HC Deb 22 April 1970 vol 800 cc424-504
Mr. Speaker

Before we begin the debate on the Recommittal Motion and the Instruction on the Order Paper— That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee, and That it be an Instruction to Standing Committee A that, notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.— I understand that the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) wishes to raise a point of order.

3.35 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)

I wish to raise points of order arising from the fact that we are facing a situation which has never faced the House before in so far as there is no precedent for the effective Clauses of a Government Bill being struck out in Committee. All the 11 precedents which there are refer to Private Members' Bills and none of these was proceeded with. There are, therefore, two sets of precedents: first, that there is no precedent for a Government Bill; and, secondly, that there is no precedent for a Recommittal Motion or Instruction of the kind now on the Order Paper.

I therefore suggest, for your convenience, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, that I refer to all the points of order for your guidance as they affect both Motions at the beginning of the debate, although I understand that the debate will thereafter proceed on the two Motions separately.

The first point on which I wish to seek your guidance concerns the first Motion on the Order Paper: That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee ". This is the Recommittal Motion and the first question is whether it is governed by Standing Order No. 52. You will be aware that, if this Motion is governed by Standing Order No. 52, then speeches upon it are restricted to two speeches of 10 minutes each, one from the Government side and one from the Opposition.

I submit that Standing Order No. 52 does not apply and I also, of course, submit, in general, that the points of order I am raising now are far wider than those which apply to the Education Bill. They are points of order of general impact which will affect all hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I submit that Standing Order No. 52 does not apply for the following reasons. First, it applies only to a recommittal of a Bill as a whole. Its opening words are: If a motion to recommit a bill as a whole… and it then goes on to say what happens. The Motion before the House does not say that the Education Bill as a whole be recommitted. It does not even say that the Education Bill " be recommitted ". It says: That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted. The phrase " so far as amended " must therefore mean something different from the Bill as a whole. It comes from a Motion at the ninth sitting—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am being addressed on a point of order, and a serious one.

Mrs. Thatcher

It comes from a Motion at the ninth sitting of Standing Committee A, namely: That the Chairman do report the Bill, so far as amended, to the House ". That Motion did not refer specifically to the Bill as a whole. It refers to the Bill " so far as amended ", and I submit that this is less than the Bill. What is left of the Bill—that is to say, the bit that is " so far as amended "—cannot equal the phrase used in Standing Order No. 52, …a bill as a whole… and the Bill as a whole is the only Bill which can be obtained today from the Vote Office.

There is no Bill as amended by Standing Committee A. Nor is there any Bill " so far as amended " by Standing Committee A. The only Bill which we have is the whole Bill consisting of Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 4, and this is not the Bill " so far as amended " to which the first Motion on the Order Paper refers.

Erskine May, on page 569, of the 1964 edition, says: The limitation of the motion to a partial recommittal of the bill, or the inclusion of any matter other than that necessary for recommittal removes the motion from the scope of the standing order and the restriction on the number of speakers is not enforced ". It refers to a precedent in the footnote—House of Commons Debates (1924), Vol. 176—which I have checked and in which there were seven speeches on the Recommittal Motion.

The second reason why I submit that Standing Order No. 52 does not apply is that these events are outside its scope and that it would be using it for a purpose outside the intentions of the House when it was created.

Erskine May, on page 569, refers to the Select Committee on House of Commons Procedure in 1914 and to Question 2,410 to the then Clerk of the House. That Question was as follows:

In regard to the recommitment of Bills I understand you think some check might be put upon motions to that effect?

The answer from the then Clerk of the House was: That also was a suggestion which the Speaker asked me to make … The only case in which the recommitment of a Bill is really necessary is where it is desirable to insert a money provision which cannot be inserted at the Report stage. I think we have observed in recent times a tendency to multiply motions to recommit, and I am inclined to think you may safely invest Mr. Speaker with a discretionary power as to accepting or rejecting such motions.

Two points arise from that about the scope of Standing Order No. 52. First, that a Recommittal Motion is only moved, or should only be moved, in cases where something cannot be done on Report. According to the Leader of the House last Thursday, this could be done on Report. He referred to that matter at c. 1577.

The second point is that the Standing Order came into existence because there were too many Motions to recommit and it was desired to cut down the number. Today, we are dealing with a case for which there is no precedent whatsoever. Therefore, it would be desirable to hear from as many senior Members of the House as possible upon this very novel procedure.

Those are the two submissions that I make on Standing Order No. 52.

The second of my points of order—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mrs. Thatcher

—is on the part of the Recommittal Motion which refers to " the former Committee ". I submit, Mr. Speaker, that " the former Committee " has now no existence. This was terminated by the Committee's acceptance of the Motion moved by the Minister. At the end of that we did not even need to have a Motion to adjourn. No notice, in accordance with the sittings Motion, has appeared on the Order Paper. I suggest that " the former Committee " has ceased to exist.

I have looked at precedents on " former " committees. All of them refer to the dates when the Standing Committee was in continuous existence with a nucleus of Members. These days Standing Committees are virtually Bill Committees and have no continuous existence. Therefore, we should be in grave difficulty in recommitting to a " former " Committee if it does not exist, because we should not know how next to proceed.

I then move in my points of order to the Instruction Motion, which is the one in italics before the House today. I submit, for the following reasons, that the Instruction Motion is out of order and cannot be debated. Erskine May, on page 537, points out—

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

Which edition?

Mrs. Thatcher

The 1964 edition. It is the only one that we can get in the House, if hon. Members are fortunate enough to get their hands on one at all. Erskine May has been in great demand these last few days.

Erskine May, on page 537, points out that since Standing Order No. 42, which acts as a general instruction to Committees, the number of occasions when it is necessary to widen the powers of a Committee by an Instruction has been reduced and the Rulings of the Chair much more restricted than formerly. It gives seven sets of circumstances in which instructions are admissible.

Mr. William Hamilton

Let us have them all.

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman will get them all, if he will permit me to give them.

First, extension of objects within the scope of the Bill; secondly, extension of area; thirdly, division of a Bill into two or more Bills; fourthly, consolidation of two Bills into one; fifthly, priority to the consideration of a portion of a Bill; sixthly, power to hear counsel; and, seventhly, a reference to a mandatory Instruction, which does not affect the Instruction before us. Those are the seven groups of Instruction which are admissible.

I submit that this Instruction does not fall into any of those categories. If, therefore, the Instruction is in order, we are creating a new category of admissible Instruction, which is an extremely important thing for the House to do. Moreover, the category which we should be creating would purport to give a Committee instructions to repeat consideration of something which it has already considered.

I submit that this is basically contrary to the rules of the House which are used every day against repetition. Indeed, Standing Order No. 22, on irrelevance and repetition in the House, is applied by Standing Order No. 59(5) to Committees. To use an Instruction for this purpose has never been done, and it is a matter of grave principle with implications far wider than the Bill, for which it is merely the occasion.

Moreover, in Committee, if this were to be done, the Chairman would be faced, on the one hand, with Standing Orders against repetition, on the other, with a permissive Instruction for repetition, and, thirdly, with Standing Order No. 33(2) telling him to treat an Instruction and a Motion to recommit as an Amendment. I submit that this Instruction is not admissible.

Erskine May then goes on to classify five categories of inadmissible instructions. The first, which does not affect us, is that the Instruction is outside the scope of the Bill. I mention it only to reject it.

The second group of inadmissible Instructions are superfluous instructions. As whoever put down the Motion has chosen to recommit, if he may, to " the former Committee ", he can only be conferring on that Committee powers with regard to considering Clause 1 of the Bill which it already possessed at the outset under Standing Order No. 42. The only additional power which he would be conferring by an Instruction of a repetitive kind would be to reconsider what it had already power to consider. I submit, therefore, that the Instruction is out of order on the ground that it would be superfluous.

The relevant passage in Erskine May appears at page 542: An instruction is superfluous and therefore out of order if it seeks to confer upon the committee power … already possessed by the committee under the provisions of Standing Order No. 42. The next two categories of inadmissible Instructions do not apply. They are, " Impracticable division of bill ", and " Deletion of part of bill ".

I come, now, to what I believe to be the most important point of order. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chair is listening to a very serious submission.

Mrs. Thatcher

The most important point of order on the Instruction concerns the fifth category, where Erskine May says that an instruction is inadmissible if it is not specific. I submit that this Instruction is not specific. Erskine May says: An instruction is out of order unless it is drawn in clear and specific terms, so that the committee may understand definitely what provisions the House desires that they should take into consideration. It follows that with three precedents. The Motion on the Instruction says: …notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill The only Question put to the Standing Committee was: That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 14th April, 1970; c. 322.] Clause 1, as amended, was materially different from Clause 1. The Question on Clause 1 was never put to the Committee, and I believe could not be put, and the Committee could not therefore disagree with Clause 1. It is a matter of conjecture what would have happened had it been put, or could have been put. The Instruction therefore refers to an event which did not happen, and rests—I am grateful to the Chief Secretary—upon that non-event.

The Instruction continues: …they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect. Like effect to what? The Committee disagreed to Clause 1, as amended, but it had no opportunity to disagree to Clause 1. It cannot be Clause 1, as amended, because that is not what the Instruction says, and in any event the provisions in Clause 1, as amended, were radically different from the provisions in Clause 1. I submit, therefore, that the Instruction is out of order because it is not clear; alternatively, because it is null and void, as it depends upon an event which did not happen, and could not have happened.

I turn to the relevant precedents. The first one is the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, 1st June, 1896, in which case an Instruction was ruled out of order for the following reasons. The Instruction was on the Order Paper, and the then Speaker said: There are on the paper two Instructions, the first standing in the name of the hon. Member, Yarmouth Division. That is out of order. It is of the highest importance that Instructions should be perfectly clear in their terms, that the Committee may understand definitely what provisions the House desires that it should take into consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1896; c. 977.] As the Instruction gives no information to the Committee what the provisions are which the House desires it should take into consideration, I think that the Instruction is bad for want of clearness and definite direction.

The second precedent mentioned in Erskine May is the Education (Scotland) Bill, 21st July, 1897. There, an Instruction came before the House, and Mr. Speaker, referring to the first Instruction, said that it is out of order in the first place, on the ground that it proposes to instruct the Committee to repeal ' part of Section 19 of the Elementary Education Act 1876'. To be in order it should be clear and specific, and should indicate expressly to the Committee what part of the section it is proposed that it should deal with."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1897; c. 641.] That Instruction was also out of order.

The third and final one in which the Instruction was out of order because it was not specific was the Marriage with Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, 12th February, 1902, in which Mr. Speaker, ruling immediately on an Instruction, said: That Instruction is out of order, because think, in the first place, an Instruction to the Committee ought, on the face of it, to state plainly and clearly what further alterations in the law the Committee are to consider …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1902; c. 1112.] This Instruction is neither clearly one thing, nor clearly the other. Indeed, it is not clear, and hinges upon an event which did not happen.

Those, Mr. Speaker, are the submissions which I wish to make, and I am grateful to you for your patience.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that it would help the House if I ruled on the detailed submissions which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has made, after which I shall be willing to hear further points of order.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Mr. Speaker, you may be enlightened by hearing further points of order before you give your Ruling, or your judgment might be influenced by them.

I begin with an apology, in that I have to take the Chair at a meeting of the Trustees of the Members' Fund at 4.15, and I may, therefore, not be present to hear your Ruling.

I want to raise a simple point. I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said about the Instruction. The recommittal procedure is, surely, an abuse of the process of the House. The whole of our recommittal procedure was designed so that something could be done in. Committee which could not be done on Report, and it does not apply here at all. It was designed particularly so that Finance Bills could be recommitted, or something could be done in Committee with the approval of the House which could not be done on Report. I submit that to use this procedure for this Bill is an abuse of the procedure of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I think that it would help if I made a careful Ruling on the points which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has put to me and to the House. I thank her, first, for her courtesy in letting me know the general line that she intended to raise in the points of order that she was put- ting on a day which, in her own words, has no exact precedent.

The first Motion must be considered in the light of the provisions of Standing Order No. 52, which relates to the recommittal of a Bill. I think that it would help the House if I read again the whole Standing Order. It says: If a motion to re-commit a bill as a whole be opposed, Mr. Speaker shall permit a brief explanatory statement of the reasons for such re-committal from the Member who moves and from a Member who opposes any such Motion respectively, and shall then without permitting further debate put the question thereon. The phrase, the Education Bill, so far as amended, in the Motion means the whole Bill, with all the Amendments which the Committee has made, up to the point where it decided not to proceed further with the Bill. The usual phrase is " the Bill as amended ", which the Committee uses when reporting to the House on completing its consideration and amendment of the Bill. But in both instances the House is put in possession of the entire Bill, with such Amendments as have been made. The only difference is that in the first case the Committee's work is incomplete.

I have decided that the Motion does fall within the ambit of Standing Order No. 52 and that, therefore, I am permitted to call only one Member to speak for and one Member against the Motion. This is on the first part of the hon. Lady's submission. I would emphasise that the statements on each side according to this Standing Order must be brief and that, if the House desires, a Division may follow.

The second Motion on the Order Paper is an Instruction which, of course, can be called only if the first Motion has been agreed to, since it would relate to subsequent proceedings in the event of the Bill being recommitted to the Standing Committee. Under the normal rules of the House, a Committee which has disagreed to a Clause cannot proceed to agree to it or to similar or identical provisions unless specially empowered by the House to do so.

The Instruction is permissive. It may help the House if I briefly summarise the rules on such an Instruction. Debate on a Motion for an Instruction must be strictly relevant thereto and must not be directed towards the general objects of the Bill to which the Instruction relates, nor may debate on the Instruction anticipate the discussion of any Clause of the Bill. The narrow subject matter of the Instruction is, therefore, whether the Standing Committee should be given the exceptional power of reversing its earlier decision on Clause 1 of the Education Bill. Debate on the merits of the Clause which was disagreed to, or on the subject matter of the Bill itself, would be out of order. I might also remind the House that there is no right of reply by the mover of an Instruction.

The hon. Lady has asked me to comment on the validity of this procedure. It is true that my advisers have been unable to direct my attention to any precedent for the particular proceeding envisaged by the two Motions on the Order Paper. It is not, however, the duty of the Chair to forbid the House from embarking on a course which has no precise precedent. The whole procedure of the House is flexible. Motions to meet unusual circumstances have been tabled before, and, if they are not irregular in form, may be put to the House from the Chair for its decision.

I have given prolonged and careful study to the Motions standing on the Order Paper today and I have also considered all the arguments so clearly put forward by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. I cannot find that there is any irregularity in the Motions which would prevent me from proposing the Questions on them from the Chair.

