HC Deb 21 July 1967 vol 750 cc2660-4
Mr. Speaker

I have a brief statement to make.

There has been confusion of interpretation of my instructions on when to put down one's name for the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill on Tuesday. My staff—and I, if hon. Members came to me—informed hon. Members that names would be received—first come, first served—as soon as the Leader of the House announced the date of the debate in the House.

Some hon. Members in good faith stayed until the announcement was made and then went to my office to give in their names. Others, in equally good faith, and perhaps with more ingenuity, queued some time before outside my Secretary's office to hand in their names as soon as they reckoned that the statement had been made in the House.

I have consulted the three Chief Whips of the parties, and to be fair to all I have decided to select the order of topics handed in by balloting for places in the Consolidated Fund Bill debate on Tuesday. I think that this will be fair to the House.

Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South) rose

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Winnick.

Mr. Ivor Richards (Barons Court)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have already called the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick).

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A number of hon. Members, including myself, once the statement was made yesterday by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), took the view that it would be a waste of time to submit an application to raise a topic on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

May I ask for your advice and guidance at the moment? Does it mean that if one submits an application now to speak on the Bill it will be included in the Ballot, or is it too late?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is correct. It means that.

Mr. Richard

Mr. Speaker, as one of those who queued up outside your Secretary's office, may I put one or two points to you about the Ruling that you have given? It was not, with respect, that hon. Members queued up and put their names in when they reckoned that the statement had been made. They put their names in in your office as soon as your office told them that it was open to receive notice of application for subjects for the Bill.

With respect, there was no confusion as far as your instructions were concerned, Mr. Speaker. I inquired on at least two occasions from your office as to the precise procedure, and I was told that subjects could not be accepted until after the Leader of the House had made his Business statement for the following week. Nothing at any time was said as to where the hon. Member who wanted to give notice of a subject was to sit or stand until the Leader of the House had made his statement.

I and a number of my hon. Friends inquired of the precise position from your office and were given to understand in most specific terms—I make no complaint about this, but the terms in which we were assured were quite specific—that the order in which subjects would be selected for the Consolidated Fund Bill would be first come, first served. Having been given that assurance specifically on two occasions by your office, I went along and waited until after your office was satisfied that the Leader of the House had made his statement. With respect, there was no confusion whatsoever. The only confusion that I have been able to discover was in the mind of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock).

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman reads the Ruling that I have given he will find that all that he has done is elaborately to paraphrase one part of it. The Ruling that I have given criticises neither those who queued outside my office nor those who interpreted what was said the other way. There was confusion in the minds of hon. Members other than the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). The hon. Gentleman may be quite right in his interpretation but other people have a right to different opinions.

We now come to the business—

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that your attention will have been drawn to the occurrences in the House late last night. While I fully appreciate that the business of the Government is a matter for the Leader of the House and of the Government, and not yourself, may I ask you, on behalf of the House, whether you would consider reviewing the rules in this matter regarding a carry-over from morning sittings?

May I put to you very humbly, bearing in mind that we all know your zealous regard for the rights of hon. Members, the point that there were a number of hon. Members yesterday morning who sat through the debate and who were expecting that the debate on the horticulture and agriculture Orders would come on late last night. The Government then decided, in their own judgment, not to put those forward. As a result, a great many hon. Members were put to very considerable inconvenience.

I would hope that perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, could confer with the Leader of the House to see whether some arrangement can be made to ensure that when a morning sitting spills over into the late evening hon. Members are fully informed before the evening part is reached as to what is to happen.

Mr. Speaker

I will deal with the point of order in two parts.

First, I cannot comment at all on the proceedings of last night. One of the features of a Count is that it completes the evening and no point of order can be raised after it. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise matters which caused him great distress last night, he must seek his Parliamentary opportunity. There will be a Parliamentary opportunity.

On whether I should change the rules of the House so that business which took place in the mornings should be carried over automatically without change of mind on the part of the Government, this, I am afraid, is not a matter for Mr. Speaker at all.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Further to your most gracious Ruling, Mr. Speaker, may I make clear that I was not asking you yourself to change the rules? I was only asking whether you would consider having discussions with the Leader of the House to see what can be done about the matter.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker has already expressed his opinions to the said Committee about the introduction of morning sittings, but the arrangement of morning sittings and the decisions about morning sittings are matters in no way for Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker is not the master of the House; he is its slave.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

Can you tell us, Mr. Speaker, when the Ballot for next Tuesday will be drawn?

Mr. Speaker

I shall probably take the Ballot on Monday. That does not preclude any hon. Member who catches my eye on the Consolidated Fund Bill debate from raising the grievance which he wants to raise before Supply is granted, before the money is voted. It may interest the House to know, however, that at present at least 40 topics are sought to be discussed during the 24 hours, the 12 hours, or whatever the time of the debate will be.