HL Deb 06 November 1974 vol 354 cc435-6

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many Parliamentary Papers were laid "in dummy" during the last week before the Summer Recess; and what useful purpose was served thereby.


My Lords, 49 Parliamentary Papers were laid "in dummy" during the last week before the Summer Recess. This was necessary because authority for printing had to be obtained to enable reports to be published during the Recess.


My Lords, I am obliged for that reply. But does this not create 49 instances of the waste of time of clerks who could be much more usefully employed doing something more productive? Would it not be a good idea to confer with another place with a view to arranging for permission to be given for Papers to be laid during the Recess?


My Lords, I should not have thought it was a waste of time. It is a practice that goes back very many years in order that reports may be published and be available during the Recess. The noble Lord will be aware that his suggestion would require a change in the business arrangements in another place. If I have an opportunity of raising it informally, I am prepared to do so; but I think that at the present moment we should allow a long and well tried practice to continue.


But, my Lords, is it not undesirable that noble Lords should see in the Minutes that a Paper apparently has been laid and then go to the Printed Paper Office to ask for a copy of it, only to be told that it has been laid "in dummy" only and that they will not get it for weeks or months ahead?


My Lords, this may be so, but it is a practice that has stood the test of time and I am sufficiently conservative not to wish to make changes unless those changes will clearly be as useful and as successful as the long and well-tried practices.


My Lords, can the noble Lord perhaps elucidate his last remark: what did he mean when he said that the practice has "stood the test of time"?


My Lords, this is a practice which has been adopted over many years. In fact, the briefing material I have been given cannot even demonstrate to me the origins of this system. But it has been adopted, it has been successful, and apart from the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, I have not known any other person to question the practice.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say what is the position with regard to Statutory Instruments which are laid during the Recess and for which the 40 day petitioning period expires before Parliament reassembles? Are those Instruments then relieved from Parlamentary scrutiny?


My Lords, if Statutory Instruments are laid during the Recess they are subject to Parliamentary consideration, but the time for that consideration starts only from the moment Parliament reassembles.