The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Helen Wood, John-Paul Flaherty, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(6):
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Howarth. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, but I regret to have to draw your attention to the fact that there are a number of documents available on request on the papers circulated to this Committee that I have been unable to obtain. I have subsequently discovered that the draft of the regulation in the papers that have been circulated is out of date; there is a further draft of 26 July and, I believe, an even later draft of 25 August that are not available to the Committee. I therefore urge that the Committee be adjourned until we have the papers available.
The Chair: The hon. Gentleman has raised an issue that needs further investigation. I propose to suspend the Committee for five minutes, so that I can see whether it is possible to assemble the documents necessary for members of the Committee to proceed.
Mr Redwood: Mr Howarth, not only do I think the Committee needs the right documents, but as the European Scrutiny Committee has said, the matter should be debated on the Floor of the House, I hope you will take into account the fact that there are many Members not present—not members of the Committee—who are interested and will want to see the up-to-date documents, not the out-of-date document before the Committee.
The Chair: Strictly speaking, that is not a matter for the Chair. I will find out what documents are available and what information is available to the Committee during the time that the Committee is suspended, and I will determine whether I think it appropriate to continue.
Mr Jenkin: Further to that point of order, Mr Howarth. I have just been furnished, apparently, with the documents that are available on request. As you can see, there are more than 200 pages of documents, and I cannot see how the Committee can possibly consider them today. In any case, the later drafts of the actual regulation have not been given to me, so we still do not have the papers that we ought to have available for the Committee to scrutinise. I do not see how the matter can be considered today.
The Chair: I am grateful for the point of order. I will take into account the points that have been made. As I said earlier, it is my job now, during the suspension, to assess whether it is appropriate to continue in the absence of the documents, and even if the documents are now available, whether it is appropriate to continue when people have not had the opportunity to read them. The sitting is suspended.
The Chair: In view of the fact that it was the Government’s responsibility to provide the documents, I will call the Minister to explain what has happened and why the particular set of documents provided were thought to be appropriate. In the light of what he says, or if somebody moves an appropriate motion to adjourn the sitting, I will then determine how to proceed.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr John Hayes): Thank you, Mr Howarth. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, informed as it is by the sagacity born of experience. You are right to say it is important that the Committee has before it the relevant documents. I will set out the facts and then suggest a way forward.
The Committee has before it the only formal published proposal by the European Commission. The Commission has made that proposal, but of course, by its nature, there are ongoing considerations about that proposal. Indeed, the British Government are in discussion about those proposals in the European Union, and there are a series of supplementary working documents—not formal proposals, but working drafts—of the Council presidency. The document to which my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex drew our attention is indeed one of those working drafts. He is right that it is a long document and is therefore difficult to consider in the time that he has had available to do so, even with his encyclopaedic knowledge of all matters European.
I understand that the supporting documents have been made available on request from the European Union, but, in my time as a Minister and shadow Minister, I have always taken the view that scrutiny must be legitimate, full and proper. I do not think it is reasonable for members of the Committee not to have the chance to read all the documents that are available. This is not unprecedented, frankly: the European Scrutiny Committee has previously faced occasions when a proposal has been published and supplementary documents relevant to that proposal have been made available on request. None the less, I feel it would be more appropriate to adjourn the Committee so that I can ask my officials to discern what documents can reasonably be made available and what documents should be made available so the Opposition in particular, but all members of the Committee, including Government members, have the chance to debate the matter fully. On that basis, Mr Howarth, I beg to move, That the Committee do now adjourn.
Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. As courtesy demands, I welcome the Minister to his new position. He talked about having the sagacity of all the spirits; I think he might need the sagacity of the Holy Spirit this morning to deal with some of the Horlicks that has been spilt so far. However, I do not intend to dwell unduly and cruelly on that, because those points have already been made with perfect vehemence and force by members of the European Scrutiny Committee who are here today.
I hear what the Minister says about this being a working draft, but at what point did he become aware that these documents were working documents and were not included? Was he going to refer to them in his main speech today? One problem with this whole business is that we are looking at a moving target, and I shall make reference to that if we ever get on to debating the ports motion. We and, I am sure, other Committee members will be concerned that, even at this stage, some of the bundle of draft documents that Members have received do not reflect the current position of the European Commission or, indeed, of Her Majesty’s Government on this. I will not go further at this moment, but I merely emphasise that we have a double problem here: the one identified by the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex and members of the European Scrutiny Committee about the specific issue the Minister has referred to, and the question to the Minister and officials of whether the bundle we have is up-to-date and relevant.
