§ 30. Mr. Hal Miller
asked the Lord President of the Council if, in view of the circumstances of the withdrawal of the Government motion on EEC documents on Monday 7th February, he will give an assurance that the House will not in future be asked to consider such motions before copies of the relevant draft EEC directives are available in the Vote Office.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Commission proposals for legislation are made available to the House on publication and in advance of debate. Although discussions in the Council of Ministers may take place over a lengthy period, the Commission's original proposals are the only document formally before the Council. Only very occasionally does the Commission issue a formal revised proposal. Whenever 23 it is possible and helpful the Government provide information on the progress of the proposals by making updated explanatory memoranda available to the House. But I am considering whether anything more can be done.
§ Mr. Miller
Will the Lord President take on board the fact that there was a draft Council directive of 2nd June 1976 to which the Government memorandum clearly referred, although enclosing an earlier and overtaken directive of 1968? The updated memorandum was available to trade associations, one of which briefed me, but not to Members of Parliament. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to tolerate the continuance of that situation?
§ Mr. Foot
The difficulty of the situation arises from the fact that we in this House do business differently from the way it is done in the Community. We have to seek a way of overcoming that problem. However, the Government did not withhold from the House any proper document that we were committed to offer to the House. This was a confidential document. If we made confidential documents available to the House on the same basis as proposals, there would be further difficulties. However, I appreciate the difficulty that the House is in, for the reason that I stated at the beginning of my remarks, and, as I said, I am looking to see how we can seek a way of overcoming it.
§ Mr. Powell
Do not this and similar cases show that the incompatibility of these proceedings of the Council of Ministers with control by this House is inherent and ineradicable?
§ Mr. Spearing
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I can confirm the statement made by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) because I have seen this draft directive, which I believe is called a "working document"? If, as my right hon. Friend says, this is still confidential and not available to this 24 House, although it is available to trade associations in the country, does not that show that the consultation procedure of the EEC in which this House plays no formal part has great federal dangers if ever there are direct elections for this purpose?
§ Mr. Foot
That is a different matter and a larger question, which I am sure this House will want to consider carefully. I am saying that on the occasion when we had these difficulties the Government and the Department were not withholding any document that we were committed to give the House. We shall see how we can approach the same subject again and present it to the House in a way in which the House can deal with it. But the suggestion that all these negotiating documents should be available to the House is not a solution to the problem.
§ Mr. Marten
They are not negotiated documents. We are having legislative proposals placed before the House. If they are to be secret, we are put in an absurd position, especially as the explanatory memorandum in that case was inaccurate.
§ Mr. Foot
I always look carefully at anything that the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) says, but I was not aware that there was any case for saying that the explanatory memorandum was inaccurate. I am sure that the explanatory document on behalf of the Department sought to make the matter as clear as possible. An explanatory document is not the same as the document itself. But the document itself is not a proposal in the form in which it comes from the Commission. That is one of the difficulties. As I say, I am seeking a way to overcome it.
§ Mr. Dykes
Is not the essential problem that the Community is used to dealing with draft legislative instruments in provisional form, whereas this House is used to dealing with definitive legislation at every stage? Within that overall context, will the Lord President say what differential treatment he intends for draft regulations as opposed to draft directives?
§ Mr. Foot
I am having a look at this to see whether we can get some definition that deals with all these questions. 25 To some extent the problem arises from the clash of methods of dealing with these matters which the hon. Gentleman describes. But the solution proposed by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) is not a solution to the problem in my opinion. We have to search for another solution.