The hon. Lady also referred to the phrase " the former Committee ". This phrase means the same Standing Committee with the same Chairman and with the same hon. Members which considered the Education Bill after it was first committed on 12th February and which made a special report to the House on 16th April. There are several recent precedents for a Recommittal Motion in these terms, so the point which she has made has no validity.

Finally, on the last point which the hon. Lady made, and a very important one, it is true, as she submitted, that an Instruction is out of order unless the Committee to whom it is directed understands definitely all the provisions which the House desires it to consider. This Instruction is, of course, permissive. It gives the Committee power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect to Clause 1 of the Education Bill to which it disagreed. I think that the Committee can interpret that Instruction, if it is given, quite clearly. I cannot rule it out of order on the grounds that it is not sufficiently specific.

I have examined all the precedents to which the hon. Lady referred. I have given great consideration to what is a very important issue, which she has raised in a very clear and important way. I have to rule that the two Motions are in order and that the debate can proceed.

Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)

On a point of order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, for further guidance on one point? The Instruction is …that, notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect. What the Committee disagreed with was Clause 1, as amended, which is a very different thing from Clause 1. It is given powers to insert in the Bill provisions " with a like effect "—presumably not powers to insert provisions with a like effect to something else.

To what does " like effect " refer? Is it Clause 1 as originally in the Bill, or Clause 1 as amended?

Mr. Speaker

That will have to be decided by the Committee when it debates Clause 1.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Maudling

I did not quite hear your Ruling on that, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I said that what the like effect will be is a matter which the Committee will have to debate when it discusses the Clause.

Mr. Maudling

I accept your Ruling on that, Mr. Speaker, but with respect, the point is that it says " like effect ". Like to what? The Committee must judge what is like, but we must judge to what it should be like.

Mr. Speaker

The Instruction is quite clear. It is like effect to Clause 1 of the Bill.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

Further to that point of order. With respect, Mr. Speaker, I should like to seek your guidance on two points. The first relates to your Ruling, when you said that neither you nor your advisers had been able to find any precedent for using this procedure in a case of this kind. I would submit to you that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has said, this is a quite new and important departure, and possibly a breach of the conventions and traditions of the House. Surely, if something without precedent is to be embarked on by the House in a Bill of this kind, it should be done by changing the Standing Orders first, by Resolution of the House, so as to make action on this Bill possible. That is the right way to do it, not to create a precedent which has the effect of changing the Standing Orders simply by reference to a Resolution on the Education Bill. I submit that this, therefore, is the wrong way to do it.

My second paint is the question of this Motion falling within the ambit of Standing Order No. 52. No one questions the fact that, if this is the committal of a Bill as a whole, it falls within Standing Order No. 52 and you are, therefore, bound to limit the debate in the way that the Standing Order provides. But while I see that it can be argued that what is sought to be recommitted is all that is left of the Bill, I cannot see how the recommittal of Clauses 2, 3 and 4 plus the Preamble and Long Title only can conceivably be said to be the recommittal of the whole Bill. That seems to me plainly a contradiction in terms.

The Bill as a whole was the Bill which passed Second Reading in the House and was orginally committed to Standing Committee A in February. The Bill which is now sought to be recommitted cannot be the Bill as a whole, because it lacks the operative Clause. To use the phrase " the Bill as a whole " must surely in this case be nonsense.

Mr. Speaker

I have already ruled on the second point. On the Motions themselves, this is a matter for the House to decide after debate. All that the Chair can rule on is whether the Motions are in order. I have ruled that they are in order and that the procedure will take the form which I have ruled.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Perhaps I may refer to the same point of order as was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), which is about Standing Order No. 52. Erskine May appears to make it clear that Standing Order No. 52 was passed with the object of dealing with Motions to recommit which were, in fact, obstructive and dilatory. It was to restrain that practice that the House passed that Standing Order. It is, therefore, apparently, the first time that the Standing Order has been used in a way which appears to imply that a Motion to recommit by the Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, is of an obstructive and dilatory character.

In these unprecedented circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to reconsider your Ruling on the Motion and Instructions, having the two in your mind together rather than considering them entirely separately, because, as my hon. Friend has said, Standing Order No. 52 applies only to a Motion to recommit the whole Bill.

If we consider the Motion in isolation, it could be said, I realise, that the Bill as reported to the House with Clause 1 knocked out is the whole Bill as it stands, but when we also see the Motion for an Instruction which is to authorise a Committee to put back into the Bill provisions which have been struck out, I ask you to look at the substance of the matter; and to recognise that this is, in fact, not a recommital of the whole Bill, but a recommital of a part of the Bill which has then to be supplemented in accordance with the terms of the Instruction. I ask you, therefore, looking at the substance of the matter, because there is no precedent, to rule in that way.

Perhaps I may make just one or two related suggestions. The wording of the Motion betrays the underlying difficulty. It speaks of the Bill " so far as amended ". That is a very strange phrase. If the Motion referred to " the Bill as so far amended " one would understand what that meant; that it referred to the Bill so far as it had been amended in the Standing Committee. That, however, is not what the Motion says. The reference to the Bill " so far as amended " must mean something less than the whole of the Bill. The use of those words means that it is not the whole Bill, but the Bill so far amended. I confess that I find it rather difficult to understand what is meant by that phrase, but that is because of the inherent difficulty of the subject matter.

Turning now to the Instruction, I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to consider whether this is not caught by the rule to be found in page 545 of Erskine May, to the effect that an Instruction may not deal with something which has already been dealt with in the same Session. That cannot, of course, mean something dealt with in a Committee, because this is a Motion in the House, but something that has been dealt with by the House in the same Session. Examples are given in the footnotes.

This is a matter that has been dealt with by the House in the same Session, because the Bill as it passed on Second Reading was committed under the Standing Order, in default of a special Motion, to the Standing Committee, and the Committee then struck out Clause 1. If we consider the Motion and the Instruction together, this is a proposal that the House should do something which it has already done in the present Session. Therefore, the Instruction is, in fact, a repetitive Instruction, and underlines the fact that this is without precedent, because this procedure has never been used for this kind of purpose before, and never should be.

Perhaps I may test the validity of this submission by suggesting that the Standing Committee might, perhaps, do the same thing again. Would it then be in order for the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have enough to discuss on this important question of order without the hon. and learned Gentleman seeking a hypothetical Ruling on something that may happen in the future.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I was only seeking to illustrate my point, which is: if the Bill came back on a second occasion would the procedure also be in order? If not, it cannot be in order on the first occasion that it is repetitive. Therefore, I submit that this point is caught by the ruling in page 545 of Erskine May.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me deal with points as they arise.

I have dealt with all the points that the hon. and learned Gentleman has put before the House, and I have ruled on them in answer to the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

As to the hon. and learned Gentleman's reference to page 545 of Erskine May, in which Erskine May is talking about the way in which the House cannot go back to matters which have been already decided in the same Session, the simple fact is that that does not apply to a Committee. A House can over-rule something on which a Committee has decided, and, although Erskine May says that matters which have already been decided during the current Session cannot be brought forward by an Instruction, that refers to matters which have already been brought before the House.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

With regard to the point twice put from the Opposition Front Bench, that the Committee did not disagree and could not have disagreed with Clause 1, is it not the case that when Clause 1 was amended, as amended it automatically became Clause 1? If that is so, does it not dispose of the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)?

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Peyton. A point of order.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I want to put it to you that you have not yet replied to the point of order raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirrall (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). My right hon. and learned Friend suggested to you that this Motion was an abuse of the recommital procedure on the ground that it did not involve doing something which could not be done on Report. I hope, with great respect, that you will rule on that point for the guidance of the House.

I should like also to put the following point to you. It seems to me that although you have ruled today expressly and explicitly that the House is not inhibited from accepting a Motion for which there is no precedent, that in itself involves us in a very serious situation.

The background is, I think, unarguable. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House the other day, with that characteristic modesty and gift for under-statement for which he is well known and well loved, said that a mistake had been made. I think that we would all very warmly agree with that statement. But, that mistake having been made, what I think the House is in some difficulty over is allowing the Government to go to the Clerks of the House and requesting to be salvaged and extricated from their embarrassment. They having enlisted the machinery of the House on their side, there is no protection whatever for the minority—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The second point that the hon. Gentleman is making is a point that he can make in the debate on the Instruction, when the House will have to take a decision.

Mr. Peyton

I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker.

The question which I now wish to put to you, with great respect, is: why are there not two Motions today? You yourself have indicated that this thing which appears on the Order Paper will be put in two bits. Why? It may be, again, that the modesty of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has reasserted itself, and that he does not wish his name to appear twice attached to so disgraceful and shoddy a Motion—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a debating point, and not a point of order. It is quite in order to have the two Motions on the Order Paper.

Mr. Peyton

That is precisely my point, Mr. Speaker. There appears to be only one Motion, in that the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State appear only once, which indicates to me that there is only one Motion on the Order Paper.

Yet from what you have said, Mr. Speaker, we understand that the Motion will be put in two sections. I should like to know whether there is any precedent for a Motion to appear on the Order Paper and for it to be bisected halfway through.

The other points I wished to raise have already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), in a most lucid and brilliant submission to you, Mr. Speaker. I can only express my regret that you did not find yourself overwhelmed by the force of her arguments. However, I hope very much that you will remember that the power of the majority in the House changes from time to time. There was a time when, if I may say so with great respect, you, Mr. Speaker, sat on this side of the House as a member of a party —[HON. MEMBERS: " Withdraw "].—which was passionately and very often noisily over a long period of time addicted to espousing the cause of the minority.

I believe that if Parliament goes through with this procedure today it will have taken one more step towards steamrollering and bulldozing the basic rights of the minority on which freedom depends.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman might well put his last point in debate. I am sure that he is not suggesting that Mr. Speaker takes any notice of the majority or the minority. It is his job to protect the whole of Parliament. He is not interested in the result of the battle which will take place later. He is in command of the rules of order and must interpret them.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

With great respect, will you accept a point of order from this side of the House, Mr. Speaker? I understand that you have given a decision, having listened to the submission of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)—[Interruption.] Mind your own business.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am minding my own business.

Mr. Shinwell

I listened to what the hon. Lady said and hon. Members opposite might listen to me. Since then several legal luminaries have addressed you, Mr. Speaker, including some who regard themselves as experts. You have given your decision, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you whether we might adopt a very simple expedient? Having given your Ruling, let the House decide whether it accepts Mr. Speaker's decision or not. Accordingly, I beg to move, That we accept your decision.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. One of the rules of order is that when Mr. Speaker is on his feet every other hon. Member sits down.

I am not prepared to accept the Motion of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).

I imagine, however, that by now all the points which have been made in support of the submission of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley are covered by my Ruling, except one, of which the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) reminded me. I had forgotten to take note of the point of the right hon.and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), about whether this was an abuse of the procedures of the House. That is a matter which the House must decide in its debate, but not as a point of order.

Mrs. Thatcher

There was one point in your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which I did not understand and on which I must ask for further clarification. You said that it was for the Committee to decide the meaning of the Instruction. That implies that there is some doubt about the meaning of the Instruction. I read to you three precedents in which there was doubt about the meaning of Instructions and they were out of order.

You, Mr. Speaker, seemed to say that there was some doubt about the meaning of today's Instruction. Therefore, is it not out of order? If not, should we continue the debate in Standing Committee on your authority that there is some doubt about the Instruction, although it is in order?

Mr. Speaker

With respect, the hon. Lady must not put words into the mouth of Mr. Speaker. I have read the three precedents to which she referred, including the operation of the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, 1902, and I carefully and categorically ruled on her point about the clarity of the Instruction.

I repeat that the Instruction is permissive. It gives the Committee power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, to which it disagreed. I think that the Committee can interpret that Instruction if it is given quite clearly. I cannot rule it out of order on the ground that it is not sufficiently specific.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

On a point of order. I want to refer to a remark made by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). He maintained that members of the Government had been able to go to the Clerks for advice about the terms of the Motion, but that hon. Members on this side of the House had been denied like facilities. [HON. MEMBERS: " He did not say that"]. That was the implication of the hon. Member —[HON. MEMBERS: " No."] That was clearly implied in the hon. Gentleman's remarks. [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] As a gross aspersion has been cast on the Clerks, without any foundation—everybody knows that hon. Members on both sides of the House can obtain advice from the Clerks and that they are always ready to help us—I think that the hon. Gentleman should be instructed to withdraw his remarks.

Mr. Speaker

I did not understand the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) to say that. Every right hon. and hon. Gentleman knows that the Clerks of the House are the faithful servants of every Member.

Mr. Peyton

May I be allowed to make one point clear, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

On this specific matter.

Mr. Peyton

I never said, nor did I in any way imply, that there was any restriction on the rights of Members to go to the Clerks for advice or on the willingness of the Clerks to give that advice. My attack was against the Government. I want to make it absolutely clear that, despite the wishful thinking of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), there was nothing in what I said which cast any reflection on the servants of the House.

Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)

Is it not a fact that the House as a whole took a decision on the Education Bill in favour of comprehensive education? Is it not also a fact that the Opposition, by cunning, conniving devices sought to defeat the Government—

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. It is a point which might be made in the debate when we get to it.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have specifically ruled on all the issues which were raised. I have not minimised their seriousness. I was asked by the hon. Lady, in a very careful submission, to rule on the two Motions on the Order Paper. The two Motions are in order. The debate on the first one is a procedural one and will contain two speeches. The debate on the second is much wider.

Mr. Maudling

There is still one matter in your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, about which we on this side are in some doubt. We would like you to be kind enough to clear the matter up for us. It is a simple point on which there should be no doubt if the Instruction is to be clear. It is whether the phrase Clause 1 of the Education Bill means Clause 1 in the original Bill, or Clause 1 as amended. This is a very important point.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

On a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will be grateful if the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) goes out of order by interrupting him on a point of order.

Mr. Maudling

Would you be kind enough, Sir, to clarify for us whether in this Instruction, which must be clear and subject to no doubt, as you rightly said, Clause 1 means Clause 1 as originally in the Bill, or Clause 1 as amended by the Standing Committee?

Mr. Speaker

I have ruled on this. It is a matter which may be made clear by the Minister when we reach the debate.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Mr. Speaker, may I, with the greatest respect, pursue that one more turn, because I was the hon. Member who successfully moved the Amendment to Clause 1 which is now in question? I submit to you that this Amendment had the effect of giving local authorities a wider scope than under the original Clause. It is for this reason that I strongly support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has said and submit to you that the words provisions with a like effect are not absolutely clear and that at the very least we should be quite clear what the Instruction to the Committee is.

Is it to insert in the Bill a Clause on the lines of Clause 1 as amended, with that considerably greater freedom to local authorities, or Clause 1 as it left the House after Second Reading? I suggest that we are entitled to ask you, Sir, for a little more clarification on this point.

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter which will emerge in the debate when we come to the Instruction. Sir David Renton.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. No matter how important the occasion, only one hon. Member can address the Chair on a point of order at once.

