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Select Committee On Employment (Report)

Volume 81: debated on Monday 24 June 1985

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3.32 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order concerning the report of the Select Committee on Employment dated 19 June. In accordance with Standing Order No. 99, the Committee was appointed to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Employment and associated public bodies. On 19 June, there were two Divisions in the Select Committee. The first was on an amendment proposed by a Conservative Member. As was said earlier at Question Time, that amendment was defeated by the Chairman's casting vote. The Committee then decided by five votes to three that that important report be submitted to the House, which it duly was.

I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, concerning the proper treatment of Select Committee reports, irrespective of whether they are presented by a casting vote, by a majority, by a member of one party or by a member of another. I should have thought that such reports should be treated with respect by the House and by the Government. A report of such substance which makes important recommendations should be debated. At the very least, the Minister concerned should make a statement, or a proper reply should be given. Instead of that, the Government have made no statement, have had no debate and have given no reply. They have merely referred to the report during Question Time, and the references have often been utterly irrelevant to the question being asked.

My point of order is whether it is in order for the Government to refuse to provide the House with any facilities to discuss a Select Committee report and to refuse to answer questions on a matter which affects many hundreds of British citizens.

Order. The House and the hon. and learned Gentleman know that, when a Committee has made its report, it is up to the House—certainly not the Chair—to decide what action to take. It is not a matter for me.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will remember that Opposition Members were worried about the Secretary of State's reply to question 6, which referred to Scotland. There was also anxiety on both sides of the House that the Secretary of State referred to the Select Committee report in the most dismissive terms. Is it in order for a Secretary of State of one Department to rubbish a Select Committee report before that Committee has received a response from the Department to which it relates?

I should be chary about echoing comments such as "rubbishing" a report. The hon. Gentleman knows that this matter is not for me. The Secretary of State, like every other hon. Member, must make his own justification for what he says.