Mr Hayes: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. There is a balance to be struck here. By the very nature of this process, which is iterative, negotiations will be ongoing. At any point in time, those negotiations may have reached a different point, so in a test of reasonableness, it would be unreasonable for the Committee to demand that it knows what point negotiations have reached at any moment. What is reasonable is that sufficient information is made available to give Committee members—both Opposition and Government Members—a reasonable chance to give the matter due consideration. Scrutiny requires enough information to test the Government’s and the United Kingdom’s position on the circumstances in Europe. My view about the adjournment is that we can use it not to solve an unsolvable puzzle, but to ensure that sufficient documents are made available in the way I described so that the Committee can properly scrutinise the matter. That is my proposal.
Mr Marsden: I am grateful to the Minister and I am not unreasonable; not even in today’s virtual world could we have a just-in-time continuing dialogue on the issue. My point, however, is still relevant. However long the adjournment lasts, it must be adequate for the Government’s officials to be absolutely clear that they have, as far as is humanly possible, the most up-to-date formal information in the bundle—I intend to return to that issue when we return to the substantive issue—as well as a full commentary by the Minister, informed by his officials, on the current state of play when the Committee resumes.
Mr Redwood: It may help the hon. Gentleman to be reminded that the latest text we have is from 23 May; that is three months ago. This is a high-priority matter for the European Union under intensive change and scrutiny.
Mr Marsden: The right hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. This is no criticism of the Minister, who is in an unenviable position, but I reiterate that this discussion is taking place not in a technical vacuum, but in circumstances where, as far as I can remember, we have already had three separate versions of the proposed text. That is the context in which I press the Minister hard on these issues and in which I say gently to him that, if he is proposing that the sitting be deferred, the interval should be of sufficient length for his officials to do exactly what he needs them to, and what we need them to. I personally think it will not be possible to do that this week. We might need a week to consider it and then we can come back in some good order, with the maximum amount of information that the Minister’s good will and the effectiveness of his officials can muster.
Mr Jenkin: I just want to enlarge on the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham. He was referring to a draft of 23 May 2013. For the Government to bring that document for scrutiny in the House of Commons more than a year later, when it is an out-of-date draft, seems an absolute travesty of proper accountability and transparency of the legislative process.
Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): The European Scrutiny Committee called for the matter to be taken on the Floor of the House when we made our initial report. The situation that has developed is part and parcel of the continuing negotiations. Some of the documents are deliberately held behind the scenes so that Parliament will not know what is going on. I am afraid that is part of the process and one of the objections we made in our report in November last year was to the whole idea of having limité documents, which prevent Members of Parliament knowing what is really going on. That is inherent in the situation. There is a strong case for going back to our original proposal and having the debate on the Floor of the House where the whole of Parliament can look at the situation and witness what has been going on.
Mr Marsden: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Hon. Members here might have some sympathy with his latter point. I have seen the letter the Minister sent to him explaining why the Government had decided to proceed in the way they did. However, we are talking about the specifics of the case before us. The point made by both hon. Gentlemen from the European Scrutiny Committee merely underlines and emphasises the need, whatever we proceed with on or off the Floor of the House, for the Minister to give the maximum amount of time in the suspension period for this process.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I strongly support what my hon. Friend is saying. The hon. Member for Stone, who is the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, made a strong point, and the situation this morning surely makes the case stronger for the whole matter to be referred to the Floor of the House. That is a personal view and I hope it will be considered.
One important point is that even if there was a deferral of this sitting for some days—I would hope it would be at least a week—by interesting coincidence, the European Scrutiny Committee is visiting Rome on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the Italian presidency with the Italian officials and politicians, and we may indeed raise this issue there. If we are away when the Committee next convenes, we will not be able to have an input in the discussion. I hope that it could be deferred for at least a week.
