HC Deb 15 December 1954 vol 535 cc1777-9
Mr. Turner-Samuels

Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask your guidance on a question, of which I have given you notice, in connection with the Reports of the Boundary Commissions which the House is about to debate. It concerns my position as a Member of Parliament in relation to the debate and also the question of my taking part in any Division affecting the matter or the Motions on the Order Paper. This is a matter, Mr. Speaker, in which I have been professionally instructed on behalf of the Metropolitan Boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham as counsel, and in which I presented to the Chancery Court arguments to show that the Boundary Commission's Report was a contravention of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1949, on which that Report purports to be based.

I respectfully ask your guidance, Sir, in the two respects to which I have referred, namely, would it be contrary to the practice and traditions of the House for a Member, in those circumstances, to take part in the debate, if he caught your eye; and, equally, would it be proper for that Member to take part in any Division either on the Report itself or on any relevant Motions on the Order Paper?

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving me notice of this matter, in which he has a quite reasonable and proper concern. He raises two matters, first, his participation in the debate, and, secondly, his voting.

As regards his speaking in the debate, the only guidance I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman is to refer to the Resolution of the House which is to be found on page 116 of May's "Parliamentary Practice": On 22 June, 1858, the House of Commons resolved, 'That it is contrary to fete usage and derogatory to the dignity of this House that any of its members should bring forward, promote or advocate in this House any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward.' The Resolution which I have read is in general terms, and I do not know, of course, how far anything that the hon. and learned Member proposes to say would be a contravention of that Resolution. I must leave that to his own decision, and, ultimately, to the decision of the House.

As to voting, the Rulings which I and my predecessors have given on this subject make it quite clear, I think, that for the vote of an hon. Member to be disallowed it must, in the first place, be a question which involves direct personal pecuniary benefit to himself, and I cannot conceive how that can possibly apply, on the business which is now before the House, to the hon. and learned Member.

Secondly, to disqualify a vote, the matter on which the hon. Member votes must not be a matter of State policy. All these Motions are being brought to the House by the Home Secretary. They are, in that sense, State policy, and on both these counts I cannot see that any objection can be made to the hon. and learned Gentleman voting on these matters.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I wish to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the very helpful guidance which you have given me on the matter.

Mr. Bellenger

On the points which have been raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), surely we ought to have more explicit guidance. Is it not the case that very eminent Members of this House who have been engaged professionally in the course of various matters have always been able to speak on issues arising in the House in which they have been professionally concerned so long as they have declared their interest in advance?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find the practice followed in the past to have been in accordance with the Resolution of the House, which I have read. The Resolution, as I have said, is in general terms and it is impossible to decide all the cases which may come under it, but I think that what I have said to the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester will guide him sufficiently as to what he should do.

Mr. Pannell

On a point of order. May we take it that anyone so placed as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) could resolve the position beyond all doubt and peradventure by refraining from taking a fee?

Mr. Turner-Samuels

If I had not been a lawyer there would have been no question of a fee and there would have been no need for guidance.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the matter is now settled.