HC Deb 07 December 1959 vol 615 cc38-40
Mr. Speaker

On Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) desired my leave to move the Adjournment of the House pursuant to Standing Order No. 9 on the basis of a Motion, the terms of which appear at col. 1397 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that day. The interception by the police, and at their instigation, of a telephone conversation without the express warrant of the Secretary of State, the disclosure to a domestic tribunal of material obtained by interception, the consent given by the Home Secretary to this disclosure, and his failure to take steps to prevent a recurrence of this type of interception and disclosure in future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 1397.] Exceptionally, I asked the indulgence of the House to be allowed to consider the matter and I would like to express my gratitude for that, because it must have caused inconvenience. I have had an opportunity of looking at, and have looked at, the precedents which narrow the Standing Order, and the conclusion I have reached is that I cannot accede to the right hon. Gentleman's request because I do not think that it is open to me to hold his Motion within the Standing Order.

Mr. Gordon Walker

While accepting your Ruling, of course, Mr. Speaker, and thanking you for the consideration that you gave to it, may I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the great public concern and alarm about this matter, the Government would provide time for a debate upon it, because there are a great many questions which cannot be answered by way of Question and Answer?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

Yes, Sir, I anticipated that the right hon. Gentleman or his right hon. or hon. Friends might make this request in the event of your Ruling going as you have now informed us, Mr. Speaker, and I can say that I am ready to have consultations through the usual channels. There is the comparative difficulty of the short time left to us before Christmas, but I weigh against that the importance of the subject. I will leave it at that, but we will have conversations, bearing in mind the difficulties of finding a suitable time and also the importance of the subject.

Mr. Paget

On a point of order, Sir. So that we may be guided on future occasions, would you tell us under which heading my right hon. Friend's application fell short? Was it urgency, definiteness or importance?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, I will do so as briefly as I may. I do not wish to give long reasons. But it is rather difficult to state them shortly, because the Motion raised a number of matters and there are distinct objections relating to each. Broadly, I came to the conclusion that the Motion could not be within the Standing Order on three grounds: the matter raised was too indefinite—the precedents are insistent on a single matter only being raised; the matter raised occurred in the ordinary administration of the law—precedent is insistent that such matter cannot be so raised. As a result of that factor, the matter is not urgent in the procedural sense within the context of the Standing Order.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Further to that point of order, Sir. May I ask, with great respect, whether it is a desirable precedent for a Question under Standing Order No. 9 to be held over for two or three days? In the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure it was suggested that the Speaker might take time to consider this and give his answer later that day. May I ask whether you have given thought to that and whether perhaps in future it might be desirable for your answer to be given on the day the question is raised, if possible?

Mr. Speaker

Having that point in mind, the House will have noticed that I prefaced my gratitude for the indulgence shown to me with the word "exceptionally". I regret the inconvenience that I may have caused.

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