Mr Marsden: I hear my hon. Friend. I noted on a previous occasion, when he discussed his travel arrangements, that the Chair of the Committee had something to say about that so I will not comment on the travel arrangements of the European Scrutiny Committee. However, I will make the serious point that, certainly for Opposition Members, the points he makes are entirely valid. The time scale that the European Scrutiny Committee requires to conduct its visit and bring back the valuable information to this Committee must be a question for them, but I hope it is one that will be for the convenience and assistance of all members of the Committee.
Mr Hayes: I do not want to delay the Committee unduly because I think we know where we stand. I just remind the hon. Gentleman, in the spirit that he has spoken, that it was I who suggested we adjourn. It is important that there is proper scrutiny and that the documents that are available are made available, but can they be? This is the draft that has been made available—a 2013 document. Subsequent drafts have no formal status; they are working documents. None the less it is important that we give the matters that have been raised by hon. Members proper consideration, and that is why I have moved the adjournment.
Mr Marsden: Technically then, I will still speak. I hear the Minister; I am mindful and acknowledge that he proposed that we adjourn. What is clear, notwithstanding the fact that he has been proactive in that respect, is that the feeling across the Committee and, indeed, the indications of the European Scrutiny Committee is that a decent interval should be allowed for this. Therefore, would the Minister be good enough—I hate asking him to make things up on the hoof—to indicate whether he considers that period of time to be a matter of hours, days or weeks?
The Chair: Order. Before the Minister intervenes or responds—I am not quite sure which—it might be helpful if, in addition to the undertakings the Minister has already given and in view of everything that has happened, I, as the Chair of the Committee, draw to the attention of those responsible for the conduct of the business of the House the comments that have been made about how long the matter should lay until the Committee sits again and the various suggestions that have been made by members of the European Scrutiny Committee and others as to what the procedure might be. I hope that is helpful. Just to be clear: Mr Marsden, have you finished?
The Chair: I do not think that it would be appropriate at this point. It is a debatable motion and it is still quite early in the time that is allocated so I propose to continue. I am mindful that we are no longer debating the documents—we are debating whether we adjourn—but it is, nevertheless, a debatable motion.
The Chair: It is very helpful for the Whip to seek to guide the Chair but she needs to be mindful of the fact that I determine how the debate continues. My view is that members of the Committee and of the European Scrutiny Committee who have chosen to be here might have points to make that are relevant to the motion so until I am satisfied that all those points have been covered and that we are not getting into the realms of tedious repetition, I propose to continue with the debate.
Mr Redwood: That is a wise decision, Mr Howarth. The Minister is right to ask for a pause and that opportunity be given to the Government to provide more modern papers because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex has made clear, the text we have is well over a year old and much has happened since its drafting. Future consideration would benefit from having more modern documents and an up-to-date presentation on the state of negotiations. The matter is a great priority for the current presidency and the Commission, so it is fast moving and it is important that Parliament has up-to-date information.
I hope, Mr Howarth, in the spirit of the Minister’s offer, your chairmanship and the Opposition’s view that there needs to be a pause, we do not lose the opportunity to scrutinise in good time. As this is a fast-moving negotiation, surely Parliament needs a voice before any final decision is taken. That has to be taken into account, as well as your wise idea that we need a bit of time to assemble and to read the long and complicated documents.
The Chair: Order. I would grateful if the right hon. Gentleman confined his remarks to the motion before us, which is that the Committee shall be adjourned. He is now straying into the arguments relating to the documents.
Mr Redwood: I am grateful for the guidance, Mr Howarth. The point I wish to make is that a Committee such as this cannot contain the Members who represent the 47 major ports, so I would like the Government to consider holding the debate on the Floor of the House and in time so that all those Members with affected ports can be involved in the process, because we are on the third day back and I think many people who represent ports are simply unaware of what is going on.
Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): It is good to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. To follow on from the point being made, there is an alternative to adjourning the Committee and then coming back on another date. Given the significance of the issue, the number of Members whose constituencies are affected by it and the way in which the manner has been handled to date, which raises important questions about how European legislation is scrutinised and how information is made available to the House, there is a strong case to make use of this period of time to give Members the opportunity to have a debate on the Floor of the House.
