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Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : On a point of Order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Motions Nos 6 and 7 on the Order Paper relate to two statutory instruments, one a definition of treaties order and the other a national Order in Council, which were debated yesterday morning in a Standing Committee.

I participated in that Standing Committee, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), and some Conservative Members were present--including, I think, a Foreign Office Minister.

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We have just taken a decision on the first motion. I do not contest that, but are these proceedings in order and does that decision remain valid, because the proceedings of the Committee are not available in the Vote Office?

I had thought that there was a convention tht such statutory instruments were not laid before the House until the proceedings were available, so that hon. Members can find out the merits of what was discussed. I do not think that was easy to do on this occasion, except by word of mouth.

The special attention of the House was drawn to these matters by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, the matters were discussed in Commitee, but they are not available in print for the House.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : Further to that point of Order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In view of the circumstances, should the Government not withdraw the second motion, because the two are linked? One refers to the European Communities Act 1972 and the other is an order used under those powers.

It seems absurd for the House to have a Standing Committee to discuss the merits of the instruments, which are not discussed by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, as you know--it only discusses the technicalities. The Joint Committee feels that there is doubt about the vires of both of these instruments, but unless the record is available, hon. Members patently cannot make a judgment about the merits of the instrument.

Therefore, it seems wrong that the House should proceed with the expense of a record that is compiled and printed, but is not available to hon. Members. Once the votes have been taken, the instruments will not come back to the House--it is done and dusted. It is a complete waste of taxpayers' money to provide a record for hon. Members to make a judgment about the merits of the case, and for it not to be available.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Further to that point of Order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will have noticed that the Leader of the House has just clocked in. Since he has some responsibilities in these matters, and since he is a lawyer by profession, I should have thought that he would have understood what my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) have said about these two orders. To put it in a nutshell, in legal terms, they are ultra vires.

I suggest to the Leader of the House, through you Madam Deputy Speaker, that it would be a good idea if he came to the Dispatch Box, accepted my hon. Friend's suggestion and withdrew the second order as a consolation prize.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I may be able to assist the House to some extent. I bow to the superior learned wisdom of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), and I concur in all that he has said about the legal interpretation of these two statutory instruments.

I recall that when we discussed the matter in Committee, yesterday, the two orders--which were interlinked in this sense ; the first paved the way for the

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second, and therefore had to be enacted forthwith--had waited for more than four years from the time of the judgment of the European Court in Luxembourg, which forced the change. The relevant judgment, which I am sure is constantly on the lips of the Leader of the House, was the European Court judgment of Hurd against the Inspector of Taxes, which was determined by that court on 19 January 1986. I am sure that, in many constituencies, scarcely a moment of the day passes without a constituent referring to that judgment.

The Government had allowed more than four years to pass after the relevant judgment without taking any action. It is therefore a little puzzling that they should now proceed with such precipitate haste--the day after the sitting of the Committee--without even doing the House the courtesy of making a report of the Committee's deliberations available. There is a considerable contrast between the dilatory nature of their initial response and the speed of their proceedings now. Surely it would be best for them to withdraw the matter for a short time, so that they can reflect and put it in order.

Madam Deputy Speaker : May I respond first to the first question? The issue of "ultra vires" does not concern the Chair. The original point of order was perfectly in order, legitimate and informative ; but, although it informs the House, it does not stop it from proceeding with the business, and I have a responsibility to see that business is carried out.

Mr. Spearing : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for that ruling, which was probably expected. Since the first point of order, however, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has also referred to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. May I draw your attention to another procedural matter which may be of interest to the Leader of the House?

We have just approved, through a Division, a domestic statutory instrument that implements an international treaty. That treaty, however, has not yet been ratified by the House, because the ratification of the treaty that obliges us to pass certain domestic legislation is the Question that you are about to put.

Irrespective of what records of the Committee's proceedings may exist, Madam Deputy Speaker, is it in order for the House to pass a domestic statutory instrument purporting to fulfil the international obligations of a treaty that the House has not yet approved--and, indeed, may not approve, if the Division that may be called does not receive a response from the Ayes?

I have put the point as clearly as I can. It may have a significant bearing on matters even more important than the orders.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I see that the Leader of the House, the Chief Whip and the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household are considering the matter. Surely there is a distinction between the point on which you ruled earlier- -the question whether the report of the proceedings of a Committee that happened to sit yesterday should be available to us--and the much more substantive point raised, quite properly, by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). The hon. Gentleman

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asked whether it was possible for us to approve, as secondary legislation, a measure that requires the passage of primary legislation not yet approved by the House.

