HC Deb 23 March 1965 vol 709 cc475-8

11.7 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office (Mr. George Thomas)

I beg to move, That the Order made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, extending section 1 of the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932 to the Urban District of Hcanor, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th February, be approved. This is a formal Order, and I do not suppose that any explanation is required, but, if the House desires it, I shall give one.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, this Order has not been made available in the Vote Office. Earlier this evening I told the hon. Gentleman not to pride himself on it too soon.

On inquiry at the Vote Office, I was told that, this being a local Order, it was not customary for it to be placed in the Vote Office. Quite frankly, I cannot see the difference between a local Order and some general Order. The House is asked to approve an Order laid on the Table. I have acquired the only copy of this Order, the presentation copy, in the Library. That means that no other hon. Member in the Chamber, except the hon. Gentleman, who no doubt has been supplied with a copy by his Department, has seen a copy of the Order, and yet the House is asked to approve it.

It is not merely an Order applying a section of a certain Act. It has attached to it statutory declarations about a town meeting having been held preliminary to this Order.

Mr. Speaker

There must be some limit to what the hon. Member can discuss on a point of order. If he wants to move a Motion, I shall consider whether or not to accept it. I can tell him that for the last 20 years none of these Orders has ever been laid. They are in common form, save for the district named.

Mr. Graham Page

There must always be a first time, and I was asking for your guidance as to whether Members can carry out their duties properly and approve an Order which is not made available for them in the Vote Office.

Mr. Speaker

That is an argument which the hon. Member could adduce were he to seek to move a Motion—I do not say whether I would accept it—to adjourn the debate on the basis that the Order was not available, but I say no more than that now.

Mr. George Thomas

The purpose of the Order, which has been submitted by Heanor District Council under the procedure laid down in the Schedule to the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, is to extend Section 1 of the Act to the urban district, and thereby to confer on the local justices, who are by delegation the licensing authority under the Cinematograph Act, 1909, power to allow cinematograph exhibitions to be given in the urban district on Sundays. Under Section 1 of the Act of 1932 is so extended, the justices have no such power. It rests only within the discretion of a borough or district council to decide whether steps should be taken with a view to the submission of a draft Order for the extension of Section 1 of the Act.

The council, if it passes a resolution proposing that there should be such a draft Order, has to publish, by means of placards and the local Press, the terms of that draft Order, stating that it proposes to submit it to the Home Secretary for his approval. There must also be an announcement of a public meeting of local government electors, and the decision of such a meeting is final unless a poll s demanded by not fewer than a hundred electors, or one-twentieth of the electorate, whichever is the lesser, or by the council if the decision of the meeting is against the proposal.

In the case of Heanor, the decision of the meeting held on 21st December, 1964, was in favour of the proposal for cinema shows on Sundays. No request for a poll was delivered to the chairman of the council within the prescribed period, and the decision of the meeting was, therefore, accepted as final. Consequently, and in accordance with all regulations, the Home Secretary has laid before the House the Order extending Section 1 of this Act to the Urban District of Heanor; but the Order cannot come into operation until it is approved by a Resolution of the House and I therefore beg to move that the Order be approved.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I do not intend to try to deprive Heanor of its cinema on Sundays, which is something we have been told was decided upon at a public meeting; but, as I have said, this Order was not available in the Vote Office and, even if it has been the custom for some years not to lay these Orders, that deprives hon. Members of the opportunity of knowing the subject matter of an Order of this sort. I am not at all sure where the line has to be drawn as between a local and a more general Order being made available in the Vote Office, but I would have thought that there would come an occasion when it might be difficult for us to draw the line and disregard the fact that hon. Members do not have any opportunity in the case of certain Orders to know what they are about, or what they are being asked to approve.

However, the Joint Under-Secretary of State has explained to the House—although he was not going to do so—what this Order is about, and told us that the local inhabitants have held their meeting and requested that the Order should be made. I do not wish to hold it up any further.

Resolved, That the Order made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, extending Section 1 of the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932 to the Urban District of Heanor, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th February, be approved.