I can think of a number of Members in Northern Ireland who will have had representations from port authorities about the significant impact this measure will have on their constituencies and they will want to have a say. Although we should regret the way in which this manner has been dealt with so far, I do not blame the Minister totally for that. We have a situation, however, where we are unable to have full sight of what is proposed because we have out-of-date documents.
This issue is of great significance to many constituencies and, for that reason, I propose to move an amendment to the motion, namely that this Committee requests that this issue be debated on the Floor of the House, which would give the opportunity for proper scrutiny. Given that the Government want the European Commission and European matters dealt with in a more transparent manner and that they want less intrusion than at present, I cannot see why there should be any opposition from the Minister or the Government side.
The Chair: Order. Before we proceed, the hon. Gentleman proposes an amendment to the effect that the debate should be held on the Floor of the House. My ruling is that he could propose that as an advisory amendment, but I do not think it would be appropriate for this Committee to do that. If he wants to proceed, I will take his motion—[ Interruption. ] Sorry, I will reverse that decision. I am having to make these judgments slightly on the hoof, but that is not a matter for this Committee.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that what I have undertaken to do—indeed the Minister has made a similar undertaking—is to ensure that those who are responsible for programming the business of the House are aware of the comments made by him and others. It is for them to take into account whether they wish to take notice of those comments. I would be grateful if he would not press his amendment, because I would have to rule it out of order.
Mr Hayes: Without wishing to curtail the debate but to abbreviate it, Mr Howarth, on the point you and the shadow Minister made, I do think we need sufficient time. I would be more than happy, in the spirit that you suggested, to ensure that there is sufficient time between now and when the Committee reconvenes for those documents to be made available and to be considered. The hon. Gentleman suggested that that should not be later today or tomorrow; it needs to be a week. I think that is a perfectly reasonable suggestion. Clearly, I will need to talk to the usual channels, people in the House and so on, on the detail of that.
Sammy Wilson: I do. On a point of order, Mr Howarth. Further to your ruling, the Committee has decided—I take it that it is for the Committee to decide—the appropriate way to ensure proper scrutiny of this legislation. There is a proposal before the Committee that we adjourn to allow for proper scrutiny of it. Perhaps you could explain your ruling that it is not appropriate for the Committee to decide that the proper way to scrutinise the issue is to debate it on the Floor of the House. Surely it is for the Committee to decide the most appropriate and effective way, given the circumstances, of having this important issue debated and scrutinised.
Given the arguments that have been advanced, the widespread impact the proposal will have across the UK and the fact that it is being pushed vigorously by the Italian presidency, there is a degree of urgency and the debate should be put on to the Floor of the House as quickly as possible. I cannot see that that is not an appropriate decision for the Committee to make.
Sir William Cash: I am most grateful, Mr Howarth. I want to draw attention, in case it might get lost, to the recommendation made by the European Scrutiny Committee that the debate be on the Floor of the House. We made a very important point: we were concerned that the Italian presidency would seek agreement on a general approach at the Transport Council on 8 October. Given that we have recesses, that the European Scrutiny Committee is going to Rome in a few days and
The legislation affects not only the 47 ports mentioned by the hon. Member for East Antrim but the manifold other organisations and haulage companies. It leads to a massive question, Mr Howarth, concerning the future competitiveness of the UK economy. That is the point. This is not just an arcane argument, and I know the Minister understands that well. He is very well apprised of that. The problem is with the procedural questions that I have just raised. The European Commission, the system and the Italian presidency now want to rush ahead, for reasons not entirely understood, in order to be able to sew this up—
The Chair: Order. The hon. Gentleman is now straying away from the terms of the motion before us, which is for the adjournment of the Committee, and into the substantive arguments about the documents. I would be grateful if he would return to the terms of the motion that we are debating.
Sir William Cash: My simple point, Mr Howarth, which I do not need to repeat, is that the debate should be on the Floor of the House. Any adjournment should be attached to a proposal from the members of the Committee, which, after all, represents both the Minister and the shadow Minister and their respective Whips. They have the power to get together to make such a recommendation. In those circumstances I would say that the Floor of the House is the right place to go. We should also bear in mind that there are huge interests outside that are deeply affected by this, and that is why in the public and national interest we should make that decision.
