Responsibility for the making available of documents

21.28It is the responsibility of the Government and not of the Chair to see that documents which may be relevant to debates are laid before the House or otherwise available to Members and that this is done in a timely manner.1 It is not for the Chair to decide what documents are relevant.2 Only when the Speaker personally has control of a document can they be involved in making it available to the House or a committee.3 Departments are required to specify the documents that may be relevant to a forthcoming debate and enable these to be available;4 motions have in the past not been moved or been the subject of a dilatory motion where this obligation may not have been met.5 The Speaker has said that it is a discourtesy for Ministers to lay or publish documents only a very short time before a debate to which they are relevant.6 In a case where relevant documents were not provided in time, the Speaker suspended the House to allow time for Members to obtain them.7 In view of the exceptional degree of interest in the report of the inquiry into the export of defence equipment and dual-use goods in Iraq and related prosecutions, special arrangements, including a ten-minute suspension of the sitting, were made to enable Members to obtain copies before a ministerial statement to coincide with its publication.8

The Speaker has indicated that where Ministers acting in that capacity make information available to Members of the House, they should do so to all Members equally.9

Footnotes

  1. HC Deb (1964–65) 718, cc 407–8, 963; ibid (1971–72) 832, cc 571, 575; ibid (14 December 2004) 428, c 1582; ibid (17 January 2005) 441, cc 706–7; ibid (21 January 2008) 470, c 1238.
  2. HC Deb (1965–66) 720, c 321.
  3. HC Deb (1968–69) 780, cc 491–93.
  4. HC Deb (1965–66), 725, c 34; ibid (1979–80) 972, cc 1581–86.
  5. HC Deb (1977–78) 950, cc 1458–64; HC Deb (1989–90) 175, c 962–63.
  6. HC Deb (15 October 2009) 497, c 456; ibid (5 July 2010) 513, cc 74–75.
  7. HC Deb (12 July 2018) 644, cc 1155–56.
  8. HC 115 (1995–96) (the ‘Scott Report’); see HC Deb (1995–96) 271, c 636W.
  9. HC Deb (6 November 2012) 552, c 750.