Orders of the Day — Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 2:29 pm on 26 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West 2:29, 26 March 1993

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point of order is about the availability of papers for Monday's debate on coal. You will recall that yesterday, as reported at columns 1233 and 1234 of Hansard, the President of the Board of Trade referred to the French interconnector.

Following those exchanges, I asked the Library whether I could be provided with a copy of that agreement. I have been advised by the Library that the agreement consists of the original protocol, which was signed in 1981, and subsequent commercial agreements. None of the commercial agreements is in the public domain. The original protocol has never been made public either, although part of one of the articles was quoted in a recent report from the Select Committee on Trade and Industry.

The report of the Committee, which was published on Wednesday 2 December 1992, contained a quotation from article 14 of the protocol. The White Paper that is the subject of Monday's debate makes numerous references to the French interconnector between pages 55 and 58, as well as references to the protocol. The report of the Select Committee is of considerable importance in the context of Monday's debate, and it makes extensive comments also on the protocol and the subsequent agreement.

Bearing in mind the vital interest in the French interconnector, the agreement and the protocol, which have never been made available or published, and bearing in mind also the direct quotations in the report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, I urge you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and perhaps Madam Speaker, to reflect on whether the protocol and all the subsequent agreements relating to the French interconnector should be made available in time for Monday's debate.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

I am sure that the hon. Member realises that the occupants of the Treasury Bench will have heard his point of order. Presumably they will act accordingly.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) has raised a most important matter. I heard what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about my hon. Friend's point of order being heard by those on the Treasury Bench, but there is a ruling that if documents are referred to on the Floor of the House they should be provided subsequently. They certainly should be provided for the debate on Monday. There is a great deal of political capital——

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. That rule applies only when there is a direct quotation from a state paper.