HC Deb 19 February 1969 vol 778 cc637-95

Again considered in Committee [Progress, 19th February].

[Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]

10.1 a.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

On a point of order. May I ask for your assistance, Mr. Irving. At this sitting of the Committee we shall be discussing the one vital Scottish Amendment, affecting the position not only of Scottish peers, but of the Act of Union and the Act of 1707, and the question of retaining the Scottish safeguards. In the Scottish Standing Committee we have the Education (Scotland) Bill, with which almost all my hon. Friends interested in the Amendment are concerned. Most of us want to be in both places and have contributions to make on both these vital issues. Is there anything the Leader of the House or you, Mr. Irving, could do to protect us? It is the only day that this problem will arise, and both are vital subjects.

Mr. Younger

Further to that point of order. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The fact that we are sitting this morning puts some of us in very great difficulty. I appreciate that the question of sittings in the Chamber at the same time as sittings upstairs in Committee has arisen fairly frequently in the past, but the situation as regards Amendment No. 156, in the name of myself and my hon. Friends, puts us in a position which it is not just difficult, but practically impossible, to cope with this morning. We have to put forward the most complicated arguments which are of great constitutional significance, on the Amendment. It is impossible to adduce them properly and concisely if one is continually being interrupted by the need to go upstairs to vote, or to come down from there to carry on argument here.

I should be grateful if you could help us in this matter, Mr. Irving, by at least indicating whether a halt can be called to these proceedings before that Amendment is reached. You may think that that is a rather unlikely eventuality, but if I were to delay raising the question until the Amendment came up it would probably come up when I was elsewhere. Therefore, I hope that you will accept that this is the only time that I can reasonably raise this, and that you will look on my plea with sympathy.

Mr. Howie

There are numerous Amendments on the Notice Paper, some in the name of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), whom I see in his place. It seems fairly unlikely that we should reach the interesting Amendment dealing with the Act of Union very quickly.

Several Hon. Members rose

The Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. I think that we are entering into a debate now. Perhaps hon. Members will let me answer the point of order.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

A similar problem arose on 28th May last year when we were dealing with the Social Work (Scotland) Bill in Committee and trying to put an Amendment with Scottish interests to the Transport Bill in this Chamber. The Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) then accepted that we should have a prolonged period of five minutes for Division in Committee upstairs, so that it would be possible for word to come to the Chamber and the troops to be retrieved. Following that, the Chairman said that he would bring this to the notice of the Speaker and discuss with him what would happen on a similar occasion.

This seems to be the similar occasion, when all the 12 Scottish Conservative Members have now signed Amendment No. 156. We shall be in extreme difficulty in dealing with the Amendment here and doing our work in Committee upstairs. I hope that this problem can be examined in depth.

Earl of Dalkeith

Is it not contempt to Scotland to expect hon. Members to be in two places at the same time on such an important issue? There are hundreds of Amendments to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill. It is very unfortunate that our consideration of the Education (Scotland) Bill should have coincided with the one really important Scottish Amendment which is likely to be reached today. We cannot rely on the good will of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) to keep the debate going, but if he can assure us that he will we shall probably be much comforted. Perhaps it would be possible to have an annunciator in the Chamber so that we could see what was happening in the Scottish Committee and know which place to be in at which time. Otherwise, we shall have to behave like wishbones.

Mr. Ridley

Further to the point of order. I am not a member of the Scottish Committee, but I am a member of the Standing Committee on the Post Office Bill. I have tried to play my small part in our debates on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill. My conflict is much more immediate than that of my hon. Friends, because I want to take part in the debate on the Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), which is next.

The Chairman

Order. I think the point has been made adequately. At least, the Chair understands the hon. Member's difficulties. Unless the hon. Gentleman has anything to add to the point of order, it would be wise if the Chair were allowed to answer it.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

My hon. Friends have explained the difficulty we face, which I am sure you fully understand, Mr. Irving. But there is a difficulty that I particularly find myself in. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) is to move the Amendment about the representation of the Scottish peers in the reformed House. I am one of the many hon. Members who has supported him in that Amendment. He and I have been engaged in considerable research into the matter over the past few weeks, and I want to be able to place the findings of our researches before the Committee. It happens also that I have been charged with the duty of leading for the Opposition during the Committee stage of the Education (Scotland) Bill.

This puts me in a very difficult position. That Bill proposes certain changes in the education structure in Scotland, some of which we support and many of which we strongly oppose. I am supposed to be leading for the Opposition on a number of Amendments this morning. Equally, I find it necessary to be in this Committee later to speak on my hon. Friend's Amendment.

It is clear that there will be a number of Divisions in the Scottish Standing Committee this morning. I am not aware of any means of communication between the Committee and the Chamber. Would it be possible to borrow one of the bleepers that the messengers of the House use, so that we could at least have immediate contact with one of our Scottish friends who is not a member of the Committee and could be here to look after our interests and warn us when the Committee was about to approach this critical Scottish Amendment?

The Chairman

That is an ingenious suggestion, but I must offer the same advice—rather negative, perhaps—that my predecessors in the Chair have offered on similar occasions. There is nothing the Chair can do to help hon. Members in this situation.