Sir D. Renton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that I may be allowed—and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will forgive me—to add yet a third reason why this Instruction lacks clarity when we come to consider the meaning of " like effect ", because my right hon. Friend has already pointed out that it could mean the Clause as it originally stood or the Clause as amended.

The words " like effect " could mean another Clause moved by the Secretary of State in Committee to the same effect, but not in exactly the same form as the Clause which was originally in the Bill. It was for that reason that I somewhat rudely, for which I apologise, sought to interrupt my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet.

I think that this is a very important point for you to consider, Sir, when ruling that this Instruction is as clear an Instruction to the Committee as it might be. In effect, it comes to this—that the Instruction on this point alone could mean any one of three things. I suggest to you, Sir, that we as the House of Commons might not be doing our work well enough—we are creating a precedent and ought, therefore, as has been said, to do it well—if, on this vital point, we put in an Instruction which, far from being clear, could mean three things.

Mr. Speaker

As I have said before, I have ruled on this. The points that hon. Gentlemen are making now are points they must make in the debate when we come to the Instruction.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Committee which terminated its proceedings and thanked its Chairman on 16th April, I seek your guidance, arising out of the words you used in making your Ruling on the final point of order.

You said that the Committee must understand the Ruling. You went on to say that the Instruction gives power to include provisions to a like effect to Clause 1 to which the Committee had disagreed.

As a member of the Committee, I know very well that there are at least two possibilities that could be applied to the words that you used. The first is that you meant Clause 1 as originally drawn, but that cannot be so, with respect, because it was not as disagreed to in the Committee.

The second alternative is Clause 1 as amended. That is substantially different, because of the banding Amendment referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). That cannot apply, because it is not referred to in the Instruction. I therefore do not know what will be included when we are again in Standing Committee.

As it follows that there is a substantial difference as to what a Clause of like effect would be, I submit that the Instruction is unclear. It is certainly unclear to me. As I understand, precedents have been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). The Instruction, to be valid, must be specific and clear. With respect, unless I can be told which of these two alternatives applies, I cannot understand what the consequence of the Ruling is.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has merely repeated with equal clarity one of the submissions made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. I have ruled on this. I hope that we can proceed. We have much to debate.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

Mr. Speaker, you have made a Ruling which will in future, I assume, be accepted as a precedent. The House depends upon precedents. You are fully entitled to make a Ruling, if there is no obvious precedent, which will in itself become a precedent.

In the circumstances, is it not a pure waste of time on the part of those who oppose that Ruling—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is no good hon. Members pretending that they are not trying to waste time. What they are doing is wasting time. [HON. MEMBERS: " Withdraw."] I shall not withdraw. Protests of that nature are useless. The country will understand—

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Sir B. Janner

—that it is a pure waste of time, an attempt to impede.

I seek your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. You having given your view on the matter, clearly and categorically, is there any method by which this type of interruption can be stopped, so that we can proceed?

Mr. Speaker

Order. As the hon. Gentleman says, we are on a point without precedent. [Interruption.] Order. It is also without precedent for hon. Members to interrupt Mr. Speaker. We are on a point which is without precedent. I had to rule very carefully and after much deliberation and much advice, and, after listening to the submissions, I would hope that we could now proceed with the debate before us.

Sir John Foster (Northwich)

On a point of order. I should like to ask for a clarification of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. You ruled—and I accept it for the purpose of this point of order—that the " Education Bill, as amended " was the whole Bill. Therefore, the definition of Clause 1 under that Ruling must be Clause 1 as amended. It cannot be Clause 1 before it was amended. Therefore, I would ask you whether the Instruction is wrongly worded. I quite see what the framer of the Instruction meant. He meant that the Committee had disagreed to the previous Clause 1, and, therefore, it ought to put in " provisions with a like effect " to the previous Clause 1.

As this is an important procedural matter which may set an important precedent, in my submission it must be considered strictly. " Clause 1 of the Education Bill ", in the Instruction sanction, cannot mean the previous Clause 1. The Committee did not disagree to Clause 1, as amended. What it disagreed to was the previous Clause 1. But the Instruction does not say that, and it follows from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the whole Bill is the Bill as amended, that Clause 1 of the whole Bill is the Clause as amended.

Mr. Speaker

We are back on the same topic. I have ruled on the matter. I think that we must proceed.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I should like a little clarification Mr. Speaker—and I do sympathise with you in a very difficult position. We are this afternoon creating a precedent. I think that you are well aware of the dangers of creating precedents. As I understand, all that you have ruled is that these two propositions are in order to be on the Order Paper and that it is for the House to reach a decision upon them.

I want to make a submission to you on the first Motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Education and Science. You have ruled, Mr. Speaker,that this is in order, but is debateable only under Standing Order No. 52. Further, in your Ruling you have also said that it will be for the House to decide whether this course of action should be carried out or not.

I submit that we are dealing with a new precedent—that is, short-circuiting the Report stage of Bills, because that is what this precedent means—and I submit that this is a matter which ought to be fully debated by the House and that, therefore, it ought to be in order under another Standing Order, not Standing Order No. 52.

Mr. Speaker

I have ruled that it comes under Standing Order No. 52 and when we come to it there will be a brief speech made for it and a brief speech against. I am not proposing to vary my Ruling.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I would hope that the House would get on to the issues which the House wishes to debate. We are at present discussing submissions on points of order on which Mr. Speaker has ruled. We should move on.

Mr. Maudling

I am sorry to intervene again, Mr. Speaker, but there is one aspect of your Ruling—which, of course, we accept—which is still not entirely clear to my right hon. and hon. Friends. As you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, Instructions must be clear to be in order. We suggested that the Instruction is not clear because no one knows whether Clause 1 means the original Clause 1 or Clause 1, as amended. You suggested, Mr. Speaker, that this might become apparent in the course of the debate. But the debate cannot take place if the Instruction is out of order and the Instruction is out of order if there is no clarity about what the phrase means.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have ruled that the Instruction is in order.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

You referred to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that we are discussing a new situation without precedent. Are we not now in danger of creating another precedent, because I cannot recall a case where, Mr. Speaker, having given a Ruling, the House could then indulge in a debate and criticise the Ruling of the Chair? Is this not a very dangerous precedent? Are we to take it that from now on hon. Members will have the right to discuss and debate Mr. Speaker's Rulings?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I wish that I shared the same view of the history of the Speakership as the hon. Gentleman. There have been occasions, and this is one such. It is an important occasion, but, having said that, I think that now we should get on with the business.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

Your Rulings, Mr. Speaker, have been very clear and authoritative on every point but one. It is quite true that the Rulings, which are clear and authoritative, are not completely acceptable to hon. Members on this side of the House, but that will have to be accepted because you have the power of the Chair. But one Ruling, Mr. Speaker, upon which you have not been clear—or one point on which I submit you have not given a Ruling—is the question whether it is the Clause as amended or the Clause as it originally was.

If I may remind you of what you said on that point, you said that it will be made clear in the debate. With respect, Mr. Speaker, that is not a Ruling. I submit to you that whilst you have taken a lot of care—and the House will respect you very much for the care which you have taken—this is clearly a point which eluded you in the previous thought which you gave to it.

I should have thought, from the general demeanour of the Chair and the way in which you handled the very difficult questions, that this becomes clear. It is vital, if we are to accept the precedent, that the House should feel that the Chair itself is authoritative on every point and with respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit you have not been authoritative on this particular point. To get over it, may I suggest that you ask the Government to take this matter back—if need be until tomorrow —so that this particular point, which is not covered by an authoritative Ruling from the Chair, can be made authoritative and we can be clear?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has put his point courteously. He has suggested that a point has eluded me, but it is a point on which I have so far ruled six or seven times.

Sir Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

May I try to help the House? I am sure that the whole House is always interested when a procedural question without precedent arises. A great many hon. Members on both sides of the House will not regret that there has been a fairly full discussion about a procedural question of some novelty.

Your Rulings, Mr. Speaker, have been criticised on the other side of the House chiefly on one ground—namely, that the proposed Instruction lacks clarity as to whether the Standing Committee should have power either to insert Clause 1 in its original form or Clause 1 as amended. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I should like to support your Ruling that the proposed Instruction is not lacking in clarity [An HON. MEMBER: " What does it mean, then? "] I am proposing to explain what I think it means. The Instruction gives the Committee permissive power. As I read it, it enables the Committee either to restore Clause 1 in its original form or to restore it in its amended form. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members opposite will have the courtesy to listen for a moment to arguments contrary to those which they have been expressing.

An Instruction to a Committee is not an Instruction to do something precise and specific; it is an Instruction, and called an Instruction, but it is coupled with permissive power. The words in the so-called Instruction give the Committee power to do various things. It would, therefore, be a mistake to suppose that, if it passed the Instruction, the House would be limiting or circumscribing particularly what the Committee is to do with Clause 1 when it comes back to it.

It does not seem to me to be contrary to common sense to say that what the House is being asked to do in this Instruction is to ask the Committee to reconsider Clause 1, and it gives the Committee power to reconsider it in its entirety. That means, does it not, that, notwithstanding any previous consideration or previous vote, it will be open to the Committee either to pass it in its original form, in its form as previously amended, or, indeed, in any other form?

That, it seems to me, is the obvious purpose of the proposed Instruction, to give the Committee the widest possible powers to deal with Clause 1, notwithstanding any previous votes which have occurred on it. If I am right in thinking that that is the obvious construction of the Instruction, it seems to follow that your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, cannot possibly be attacked on the ground that it lacks clarity.

The clear intention of the language of the Instruction is to give the Committee the fullest possible power to deal with Clause 1. Therefore, I personally would hope, now we have had this long and interesting discussion, that we could, as you have suggested, Sir, proceed to consider the Instruction.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has reinforced what Mr. Speaker has ruled several times now.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)

I wish to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order arising out of your Ruling. You ruled that " the Education Bill, so far as amended ", would be debated by the House this afternoon. I take it that the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members were not members of the Standing Committee. I was not on the Committee. The only Bill which we can obtain from the Vote Office is the Bill, not the Bill "so far as amended ". How can anyone debate this reasonably, how can we find out the Amendments, and is this not making a mockery of Parliament?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That point, also, was put by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. We are not debating the Bill. We are to debate the first Order, the procedural Motion, whether the Bill be recommitted.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I put to you a point of order which has one intention and one intention only, that is, to safeguard the position of hon. Members who have the privilege of serving as members of the Panel of Chairmen which you choose? We have to recognise, do we not, that any member of that Panel may be called upon to take the Chair at any Standing Committee? I have not had the opportunity of discussing any matter concerning the Bill with my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis), who, I understand, is the member of the Panel of Chairmen who has been Chairman of the Committee on this Bill, but the point I wish to put to you, Sir, is this.

I am concerned about the position of any member of your Panel who may be called upon to take the Chair in Committee on this Bill. Certainly, if it were myself, I should not know, in the light of your Ruling on the question of the Instruction, whether I should be in order to call an Amendment designed to restore the original Clause 1 or to restore the amended Clause 1. In the interest of the Panel itself, I would ask you very seriously, Mr. Speaker, at least to make clear which you had in mind when you made the Ruling you did.

Mr. Speaker

It is exceedingly difficult for Mr. Speaker to reply to one of his Chairmen who seems to suggest that he is speaking on behalf of Mr. Speaker's Panel of Chairmen. I have ruled again and again on this matter this afternoon. If the hon. Gentleman is Chairman of a Standing Committee, he is responsible for the Committee, not Mr. Speaker.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Mr. Speaker, may I, please, clear up a misunderstanding which seems to be in your mind? I would not wish it in any way to be thought that I was speaking on behalf of the Panel as a whole. I said that my intention in raising the point of order was to protect the Panel. I have not the authority of the Panel of Chairmen to speak for them collectively, but I am a member of it, and it is conceivable that I might have to stand in for my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway or, indeed, for any other hon. Member who was the Chairman of a Standing Committee. It was for that reason that I asked my question.

I can only again repeat to you, Sir, that if I found myself in the Chair at that Committee, I would not know what your Ruling really meant.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman, when he reads my Rulings, will find them quite clear.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

May I raise as a point of order, Mr. Speaker, a matter in this connection which concerns me greatly? At the beginning of this series of points of order, the Chair had no knowledge of what evidence or past precedents back benchers from either side would wish to adduce in offering the Chair counsel on this situation, which has no precedent. What concerns me very much, therefore, is that a Ruling should be given on this highly important point after only one Front Bench speaker had been heard, which accordingly puts all other hon. Members who have put a lot of work into tracing precedents into the position of either having to appear to challenge a Ruling which you have already given, Mr. Speaker, or having to accept that they have no means of drawing to your attention, as I respectfully submit it is their right and their duty to do, the result of their research upon this most important matter.

I respectfully submit that, if we are setting the precedent that a Ruling is given after one submission has been made, though it is obvious that other hon. Members wish to make important submissions on the same subject, the vest majority of hon. and right hon. Members are effectively estopped from making their contribution on matters which are admittedly without precedent. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that, if the House is to keep control of its own proceedings, this is an important point of principle.

Mr. Speaker

I have not noticed that any hon. Member has been effectively estopped from putting points of order to Mr. Speaker. What happened—I thought that the hon. Gentleman appreciated it—was that the Front Bench Member of his own party put in great detail and with great clarity all the points of order which could possibly have arisen. No new one has arisen since.

Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)

With respect, I thought that the right hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher) rather gave the pot a stir by coming back to the possible meanings of the Instruction. I propose to resist that temptation, Mr. Speaker, and to limit myself to seeking your guidance by a question. I think that we all agree that this is an important occasion and the precedent set today will be important. It is important also, therefore, that both we and future generations have a clear understanding of the basis of your Ruling.

As I understand, Sir, you proceeded on the basis of accepting that an Instruction must be specific to be in order. It would seem to follow from that that the first question one has to decide in ruling whether an Instruction is in order is what it means, so that what it means is an essential part of the Ruling, or the Chair's decision as to what it means is an essential part of the Ruling. We should be far better able to understand the basis of the Ruling if we knew Mr. Speaker's decision on that.

My question, therefore, is to ask you, Sir, if you would tell us what decision you formed as to its meaning in coming to the conclusion that it had so specific a meaning that it was in order.

Mr. Speaker

I have dealt with that point again and again.

Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)

As one who, like my hon. Friend the member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), might have to take the Chair at some time in Committee on this Bill, I would have to interpret what this Instruction would mean. I make clear that in my mind the way I would interpret it, if I were asked to give a Ruling, would be as follows. To me, Clause 1 of the Bill means quite specifically the original Clause 1 of the original Bill. The Instruction says: to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect. It follows quite naturally that the " like effect " means like effect to the original Clause. Therefore, I think that that is in line with your Ruling, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

A very important subject has been discussed this afternoon. Most hon. Members have listened with respect for, and appreciation of, the points of order made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). Most of us have appreciated the excellent Ruling which you, Mr. Speaker, have given in very difficult circumstances. I respectfully suggest that this matter has been ventilated sufficiently. There has been a great deal of repetition in points of order. I crave your permission to move —this is rather distasteful—that your Ruling be accepted by the House and that the Question be now put.

Mr. Speaker

That is not the way to proceed.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

I have been seeking for some time to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. The effect of your Ruling on Standing Order No. 52 must be to prevent the House having the advice in debate of senior hon. Members as to how best to get the House, or indeed the Government, out of this particular fix. Therefore, we shall be precluded from consideration of other possibilities.

I ask you, as a member of the former Committee and a potential receiver of this rather dubious Instruction, whether there are not other methods which are much more consonant with our procedure and do not involve a tortuously created precedent. In the ordinary way is it not proper on a matter which the Government of the day wish to put right, and which has been disagreed to in Standing Committee, to deal with on Report in the whole House?

The Bill cannot go any further without having some meaning brought into it. Would it not be possible to recommit Clause 1, or the whole Bill, as the Government might wish, not to revive the former Committee with Instructions in conflict with the established procedures of the House and of our rules of debate, but to send it back to a Committee of the whole House?

Mr. Speaker

That might emerge in the debate.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

I apologise for prolonging the discussion for a minute or two, but I feel that I must put a doubt which I genuinely feel as a potential member of the revised Committee, purely over the Instruction. I ask you, Sir, to consider what I believe a fresh aspect which has not been touched on.

If we have power, as the Committee, in accordance with your Ruling, to reinsert provisions with a like effect, whether or not we interpret that as being Clause 1 in the original form or Clause 1 as amended, there still seems to be a difficulty. My doubt was heightened by what was said by the right hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher). Clause 1 consists of the principle of non-selection, plus several exceptions. I ask whether we shall be empowered as a Committee to add to the list of those exceptions over and above those in the original wording of Clause 1 to add, for example, exceptions about gifted children, boarding education, or various other matters.

If I may link my question to what was said by the right hon. Member for Islington, East, with which you seemed to be associating yourself, may we take it that we shall be resuming consideration of the original Clause 1 with the entitlement to a full discussion of all those issues raised either by the original wording of Clause 1 or possible Amendments to add to the exceptions?

Mr. Speaker

That can be raised in the debate on the Instruction. We come now to the Motion.

5.5 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

I beg to move, That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on the way in which she raised her points of order. She did it with eloquence and had obviously done her homework well. It is not for me to get involved in argument with the Chair on points of order.

To come to the Motion, I believe the House is well aware of the circumstances which led to it appearing on the Order Paper. On Tuesday last week the Government lost by one vote an important Division in the Committee stage on the Education Bill. That is not unusual: other Governments have done so. Although, as other hon. Members have pointed out, this precise situation has not arisen before, and because the Clause itself was fundamental to the Bill this is in a sense a new situation, it is the sort of mishap which has happened occasionally to Governments of all parties. I can recall a number of occasions when Governments have temporarily lost some or all of a piece of legislation.

Last week I mentioned one such occasion. Sometimes these defeats are relatively minor—the sort of Amendments in Committee which are reversed on Report. Sometimes they are serious.

Hon. Members opposite will recall that they lost the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill in 1952—a Measure to which they claimed to attach considerable importance—when the House was counted out and the Order for Second Reading had to be reinstated.

Nor will it have escaped the memory of hon. Members who have been longer in this House that there was a still more weighty instance. We have not acted with the same precipitation as did that distinguished parliamentarian the then right hon. Member for Epping in 1944. His Government were defeated in Committee of the whole House—not in Standing Committee—on an Education Bill. By coincidence it was again by one vote, and appropriately it was on a matter which is still of importance in these days, equal pay. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) spoke about understatement. I thought the way in which he addressed his remarks to me were characteristically arrogant. [HON. MEMBERS: " Oh !"]

Here in 1944 was an example in which the right hon. Gentleman asked as a matter of confidence that the House should take steps to reverse its decision. As representing the Government and as Leader of the House, I am not being arrogant towards the Opposition. I believe hon Members opposite, quite rightly, oppose the Bill, for they take a contrary view to the Government. No doubt they will continue; their opposition in Committee. I make no complaint of the way in which proceedings have been conducted in Standing Committee. One has only to read carefully the HANSARD Reports of those debates to see that the various issues nave so far been argued in great detail—strongly, but fairly.

I could give many instances where mistakes have been made. This happens on both sides of the House and is a hazard of parliamentary procedure. The Opposition, rightly, have the opportunity to criticise. I am sure that the result of the Division which negatived the Clause was as great a surprise to hon. Members opposite as it was to my hon. and right hon. Friends in this Committee. But, inasmuch as the outcome of the Division turned upon the temporary absence of certain hon. Members from the Committee, there is no reason to believe that the views expressed by hon. Members opposite had in any way swayed opinion against the Bill.

Our parliamentary procedures also permit in those circumstances opportunity for the matter to be looked at again. Both sides of the House recognise that the Clause deleted was fundamental to the principle of the Bill, which was fully debated, as I have been reminded today by one of my hon. Friends, a couple of months ago and approved by a considerable majority.

I notice that there is an interesting point in Erskine May, page 534, which says: A Committee is bound by the decision of the House, given on second reading, in favour of the principle of the bill, and should not, therefore, amend the bill in a manner destructive of this principle. However, it is also stated at page 535 that a Committee can negative an essential Clause of the Bill whose omission may nullify the Bill. There was, therefore, nothing out of order in the proceedings in Committee. Nevertheless it may be thought that these two rules are somewhat self-contradictory.

As I have said, the procedure of the House gives a chance for further consideration in such a situation. The Government were faced with several choices. The first, despite the defeat of this Clause, was that the Committee should continue with the Bill upstairs. Amendments could have been made to the succeeding Clauses, making them self-contained. This would have made the proceedings in Committee more meaningful and in order. I discussed this with my right hon. Friend and took advice. I believed that it would be more appropriate to report the situation to the House and give it a chance to recommit the Bill as a whole.

We felt that this alternative of continuing with the Committee Stage would not be satisfactory; it would not be in the general interests of the House nor of the Bill itself. As I told the House on Thursday, when I announced business and was cross-examined by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleages, I was anxious that if possible there should be adequate debate. I was pressed on this matter and some hon. Members took a contrary view. I have of course been in consultation with the authorities of the House and through the usual channels.

The result is the Motion on the Order Paper which will enable us to have a debate. Although, as you have explained Mr. Speaker, both parts of the Motion are confined to procedural matters, hon. Members will be able to speak more widely than if they had been confined to two brief explanatory statements by Standing Order No. 52. This is why the Motion is split into two parts.

I am sure that the House will recognise that although this means taking up valuable time on the Floor of the House it was in the circumstances the most straightforward and proper course for the Government to follow.

The Motion proposes that the Bill be recommitted to the former Committee, Standing Committee A. That is common form for these Motions. The Committee had already had eight sittings on Clause 1 and had discussed the Clause thoroughly, with considerable understanding. It will obviously be to the advantage of the House if the same Committee is asked to continue consideration of the Bill.

Another alternative, urged upon us by the Front Bench opposite, was that the Bill should be dropped. In circumstances like this such suggestions are traditional. It is a natural line for those who oppose the Bill. There can be no question of this Bill being dropped. This legislation was promised in the Gracious Speech, and it is a most important measure affecting the future of our children.

I have been deeply interested in educational matters, throughout my time in this House and long before. I would very much like to argue in detail the merits of this Bill and of Clause 1, but you would quite rightly rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I regret that I am not able to deploy these arguments at any length. But I can understand why the rules of the House are as they are. The principles of the Bill and the Clause have on a previous occasion been fully debated in the House, the merits argued to and fro and the principle has been accepted by a large majority. Without further ado I put forward this Motion so that the Committee can resume without delay the job of examining this Bill which is so important to the future development of our educational system.

5.15 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

The occasion for this Motion is the inability of the Government to manage their business competently and their inability to foresee what might happen. The Leader of the House has raised many points, the first relating to the Second Reading. A Standing Committee of the House, it is said, cannot disagree with the principles established on Second Reading of a Bill. A Standing Committee's duty is to look at the Bill in the light of the principles and to see whether it is a proper vehicle for putting those principles into effect.

Each Clause usually contains not merely principles but methods of applying those principles. It is quite open to hon. Members to vote against Clauses which contain principles on the ground that the Clause is not a proper means of putting that principle into effect.

If there were any suggestion to the contrary it would mean that the Chairman of the Committee would have to direct a Committee that any particular Clause which contained a principle could not be voted against by the Committee or could not be voted against in sufficient numbers to defeat it. It is quite in order, as the 1964 edition of Erskine May says, for it if need be to defeat all the Clauses of a Bill and still not necessarily go against the principles behind a Bill. The two matters are entirely different.

As to the Recommittal Motion, a few days ago the Secretary of State for Education and Science moved, " That the Committee do not proceed further with the consideration of the Bill ". We are now faced with a Motion telling the Committee to proceed further with consideration of the Bill. As the Leader of the House has said, there is no precedent for recommittal being used in this way. The proper way to have dealt with it, I suggest, would have been either to have dealt with the matter on Report, which was open to the right hon. Gentleman, or, to take the precedents cited in the 1964 edition of Erskine May, to have combined recommittal and instruction proceedings. There have been cases, not of whole Bills being recommitted, but of combined recommittal and instruction Motions. All of those Motions have been for recommittals to Committees of the whole House. If there has been a matter upon which a Committee of the House appeared to disagree, it would seem that the only right and honourable course was for the whole House to deal with the Committee stage.

There are no precedents for major Clauses being lost in a Government Bill. There are 11 cases where the effective Clause was lost but all of those cases were Private Members' Bills. In all of those cases no further action was taken, and the Bill was lost.

In a twelfth there was a curious Bill which had on the front of it the name of a junior Minister at the Home Office, but was not a Government Bill. An Amendment was carried, defeating the object of the Bill. The Bill was not proceeded with as such, but the Government introduced a new Bill embodying a compromise. So the present case in the first in which, in the face of a major defeat, there has been a full recommittal to a Standing Committee and the Bill has been proceeded with.

The Leader of the House finally referred to some matters concerning the Bill itself. Let us be quite clear what the Bill to which we are devoting so much time does not do. Clause 1 does not make the abolition of selection compulsory. What it says is that local authorities must have regard to the need for ending it. The Bill, which the Leader of the House regards as so important, will

not take effect in the present Parliament, and for some local authorities it will probably not take effect in the lifetime of the next Parliament, because, as the Secretary of State said in Committee, it would be too expensive to do so.

It is wrong to recommit a Bill under those circumstances, and we shall vote against the Motion.

Question put pursuant to Standing Order No. 52 (Re-committal of Bills):

The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 222.

Division No. 101.] AYES [5.21 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dempsey, James Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Albu, Austen Dewar, Donald Howie, W.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Hoy, Rt. Hn. James
Alldritt, Walter Dickens, James Huckfield, Leslie
Allen, Scholefield Dobson, Ray Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Anderson, Donald Doig, Peter Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Driberg, Tom Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Ashley, Jack Dunn, James A. Hunter, Adam
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Dunnett, Jack Hynd, John
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Dunwoody, Dr, John (F'th & C'b'e) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Awdry, Daniel Eadie, Alex Janner, Sir Barnett
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Edelman, Maurice Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Barnes, Michael Edwards, William (Merioneth) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Barnett, Joel Ellis, John Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Baxter, William English, Michael Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Beaney, Alan Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)
Bence, Cyril Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Faulds, Andrew Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Bidwell, Sydney Finch, Harold Judd, Frank
Binns, John Fletcher.Rt.Hn.Sir Eric(Islington, E.) Kelley, Richard
Bishop, E. S. Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Kenyon, Clifford
Blackburn, F. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Foley, Maurice Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Booth, Albert Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Latham, Arthur
Boston, Terence Ford, Ben Lawler, Wallace
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Forrester, John Lawson, George
Bradley, Tom Fowler, Gerry Leadbitter, Ted
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Fraser, John (Norwood) Ledger, Ron
Brooks, Edwin Freeson, Reginald Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Gardner, Tony Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Garrett, W. E. Lee, John (Reading)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Ginsburg, David Lestor, Miss Joan
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Golding, John Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Buchan, Norman Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Lipton, Marcus
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Gregory, Arnold Lomas, Kenneth
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Grey, Charles(Durham) Luard, Evan
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Lubbock, Eric
Callghan, Rt. Hn. James Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Carmichael, Neil Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) McBride, Neil
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hamling, William McCann, John
Concannon, J. D. Hannan, William MacColl, James
Conlan, Bernard Harper, Joseph MacDermot, Niall
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Macdonald, A. H.
Cronin, John Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith McElhone, Frank
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Haseldine, Norman McGuire, Michael
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Hattersley, Roy Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)
Dalyell, Tam Hazell, Bert Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mackie, John
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Heffer, Eric S. Mackintosh, John P.
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway) Henig, Stanley McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret McNamara, J. Kevin
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Hilton, W. S. MacPherson, Malcolm
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Hobden, Dennis Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hooley, Frank Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hooson, Emlyn Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Delargy, H. J. Horner, John Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)
Dell, Edmund Hougtiton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Marks, Kenneth
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Pentland, Norman Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Maxwell, Robert Perry, Ernest C. (Battersea, S.) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Mayhew, Christopher Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Symonds, J. B.
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg Taverne, Dick
Mendelson, John Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Mikardo, Ian Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Tinn, James
Millan, Bruce Price, William (Rugby) Tomney, Frank
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Probert, Arthur Tuck, Raphael
Moonman, Eric Randall, Harry Urwin, T. W.
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshiré) Rankin, John Varley, Eric G.
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rees, Merlyn Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Morris, John (Aberavon) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Moyle, Roland Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Robertson, John (Paisley) Wallace, George
Murray, Albert Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as) Watkins, David (Consett)
Neal, Harold Rodgers, William (Stockton) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Newens, Stan Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Weitzman, David
Norwood, Christopher Rose, Paul Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Ogden, Eric Ross, Rt. Hn. William White, Mrs. Eirene
O'Halloran, Michael Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Wilkins, W. A.
O'Malley, Brian Sheldon, Robert Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Oram, Albert E. Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Williams, Alan (Swansea. W.)
Orbach, Maurice Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Orme, Stanley Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Oswald, Thomas Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Padley, Walter Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Winnick, David
Paget, R. T. Sillars, J. Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Palmer, Arthur Silverman, Julius Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Slater, Joseph Woof, Robert
Park, Trevor Small William
Parker, John (Dagenham) Snow Julian TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Spriggs, Leslie Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Pavitt, Laurence Steel, David (Roxburgh) Mr. loan L. Evans.
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Clegg, Walter Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Cooke, Robert Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Cordle, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Astor, John Corfield, F. V. Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Costain, A. P. Harrison, col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Cunningham, Sir Knox Harvie Anderson, Miss
Balniel, Lord Currie, G. B. H. Hastings, Stephen
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Dalkeith, Earl of Hawkins, Paul
Batsford, Brian Dance, James Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Higgins, Terence L.
Bell, Ronald Dean, Paul Hiley, Joseph
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hill, J. E. B.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Berry, Hn. Anthony Drayson, G. B. Holland, Philip
Biffen, John du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Hornby, Richard
Biggs-Davison, John Eden, Sir John Howell, David (Guildford)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hunt, John
Black, Sir Cyril Elliott.R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne.N.) Hutchison, Michael Clark
Blaker, Peter Emery, Peter Iremonger, T. L.
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Errington, Sir Eric Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Body, Richard Farr, John Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bossom, Sir Clive Fisher, Nigel Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Jopling, Michael
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Fortescue, Tim Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Braine, Bernard Foster, Sir John Kaberry, Sir Donald
Brinton, Sir Tatton Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Kershaw, Anthony
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter Fry, Peter Kimball, Marcus
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Kitson, Timothy
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gibson-Watt, David Knight, Mrs. Jill
Bryan, Paul Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) King, Tom
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Glover, Sir Douglas Lambton, Antony
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Glyn, Sir Richard Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bullus, Sir Eric Goodhart, Philip Lane, David
Burden, F. A. Goodhew, Victor Langford-Holt, Sir John
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Gower, Raymond Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Grant, Anthony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Channon, H. P. G. Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Chataway, Christopher Grieve, Percy Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Chichester-Clark, R. Gurden, Harold Longden, Gilbert
Clark, Henry Hall, John (Wycombe) McAdden, Sir Stephen
MacArthur, Ian Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Summers, Sir Spencer
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian Tapsell, Peter
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Osborn, John (Hallam) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
McMaster, Stanley Page, John (Harrow, W.) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
McNair-Wilson, Michael Percival, Ian Temple, John M.
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Peyton, John Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Maddan, Martin Pike, Miss Mervyn Tilney, John
Maginnis, John E. Pounder, Rafton Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch van Straubenzee, W. R.
Marten, Neil Price, David (Eastleigh) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Maude, Angus Prior, J. M. L. Waddington, David
Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Quennell, Miss J. M. Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Mawby, Ray Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Walt, Patrick
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Rees-Davies, W. R. Walters, Dennis
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Ward, Christopher (Swindon)
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Ward, Dame Irene
Miscampbell, Norman Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Weatherill, Bernard
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Ridsdale, Julian Wells, John (Maidstone)
Monro, Hector Robson Brown, Sir William Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Montgomery, Fergus Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wiggin, Jerry
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Royle, Anthony Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Russell, Sir Ronald Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Scott, Nicholas Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Sharpies, Richard Woodnutt, Mark
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Worsley, Marcus
Murton, Oscar Silvester, Frederick Wright, Esmond
Neave, Airey Sinclair, Sir George Wylie, N. R.
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Younger, Hn. George
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Smith, John (London & W'minster) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Nott, John Speed, Keith Mr. Jasper More and
Onslow, Cranley Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Mr. Reginald Eyre.


