Health and Social Care Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 10th January 2008.

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[Mr. Jim Hood in the Chair]

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health) 1:00 pm, 10th January 2008

On a point of order, Mr. Hood, I would like to place on the record that although I thank the Minister for the briefing he has put before the Committee on delegated powers in the Bill—a briefing that I asked for at the meeting we had after Second Reading—it was unfortunate that it only arrived on the evening of 7 January, which was less than 18 hours before the Committee started. In the briefing, the Minister stated that on publication of the Bill he also

“published the delegated powers memorandum for the Health and Social Care Bill by placing copies in the House Library.”

When I contacted the Library yesterday, I was informed that it did not have the memorandum. On further investigation with officials and with the Library, I was told this morning—the information is rather specific, so forgive me for quoting—that:

“This was a delegated powers memorandum which does not fall into the category of deposited paper unless it is specifically mentioned by a Minister as being placed in the Library, therefore it was not given a dep number. It was sent to the library but was obviously rejected as a dep by our deposited papers clerk.”

I understand from officials that they tried to deposit the paper in the Library but that the Library refused to take it, presumably on the ground stated. This morning, the Library has provided me with a hard copy of the memorandum. The first mention of its existence was in the briefing that I first saw just before the Committee met on Monday 7 January.

Although I understand the difficulty, Mr. Hood, perhaps you could assist me in ascertaining when the Committee was notified about the memorandum and given access to it. Given that a quarter of the Bill’s clauses are dependent on secondary legislation, the memorandum is a key document for the proper working of the Committee. I am anxious that there should be a timely consideration of all such documents, so that we can scrutinise the Bill. I would be grateful for your advice, Mr. Hood.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

Before I rule on the point of order, I invite the Minister to respond to Mr. O’Brien’s point.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health

Yes, I can do so briefly. My understanding is that—and I apologise for this—my officials were not aware of the new Library rule requiring some public commitment on the part of the Minister that he or she will place a document in the Library. Although I think that we have e-mails from way back showing that it was our intention to do so, my officials and I were not aware of the procedure. As  the hon. Member for Eddisbury has graciously acknowledged, we tried to place the document in the Library, but it did not happen because of the new rule.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Eddisbury, but it is not a point of order for the Chair. Having raised the matter and had the Minister respond to it, perhaps the usual channels can resolve the problem. It is not a matter that I consider a point of order.