HC Deb 30 November 1948 vol 458 cc1814-5
Mr. Speaker

There is another matter which I would mention to the House. I promised to give a Ruling about Petitions. The House will remember that a Petition was presented by the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert), and that he caused it to be read. I said that I would look into this matter, and I indicated on a recent occasion that I would refer again to the subject of an hon. Member presenting a public Petition and requiring it to be read by the Clerk.

The precedents show clearly that the concluding words of Standing Order No. 92—" it may be read by the Clerk if required"—mean" if required by the hon. Member presenting the Petition." These words convey an absolute right to have a Petition read, and other hon. Members could not prevent it by expressing objection.

But to require one or more Petitions to be read must so curtail Question Time as to impose a considerable hardship on hon. Members who desire to obtain oral answers to their Questions. I express the hope, therefore, that hon. Members presenting Petitions will refrain, so far as possible, from requiring them to be read.

Mr. Alpass

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, in reference to the presenting of Petitions? I am aware that, with regard to a certain Petition, misrepresentations have been made to persons who were asked to sign it. I myself have been approached. The nature of the Petition was misrepresented to me, and I corrected it. What steps are taken to ensure that people who sign Petitions understand what they are doing, and that their signatures are not obtained by misrepresentation?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid I can give no guidance about that. If any person comes to an hon. Member and says "Please present a Petition for me," I really think that it is up to the hon. Member concerned to see that he is not misled in any way. I cannot help in any way on that matter.