an answer this afternoon to a written question from the hon. Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), released in the Vote Office and the Library at 6.30 this evening, announces that any implementation of that Bill will be delayed by two years. That was the first official notification that the House had of the Government's intention, but anyone who read the Evening Standard at lunchtime will have seen such a delay announced on its front page. The news was also carried extensively on the BBC website. When we inquired of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs parliamentary office why that was, it said that the report was perfectly accurate, but it could not understand why it had been reported.

In such a matter, which involves the procedures of the House and the implementation of a Bill, it is extraordinary that the public are informed via the media six hours before shadow Ministers and other hon. Members of what the Government intend to do about implementing the Bill on hunting. What can be done—if anything—to protect the interests of the House in that regard

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns, and although I am not in a position to comment specifically on the matter that he raises, I can say that the whole House will know that Mr. Speaker strongly deprecates the release of such information to the press before it is put before the House and hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman's point has made that very clear, and it is now on the record.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is a further problem in that we will clearly have to consider the implication of the Parliament Act 1911, together with what has been said on many occasions about its use. Our problem is that with the Library closed it is difficult to get at the material that we require. At the moment then, people such as myself cannot do any original research, and it would be enormously helpful if the Library staff could be asked to prepare now a summary and copies of the debates associated with the Parliament Act in 1911, together with what material they can find relevant to the use of that Act on previous occasions.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's great concern about this matter. The Library in Derby Gate is open, and I am sure that the Library of the House will do its best to solve the problems that he has identified.