HC Deb 31 January 1967 vol 740 cc252-3
Mr. Speaker

I want to help the House over the debate tomorrow on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which provides the money for the Supplementary Winter Estimates. I have been studying this morning the list of topics which hon. Gentlemen would wish to raise tomorrow. I thought that I had better make the position clear to the House, as I did last year.

In the debate on the present Bill, discussion is narrowly confined to the sums of money asked for by the Ministers and to the reasons for those additional demands. This Bill should not be confused with the March Consolidated Fund Bill when grants of Supply cover the whole of the public service and when, therefore, back benchers can raise grievances before they grant Supply for any branch of the public services.

There is a second consideration which I must put to the House. If the supplementary grant is for a new service, as some are, or is of the same order of magnitude as the original grant, the whole policy of that service may be raised in debate. If, on the other hand, the Supplementary Estimate represents only a limited increase in the original grant, the debate will have to be limited to the reasons for that increase and should not extend to questions of policy for which the original grant was sought.

I would emphasise what I am saying by repeating the Ruling which I gave on 9th February last year, a Ruling incidentally of some 70 years' standing: I quote: it is in order to discuss only the particular items which constitute the Supplementary Estimates, and the sub-heads of the original Estimates can only be referred to so far as they are involved in the fair discussion of the points contained in the items asked for in the Supplementary Estimates. It is quite obvious that it would he improper, as a general rule, to raise on a Supplementary Estimate the whole question of policy involved in the original Estimates; and, as I have stated, the discussion is properly confined to the items of the Supplementary Estimates. I think, however, that I ought to state that items of the Supplementary Estimates may raise in themselves questions of policy, but the interpretation whether they do raise questions of policy or not must clearly be left to the Chair."—[OFFICINL. REPORT, 9th February, 1966; Vol. 724, c. 414.] The Ruling I gave that day was not new. Indeed, I deliberately repeated the words which Mr. Speaker had used on 3rd March, 1893. I thought that this statement would help hon. Members who are a little confused at the present moment about what they can raise in tomorrow's debate.