HL Deb 03 March 1975 vol 357 cc1083-5

2.43 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask the Leader of the House whether he will now arrange for the Printed Paper Office to stock texts of Council Decisions and Resolutions of the European Community and to list these on the weekly buff application form.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, this is a matter which I am willing to discuss with the Chairman of the European Communities Committee. I have already made special arrangements to meet the noble Earl's concern about resolutions which are now deposited in the Library. In regard to decisions, these are included in the Official Journal which is available in the Printed Paper Office. If there are problems still to be resolved, I will be very happy to see the noble Earl and also the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, the Chairman of the European Communities Committee.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. May I ask him whether he is aware that decisions appear in the Official Journal only after very great delay—it may be as much as three months—and our concern as Parliamentarians is to know as quickly as possible? Since the documents are in fact published, would it not be well that they were included in the Printed Paper Office's facilities?


My Lords, I understand that those matters in Resolutions which are of great national importance are in the Official Journal within a matter of a few days. There are some Resolutions which take some three or four months before being printed. I am advised that these are matters of relatively minor importance, which have been delayed because of the priority given by the authorities in Brussels in the order of printing.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that further reply, and not wishing to press him unduly, may I ask whether he is aware that the decisions of the Energy Ministers in September and December had not been published by the time they met again in February, even in the Official Journal? Although they were of an omnibus character, and might be described as coming under the heading of "Take note" Resolutions, they were important to our energy policy, and there was no other way of getting them except by much research, digging and inquiry.


My Lords, I know that there are exceptions, and these are matters for the Brussels authorities. I am advised, however, that it is a matter of only a relatively few days before these Resolutions are recorded in the Journal. But I will look at the points which the noble Earl made, and I repeat that I wish to help the House as much as possible. We are very much in the hands of Brussels, but I will see what can be done to improve the notification of these matters to the House.


My Lords, while I appreciate the noble Lord's reply, may I ask whether it would be possible, if there are delays in printing certain documents, to have cyclostyled versions available for distribution to the Press agencies and other people who might have a legitimate interest in them and who might wish to publish them themselves?


My Lords, I understand it is not a question of difficulty of printing here; it is a difficulty of both printing and agreeing to a form of text. I believe that this aspect also takes a certain degree of time. But I repeat that I will see what can be done to improve the distribution and notification to this House.


My Lords, I noted that my noble friend said that we were very much in the hands of Brussels. Could we regard that as the understatement of this century?


My Lords, perhaps it was the biggest slip of my tongue for some time!


My Lords, while thanking the Leader of the House for his invitation to meet him, which I will of course accept with alacrity, may I ask whether he is aware that this is not only a problem of printing? There is also the problem that decisions which are in the process of being taken by the Council often materially alter the Resolutions which come before the Scrutiny Committee. I wonder whether the noble Lord can give his mind to the question of whether one can have a progress report of our position, and not of the position of other Governments?


My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Baroness has said, and this is a difficulty for the Scrutiny Committee. I have given my limited mind to the problem and have not yet found a solution. But if I could meet the noble Baroness and the noble Earl, no doubt we might make some progress towards a solution. Although I must confess I am not too optimistic, I am willing to try.