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I rise to support the motion to adjourn. Whether the issue returns to the Floor of the House or to Committee, the important thing for whoever makes the decision—I hear what you say, Mr Howarth, about the fact that the Committee may not have the authority to make that decision—is the impact on the shipping community and the wider business community of the fact that this meeting is being adjourned. There is great concern about the directive, as the Minister clearly knows. We resisted it when we were in government and the coalition has been resisting it during its period in office.
The fact that the wording of the motion we were going to debate today, as published on 15 July, was changed for 1 September but has now gone back to its original form, has added to the uncertainty within the shipping community. An adjournment is absolutely right. Whether it is on the Floor of the House or in Committee, the discussion must take place next week, particularly given the time frame of 8 October mentioned by colleagues
Mike Thornton (Eastleigh) (LD): Southampton port affects the whole of the south of England through jobs, wealth and investment creation. It is not clear to me why we are having a discussion just in Committee on something that affects the livelihoods of so many people in just that one area, let alone all the other ports across the country. I am afraid that I do not know the parliamentary procedure for this, but it is important that the Committee makes it known that we support the idea of having a vote in the House, even if it is only some kind of opinion marker. We must let people know that this is too important just to discuss here.
Mr Marsden: On a point of order, Mr Howarth. I appreciate that we are having to move very fast on this. I have heard everything that has been said in the last few minutes and I have great sympathy with the points that have been made. I take on board the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse made about the need to have a decision on this next week. I suspect that the decision about whether it is on the Floor of the House is above our pay grade. What I seek from you, Mr Howarth, is guidance. You have already helpfully told us that you will do a memorandum or whatever to the Clerks of the House about the various points that have been taken on board. What is the formal position on any advice or guidance from the Committee to the usual channels?
The Chair: That is actually a point of order—it is very unusual for a Chairman to be able to say that. Any opinions expressed in this Committee, or anything I then communicate to the authorities involved, would be advisory. The motion before us, as has been pointed out, is simply that the Committee adjourn. Anything beyond that would, in my opinion, exceed the authority of the Committee of and me in the Chair. I hope that members of the Committee will accept that both the Minister and I have made clear undertakings that we will draw to the attention of the authorities the views that were expressed in Committee. I hope they will feel mindful to leave it at that.
Mr Jenkin: I am most grateful, Mr Howarth—indeed, I think that the whole Committee is grateful—for the sensitive way in which you have chaired what has not exactly been a routine sitting. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings on his appointment as shipping Minister and thank him for the assurances that he has given the Committee in order to try to rectify the situation.
I am present because I represent the port of Harwich. The Harwich Haven Authority, the terminals at Parkeston, which are operated by Harwich International Port, and Trinity House are all based in Harwich, and the Old Naval Yard is a member of the British Ports Association. All those organisations are concerned about the regulations.
Mr Jenkin: The importance of adjourning the Committee is in the fact that we are talking about a job-destroying set of regulations. They are a threat to the British ports industry, which is organised on an economic basis that is completely different from that of the rest of Europe. That is all I will say.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for East Antrim for his contribution, because he expressed the sentiments of most members of the Committee very clearly; indeed, he reflected the instruction issued by the European Scrutiny Committee that this matter should be debated on the Floor of the House.
To add to the urgency of adjourning the Committee, I now have on my iPad the latest draft of the regulations. The draft was sent to me by an interested party and contains a reincorporation of something that was excluded from a previous draft, namely cargo handling. That is very technical and very significant, because the removal of cargo handling would have limited the scope of the regulation; its inclusion re-expands the document, so there is a significant lacuna in what we are able to scrutinise.
Mr Jenkin: It underlines the importance of adjourning the Committee. This is an important matter. Adjourning the Committee would underline how unaccountable, untransparent and undemocratic is the process of making legislation through the European Union. I am really rather disappointed that so many of my Conservative colleagues who voted against the Lisbon, Amsterdam and Nice treaties are participating in and consenting to this process.
The Chair: No. Four more Members have indicated that they wish to speak. Provided that they all confine their remarks to the motion before us, which is that the Committee be adjourned, I will let them speak.
