HC Deb 13 November 1958 vol 595 cc579-82
Mr. Hale

I wish to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of incidents which occurred in the House last night. I do not seek to challenge the Rulings which you gave or to reopen a discussion which was pursued at some considerable length. I wish merely to ask, as there is a Select Committee on Procedure sitting at the moment—I know that I must not make reference to that, except to say that it exists—and as certain issues were left unclear, and you did say last night to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), who raised the point, which you described as one of difficulty and importance, that you would reserve judgment, whether, in the circumstances, you would consider the quite unprecedented implications that arose in connection with last night's Adjournment debate?

This was a balloted debate. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) drew his place in the ballot and you are reported as saying in HANSARD that the hon. Member for Hexham indicated, during the course of questions on Cyprus, earlier in the day, that you had decided to give preference to him. I do not know whether that report is accurate, but I take it that it indicates that you had the power to consider whether the hon. Member for Hexham, having given notice of his intention to change his subject, should be permitted to do so, whether he should be called, or whether you should call some other hon. Member to move the Adjournment of the House. Last night's debate was quite exceptional and in pursuance of my duty I have to mention one fact in connection with it.

The hon. Member for Hexham had given wide publicity to his intention to raise a number of matters, or at least publicity had been given in the Press, and I have seen no contradiction of the report that he would do so. I have in my possession—but it would be out of order for me to quote it—a publication calling itself the Daily Express, which, I understand, is a widely circulated organ for the dissemination of information, on the front page of which we were told that the hon. Member for Hexham would, on the Adjournment debate on Wednesday, that is, last night, demand the dismissal of the Governor of Cyprus and that he be replaced by Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer—

Mr. Speaker

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) while he is raising a legitimate point of order, but surely the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) is not responsible for everything that appears about him in the newspapers. I think that the hon. Member has put his point to me, which, I take it, is that as this appeared in a number of newspapers, and a lot of publicity gathered around it, therefore, in the circumstances, I should not have allowed the hon. Member for Hexham to change his subject.

May I say that I went into the matter very carefully? The hon. Member for Hexham informed me during Questions that he wanted to raise another subject and I gave the reasons last night, which I think are sound, that I allowed the change in accordance with the Ruling of my predecessor, who started this business of balloting.

The real point is this. If the hon. Member for Oldham, West challenges my Ruling on that, he knows the proper way in which to do it, but I do not think that he is doing that. I think that he is drawing attention to the difficulty of this whole matter. The hon. Member is, I think, himself a member of the Select Committee on Procedure. Personally, I should be very happy if the whole matter were examined by that Committee, because it may well be that a procedure which was started immediately after the war, or during the war, I am not sure which, but I think it was 1944 or 1945, is not really applicable to our modern conditions. If that is the view of the House, I would be very happy to consider what the hon. Member has said.

I think that the hon. Member is in this difficulty, that either he should put down a Motion challenging my Ruling if he thinks that it is wrong, although I gave the best Ruling I could according to precedent in the matter, or he should get the Select Committee to go thoroughly into the matter, which, personally, I should like very much.

Mr. Hale

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for not making myself completely clear. was not only not challenging your Ruling but, in so far as it may be permissible for me to do so without impertinence, I was venturing to express agreement with it.

This does raise matters of difficulty. I do not suggest for one moment that the hon. Member for Hexham made communications to the Press, but somebody did; it may have been the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I was venturing to ask whether you would consider the matter further and give a Ruling to the House because, as you know, there is the question of whether the Adjournment debate belongs to the person or the subject; and apparently no final Ruling was given on that matter.

So far as the Press is concerned, I would make no further reference to it, but I must justify myself for having mentioned it by saying that this matter did get a position of great prominence in the paper, on what, I believe, is called the front page, which as far as I know has never before been devoted to a back bencher of either House, except possibly the noble Lord the Marquess of Milford Haven.

Mr. Speir

My I draw attention to the unfortunate predicament in which I found myself yesterday, Sir? I had carefully, at great length, prepared two speeches and in the circumstances I was prevented from delivering either of them. That being so, would it be in order, so that the House may have the pleasure of hearing at least one of my speeches, if I moved the Adjournment now?

Mr. Speaker

No, I do not think that that would be in order.