§ Mr. Speaker
I have a short statement to make to the House about the daily half-hour debate on the Adjournment.
I have had representations made to me from both sides of the House that the present system under which the subject for the daily half-hour Adjournment is selected is not altogether satisfactory, inasmuch as no opportunity occurs for raising a matter of immediate topical interest. In an endeavour to meet these representations I am putting before the House today the outline of a scheme which, I hope, will to some extent mitigate the defect complained of.
Broadly speaking, the scheme would provide that while the subjects for the half-hour Adjournment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays should still be chosen by ballot, those on Tuesdays and Thursdays should be selected by the Speaker, who would give priority, first, to matters raising individual or constituency grievances, including subjects of which notice has been given at Question Time, and, secondly, other matters of topical interest. I am circulating in the Official Report proposed detailed arrangements which, I suggest, should govern this new scheme.
When hon. Members have read these, I should be very grateful if any objections to the scheme were sent to me before the end of next week, and I would undertake to consider any such objections or suggestions and to make another statement to the House before the Easter Recess. Subject to such representations and suggestions, I should propose to bring the new scheme into operation in the week following the Easter Recess, but Adjournments for the week beginning 18th April would be decided before the House rises for Easter under the old system.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
I am sure the whole House is grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having taken this matter into your consideration. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House will carefully study the details of the arrangements which you have outlined and will let you know any comments they would like to put forward on the matter.
§ Mr. Attlee
I think that this is a great improvement. Formerly, it was possible to raise matters of great urgency at short notice. Latterly, it has been extremely difficult to do so. I think your proposed scheme, Mr. Speaker, will be a great advantage.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I understand that this is a matter primarily affecting back benchers, and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that in giving your decisions you will consider matters not so much of topicality as of urgency.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am sure that it will be for the convenience of back benchers that such a change should be made, but I would certainly hope that you would take into consideration, Mr. Speaker, topicality, because the essence of this proposal is to offer an opportunity forthwith for a discussion rather longer than that afforded at Question Time.
For instance, yesterday the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) gave notice after Questions that she wished to raise the question of the facilities available in Scotland for the treatment of tuberculosis. It would be greatly to the advantage of all of us if that matter could be discussed at a fairly early date, instead of its having to be postponed, as it may be under the present system, to the Greek kalends.
§ Mr. Speaker
I shall endeavour to keep all these considerations in mind. I should very much appreciate it if hon. Members who may have comments to make on these arrangements when they have read about them would send me their views, because I should like to do what is in the interests of the House as a whole.
§ Mr. Porter
What would be the position on Tuesdays and Thursdays if there should be no subjects on those days which come within the category you have suggested,
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not sure that I have heard the hon. Member aright, but I think that if he reads the proposed rules he will find that that matter is referred to in them.
§ Following are the proposed rules for the new scheme for the half-hour Adjournment:
- 1. After Easter the subject for the half-hour Adjournment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be selected by ballot, while those on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be selected by Mr. Speaker.
- 2. When the selection rests with him Mr. Speaker will endeavour to give priority to
- (a) individual or constituency grievances and
- (b) matters of immediate topical interest.
- 3. The present Adjournment book will be abolished after the draw for the Adjournment for the week beginning 18th April. Thereafter, a Member desiring to raise a matter on the Adjournment should write to Mr. Speaker before four o'clock on the Thursday in any week stating the subject of his proposed Adjournment and the Minister involved in exactly the same way as if he wished to raise it on the Easter, Whitsun, Summer or Christmas Adjournment. At half-past four o'clock on any Thursday, Mr. Speaker will consider the letters he has received on this matter since four o'clock the previous Thursday, and allocate the subject for the Adjournment for the Tuesday and Thursday of the following week.
- 4. Members who have not been selected byMr. Speaker will, if eligible, be put into the ballot for the Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the following week, which will then be drawn.
- 5. The names of Members who have not been either selected or successful in the ballot will be entered in a book, together with their subject, and they will, if eligible, be included in succeeding ballots.
- 6. A Member successful in the ballot will not beeligible to ballot for the following two weeks, but he will not thereby be prevented from submitting his name and subject for Mr. Speaker's selection but, if not selected, his name will not be included in the ballot or entered in the Adjournment book.
- 7. A Member may not have more than one entry current at the same time. Accordingly, if a letter is received from a Member whose name is already in the book the original entry will be expunged.
- 8. An oral notice to raise a matter on the Adjournment will not be considered by Mr. Speaker unless it is confirmed in writing.
- 9. A Member will not be permitted to change the subject of his Adjournment except with the consent of Mr. Speaker.