That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee.

5.35 p.m.

Mr. Peart

I beg to move, That it be an Instruction to Standing Committee A that, notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause I of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect. This Motion, which appears in italics on the Order Paper, is entirely dependent upon the first Motion which the House has just passed and is a natural corollary of it.

Hon. Members opposite have maintained that the Committee could not sensibly continue without Clause 1. I understand this argument since Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill are related to Clause 1. The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has argued that without Clause 1 the other Clauses in the Bill are meaningless. Since the House has decided to recommit this Bill to Committee, a decision which it would not now be in order to debate or challenge, the House must empower the Committee to insert similar provisions in the Bill, otherwise we shall condemn the Committee to a task which would not make sense. Whatever the arguments between the two sides of the House about the merits of the Bill, I am sure that the Opposition accepts that point.

You have reminded us, Mr. Speaker, of the rules relating to this debate, rules which are designed to protect the House from repetitious debate. We have had a series of points of order on which Mr. Speaker has given his Rulings, and the House naturally accepts them. The principle of the Bill has already been fully debated and approved by the House. Therefore, the Clauses now fall to be considered in the Committee.

Despite the limitation on debate, I felt it right that this matter should come to the Floor of the House. I do not want to repeat all the arguments. The hon. Lady for Finchley mentioned the Report stage, but after careful examination I thought it right to have a re-committal Motion to allow hon. Members an opportunity to express their views, though not on the merits of the Bill since the House has already made a decision in that respect. The arguments on various Clauses are matters for the Committee.

Last Thursday the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) asked me if it was necessary to spend a whole day on this Motion, and other hon. Members have asked me the same question. I hope, therefore, that this Motion will not lead to repetitious debate, but that we shall proceed reasonably expeditiously to our other business. If there are any points on which elucidation is required, since I have no right to speak again, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will deal with them when he winds up.

5.39 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

We are in some difficulty about debating this Instruction. As I understand the situation at the moment, the Bill is to be recommitted to the former Committee to meet at an unknown time on an unknown day. The Instruction has an unknown meaning which it will be for the Chairman of the Committee to decide. We cannot therefore ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is meant by the Instruction since it is not within his powers to say. We are in even greater difficulty because those who serve on the Chairmen's Panel have said earlier this afternoon that, should they be in the Chair when this Committee meets again, they would not know what this Instruction meant. All I can do, therefore, is to ask the Secretary of State what he intended to mean and what his action would be, as representing the Government, in the face of certain Amendments to which the Committee formerly agreed.

May I, therefore, ask him whether he intended the phrase " Clause 1 " to mean Clause 1 of the original Bill or Clause 1 as amended—that is to say, whether he is prepared, subject to whatever the Chairman says, to agree to Amendments concerning banding? As those Amendments were previously passed, would he be in favour of those Amendments being passed again, as he must be if the phrase means Clause 1 as amended? We should like a clear statement about that.

A second point which may be worth mentioning to elucidate the procedure is that as I understand it the Committee may reject the powers in this Instruction. They may reject them because they are not clear or they may reject them on the ground that, according to Standing Order 33(2), an Instruction has to be treated as an Amendment in respect of the Bill. An Instruction, therefore, comes within the ordinary procedure for the selection of Amendments. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in his view the ordinary rules of selection of Amendments apply. I have to ask him because I may ask no one else. There are very extensive rules about which Amendments can and cannot be selected and which are out of order. It seems to me that this Instruction comes within the ordinary rules concerning which Amendments are out of order.

Thirdly, does the right hon. Gentleman have it in mind to move a new Clause 1 or new Clause 1 as amended and not to object when the Committee proposes Amendments to that new Clause 1 or new Clause 1 as amended? Will he give the House an assurance that he will not oppose the proposal of such Amendments and the taking of such Amendments in Committee, subject, of course, to what the Chairman says?

It is also important that we are able to move Amendments which were not moved previously if we are to return to Clause 1. That is important for a number of reasons, and I will give two of them. First, we have received letters from the Assistant Masters Association containing copies of a letter to the Minister stating, In the view of my executive committee it was unfortunate that consideration of the Bill should have proceeded while, owing to difficulties of the Stationery Office, there was a delay in meeting requests for copies of it. It is, therefore, important that we should be able to move new Amendments—and that our right to do so should not be opposed by the right hon. Gentleman—to Clause 1 or to Clause 1 as amended—Amendments which we did not move previously because other people had not then had a chance to consider the Bill.

The second reason why this point is important is that the recommendations of the Donnison Committee, which affect Clause 1 or Clause 1 as amended, appeared after we had passed the relevant Amendments. If we are to go back to Committee with these powers, it is important that the right hon. Gentleman should take no action to prevent our raising this matter in the light of fresh evidence. All I can do is to ask the right hon. Gentleman the view which he will take on this matter. Will he give us an assurance that he will not oppose the maximum freedom being given to the Committee to start the Bill as if it were starting a fresh Bill?

In considering the latter part of the Instruction, we still do not know what are provisions with a like effect ". We do not know what they are like to. Clearly the Instruction does not state that the Committee must insert a new Clause 1 or a new Clause 1 as amended. But it appears to us that the Committee must insert a new Clause 1 with similar effect to that of the present Clause 1 or Clause 1 as amended, but it may be in entirely different terms, as long as the broad effect is the same.

Obviously that will give rise to considerable procedural difficulties in the Committee to which the Bill is recommitted. In the original Committee we discussed 38 Amendments. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there were a number of occasions on which the Committee could not have continued without the co-operation of the Opposition, because without them there would not have been a quorum present. On some days the Committee could not have started had the Chairman been compelled to rely on the number of Members present on the Government side of the Committee. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take that point into account in determining his attitude towards this Instruction.

We do not know what the Instruction means. That is a very good ground for opposing it. Chairmen of Committees have said that they cannot interpret this Instruction. We give notice, therefore, that if possible we shall continue the debate when we get into Committee upstairs, if the Instruction is passed. I oppose it.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I wish to make a very brief intervention. I hope that the Secreary of State will forgive me if I am absent for his reply, if he has to conclude the debate early, but I have to attend a meeting of the Committee on Procedure almost immediately.

This Instruction is a very dangerous innovation and I hope that the House will think carefully what they are doing before they pass it. For the first time in the history of Parliament it is the intention to break the rules which state that Standing Committees cannot say both " Aye " and " No " to the same Question. That is the issue. I do not want to raise the arguments about the merits of the Education Bill, because my comment would relate to any Bill. There have been many times in Parliament when Governments have suffered defeat in Standing Committees. Up to now they have always accepted those defeats and have taken the necessary steps to seek a remedy on the Floor of the House. For the first time a Government propose to take a different course. It surprises me that that is being done in the last few months of a Parliament by a Government who may well be sitting on this side of the House in six months' time. That is a contingency which surely the Lord President of the Council might have envisaged. As one who will not be present on that occasion, I beg my colleagues not to take advantage of this precedent, because I believe it to be a very dangerous precedent.

Mr. Speaker earlier said that the rules of procedure are flexible. That is so. But they are designed to aid the private Member in the battle against the Executive, and what we are doing today, whether applied to the Education Bill or to any other Bill, is weakening the power of the private Member and increasing the power of the Executive. I hope that the House will take careful thought before agreeing to this step. I have considerable sympathy with the Government. They have been mortified by the Prices and Incomes Bill and now they are in considerable difficulty with the Prices and the Education Bill.

5.50 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), I will address the House for a few minutes only. May I, first, warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on what we all felt was an outstanding parliamentary performance.

I agree with my right hon. Friend. I hope that the public and hon. Members will not look at this afternoon as a parliamentary exercise. I say that for two reasons. First, it is a serious matter, and should always be regarded as a serious matter, when the Government fail to carry a major operative Clause of one of their own Bills. Secondly, it is always the custom of the procedure of the House for the Government, when they are defeated in Committee, to register this in the print of the Bill that appears before the House on Report, and the onus is on them to put it right. Clearly, as my right hon. Friend has said, it is a quite different matter when the Government on recommittal simply negative the results of their supporters' inaction.

I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to tell us what procedure he intends on recommittal. Is it his intention to put before us Clause 1 in its original state or as amended? I say this for no personal reason, but I think that on recommittal Clause l, as amended, should be the basis of our new proceedings. The fact of the Government's defeat should be formally registered in the print which is considered by those hon. Members who will he debating the Bill, and the onus should be on the Government to put back the legislation to what they think is right.

As the Secretary of State himself admitted, this Amendment was not an unimportant matter. The Committee spent more than a whole sitting considering the issues of zoning and of banding. The Amendment was not a wrecking Amendment and was never intended as such. It dealt with the whole question of how one can best organise comprehensive education in big cities. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will put before the new Committee Clause 1, as amended; that is to say, Clause 1 in the form in which it was when the earlier Committee defeated it.

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley said about the Donnison Report. I well remember when copies of the Donnison Report were handed out to the Committee. I was speaking at the time and receiving a certain amount of courteous attention when suddenly the whole attention of the Members of the Committee, very reasonably, became directed to the new document which had been put before them. The appearance of the Donnison Report makes it important for us to consider again, more fully, at least one of the Amendments which we have already debated. Time has not stood still since our earlier discussions on Clause 1. While none of us on the Committee wishes to be unreasonable, or to speak at excessive length for speaking's sake, we hope that it will be possible to reconsider some of the important issues which we discussed earlier, in the light of fresh evidence and fresh representations which have been made to us.

We are making this afternoon an important break with precedent. With great respect, some of us were a little worried at what was said this afternoon about our "flexible" procedure in this House. I am reminded of the remark of Mr. Aneurin Bevan, that it is exactly because we have a formalised procedure that we have our degree of freedom of speech. For that reason we should not regard this afternoon's proceedings as in any way otiose or too protracted.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

I intervene briefly only to refer to what was said by the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). He said that we were discussing an important matter, and with that I agree. He added that we must realise that the Executive is enforcing this procedure and diminishing or endangering the rights of individual hon. Members of the House of Commons. This statement should not go unchallenged by the back benchers.

Mr. Turton

May I repeat what I said? I said that the rules of procedure are laid down for the protection of the private Member against the Executive. Therefore, the rule that I quoted about the Committee stage is for the benefit of the private Member, and what is being destroyed is his rights.

Mr. Mendelson

I accept that is what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I quoted the gist of it; that this is a decision which the Executive is taking in contrast to the Members of the House of Commons. This statement should not go unchallenged from the back benchers before a member of the Executive replies on behalf of the Executive.

I repudiate the implication of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, whose views on procedure I always treat with the greatest respect, whether in the Speaker's Conference or in the House. There is no imposition by the Executive, because the Members of the House will make the decision by their vote. For many hon. Members this is not an automatic procedure. I regard this as a perfectly proper procedure, and the best possible and most advisable procedure which will in no way endanger or take away the rights of back benchers or individual hon. Members.

Whilst it is important that the procedure should protect the rights of individual hon. Members, it is equally important that it should allow the majority to carry its business, which is the policy supported by the citizens. If a new precedent is to be created, the rights of hon. Members must be protected and the rights of the majority must also be protected.

The House has no right to instruct the Standing Committee on Amendments. The Committee will be completely free. I do not want to criticise what was said when points of order were being raised. The Committee will be like any other Standing Committee perfectly free to pass any Amendments it wishes to pass. If it is more sensible for a Standing Committee to be able to debate and reinstate the main principle of the Bill, it is in the best interests of the House of Commons and of the standing of Parliament as an institution that this procedure should be followed. I support the procedure which is advanced by the Government because it is the most suitable and intelligent procedure and will do no harm to the standing of Parliament. Any other procedure might damage the debate of the Standing Committee and thereby harm the standing of Parliament.

