§ 11.51 p.m.
§ Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
On a point of order. I want to find out what has happened to the normal privileges which were vested in back bench Members under the Ten Minutes' Rule procedure. With the permission of the House I introduced a Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule last week. It happens to be the second Bill I have introduced under this Rule, and I was asked last week by Mr. Speaker on what day I wanted the Second Reading. I nominated Wednesday.
I fully realise that I have been out of the House of Commons for five years, and there may have been some alterations to Standing Orders, but I am a realist and like practical arrangements, and I do not quite understand the significance of being asked to nominate a day for Second Reading when, in fact, there is only one day on which there is a possibility of obtaining a Second Reading. It does not seem to me to make sense; it is not practical, it seems a travesty of the procedure which was always vested in back bench Members, and I want to ask what protection there is for Private Members.
I well remember, when I returned to the House of Commons in 1950, that the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) introduced a Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule and that she adopted the procedure which I am asking for now. I do not like being asked to nominate a day and then to find, as in 2136 "Lady Precious Stream" that "it does not mean anything at all." Why has this totalitarian method suddenly arisen in the British House of Commons? Can I be told whether my rights as a Private Member—now that the Ten Minutes' Rule has been reintroduced—have been swept away?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles Mac Andrew)
I think the hon. Lady is wrong in thinking there has been any change in the procedure for Private Members' Bills. Fridays are the days on which these Bills can get a Second Reading. If she elects to put a Bill down for Second Reading on a day of Government business she cannot expect time to be allowed for its discussion. In any case, there is always the possibility of a Member objecting to its being taken. The best course is to put it down for a Friday when it stands a chance of obtaining a Second Reading.
§ Miss Ward
Further to the point that there has been no alteration to the procedure, it is within my recollection that in the old days, and, indeed, it was so in the case of my other Bill, I adopted the same procedure as I have done to night. Any Private Member's Bill to which the House gave permission for its introduction was permitted to be put down at the end of business on any Parliamentary day which the Member elected to select. I was asked by Mr. Speaker to nominate a day, and I selected tonight. If there has been no alteration in procedure I am right in claiming the procedure to be put into operation. The fact that it has been customary to put down these Bills on a Friday—no doubt a suitable thing for all Governments—interferes with the rights and privileges of Private Members.
We have always had these rights and privileges. The right to introduce a Ten Minutes' Rule Bill, which was suspended during the war, was reintroduced when I returned to the House of Commons, and there was no suggestion of alteration of the procedure. Surely I am in order, if there has been no alteration of Parliamentary procedure, in asking that the ordinary rules shall be maintained. Parliamentary rights and privileges ought not to be swept away by any Government without the full agreement of the House. Therefore, I do claim that under the Ten 2137 Minutes' Rule procedure I have the right to have my Bill presented on the day which I stated to Mr. Speaker.
Unless there has been alteration of the Standing Order the House is behaving in a totalitarian manner in expecting me to conform to something to which, so far as I know, there was no reason for me to conform.
I think the hon. Lady is ignorant of our procedure. Leave to introduce a Bill under this procedure does not give rights for a Private Member's Bill. They are allotted Fridays.
§ Miss Ward
If you will allow me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I took my Poor Law (Amendment) Bill through the House of Commons, in 1937, and having got the permission of the House to introduce it, I nominated the day on which I wanted the Second Reading. If you will be good enough to look at the progress of my Bill you will see that it was never taken on a Friday, but always on a Monday, after Government business. That applied to all the stages of the Bill until I got it on to the Statute Book. I was never directed to place it on the Order Paper for discussion.
What is the sense of Mr. Speaker's asking me on what day I want the Bill if it can only be put down for a Friday? Why, when I said Wednesday, did not Mr. Speaker object? It is just silly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If that was not conforming to Standing Orders why did not Mr. Speaker say so? He put it down for Wednesday. I again say that my last Bill was done under this procedure, and when the hon. Member for Blackburn, East, took a Bill through the House on the nod she did not introduce it on a Friday. She did it, when her party was in power, after Government business. I want to know what Standing Order, or what is the alteration in the procedure of the House, which prevents my claiming my rights and privileges under the Ten Minutes' Rule procedure.
The Ten Minutes' Rule carries no rights at all. The only thing an hon. Member can do by it is to be given leave to introduce a Bill—
The word "silly" was used. It was very silly to select a Government day for the Bill. The hon. Member should have taken a Private Member's day.
If the hon. Member will come to see me I will explain to her. She is eating into the time of the adjournment now. I think I can satisfy her that she is not being wronged. No one who puts down a Private Member's Bill for a Government day stands much chance of getting it through. It is not much good taking a Government day, unless the Government are supporting the Bill. This is not a Government Bill or it would be starred.