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Points of Order

Volume 470: debated on Monday 21 January 2008

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that it was promised that Command Papers 3710 and 3711, which were supposed to inform today’s Second Reading debate, would be available to hon. Members last Thursday, but that they were not available until 11.45 am today, so hon. Members now cannot make properly informed contributions to the debate. What action can you take to correct this situation? Would it be right to delay the vote on Second Reading, for instance, so that we can have an informed debate?

It is for the Government to ensure that the documents necessary to inform the debates on the European Union (Amendment) Bill are available to all hon. Members. I was not aware of the precise timing in the Vote Office, but at least the papers are available to all hon. Members now.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I listened to your ruling, but the situation is more serious than that, because protocol No. 9 of the existing treaties, under the heading “On the Role of National Parliaments in the European Union”, requires documents to be provided to member states in good time for deliberation on those documents. That has not been done, so the Government are in breach of the existing treaties, not just the future treaty. Would you therefore reprimand the Government, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, through Mr. Speaker, look favourably on further amendments to the treaty, if we get that far, to strengthen the role of national Parliaments further and require national Governments to abide by undertakings that they have freely entered into?

I am not responsible for the instructions to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. As far as the Chair is concerned, the Vote Office has copies of all papers published by the Government relating to the Lisbon treaty and previous treaties. It also has available copies of official EU publications, including a consolidated text in English of EU treaties prior to Lisbon. I think that we now have sufficient papers before us to deal with the debate. I suggest that the sensible thing to do is move on to that debate, if that is the feeling of the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you would be kind enough to refresh your memory of the answer that I received from Mr. Speaker on a similar occasion, when we failed to have enough copies of the important White Paper on transport. He took the view that that was not acceptable for the House. It really is not acceptable to have material that we cannot physically read between the time it arrives and the time we have the debate.

The right hon. Gentleman is simply reinforcing the point that the House should clearly have available to it all the papers necessary for the appropriate debate in the right amount of time. The House is agreed on that, and I am sure that Mr. Speaker would agree, too.