HC Deb 21 June 1961 vol 642 cc1477-80
Sir J. Duncan

On a point of order. I desire to raise a Question in connection with Motion No. 129 on the Order Paper of Notice of Questions and Motions for 19th June.

[That this House deplores the aggression by the Portuguese authorities against defenceless Africans in the Colony of Angola, which has resulted in death and suffering of tens of thousands of people and has become a threat to good relations between the independent African States and the allies of Portugal within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take urgent action at the United Nations with a view to action to prevent further bloodshed and chaos; and believes that peace and security in Angola can only be achieved on the basis of full respect for human rights and the establishment of a democratic constitution.]

The Motion was originally put down two days ago. Yesterday, a number of names were added, and the last name appearing on yesterday's Order Paper was that of Mr. James Carmichael. I have discovered that Mr. James Carmichael was made a Steward of the Manor of Northstead on 8th June, and is, therefore, no longer a Member.

There are three questions that I should like to ask your advice about, Mr. Speaker. First, how is it that Mr. Carmichael's name was put on the Order Paper yesterday, when he is no longer a Member? Secondly, whose responsibility is it to put names on the Order Paper? Thirdly, how can a name be taken off? I understand that there is no official means of taking a name off unless an hon. Member asks for it to be taken off.

From such inquiries as I have been able to make, I understand that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), whom I warned that I would be raising this point, was responsible for putting Mr. Carmichael's name on the Order Paper yesterday. I should like to give him an opportunity of explaining how it happened. I raise this question on the general ground that Members themselves ought to be responsible for putting their names, in their own handwriting, to Motions of this kind, rather than have a gentleman putting down his name when he is no longer a Member of the House, as happened in this case, as far as I can make out.

Mr. Brockway rose

Mr. Speaker

I will give the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) an opportunity to speak in a moment.

The hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) warned me that he wanted to raise this matter, in order that I could make some inquiries.

How did Mr. Carmichael's name get on to the Motion? The answer is that it was one of the names—the others being the names of hon. Members—which were handed in by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough on Monday to be added to the Motion.

Whose is the responsibility in these matters? I would remind the House of a Ruling of my predecessor, on 24th March, 1947. He was asked to state the rules governing the handing in of Notices of Motion and the adding of Members' names to such Notices. Mr. Speaker then said: The rules relating to Members handing or sending their names to be added to Motions or Amendments, are identical with those for sending or handing in any notice, that is that, if sent, a notice must bear the Member's autographed signature; if handed in by the Member concerned or by another Member duly authorised by him, a notice need not bear an autographed signature, nor do I think that the Clerks at the Table should be instructed to query a Member's authority to hand in a notice for another Member, which in my view would be disparaging to Members of this House who must be assumed to be acting honourably and with full responsibility."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 864.] I would desire to adhere to the practice as then declared by my predecessor.

How has the name got off the Order Paper? The answer is that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, apologising for the mistake, and having realised that the name concerned was no longer the name of an hon. Member, asked that it might be removed, and it was then removed.

Sir J. Duncan

Will you consider slightly tightening up the rules, Mr. Speaker, so that a Member himself should provide an autographed signature before the names are accepted? It is extremely difficult for the Table if the signature is typed.

Mr. Speaker

I will consider that point, but there are obvious conveniences in allowing one Member to authorise another to act on his behalf. From my own experience, I am not sure that we have had these errors or confusions very often.

Mr. Brockway

First, I should like to thank the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) for indicating to me that he wanted to raise this matter. As you have said, Mr. Speaker, I have already apologised to the Table. I should now like to apologise to you and to the House for having some responsibility for this infringement. May I explain how it occurred?

I sent a copy of the Motion to a number of my hon. Friends, asking them to consider it, and, if they were favourable to it, to consider adding their names. Inadvertently, the name of Mr. James Carmichael was in that list. He replied to me, giving me authority to add his name to the Motion. I want to be quite fair to Mr. Carmichael. It may be that he thought that his signature was merely required for general support, although, actually, it was quite clear from my letter that I wanted his signature to the Motion.

As soon as I discovered my mistake I went to the Table Office and apologised, and I asked if the name could be withdrawn. I end by repeating my regrets to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House.