Mr. Eyre

Will the hon. Gentleman say what he thinks about the proposition that this is to be referred back to the former Committee which considered the matter and came to a decision? Does not he think that it is humiliating to send a matter back to members of the former Committee with the intention that their decision should be reversed?

Mr. Mendelson

I am completely at a loss to understand how the hon. Gentleman can talk about humiliation when the House of Commons decides to refer a Measure to a Committee. I thought that we were debating the matter seriously and trying to get away from propaganda. I am confining myself to the attitude of Members of the House, not members of the Committee only, nor members of the Executive. The replies to the points which have been made will be given by the Secretary of State. However, answering the hon. Gentleman as one back bencher to another, I tell him that there can be no question of humiliation.

What is at issue is the decision as to how most sensibly this business can be discussed and decided. I am confident that every back bencher can feel unrestricted and unafraid that his rights are being diminished and interfered with if he approves the Government's proposal.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)

The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) is not consistent; he sings one song when he is on the Government benches and another when he is on the Opposition benches. If it had been a Tory Government who were practising this manoeuvre, he would have been protesting throughout the afternoon. I have a fairly long memory and I can remember some of his speeches in the 1959–64 Parliament.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) made an excellent speech which showed up the Government's shortcomings. This mess is entirely of the Government's making. At the end of seven and a half sittings discussing Clause 1, the Standing Committee, in its wisdom, decided to vote against Clause 1 as amended. The Secretary of State said at that time: I am afraid that I am a bit lost. He could say that again! I have never encountered this situation before. Perhaps the best thing would be to adjourn. I ought to know the answer, but I do not."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 14th April, 1970; c. 321–2.] The right hon. Gentleman has been Chief Whip for the Government. If he was a bit lost, I suppose all of us were lost. The Government were defeated in Committee, after a fair vote, because three members of the Committee—Government members—were not there, although the Opposition were there in full strength. I do not want to rub salt into the wounds of the three missing members, but I understand from the Daily Telegraph of 16th April—I am not allowed to be present at meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party—that the Chief Whip gave them a lashing.

On 16th April the Committee met again, and the Secretary of State—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must deal with the Motion, which is concerned with exceptional treatment of this issue under the Instruction. He is now getting away from the Instruction.

Mr. Montgomery

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are dealing with an exceptional situation.

I was under the impression, as were most of my hon. Friends, that the Instruction had to be specific. I still do not understand what the Instruction means. Time after time hon. Members on this side have asked for it to be explained whether the Clause that the Committee is to deal with is Clause 1 as the Government first intended or Clause 1 as amended by defeat in Committee on an Amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hands-worth.

The Leader of the House said that the Committee would meet without further delay. What does "without further delay" mean? Are the Government thinking that we shall sit tomorrow morning or shall we start sitting next Tuesday?

Different phrases have been used in the Motion. At one time the words "the former Committee" were used. The words now are "Standing Committee A". I think that the Committee which was dealing with the Bill is to deal with it again, which could present difficulties. That Committee began its deliberations several weeks ago. Its members knew what their obligations were and whether they would be able to serve for the full term of the Committee. Circumstances have changed. Thinking that they would be able to see it through to the end, hon. Members on both sides may have commitments to go on parliamentary delegations soon; or they could be ill. Are they to be excused from the Committee?

I hope that when the Committee reconvenes we shall have a full debate on whatever is put in the place of what was Clause 1 in the original Bill. When we were discussing Clause 1, the Donnison Report was published. The Minister of State made veiled references to the report, because she had advance knowledge of what was in it, whilst Opposition Members had no idea. The fact that we will now be armed with the report will lead to a more informed debate.

I am sorry that the Government have been driven to this expedient. I would have been much happier if they had dropped the Bill and accepted the wish of the Committee.

6.6 p.m.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I have been fascinated by the manner in which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) presented her case.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Did you not mean to call the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price), to allow him to explain to the House how all this had happened?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Price

I hope that there will not be many interruptions during my short contribution, because, as the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) knows, I shall have no difficulty in dealing with provocation of that kind. I do not want to be provoked.

I have risen to put this matter into perspective. I do not share the anguish seemingly felt by hon. Members opposite, who have made heavy weather of this matter. Those of us who have any experience of the House extending over some years are sufficiently broad-minded to know that, if a Government have a little accident, as the Government did in this case, the Opposition will extract from that situation the last drop of blood in terms of debating it on the Floor of the House and trying to make the Government look foolish. During the 20 years that I have been in the House there have been many occasions when Governments of both parties have been in trouble caused by snap Divisions, in Committee or on the Floor of the House, or by a little "expedition" during the night.

This puny Bill has suffered a small accident in Committee. Since 3.30 p.m. the Government have been lambasted by hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members have used all the parliamentary devices which they are so capable of using, particularly the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). There has been a small slip here, like the servant girl's little mistake—de minimis.

I remind the hon. Member for Finchley—

Sir E. Boyle rose

Mr. Price

The hon. Lady gave us a most learned and high-powered speech stemming from a good deal of research in the Library. Whilst this is professionally interesting, it has the effect of clearing the Strangers' Gallery to a greater extent than usually happens on these occasions —not that we are concerned with the Strangers' Gallery; we are concerned with the business of the House and what merit there is in it.

There has been a relatively small slip in handling the Bill upstairs. Some hon. Members were missing, so the Government got a little rebuff, which they do not like, and they are now taking steps to deal with it.

I remind the House that in 1954—I am sorry that the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has left us—not only did the Government of the day lose a Clause of a Bill upstairs, but they lost the whole Finance Bill on the Floor of the House [Interruption.] If I may be allowed to make my speech in my own way it will be shorter, more interesting, and more logical.

I was sitting on the benches opposite in the middle of the night when the Finance Bill was being considered on the Floor of the House in 1954. In those days, the Finance Bill was not sent upstairs. I think that I am the only Member on this side who objected to it being sent upstairs.

The Government of the day were ham-fisted and comatose in the early watches of the night. The Finance Bill, which embodies the financial provisions for taxation during the coming year, had gone through Second Reading and had reached its Committee stage on the Floor of the House. But the Government were in such a somnolent state at four o'clock in the morning that, when Mr. Speaker, who was so annoyed by the procedure that was going on—a great deal of opposition was going on from my side; it is a matter of history and it is on record—said that if there was not more order kept he would leave the Chair, whereupon a "bright" member of my party, who shall be nameless, immediately moved that Mr. Speaker leave the Chair. Before they knew what was happening, the Motion was carried and Mr. Speaker left the Chair and took the Finance Bill with him off the Floor of the House.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order. I wonder whether this is in accordance with a debate on the giving of an Instruction. It does not seem to be in order. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the Strangers' Gallery. There is no cognisance of strangers in this House. Therefore, is not that out of order, too?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is using the occasion of a previous Finance Bill to illustrate the point that he is making. I hope that he will not make it at any greater length.

It is not the practice of the House to refer to the Strangers' Gallery.

Mr. Price

I will not elaborate. I am sorry if I have annoyed the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), but these are related matters. I am using this historical reference to show how exaggerated today's performance by the Opposition has been on this relatively small matter.

If we had a great deal of time I could cite other occasions without going into the Library and spending all day digging through musty old volumes. Anybody can do that. I do not intend any disrespect to any hon. Member who likes that kind of thing, but I do not like midnight oil speeches. If I make an incorrect statement on the Floor of the House, I am sure that someone will check me and go to the Library to prove that I am wrong. I should not object, because that is in the ordinary give and take of politics.

One further serious matter—what I have said so far has been said with a serious purpose—is that on occasions like this, of which we have had many, it is conventional for diligent hon. Members on both sides to plough through all the old precedents and go through the books in a similar way to the procedure in the High Court and to quote on the Floor of the House ancient precedents going back to the last century and sometimes to the century before that. It is all part of the picture of Parliament.

As a back-bench Member I would not do anything which seriously interfered with or impaired the rights of private Members as against the Executive. I think that I have given sufficient evidence of that to the House. I share the point expressed by the Father of the House on that aspect of the matter. But for anybody to try to suggest that, because somewhere in the scrolls of Zion, or an edict of this House, in the 18th, 17th, or 16th century, there was created a code of conduct and procedural way of dealing with a matter, that should be immutable law for all time, is complete nonsense.

This is the High Court of Parliament. Let us never forget that. Parliament is sovereign. Nothing, to my mind, takes second place to the right of Parliament to express the view of the majority. I will fight for minority rights where I believe there is a valid case. But Parliament should not be stultified by immutable laws and precedents that have stood on the books and are capable of being dug out of their coffins. This suits lawyers, because it produces fees for them. But it does not suit ordinary people like us.

In a debate like this, where there is an honest division of opinion on a matter which has to be put right if a mistake has been made, the will of the majority should prevail. If we take seriously the case presented so forcibly and tediously by hon. Members opposite, Parliament would not be a place where the majority will of the people prevailed; it would be a place where active minorities, who have got themselves into little cabals and groups, would claim that minority rights were greater than majority rights.

In having this debate today—in rather a good-natured fashion, I hope—I claim that we have not done anything to impair the power of Parliament to do the right thing, but that we have done something which will enshrine the right of Parliament that the majority will shall prevail in a matter in dispute.

6.18 p.m.

Sir D. Glover

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr J. T. Price) is an old friend of mine. I usually enjoy his speeches, but tonight his speech was not as good as some that he has made in the past.

The hon. Gentleman referred to this place as the High Court of Parliament and also to courts of law. I think that the Government are guilty of a squalid practice and that they ought to be thoroughly ashamed. It has been the long standing practice in this House and in the law courts that a decision is altered only by a larger or another body. A person is not sent back to the same court to be tried again by the same jury.

In its curious way Parliament works in a similar way. The long standing practice in this House has been that when a Government Bill is lost in Committee the Government do not instruct that Committee to put it right, as is being done in this case; they bring the Bill on to the Floor of the House so that a larger body of Members can rescind and alter the decision taken by the smaller group.

This is done— and the precedent goes back over many hundreds of years—not because of the archaic codes about which the hon. Gentleman spoke, but because the whole basis of our procedure is such that there would be no purpose in Committees deliberating at all if the Government of the day had only to instruct them to replace every Clause or every Amendment when the Government were defeated. It would negate the whole process of Committee operation.

That is why, in law, and in all parliamentary bodies, when a mistake has been made, as in this case, the practice has always been—and I believe that it is a wise practice for the mistake to be corrected by the Government of the day in the full light of publicity on the Floor of the House by committing the Bill to a Committee of the whole House so that the fault can be put right.

Nobody is suggesting that Governments never slip up, but this slip up should be causing the Leader of the House a great deal of concern, because this is not an isolated case. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Chairman of the Committee on the Gas Bill has used his casting vote 11 times. On the C.I.M. Bill, which we started deliberating yesterday morning, we almost produced the same result as with the Education Bill. The most important Clause in the Bill was carried by the Government only by the casting vote of the Chairman.

This is a very worrying situation for the whole of our parliamentary procedure, because if we are not careful we shall turn the Chairman of Committees into what we pride ourselves they are not, and that is political animals. We shall force them to make political decisions, which will be bad for the whole Committee proceedings, and the way we run our chairmanships. I hope that the Leader of the House will watch this, because it is a very serious development in the way our proceedings are going.

I shall have no hesitation in voting against the Government's action in putting down this Motion to put right something which I think all reasonable parliamentarians know happens from time to time. There is a correct procedure for putting this right, one which the House knows, which is well tried and understood, and which does not contain the dangers of this innovation. If this innovation ever becomes popular with Governments, of whatever colour, a great deal of the Committee work of the House will become nugatory, because Committees will receive instructions from the Government of the day to undo what they have decided to do.

It is a long-standing tradition of the House that it is always another group of people who should alter a decision once made. It is also a long-standing tradition that, a Committee having reached a decision, that decision is firm, and that the only place where it can be altered is here, on the Floor of the House, in the public gaze. What the Government are doing by this innovation is bringing in something which, in the long-term, has great dangers. It has great dangers for the future running of Parliament, and one reason why, like my right hon. Friend the Father of the House, I have intervened in the debate is to appeal to any future Tory Administration not to repeat what is being done today, because I believe that this is a disgraceful misuse of parliamentary power.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

I should like to add to the pleas which have been made to the Secretary of State for Education to clarify the situation as far as he can so that when we resume in Committee we can get off to a good start, subject to the ruling of the Chairman.

On the best interpretation that I can make of the wording of the Instruction, I am assuming three things, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether he disagres with any of them. First, I assume that the Committee will not meet again before next Tuesday. Second—and here I support what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle)—I assume that the phrasing which will be put back before the Committee will be the original Clause 1 as amended by the banding Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend.

Third—and this, Mr. Speaker, is the point which you invited me to bring out again briefly at this stage in the debate—I assume that the power to the Committee to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect to either the original Clause 1, or Clause 1, as amended, means that we can, if we think fit, seek to widen, or even to narrow, the exceptions to the principles set out in Clause 1.

I shall not repeat what others have said about the late publication of the Donnison Report as the reason why some of the matters which we have discussed could well be discussed for a limited time again in Committee, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman of what was said during the debate this afternoon, first, by the right hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher), and, more recently, by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson). They both said, and I welcome this, that they hoped the Committee would feel reasonably free to discuss again the ground covered by Clause 1, in whatever form it was reintroduced, without undue restrictions being placed upon it by the Government.

Mr. John Mendelson

The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I said nothing of the kind, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his statement. I said that whilst not wishing to comment on the discussion on the points of order, because I did not take part in that debate, and had, therefore, forfeited the moral right to comment on them afterwards, I thought that the wisest and most intelligent course was to proceed in the way proposed so that the Committee, by a decision of the House, could have a free discussion on all Amendments which it wished to consider. That is what I said—no less, and no more.

Mr. Lane

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. That is precisely what I understood, and I believe that it supports the appeal which we are making to the Secretary of State. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say whether he agrees with the three assumptions which I have made, subject to the ruling of the Chairman of the Committee.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Many of my hon. Friends have put in clear fashion the questions to which we shall want answers from the Minister either tonight, or when the Committee reconvenes. Listening to the debate, I have been anything but reassured,because it seems that hon. Gentlemen opposite are inclined to say that if something goes wrong, and the Government are defeated, it is sufficient to bend, or even to change, the rules so that the majority can vote to put the thing right. As a safeguard for free speech, there are rules of procedure and Standing Orders to which we adhere, otherwise the thing becomes a free-for-all and no one has any rights. Indeed, everyone could start speaking at once.

