HC Deb 24 November 1982 vol 32 cc863-4

4.7 pm

Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Thornaby)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the past 24 hours hon. Members will have received in the Vote two papers, one on the Telecommunications Bill and the other on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which draw our attention to corrections in those Bills, which were published only days ago.

I should like to draw that matter to your attention, Mr. Speaker, because, although we fully accept that corrections will occasionally be necessary and mistakes will be made, for example in spelling or some other minor matter in a Bill, the corrections in the Telecommunications Bill, of which there are five, alter the text so that the meaning is altered. Therefore, I should like to seek your guidance on the status of those corrections. In effect they are amendments to the text of the Bills. I should like to know whether it is possible to proceed with the consideration of those Bills when, in effect, amendments have been laid before the House before the Second Reading has taken place.

Will you be good enough, Mr. Speaker, to find out for the House who is responsible for it being necessary for those corrections to be proposed so soon after the Bills have been published? The precise wording of Bills is of vital importance not only to the House but to many people outside. For corrections to be submitted on matters of substantial importance to people outside the House, who may be unaware that such corrections have been made until later in the consideration of the Bills is something about which hon. Members will be concerned.

It would be helpful if the House could find out whether this arises because of mistakes made in the House or by the printers, or because of the Government, who have had plenty of time to prepare the Bills, delivering them so late to the House, that there is not time for them to be properly printed. I should be grateful for your guidance, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) gave me notice before Twelve o'clock this morning of his point of order. That has enabled me to consider the matter. I understand that only two corrections affect the text of the Bills. Those are the last two corrections to the Telecommunications Bill. The first reinserts a dropped line, and the second corrects an obvious misprint. Both corrections were sent to the printers on Monday of this week and were published on Tuesday. I am quite satisfied that the use of correction slips in both cases is perfectly proper and it is by no means without precedent. That is the answer that I must give to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that the House would like to know why the amendments were necessary. There has been a great deal of time for the Government to prepare the drafts of those Bills. It is confusing and wrong that amendments should be brought forward so soon after Bills have been presented to the House.

Mr. Speaker

That may well be, but I cannot add anything to the ruling that I have given.