Several Hon. Members rose

The Chairman

Order. I hope that hon. Members will not repeat the same point of order. I have said that I cannot do anything about it, and that is final as far as that point of order is concerned.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I should like, through you, Mr. Irving, to make a suggestion. If the Leader of the House indicated that, in the event of the Amendment with which my hon. Friends are concerned being reached, he will be prepared to move to report Progress, that would completely resolve the matter. My anxiety in making this submission is increased by the fact that my Amendment immediately preceeding it is one that I assume the Government can accept, as it is designed only to put their declaration into statutory form.

Mr. Peart

I am grateful for the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd Carpenter). This is a good suggestion and when we reach that Amendment this morning—I hope that he will assist us to achieve it—I will be delighted to move to report Progress.

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns) rose

The Chairman

Order. I think that the Leader of the House has been very accommodating and I hope that hon. Members will not waste any further time.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith rose

Mr. Ridley rose

The Chairman

Order. That point of order has been disposed of, and unless hon. Members have other points of order to raise, I must ask the Committee to proceed.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

On a further point of order. I am sure that we all accept the kind offer of the Leader of the House and that we welcome his assurances, but it would be helpful for the future, since this arose last year and will obviously arise at other stages this year—as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) said, it was raised by a member of the Scottish Standing Committee last year with Mr. Speaker—to know how this could be dealt with in future. Would you be able to give us an answer on this, Mr. Irving, if not today, perhaps later on when you have found out more about it?

The Chairman

I cannot answer for Mr. Speaker in a Committee of the whole House. The Leader of the House has heard what was said and I must now ask the Committee to proceed.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I must apologise for the fact, that, due to the appalling weather—which is no doubt due to the Labour Government—I was delayed getting here, so I am not sure whether my point has been raised.

An important constitutional Bill is now proceeding in Standing Committee. I refer to the Horserace Betting Levy Bill, which the Government are pushing because they feel that it is an important issue. This Bill, too, is a great constitutional Bill and many hon. Members in the Standing Committee want to take part in these discussions. But they cannot be in two places at once. This has happened before, I agree, but not on such a great constitutional Bill as this, on which we know that there is a divergence of opinion at least between the Front Benches and the back benches.

Is there some way in which we could adjourn the proceedings here to let us concentrate on the very important constitutional Bill, the Horserace Betting Levy Bill? Or perhaps we could adjourn that Committee so as to be able to concentrate on these discussions.

The Chairman

Four Standing Committees are meeting this morning and I cannot help the hon. Gentleman. He must make what arrangements he can.

Mr. Ridley

On a point of order—

The Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to repeat the same point of order.

Mr. Ridley

I believe that this is an important point of order. The Leader of the House has conceded that, when we reach the Scottish Amendment he will adjourn the proceedings of the Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—well, move to report Progress then—[Interruption.] If he is now going back on that undertaking, I will leave that to my hon. Friends from Scotland.

My point is rather different. Why should the Leader of the House agree to consider moving to report Progress for a Scottish Amendment which concerns Scottish Members, when there are equally important considerations affecting the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and myself, who are both on Standing Committees? It is surely discrimination for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will agree to adjourn because he recognises the clash for my hon. Friends for Scotland but will ignore the clash which faces the hon. Member for West Ham, North and myself, who are also members of Standing Committees.

The Chairman

I must indicate firmly that these matters are not matters for the Chair. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to approach the Leader of the House, he may do so, but not in the Committee.

Mr. MacArthur

Further to that point of order—

The Chairman

Order. I have disposed of that point of order.

Mr. Ridsdale

I am sorry that I was late in arriving and I apologise to the Committee, but the weather was bad and the train was late. My point of order is this. Twice have I tried to speak on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, and twice the Committee has been closured. Twice have I tried to speak on a constitutional point and in a constitutional Bill like this. I ask for your protection, Mr. Irving, so that we may be able to discuss points like this and hon. Members like myself will not be prevented from speaking.

The Chairman

I am not clear what point the hon. Member is making. We have disposed of only one Clause, anyway. I feel, perhaps hesitantly, that he is reflecting on the judgment and operation of the Chair, if he seeks to believe that the Chair has in any way excluded him. The Chair has exercised as scrupulously as possible the Standing Orders which are laid down by the House for Committee.

Mr. Ridley

Further to that point of order. I have no wish to reflect on the Chair in any way. That was far from my intention. But I pointed out that twice I have not been able to speak because of the closure.

The Chairman

Thank you. Mr. Howie.

Earl of Dalkeith

On a different point of order—

The Chairman

Order. The noble Lord was submitting to the Committee that the business upstairs would conflict with this Committee. I hope that he will allow the Committee here to make as much progress as possible so as to help the accommodation which I understand that the Leader of the House has suggested.

Earl of Dalkeith

Arising out of what you say about our approaching the Leader of the House, Mr. Irving, how do we approach him on this question, because he does not—

The Chairman

Order. In disposing of the point of order to which the noble Lord refers, I made it clear that he could not do it in this Committee.

  1. Clause 2
    1. cc644-95
    2. RESTRICTION OF RIGHT TO VOTE IN THE LORDS 19,430 words, 1 division
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