The importance of going back to precedent is to draw upon the collective wisdom of the House in seeking to find a way out of what seems to be a great difficulty. I do not say that it is an impossible difficulty. This situation arose —and it is I think without precedent—because the Bill became meaningless and, therefore, meaning had to be put back into it. The House had to devise a way of doing that. I think we all agree that the will of the majority must prevail, but only with due regard and respect for the rights of the minority.

That means that it must be done in an appropriate and seemly way. Previous Recommittal Motions to a former Committee show a punctilious exactness as to what that former Committee was to do. There was never more than a dotting of constitutional i's and crossing of t's, in each case disposed of in less than one sitting. Now, it seems that we have more than one sitting ahead of us.

Never has an Instruction been given that a Committee should eat its words or go back on its decision. The Secretary of State moved that we should report our difficulty to the House and say that we could make no further progress. We have been slapped in the face by a Government Motion to give us powers to do something which we cannot normally do—go back on a decision and job backwards. If we made a habit of this, we would never make any progress at all—

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that this has arisen by accident and not political division? If there had been a political difference in the Committee, if the Government had lost their majority, and they had then come back to the House, the situation would have been quite different, but this is an accident.

Mr. Hill

The hon. Member can call any vote an accident, but the record shows that the Committee reached a valid decision. It will not show why hon. Members were absent who might have been present to support the Government [Interruption.] It is all very well for the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) to deny it, but some hon. Members who were absent had spoken in a critical way of the Clause. We cannot tell why someone did not vote; nor can the record. When, in future, someone has to look back to 1970, as we have looked back to 1930 for a similar situation in Standing Committee, he will not see why hon. Members did not vote but only that a Standing Comittee came to a valid decision.

There is no question of this being ultra vires, or invalid. People reading Erskine May in future will ask why the Government of the day chose this means of enabling the will of the House to be expressed. He will think it curious that the procedure should have strained precedent and produced an Instruction of a wholly new quality which seeks to give a Committee a power to replace a power which it had exhausted by reaching a decision.

All that prevents the Instruction from being out of order is that the Committee had already decided the question of Clause 1. If we had not, the Instruction must have been out of order under Standing Order No. 42, which has made most Instructions out of order because they instruct a Committee to do something which it could do anyhow. Those who study these things closely in future may decide that the Government did this as a political expedient to save time. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Penistone that it is necessary to invent a new procedure. The Government could have recommitted this Clause to the whole House, which is the proper higher authority. That would accord with precedent—

Mr. John Mendelson

I repeat my argument for the hon. Gentleman's benefit—as a matter of judgment, the Committee will be able to do its work intelligently, in a way which will add to the standing of the House, by the procedure chosen, because it will be debating the essential principle de nouveau and will have dealt with that when it turns to the other parts of the Bill. That is why this is a good procedure. The hon. Gentleman must not allege reasons for me which I have not given.

Mr. Hill

The hon. Gentleman says we are debating the principle de nouveau. Had he been on the Committee, he would realise that we were not opposing the principle and that practically all our debates concerned the exceptions to that.

One reason for this difficulty is the drafting. It would have been much luckier if the principle had been enshrined in a separate Clause. It is enshrined in Clause 1(1) which the Committee passed without amendment, but subsection (2) contains the Government list of exceptions. All our debates, and the Amendment successfully moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworfth (Sir E. Boyle), concerned additions to and modifications of the Government's own list. Unfortunately, since both the principle and the exceptions were in Clause 1, we can wrongly be said to have defeated the principle. That was not the Committee's intention—the intention was to widen the exceptions and make the Bill more flexible.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that our attempts in this direction—which he may think are desirable in the light of more and more evidence coming forward each day as the people who have to operate the proposed system make representations about the practical difficulties—can be considered in the ordinary way. The appropriate course, more consonant with the dignity and traditions of Parliament, would be to recommit the Bill to a Committee of the whole House.

It has been said that this is a weak and puny Bill. The Government may today save it from being still-born, but I am sure that it will not last long enough to reach nursery school age. None the less, it is important for our traditions that we should operate a proper procedure. I submit that this Instruction is clearly wrong, even if it is held to be in order.

6.38 p.m.

Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)

The Leader of the House said that, unless the Instruction were accepted, we should be directing the Committee to a task which did not make sense. I fully agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) has just said: what we are now doing makes even less sense. The sort of language used by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) shows exactly what I have in mind. He said, in effect, " Come, come. This is a small slip. There was a snap Division and, anyway, this is a little Bill and accidents do happen."

That sort of language is precisely the way in which we, as Parliament, cannot afford to treat any legislation. We have to take the rules and practices of the House seriously. There may be occasions when for some reason the Government of the day face a result other than that for which they wished. That is precisely what debate here is about. It is no good anyone just saying, " Oh, someone was away." We all know that a degree of importance is set by any hon. Member in the House on any Measure, and it is at least indicative of the situation when something like this occurs. No purpose is served in ridiculing it.

My second point is that it can hardly be said that there was a snap Division after seven sittings of the Committee.

Thirdly, a considerable nonsense is created in the eyes of the whole educational world. Anyone looking at the proceedings in the Committee will see that there was some very detailed discussion and some very good educational arguments. We are making a mockery of our procedures if all that discussion and argument has to be gone through again because the Committee is told to proceed as though none of that debate had been taken into account at all.

The House should not be treated lightly. The Instruction ridicules all our procedures. The least the right hon. Gentleman can do is to say here and now that, far from wanting to hurry the Bill as fast as he can, careful note has been and will be taken of events outside—the Donnison Committee, and so on—and the various points that have already been made in the Standing Committee.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell

It is much too simple to say that the defeat of the Clause in Committee was accidental. For some time now the Government have been running about 10 Standing Committees, as well as the two Grand Committees. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) has referred to the number of occasions in just two Committees when Clauses have been saved by the Chairman's casting vote.

What the Government have been doing, in order to turn the House of Commons into a sort of legislative sausage machine before a General Election, has been to set up a number of Committees of small membership in which the hostility or detachment of one, two or three members is of unusual significance. The priority decided upon has been indicated by the attitude of hon. Members to Government legislation. I do not criticise that situation. I quite approve of the order of priorities which some of them have adopted. This attitude of detachment, almost of insouciance, to legislation is to be encouraged.

But what the Government now propose is that if they are defeated by a narrow majority in one of the small Committees they are entitled to ask the House for the debate and vote to take place again in the hope of getting a majority on the second occasion. The corollary is that if the Opposition are defeated by a small majority, they are, presumably, entitled to ask the House to allow the debate and vote to be taken again. That would be a very remarkable state of affairs.

The Leader of the House might consider that that is the direction in which he is leading us in moving Motions which are without precedent in the procedural history of the House, and using our procedure and Standing Orders for a purpose for which they have never been used before. If the Government are defeated in Committee, the only respectable thing to do is to try to put things right on the Floor of the House by appealing to the general body of Members. Instead of that, the Government seek to tuck the Clause back in the Bill again in the relative privacy of a Committee Room rather than in the publicity of the Floor of the House.

Another aspect of the procedural Motion should not be overlooked. The Bill is being put forward for propagandist purposes, inasmuch as it cannot come into effect before the General Election. In those circumstances, it is a waste of the time of the House to have been discussing the Bill at all in the summer of 1970, and it is an abuse of our procedure to seek by this Motion to discuss it twice.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Maudling

There are two points that I want to put, one to the Secretary of State and the other to the Leader of the House. My point to the Secretary of State is about the conduct he envisages for the Committee when it resumes. There was a little discussion earlier about the meaning of the Instruction, but I think that I can ask the Secretary of State to clear up what in his and the Government's mind the Instruction means.

What seems to be its inevitable meaning is that the Bill can be considered again ab initio in its entirety. That must be so, because we will have recommitted the Bill to the former Committee with no limitation.

The words in the Instruction are: …notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 …they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect. That, as I read it, is merely saying, " If you thought that you were to be inhibited by something, you are not ". In other words, the Instruction merely removes what might be a possible inhibition on the discussions of the Committee.

The Committee has disagreed the Clause 1, but it is to be allowed to say, " Despite the fact that we have disagreed on Clause 1, we can go ahead and deal with it again ". So any reading of the two Motions must mean that there need be no limitation whatever to the discussion ab initio by the former Committee on recommittal of the Bill. I hope that the Secretary of State will be kind enough to confirm my understanding, or, if it is not correct, to explain to what extent it is not correct.

My second point, which is about procedure, I put to the Leader of the House. It is a point that has already been made by several of my right hon. and hon. Friends. The right procedure should surely have been to bring this matter to a Committee of the whole House. This is really a very important point. It bears upon the public standing of Parliament. It is fair to recall that at the present proceedings in Standing Committees are far from satisfactory. There are too many Committees. There are too many Bills. The constant use of the Chairman's casting vote on occasion after occasion in more than one Committee during recent weeks is a great danger to our whole procedure. The Government must take that danger very seriously.

The point I have in mind, which is serious and important, is that our democratic system in Parliament works by giving dictatorial powers, in form and substance, to the party in power at the time. That is the meaning of parliamentary democracy. The party in power at the time has dictatorial powers, ultimately, to push through the House anything it wishes to push through. But the system only works and can only be tolerated, if those dictatorial powers are used with discretion and are seen to be used with a proper respect for the views of minorities and for the right of the House on occasions to get the Govern- ment to change their mind. We must, therefore, avoid anything that looks like a rubber stamp procedure, but what is proposed really does look very much like a rubber stamping procedure.

I agree that when a Committee has made an Amendment which the Government do not like the Government can get the Committee's decision reversed on the Floor of the House by appealing from the Committee to the House as a whole. On this occasion, however, the Government are appealing from the Committee to the Committee, and that is a very bad arrangement. The Government, are, in effect, saying to the Committee, " You must think again about a decision you took ". People say that it was an accident, but the point is not whether it was accident, folly, or bad organisation. We cannot, and have not the right, to look beyond what happened. It was a recorded decision taken by a vote of the Committee. The Government say, " You must look at this again ". They are not saying, as I thought they might, " You must look at it again because you have acted ultra vires".

Earlier, the Leader of the House pointed out that there was a doubt about this matter and made two conflicting quotations from Erskine May. The Government are not saying, " This is ultra vires. Therefore, you must reverse your decision ". They are saying, " You must reconsider it ". What is the point of saying that to the Committee unless it means that it must change its previous decision? What happens if the Committee comes to the same decision again? In Committee, if a couple of Members fall ill, it can immediately change the situation. It is possible for the same thing to happen again. What would the Secretary of State and the Government do then. If the Committee again produced a result which the Government did not like, would we have another Instruction?

Are the Government telling the Committee to think again, or are they, as I think, telling it what to decide, which would be completely wrong? If we set up a Committee, we must rely on its discretion, to debate within the rules of order, to take decisions and to report to the House. The House then, if it likes, can overthrow its decisions. But to say to a Committee, " We propose to put back to you what you have decided and to tell you to appeal against yourself and to reverse the decision " is making a rubber stamp of the Committee procedure.

I ask for answers from the Government on those two points. First, I should like an assurance about the procedure which will be followed in the Standing Committee when it reconvenes. Secondly, I should like the Government to explain why they should not have pursued the far more logical course of bringing to the Floor of the House an appeal against the Committee's decision.

6.51 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

I shall try to reply to all the points which have been made from both sides of the House.

The hon. Lady the Member for Finch-ley (Mrs. Thatcher) complained that the Bill was going to a Committee on an unknown date and at an unknown time. That is always the case when the House sends a Bill to Committee. There is nothing unusual about that. The hon. Lady then complained that the Instruction which we are discussing has an unknown meaning. I cannot agree with that. I agree with you, Mr. Speaker: if English words have any meaning at all, the meaning is perfectly clear. The Instruction says: … notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect ". I suspect that a good many hon. Members have not read Clause 1, which is the essence and guts of the Bill. It requires local authorities, in the exercise of any power for the purpose of fulfilling duties under Section 8 of the Education Act, 1944, to have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided only in schools where the arrangements for the admission of pupils are not based (wholly or partly) on…selection. Clearly, the wording of the Instruction does not confine the Committee. This is the trap which hon. Members have fallen into. Almost all hon. Members have envisaged one wording—the Clause as it originally stood, or the amended form of it.

What the House is instructing the Committee to do—or giving it the right to do, because that is all it amounts to—is to reinsert a Clause which will have the like effect—that is, to lay this duty on local authorities. It could be drafted in quite different wording, provided that it has the same effect. This is perfectly clear.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I see what the right hon. Gentleman means about the operative part of the Clause being in subsection (1). But would he agree that the substantial meaning of that is dependent on the amplitude of subsection (2), which is the list of exceptions. Therefore, we would not be putting in something " of the like effect " if we did not reproduce the general effect of the exceptions.

Mr. Short

This is a matter for the Chair in Committee, but I should have thought that the essence of the matter was in subsection (1), which lays on local authorities the duty to have regard to something in carrying on their duties under the 1944 Act.

Sir E. Boyle rose

Mr. Short

I cannot give way all the time.

Sir E. Boyle

When putting forward a new Clause 1 to the Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the Amendment which was carried to the old Clause 1, which does not in any way negative the general principle of subsection (1)?

Mr. Short

The right hon. Gentleman has answered the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) with his final words. It does not in any way change the principle or the effect. In other words, the exceptions are peripheral to the main question. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: " Answer."] I will answer the right hon. Gentleman. I always take account of what he says about education, and I will take account of what he and his colleagues have said today. However, I hope that they will bear in mind that I have to consider the rules which the Chair uses for the selection of Amendments.

The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley asked me what the rules for selection would be. She knows as well as I do that I have nothing to do with the selection of Amendments in Committee. That is entirely a matter for the Chair. She asked whether I would object to Amendments. If the same Amendments which we discussed over eight Sittings of the Committee are tabled again, I shall abide by the Chair's interpretation of the rules, as I must. If the Chair decides—and here I reply to the point of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—that we should start ab initio, I would abide by that ruling. If the Amendments are called by the Chair, they will be discussed. But this is a matter, not for me, but for the Chair.

Mr. Maudling

Then it follows from that, does it, that the Chair, when the Committee considers the Bill again, will be in exactly the same position as it was when the Bill was first considered? It will not be inhibited by the Instruction?

Mr. Short

That is not for me; it is entirely a matter for the Chair. I hope that the House will give the Committee an Instruction. It will then be for the Chair to interpret that Instruction in Committee. I should have thought that the Instruction was perfectly clear.

The hon. Lady the Member for Finch-ley asked what amount of freedom the Committee would have. The amount of freedom which we have in the House or in Committee is decided entirely by the rules of order as interpreted by the Chair and not by the Minister in charge of the Bill. The hon. Lady said that the Opposition co-operated in Committee. They did co-operate. The debates which we had over eight sittings were excellent. Before the Committee finally rose, I paid tribute to it for the way in which it had discussed the Amendments.

