HC Deb 10 February 1966 vol 724 cc652-4
Mr. William Yates

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The point of order I wish to raise concerns today's Order Paper and, in particular, Motion No. 101.

[That this House would welcome an independent investigation to ascertain to what extent the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition on Rhodesia is determined by the fact that very many prominent Tories, including some 41 Members of Parliament, Peers, former Members of Parliament, and Ministers, have directorships of companies with financial interests in Rhodesia.]

I gave notice to the Table Office last night that I desired to place an Amendment to this Motion on the Order Paper. But this morning, when the Order Paper was printed, there were two errors. First, my Amendment mentioned the Senate, but not Mr. Smith. The second but far more important error, however, was that the Amendment appeared in the name of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Ladywood (Mr. Victor Yates). I would, therefore, be very obliged if the matter were put right as soon as possible.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising this point of order. I understood indirectly that it was to be raised. I must apologise to him and to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Lady-wood (Mr. Victor Yates) for the inconvenience and embarrassment which must have been caused to both of them by the confusion of their names.

I hope that the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) will allow me to say, however, that, when I looked at the manuscript of his Amendment I found very great difficulty in deciphering the text, while I utterly failed to decipher the signature. Hon. Members can assist by either signing Motions legibly, or by printing their names after any ambiguous hieroglyphics.

Perhaps the House will allow me to use this opportunity to emphasise the printing difficulties which the current spate of early-day Motions is causing. In a memorandum submitted to the Publications and Reports Committee, and printed as a special Report last Session, it was pointed out that the volume of early-day Motions had doubled as compared with the previous Session. Since then it has almost doubled again. We now have four times the quantity that existed in 1964.

As mentioned in the memorandum, the problem for the Table and the printers is not so much one of scale as of time. To meet the tight schedule, it is necessary to get the material ready in print for the morning, and the composing and marshalling work must be done throughout the night in a rush, with rapid checking whenever the pressure builds up. If I may speak for myself, I often think that it is a miracle that the Notices appear at all when I see the variety of handwriting sent to the printers.

On the subject of early-day Motions in particular, I might venture to express the hope that the House of Commons (Services) Committee may be able to examine the problem soon. If Motions continue to increase on the present scale, the House will run into worse difficulties. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I express my appreciation of the way in which both the Table and the printers carry out each day what is a formidable task and of the fact that so singularly few errors occur.

Mr. William Yates

Further to that point of order Mr. Speaker. I am certain that most hon. Members will respect and are grateful for what you have said and are also grateful to those who have to deal with the Papers which are under your direction. But you will, no doubt, have taken note that back-bench Members are, quite rightly, exerting their rights in pressing the cases of their constituencies or putting a curb on the Executive by using the method of the Order Paper by early-day Motions.

Therefore—and I venture to suggest that other hon. Members take note—I would not like to hear a hint of any suggestion that there should be any curtailment of the right of any private Member to table as many early-day Motions as he thinks fit, or as he thinks useful, or as he thinks becoming to the dignity of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the hon. Member, as a keen Parliamentarian who protects the rights of back benchers almost as much as Mr. Speaker protects them, will not read into my statement more than is in it. The Chair never gives hints. No speech from the Chair must be taken as wishing to tamper with the rights of hon. Members to place on the Order Paper the Motions they think worthy of placing there. I have spoken of the physical difficulties and the need for better calligraphy.