HC Deb 20 April 1948 vol 449 cc1635-767

Considered in Committee [Progress, 24th March.]

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

3.46 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

On a point of Order. On the last occasion when we were considering this Bill in Committee I raised a point of Order with the Temporary Chairman, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), as to whether a document which was quoted by the Home Secretary was a State paper, and if so, whether, in accordance with the established Rule, it should not be laid on the Table. The hon. Member who was then in the Chair did not, of course, have notice of this point of Order, and he ruled: If a Minister quotes from a paper, or a State paper in the House that paper should be laid on the Table, but we are not in the House now; we are in Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1948; Vol. 448, C. 3127.] I accepted the Ruling of the Temporary Chairman, although it did not accord with my recollections of previous Rulings given by your predecessors, Major Milner. I later consulted Erskine May, and I found some support for my point of view. Accordingly, later in the Session I raised this matter with the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, and I asked if he would cause a Ruling to be given. I do not propose to trouble the Committee with all the precedents, dating back to 1808, but I would point out that those interested in the matter will find an admirable account given to the House on 31st May, 1938, by Viscount Stansgate, better known as Mr. Wedgwood Benn. I think this matter is sufficiently important to be raised at this stage, and I venture therefore to inquire whether it would not be convenient for you, Major Milner, to make a statement now, assuring us that documents quoted by a Minister are liable to be required to be laid on the Table not only in the House but in Committee.

The Chairman

I am obliged to the hon. Member for raising this point. The simple question is whether a paper from which quotations are made in the course of a Debate in Committee of the Whole House should be laid on the Table of the House. The difficulty which very naturally occurred to the mind of the hon. Member who was at that time temporarily in the Chair was the analogy of the courts. It seemed somewhat anomalous that documents quoted in Committee of the Whole House could be required to be laid before the Horse itself, which is theoretically a different body. I am not aware that that technicality has ever been considered before. I have now had an opportunity to consider it. The purpose of the Rule is to make the document concerned available to the body before whom it is cited. In my opinion, a document presented to the House should be available to a Committee of the Whole House. I am of the opinion, therefore, that the Chairman of a Committee of the Whole House may properly rule that a Minister, quoting a document in Committee of the Whole House, ought to lay that document on the Table. In my view, his position in that respect does not differ from that of Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy-Speaker when in the Chair of the House. I hope that that may clear up the matter. I ought to add that the question does not now arise in the case of the particular document read by the Home Secretary because it is now recorded in HANSARD.

Mr. Butcher

I thank you, Major Milner, for your guidance and for going to the trouble to give this Ruling, which reinforces the Ruling given by Sir Dennis Herbert in 1938.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr and Bute, Northern)

I apologise for not having given notice of this, but Standing Committees should also be given some thought in regard to this procedure. Perhaps a Ruling could be given in this respect on some other occasion.

The Chairman

That matter does not arise today, but no doubt could be dealt with by the proper authority on some other appropriate occasion.

  1. CLAUSE 13.—(Effect of register, etc.) 5,340 words
  2. cc1650-6
  3. CLAUSE 15.—(Return or forfeiture of candidate's deposit.) 2,929 words, 1 division
  4. cc1656-65
  5. CLAUSE 16.—(Returning officers.) 3,629 words
  6. cc1665-70
  7. CLAUSE 17.—(Discharge of functions of returning officer.) 1,654 words
  8. c1670
  9. CLAUSE 18.—(Payments by and to returning officer.) 34 words
  10. c1670
  11. CLAUSE 20.—(Breaches of official duty.) 43 words
  12. cc1670-91
  13. CLAUSE 21.—(Electors.) 8,051 words
  14. cc1691-9
  15. CLAUSE 22.—(Residence, occupation, etc.) 3,264 words
  16. cc1699-701
  17. CLAUSE 23.—(Registration.) 922 words
  18. cc1701-13
  19. CLAUSE 24.—(Place and manner of voting as elector.) 4,890 words
  20. c1714
  21. CLAUSE 25.—(Voting by post by absent voters.) 179 words
  22. cc1714-6
  23. CLAUSE 26.—(Service voters' proxies.) 706 words
  24. cc1716-8
  25. CLAUSE 27.—(Amendments of local elections rules.) 638 words
  26. c1718
  27. CLAUSE 28.—(Effect of register, etc.) 71 words
  28. cc1718-22
  29. CLAUSE 31.—(Limit of, and return and declarations as to, expenses.) 1,677 words
  30. cc1722-3
  31. CLAUSE 33.—(Candidate's right to use certain schools and halls for election meetings.) 415 words
  32. cc1723-38
  33. CLAUSE 35.—(Election propaganda.) 5,878 words
  34. cc1738-9
  35. CLAUSE 37.—(Extension to certain elections in England and Wales of limit on expenses.) 270 words
  36. cc1739-67
  37. CLAUSE 40.—(Prohibition of expenses not authorised by election agent.) 10,423 words