The hon. Lady and her hon. Friends are being quite illogical. She went out of her way to say that we could not continue with the Committee if the Clause was left out. Yet she and her hon. Friends are opposing the reinsertion of the Clause. They cannot have it both ways.

Mrs. Thatcher

I supported the right hon. Gentleman in his Motion to the effect that the Committee should not further consider the Bill. For that reason, I oppose its recommittal to the same Committee.

Mr. Short

As we are making parliamentary history, we may as well have this on the record for posterity. After I moved the Motion in Committee, the hon. Lady said: I rise to support the Minister in his decision but not in his reasoning. It was right to take this course of action. Indeed, under all the circumstances, it was the only reasonable course to take.

Mrs. Thatcher

indicated assent.

Mr. Short

The hon. Lady agrees. But she said that after I had said: I should like to make it perfectly clear that the Government intend that the Bill shall reach the Statute Book in the present Parliamentary Session. What I am doing now is not dictated by the rules of order—it would be quite possible to go on with the Bill—but it is dictated by good parliamentary manners that we should report this position to the House and begin again. It will then be for the House to decide what action should be taken. I should like to make that perfectly clear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 16th April, 1970; c. 326–27.] The House is now deciding what action to take. It is on that basis that the hon. Lady said: I rise to support the Minister…". The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton)—I am sorry that he has had to leave, but he has explained the reason—said that we were creating a dangerous precedent; indeed, he said that it was dangerous to create a precedent. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, would be the first to agree that it is because the rules of the House are flexible that we can create precedents to meet unexpected situations which are arising all the time. I have been here for 20 years; and I meet something new in the rules of procedure almost every week. It is because we have this flexibility that we can cope with new situations.

Our rules consist of two parts. There are the formalised rules of procedure, and there are precedents created by the Chair. The precedents are just as binding as the formalised rules. It is a philosophical question whether precedent extends the rules or merely interprets them. I think that we in Parliament work on the basis that it does the latter, although in common law I am inclined to think that it does the former. However, when the law of Parliament consists partly of precedent it becomes just as binding as the rules of procedure.

If the House has decided a principle, as it did on 12th February by a majority of 74, we cannot allow a Standing Committee of 20 Members to upset that principle by a majority of one. That is not democracy. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) effectively replied to the right hon. Gentleman on that point.

The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) seemed to think that it was normal democratic parliamentary practice for this to happen. I do not. If the House decides a principle by a majority of 74, somehow or other it ought not to allow a Standing Committee to upset that principle.

The right hon. Member for Handsworth asked what kind of procedure we envisaged in the Committee; did we intend Clause 1 as amended or Clause 1 unamended? I pointed out in reply to the hon. Lady that what the wording of the Instruction binds us to is that the new Clause shall have the same effect as the old one, but it does not bind us to either wording. As I said when the right hon. Gentleman interjected, I will consider what has been said today, if he will bear in mind that in my consideration I must consider the rules which govern the Report stage as well.

A number of hon. Members opposite have referred to the Donnison Report. They have said that they may wish to consider Amendments which were not obvious before the report was published. It will be for the Chairman to decide whether such Amendments are in order. What I am so grateful for is that the Conservative Party recognises the magnificent case for comprehensive schools which the Donnison Report makes. It is one of the best cases for the comprehensive school I have read anywhere.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

Then let us debate it.

Mr. Short

I would like it to be debated. I am greatly in favour of a wide-ranging national debate on this issue between now and the General Election.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) referred to the occasion when the Conservative Government lost the whole Finance Bill through sheer ineptitude one evening. My hon. Friend did not point out—I do not know whether it is generally known—that the Leader of the Opposition was then the Deputy Chief Whip, so he was responsible for this—just as he was President of the Board of Trade when we had a deficit of £800 million.

The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said that this was squalid practice—squalid practice, presumably, to ensure that a decision of the House by a majority of 74 is not overridden by a Committee of 20 with a majority of one. If the hon. Gentleman calls that squalid practice, he knows little about squalor.

We could have bulldozed this through the Committee. We could have gone ahead certainly, but we chose to bring it back to the Floor of the House. As I have proved by reading the Report, I was supported by the hon. Lady. We did so because the debate would have been meaningless without Clause 1. As I pointed out, we could have amended Clause 2 to make it rather more meaningful, but it would still have been a dull and empty debate.

For this reason, not because of the rules of order, we decided to bring it back to the House. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I considered all the possibilities; and we had some talks through the usual channels. I am not suggesting that the Opposition committed themselves to anything, but we had all the normal discussions about the matter.

The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South and the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) complained about the very large number of Standing Committees. This is not a matter for me. It is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Mr. Maudling

The right hon. Gentleman has not made clear what the procedure in Committee will be. He seemed to be talking as if the Committee would have to insert a Clause in the Bill like the original Clause 1. As I understand, the Instruction says that the Committee has the power so to insert. Presumably, it has an equal power to insert an entirely different Clause if it so wishes.

Mr. Short

The Committee has not the power to insert an entirely different Clause. It has the power to insert a Clause with like effect, but not a Clause with a different effect. That is perfectly clear.

Mr. Maudling

Surely if the Bill is recommitted the Committee has power to amend the Bill in any way it wants. The Instruction, as I understand it, does not take any power from the Committee; it denies it no power. There is nothing in the Instruction about denying a power to the Committee. It merely says that the Committee has power to put back what it voted out previously, notwithstanding that it voted against it. There is nothing in that which limits the normal powers of a Committee to refuse to put in a Clause like the previous Clause 1.

Mr. Short

I am talking about the effect of the Instruction, which is what I thought the right hon. Gentleman wanted me to do.

Mr. Maudling

The Secretary of State has it wrong.

Mr. Short

No. I have it right. The Instruction empowers the Committee to insert a Clause with like effect. There are the normal rules of procedure. If somebody tables a new Clause, the Chairman will have to decide whether it is in order to discuss it. That is not a matter for me in the House.

Mr. Maudling

This is a very important point. Does the Secretary of State say, or does he not say, that the words have power to insert in the Bill mean that the Committee has not the power to refuse to insert it?

Mr. Short

The right hon. Gentleman is saying quite different things. The Committee has the power to vote against it and reject it. There may be another accident, certainly. The right hon. Gentleman is changing his ground and wriggling, as the Opposition always do.

Mr. Maudling

I have made the point five times.

Mr. Short

No. The right hon. Gentleman made two quite different points.

What he asked me before was whether the Instruction would enable the Committee to include a Clause with different effect. I say that it will not. It will enable the Committee to vote against the Clause and, if necessary, reject it. The fate of any other Clause will be governed by the rules of procedure as interpreted by the Chairman.

The question of the number of Standing Committees is one for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. The Government have a very large and imaginative legislative programme and I want to make it quite clear to the House that we intend to get it through. We were elected to get it through, and we intend to do so.

It has been said that this is a propaganda Bill. The Bill is vitally important to tens of thousands of young children who are still each year being subjected to the tremendous injustice of the 11-plus, which the Tory Party intends to preserve.

In conclusion, the principle of the Bill has been endorsed in four General Elections out of the seven since the war. It has been endorsed by the House on a number of occasions. It was endorsed on 12th February. Parliament cannot allow it to be defeated by what my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton called " an accident upstairs ". As an ex-Chief Whip, I do not excuse the accident—by no means. It ought not to have occurred, but it occurred because one Member was ill, another Member thought that he was paired when he was not, and another Member went up to the Private Bill Office. The Opposition Whip got into the Committee Room for the Division by the skin of his teeth. If the doors had been closed 10 seconds earlier, he would have been locked out, and the result would have been quite different.

The Bill must reach the Statute Book this Session and the Government intend to see that it does.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 219.

Division No. 102.] AYES [7.10 p.m.
Abse, Leo Anderson, Donald Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)
Albu, Austen Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Armstrong, Ernest Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice
Alldritt, Walter Ashley, jack Bagier, Gordon A. T.
Allen, Scholcfield Ashton, joe (Bassetlaw) Barnes, Michael
Barnett, Joel Gregory, Arnold Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Baxter, William Grey, Charles (Durham) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Beaney, Alan Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Maxwell, Robert
Bence, Cyril Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mayhew, Christopher
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Meilish, Rt. Kn. Robert
Bidwell, Sydney Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mendelson, John
Binns, John Hamling, William Mikardo. Ian
Bishop, E. S. Hannan, William Millan, Bruce
Blackburn, F. Harper, Joseph Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Moonman, Eric
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Booth, Albert Haseldine Norman Morris Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Boston, Terence Hattersley, Roy Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hazell, Bert Morris, John (Aberavon)
Bradley, Tom Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Moyle, Roland
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Heffer, Eric S. Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Brooks, Edwin Henig, Stanley Murray, Albert
Broughton, Sir Alfred Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Neal, Harold
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hobden, Dennis Newens, Stan
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hooley, Frank Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hooson, Emlyn Norwood, Christopher
Brown, R.W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Horner, John Oakes, Gordon
Buchanan, Norman Hougton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Ogden, Eric
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) O'Halloran, Michael
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Howie, W. O'Malley. Brian
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Oram, Albert E.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Huckfield, Leslie Orbach, Maurice
Carmichael, Neil Huges, Rt. Hn. Clewyn (Anglesey) Orbach, Maurice
Carter-Jones, Lewis Huges, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Orme, Stanley
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oswald, Thomas
Concannon, J. D. Hunter, Adam Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Conlan, Bernard Hynd, John Padly Walter
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Cronin, John Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Paget, R. T.
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Palmer, Arthur
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Janner, Sir Barnett Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Dalyell, Tom Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Park, Trevor
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pavitt, Laurence
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Pentland, Norman
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Judd, Frank Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kelley, Richard Kenyon, Clifford Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Delargy, H. J. Kenyon, Clifford Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Dell, Edmund Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Price, Christopher (Perry Bier)
Dempsey, James Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Dewar, Donald Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Latham, Arthur Price, William (Rugby)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lawler, Wallace Probert, Arthur
Dickens, James Lawson, George Randall, Harry
Doig, Peter Leadbitter, Ted Rankin, John
Driberg, Tom Leadbitter, Ted Rees, Merlyn
Dunn, James A. Ledger, Ron Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dunnatt, Jack Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick(Newton) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lee, John (Reading) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Eadie, Alex Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Robinson, Rt.Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as)
Edelman, Maurice Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lipton, Marcus Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lomas, Kenneth Rose, Paul
Ellis, John Luard Evan Ross, Rt. Hn. William
English, Michael Lubbock, Eric Ryan, John
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sheldon, Robert
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McBride, Neil Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Faulds, Andrew McCann, John Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Finch, Harold MacColl, James Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) MacDermot, Niall Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N. E.)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Macdonald, A. H. Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Foley, Maurice McElhone, Frank Sillars, J.
Foot. Rt Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) McGuire, Michael Silverman, Julius
Foot Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty) Slater, Joseph
Ford Ben Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Small, William
Forrester John Mackie, John Snow, Julian
Fowler, Gerry Mackintosh, John P. Spriggs, Leslie
Fraser, John (Norwood) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Freeson, Reginald McNamara, J. Kevin Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Gardner, Tony MacPherson, Malcolm Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Garrett W. E. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Ginsburg, David Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Golding, John Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Symonds, J. B.
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.) Taverne, Dick
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Thomson, Rt. Hn. George Watkins, David (Consett) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Tinn, James Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Winnick, David
Tomney, Frank Weitzman, David Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Tuck, Raphael Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Urwin, T. W. White, Mrs. Eirene Woof, Robert
Varley, Eric G. Wilkins, W. A. Wyatt, Woodrow
Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Walden, Brian (All Saints) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery) Mr. R F. H. Dobson and
Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin) Mr. James Hamilton.
Wallace, George Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Galbraith, Hn. T. C. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gibson-Watt, David Maydon, Lt. Cmdr. S. L. C
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Clover, Sir Douglas Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Astor, John Glyn, Sir Richard Miscampbell, Norman
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Goodhart, Philip Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Goodhew, Victor Monro, Hector
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Gower, Raymond Montgomery, Fergus
Balniel, Lord Grant, Anthony Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Batsford, Brian Grieve, Percy Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Gurden, Harold Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Bell, Ronald Hall, John (Wycombe) Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Murton, Oscar
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Neave, Airey
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Biffen, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Biggs-Davison, John Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Nott, John
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Onslow, Cranley
Black, Sir Cyril Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Blaker, Peter Harvie Anderson, Miss Osborn, John (Hallam)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hastings, Stephen Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Body, Richard Hawkins, Paul Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Bossom, Sir Clive Hay, John Percival, Ian
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Health, Rt. Hn. Edward Peyton, John
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Higgins, Terence L. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Braine, Bernard Hilley, Joseph Pounder, Rafton
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hill, J. E. B. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Price, David (Eastleigh)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Holland, Philip Prior, J. M. L.
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hodern, Peter Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bryan, Paul Hornby, Richard Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M) Howell, David (Guildford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hunt, John Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bullus, Sir Eric Hutchison, Michael Clark Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Iremonger, T. L. Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Channon H P G Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Ridsdale, Julian
Chataway, Christopher Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Robson Brown, Sir William
Chichester-Clark, R. Jopling, Michael Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clark, Henry Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Royle, Anthony
Clegg, Walter Kershaw, Anthony Russell, Sir Ronald
Cooke, Robert Kimball, Marcus Scott, Nicholas
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill King, Tom Sharples, Richard
Cordle, John Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Corfield, F. V. Knight, Mrs. Jill Silvester, Frederick
Costain, A. P. Lambton, Viscount Sinclair, Sir George
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Smith Dudley {W'wick & L'mington)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lane, David Smith John (London & W'minster)
Currie, G. B. H. Langford-Holt, Sir John Speed, Keith
Dalkeith, Earl of Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Speed, Keith
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Summers, Sir Spencer
Doughty, Charles Longden, Gilbert Tapsell, Peter
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec McAdden, Sir Stephen Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Drayson, G. B. MacArthur, Ian Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Eden, Sir John Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain Temple, John M.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McMaster, Stanley Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Tilney, John
Emery, Peter McNair-Wilson, Michael Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Errington, Sir Eric McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Farr, John Maddan, Martin Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Fisher, Nigel Maginnis, John E. Waddington, David
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fortescue, Tim Marten, Neil Wall, Patrick
Foster, Sir John Maude, Angus Walters, Dennis
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Ward, Christopher (Swindon)
Fry, Peter Mawby, Ray Ward, Dame Irene
Weatherill, Bernard Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Younger, Hn. George
Welis, John (Maidstone) Woodnutt, Mark
Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Worsley, Marcus TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wiggin, A. W. Wright, Esmond Mr. Jasper More and
Williams, Donald (Dudley) Wylie, N. R. Mr. Reginald Eyre.
Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)


That it be an Instruction to Standing Committee A that, notwithstanding that they havedisagreed to Clause I of the Education Bill, they have

disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have to insert in the Bill Provisions with a like effect.