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I have been reflecting on everything that has been said, and I support the motion to adjourn the sitting. I also support the comments made by the hon. Member for East Antrim. The matter before us is incredibly complex and important for the economic vibrancy of our ports industry. I believe that it should be debated on the Floor of the House and would support a motion to that end. Along
Sammy Wilson: On a point of order, Mr Howarth. We obviously have to adjourn this sitting in order to look at the issue in greater depth. I accept that the Committee cannot dictate how the business of the House is ordered, but we should add to the motion that the Committee adjourn, which will give us the opportunity to get the right documentation and then have proper scrutiny, the point that the Committee believes that the issue should be debated on the Floor of the House. You have indicated, Mr Howarth, that you intend to communicate the discussion we have had to those who order the business of the House, but it would probably carry a bit more weight if the Committee’s vote reflected not only the need to adjourn, but the fact that we believe that those who order our business should, because of all the arguments that have been made, give serious consideration to the Committee’s request that time be given so that Members from across the United Kingdom who have an interest in this matter can have their say.
The Chair: I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, but I reiterate that I cannot see how it is possible to amend a motion to adjourn the Committee, when that would be outside my authority. I hope he will accept that, along with the Minister, I will convey to those concerned the sentiments the Committee has expressed.
Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship on this somewhat exciting Committee, Mr Howarth. I rise briefly not only to lend my support to the Minister’s motion that the Committee adjourn, but to raise an important point. The question of when consideration of the dossier is adjourned to is entirely a matter for the Government, as, indeed, is that of whether the dossier should be brought back before a Committee or go to the Floor of the House. As a result—this is important in the context of the Committee’s consideration of the motion—I would like to hear from the Minister, given the urgency the Italian presidency has apparently given the dossier, that he will in no circumstances override the scrutiny reserve unless and until this matter has been considered in Committee or on the Floor of the House. The Government have the right to override scrutiny, and it is important, when the Committee is considering whether it is appropriate to adjourn, that the Minister, when he responds, assures us that scrutiny will in no circumstances be overridden.
I obviously support the motion. As you said, you will convey the sentiments of everyone who has spoken, and this issue is so significant that it should be on the Floor of the House. It is the unanimous view of the European Scrutiny Committee that it should have been debated on the Floor of the House, but, of course, that Committee does not have the power to require it to be taken on the Floor of the House. That is regrettable, and I would like the Standing Orders of the House to be changed to enable the European Scrutiny Committee to require matters to be debated on the Floor of the House.
Sammy Wilson: On a point of order, Mr Howarth. Following on from the comments of the hon. Member for Luton North, if it is in order for the European Scrutiny Committee to recommend that the matter be debated on the Floor of the House, and if it is in order for you, as Chairman, to advise the House authorities of the Committee’s views, why is it not in order to formally add those views to the motion to adjourn to allow for further scrutiny?
Sir William Cash: Further to that point of order, Mr Howarth. The question that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham raised is extremely important, because the scrutiny reserve is contained in the Standing Orders for the European Scrutiny Committee, which I chair. The problem that could arise is that the Government could decide to override the scrutiny reserve and fall back on the fact that at that point, the Minister concerned could be summed before the European Scrutiny Committee to explain himself. In the circumstances I do not think that would be at all wise or a good idea. It is extremely important that the Government respond now to my hon. and learned Friend’s recommendation, which I repeat as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, so that we know that under no circumstances will the scrutiny reserve be lifted until this matter has been sorted out.
Stephen Phillips: Further to that point of order, Mr Howarth. With respect, at the moment the Minister is being deprived of the right to do so, because if you accept that the Question should be now put, he will not be able to respond and the important point that I made in my speech will simply not be responded to.
Mr Hayes: I am more than happy to say, Mr Howarth, that I think we have had an interesting and informed debate on the adjournment of the Committee—this is about the adjournment, not the subject in hand. I am delighted to be able to say that I will commit to ensure that there is sufficient time for Members to have and scrutinise the documents that have been requested. Although I will not deal today with the matter of further scrutiny and other matters that have been raised, I am more than happy to do so before the Committee sits again.
The Chair: May I express my gratitude to the Clerks, who have helped me navigate through a complicated sitting? When I arrived this morning I knew it was going to be quite complicated, but I was not aware that it would be as complicated as it has turned out to be. May I also thank members of the Committee for their forbearance in helping me get through a quite difficult sitting?