Courts Bill [Lords]
Mr Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath, Conservative)
On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I am not about to criticise the Minister because the matter is not down to him, but I wish to issue some guidance to his officials. On opening my House of Commons post about half an hour ago, I was surprised to find a detailed letter from the Minister explaining the amendments that we are about to discuss. The letter was dated 7 July. When a large group of amendments has been tabled, especially when a schedule is to be replaced, copies of the explanatory letter should be supplied to all members of the Committee, especially to spokesmen for the Opposition, on the day that it is written, by fax or by being put on the Members' Letter Board. I gather that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) has not received such a letter.
Given the security measures in the House, letters do not necessarily arrive the following day by post. The Minister's letter took three days to reach my office. We have all read the amendments, but an explanatory letter about them from the Minister should reach Opposition spokesmen and, if possible, all members of the Committee on the day when it was signed by the Minister—in this case, 7 July. It is not beyond the wit of man to achieve that end by fax or by leaving letters on the Letter Board. It has often happened in the past. I hope that the Minister will take such matters on board.
Mr Christopher Leslie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs; Shipley, Labour)
Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I apologise for the delay, either in the dispatch or in the postal process, in the hon. Gentleman receiving the explanatory letter on the new amendments. They were tabled some time ago, but explanatory notes are often helpful. I will undertake to find ways in which to communicate more speedily in future. Moreover, I shall try to be as explanatory as possible when referring to the amendments.
Mr David Heath (Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat)
Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. It would be extremely helpful if a copy of the letter were to find its way to the Liberal Democrat Bench this morning before we start discussing the amendments.