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Points of Order

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Next week, we begin our consideration of the treaty of Lisbon. Some Members are strongly in favour, others are passionately hostile and the majority may well descend into a narcoleptic trance. Whatever our attitude, however, we need to know what we will debate on Tuesday. At present, no programme motion has been tabled. We do not know what is going to be debated and we cannot table amendments. Will you reprimand the Government, Mr. Speaker, for yet again being so blatantly disregardful of this House, and ask if we can have that information so that, whatever our attitude, at least we have something to debate?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I reinforce what my right hon. Friend has said, but not only from the perspective of Members of Parliament? It is important that outside interest groups know what we are debating on particular days, so that they can make representations to Members. At present, both Members and outside interest groups are entirely unaware of the programme.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I endorse what my right hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend have said—that the fact that the Government have not tabled this programme motion is leaving perilously little time to table amendments that could be selected. In fact, the situation is worse than that: I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury has distributed to the Labour party a schedule of what he proposes for the debate, and yet Opposition Members have not had the opportunity to have that information.

Let me say in reply to the points that have been made that, as I understand it, the situation is that there is to be a full debate on Monday on how we proceed in this matter. I do not know if that is of any help, and of course I am not a Government manager, but that is my understanding. Tomorrow, there is business questions and if Members catch my eye they are entitled to raise this matter with the Leader of the House.

The hon. Gentleman should let me finish. The Government will have heard the concerns Members have expressed through this point of order. I hope that this is of assistance to them. Members will understand that I have certain limitations in these matters, but these concerns will be heard.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for interrupting earlier; I thought that you had finished speaking. On Monday, at 11.45 am, the Government placed Command Papers 3710 and 3711 in the Vote Office for Members. Those Command Papers were central to the debate that started that afternoon and they were 356 pages long, so Members could not properly address that Second Reading debate. Will you, through your normal offices, make the Government aware that whatever we are going to debate on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, we need to receive the relevant papers and information in good time, so that we can have a meaningful and informed debate?

The point was well made by the hon. Gentleman that all relevant papers should be available for hon. Members before any debate in this House starts, and I am sure that it will also be taken up.