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Official Documentation (Availability)

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal is he is satisfied with the form of official documentation used in the EEC Council of Ministers and the arrangements he has made for relevant documents to be made available to public and Parliament.

Documents are generally made available to Parliament within two working days of receipt in London. There are occasions, unfortunately, when Community documentation is not available as early as we would wish, but we shall on these occasions continue to make every effort to ensure that the House has the documentation as quickly as possible.

I thank the Lord Privy Seal for that reply. However, will he consider the matter again and make sure that on all occasions proper documents of the EEC Council are available? If he should find that there is no proper documentation that can be placed before the public and Parliament, will he take action to ensure that during the meeting of the Council of Ministers proper documenta- tion is provided to form the basis for scrutiny and debate?

I shall have another look at this. I agree with the drift of the hon. Gentleman's argument. It is desirable that, when possible, documentation should be available. We shall do everything that we can to ensure that it is. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any guarantee, because these things are not necessarily within the British Government's power.

When the Council is legislating, would it not be a good idea for it, occasionally at least, to hold some of its sessions in public, with the press present?

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is difficult to examine all the directives and regulations that flow from the Council if those documents are not available? Would the right hon. Gentleman like to suggest a new method whereby no directive becomes operative in the United Kingdom until it has been examined by the House of Commons?

I agree that it is difficult to examine a document if we do not have it. I have nothing to add to my original answer.