HL Deb 18 October 1984 vol 455 cc1083-5

3.40 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will cause to be available to Members of the House of Lords the following documents:—

1. Preliminary Draft General Budget of EEC for 1985–Com(84) 220—vols. 1, 4 and 7.

2. Audit Commission Report on Local Government Finance.

3. Audit Commission Report on Basildon.

Lord Denham

My Lords, all three of the documents referred to in the noble Lord's Question are already available to your Lordships in the Library of the House.

As regards the availability of copies of the documents from the Printed Paper Office, I understand that the EEC preliminary draft general budget is produced by the Commission in Brussels, and that because of the great bulk of the documents only a very small number of copies are supplied for use in the United Kingdom. Copies are therefore available for the Library and the European Communities Committee but not for more general distribution.

The first Audit Commission report to which the noble Lord refers has been temporarily out of print owing to heavy demand, but further supplies were received by Her Majesty's Stationery Office yesterday and I understand that copies are now available in the Printed Paper Office.

The third document, the Audit Commission report on Basildon, was made for the Basildon District Council and its distribution is therefore a matter for them. But I understand that the Basildon District Council have been kind enough to supply the Printed Paper Office with a copy of their report for the noble Lord.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply and I am happy to inform him that, purely by coincidence, the Printed Paper Office provided me with the last two documents shortly before midday today. Is the noble Lord aware that the provision of official documents to individual Members of your Lordships' House for rentention and reference is a very important matter indeed? Quite a large number of Members of your Lordships' House require to study and refer to certain very important documents on frequent occasions. It is a problem which will have to be dealt with sooner or later.

In the case of the preliminary draft general budget of the EEC, is the noble Lord aware that it is really quite unsatisfactory for those of us who take an interest in the EEC budget —there are very many of us—merely to have a copy available in the Library? Would the noble Lord look at this whole question again with a view to ensuring that, wherever possible, important documents are made available to Members of your Lordships' House generally?

Lord Denham

My Lords, of course I will be only too glad to look at it again, but the Printed Paper Office have certain general rules about the supplying of documents. They keep in stock a certain number that they know may be of use to noble Lords. Others can be got for noble Lords at their specific request. There is a difficulty with very bulky documents—and these particular three volumes are very bulky indeed. The general rule is that it is expected that noble Lords should look at them in the Library. For instance, there is a rule that any document costing over £16 is not supplied by the Printed Paper Office without particular reference to the Clerk of Printed Papers. I do not think the volume I have before me has a price on it because I understand a very small number are printed. This is the sort of document to which that rule is meant to apply.

Another difficulty is that this is only the preliminary draft general budget. It is followed in a matter of six or seven weeks by the draft general budget, which I should imagine to be of approximately the same size; and then eventually it will be followed, when it has been passed by the European Parliament, by the general budget, which might be even bigger, or might be a little smaller; I am not sure. This is the sort of thing to which the rule applies. I think there is not much point in getting this document now because the new edition, so to speak—the draft to which this is a preliminary—will be out very soon. But if the noble Lord really wishes to press the point I will look into it further. Under the general rules of the House this sort of document should be seen in the Library and not be distributed widely.

Forward to