This is a matter of general rather than specific law. I am not aware that, in any instance--whether or not it relates to European Community business-- we can vote on secondary legislation before the primary legislation has been approved. I should be grateful for a ruling. I realise that Government Front Benchers may not be prepared to comment immediately, but, as this is a matter of serious concern, I wonder whether the Leader of the House could do as he and the Whips have done on occasion in the past week, and arrange for the withdrawal of the motion that raises these procedural anxieties. If the motion is in order perhaps we can be told as much, and return to it tomorrow. Surely, however, it would help the House to retain its dignity, save the Government from potential embarrassment and avoid irregular proceedings if the motion were withdrawn and you, Madam Deputy Speaker, were not put in the embarrassing position of having to make a ruling before the matter had been properly considered.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are clearly being asked potentially to vote on something that we have no right to vote on. You have accepted that the earlier points of order were legitimate points of order for the Chair. By what means can the House not decide these matters? Will the Leader of the House have to withdraw the motion, or could you accept a motion requesting withdrawal of the orders so that there could be a separate vote upon them when they have been properly published?

Madam Deputy Speaker : The Chair has to deal with the business that is before the House. The motion that is before the House, motion No. 7, is perfectly in order. It is a matter for the Government, not the Chair. It is for the Chair to carry out what is on the Order Paper and has been agreed by the House.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I refer to the original point of order by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). There is an aspect that has not been considered : that the House has no means formally of knowing what happened in the Committee that considered the instrument. What appears on the Order Paper is unaffected by any vote that may have taken place in Committee.

If, for example, the Committee was dissatisfied with the instrument and voted against the Government, nothing would have happened ; the matter would still have been reported to the House. All that the Committee vote on is whether to report it to the House. Even if the motion had been defeated, it would still have been reported to the House that the Committee had considered the instrument. Therefore, today's Order Paper is significantly uninformative. It is not associated with the report of the Committee's proceedings. I had not realised until the hon. Member for Bradford, South pointed it out that the proceedings had not been printed. That illustrates my point : that the Order Paper cannot tell us what happened in Committee and whether the Committee was dissatisfied with the instrument. Only the report of the Committee's proceedings can tell us that.

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On recent occasions, which have been even more embarrassing to the Leader of the House than this small matter, we have had to rely on the report of hon. Members as to what took place in a Committee. You will recollect that we had quite a long and angry debate one afternoon a week or so ago about who said what and about what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) did or did not say in a Standing Committee.

In this instance, we are again being asked to rely upon the evidence of hon. Members, not much of which has been proffered so far, as to what happened in the Committee. I put it to you that it is quite unreasonable for the House to be asked to vote on a matter such as this, when it does not know what happened in Committee. I recognise that all that it is within your power to do is to put the Question on whatever the Government lay on the Order Paper. Therefore, it is the Leader of the House who is putting the Chair in an embarrassing position. Not content to ride roughshod over the rights of hon. Members, he puts the Chair in the embarrassing position of having no means of responding to their legitimate concerns.

The Leader of the House is affecting seriously to study the Order Paper but there is no apparent outcome of his study. Is it not time that he relieved you, Madam Deputy Speaker, of this embarrassment by rising to his feet--it may be late in the day and he may be a little unwilling to put you to this embarrassment, and why he is unwilling to remove the order from the Order Paper until the House has had an opportunity to be told what happened in Committee? Will you give him that opportunity, lest he should think that you might not call him, or that he might not catch your eye?

Madam Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct. Those who sit on the Treasury Bench have heard the concerned words that have been made on points of order. However, as the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, I have no alternative, and it is my duty, to put the motion on the Order Paper, which is perfectly correct.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 102(5) (Standing Committees on European Community documents). That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European School) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved.-- [Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.]

The House divided : Ayes 121, Noes 28.

Division No. 49] [12.24 am


Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Bevan, David Gilroy

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bowis, John

Brazier, Julian

Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Colvin, Michael

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cran, James

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Devlin, Tim

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Tony

Eggar, Tim

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Grist, Ian

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Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Hawkins, Christopher

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Hill, James

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Knowles, Michael

Lang, Ian

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

Maclean, David

Malins, Humfrey

Mans, Keith

Maude, Hon Francis

Mawhinney, Dr Brian

Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Moss, Malcolm

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Neubert, Michael

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Norris, Steve

Patnick, Irvine

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Redwood, John

Renton, Rt Hon Tim

Rhodes James, Robert

Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)

Roe, Mrs Marion

Ryder, Richard

Sackville, Hon Tom

Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stern, Michael

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Twinn, Dr Ian

Waddington, Rt Hon David

Waller, Gary

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Wheeler, Sir John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann

Wood, Timothy

Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. Sydney Chapman and

Mr. Greg Knight.


Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Beith, A. J.

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Cohen, Harry

Cryer, Bob

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Haynes, Frank

Howells, Geraint

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Kirkwood, Archy

Lambie, David

Livsey, Richard

Loyden, Eddie

McFall, John

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Nellist, Dave

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prescott, John

Primarolo, Dawn

Spearing, Nigel

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Wallace, James

Winterton, Nicholas

Wise, Mrs Audrey

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Dennis Skinner and

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.

Question accordingly agreed to.

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