Devolution (Minister's Statement)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th May 1976.

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Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North 12:00 am, 25th May 1976

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House is always in great difficulty when important statements are made from the Front Bench. May I ask you to institute inquiries about the availability of the statement made today by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council? One understands the necessity for parliamentary minorities to be taken into account in making copies of statements available to leaders of Opposition parties, no matter how large or how small. My understanding is that such documents are usually maked "Confidential", and if they are not they are certainly always regarded as such, unless I am very much mistaken.

I have given the Leader of the Scottish National Party notice that I would raise this point of order. I saw every member of his party reading that statement at 3.20 p.m., before it was made. If the document was marked "Confidential" and issued on that understanding, is not a breach of confidence under the rules by which this matter is handled? If the statements are issued on the basis that they can be photocopied and handed out to all and sundry, would it not be a courtesy to Government Back Benchers as well as to the Opposition if they were available to Members before they were made?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The distribution of statements is a matter for the Ministers concerned. The statement made today was an ordinary statement after Questions. The contents and how it is distributed have nothing to do with me as Speaker.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

I understand your answer, Mr. Speaker, but we seek guidance. To help the House, would it not be appropriate if a spokesman of the Scottish National Party told us whether that party broke the usual convention by duplicating the document?

Several hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

We shall not debate a point of order. I have given my ruling on it, and that ruling must stand. I call Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop, on a point of order.

Photo of Mr Douglas Henderson Mr Douglas Henderson , Aberdeenshire East

Further to the point of order—

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

I have been called by Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I do not wish to do an injustice to anyone, but there is no point in our discussing a ruling which I have made. Perhaps it would help the House if the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) sought to make a brief statement, but my feeling is that it would not help the House but would start another argument. We are dealing with a point of order. It would be much better for the House if the hon. Members concerned got together.