HC Deb 24 April 1970 vol 800 cc786-90

(changed fromLicensing of Marriages on Unlicensed Premises Bill).

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

11.8 a.m.

Mr. Speaker

I have posted, as is my custom, the selection I have made of the Amendments submitted for Report stage.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It arises from the selection of the Amendments. I apologise for raising a point of order on this matter because I realise how extremely difficult it has been both for you and hon. Members in the tabling of Amendments for Report stage, as the Bill was returned so very recently from the Standing Committee. Indeed, yesterday was the first day on which our Amendments could be put in, and this situation has made difficulties for yourself and your Clerks and others who advise you. If I myself had had more opportunity, I would have given you notice of my intention to raise this point of order.

You have not selected new Clause 1—Power for local authorities to provide marriage suites in conjunction with register offices—standing in my name on the ground that it would be out of order, but my submission is that it comes within the Short Title of the Bill and would be in order.

For the purpose of coming within order, the operative part of new Clause 1 is subsection (4), which states: A registrar's marriage suite shall for the purposes of the Marriage Act 1949 so far as it relates to marriages in register offices be deemed to be in the office of the superintendent registrar "—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall deal with the hon. Member's preamble in a moment. It is for the Chair to rule whether an Amendment or a new Clause is in order or out of order. New Clause 1 is out of order.

In reply to the earlier part of the hon. Member's submission, I appreciate his difficulty. There is difficulty for the House and for Mr. Speaker and his advisers in having to consider Amendments when the Bill came from the Standing Committee only 24 or 48 hours ago.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

I desire, Mr. Speaker, to raise a point of order on your provisional selection of Amendments. I do so with the same reluctance as my hon. Friend but conscious, as you have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, of the shortness of time since the Bill was considered in Committee.

My point of order refers to Amendments Nos. 3 and 4, which have not been selected provisionally. Those Amendments deal with the point in relation to Clause 1 of the Bill which was the subject of substantial debate on Second Reading. Briefly, the purpose of the Amendments—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Speaker has studied the Amendments, knows their purpose and has decided whether to select them. That is the power that the House gives to the Chair. I have not selected Amendments Nos. 3 and 4.

Mr. Silkin

Further to the point of order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that your list, which has been posted, is merely a provisional selection and I hope that I am in order in explaining to you why, in my submission, it would be right for these Amendments to be selected.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If this became a common practice when we reached Report, we should spend a long time in which hon. Members argued with the Chair why certain Amendments had not been selected. The hon. and learned Gentleman must have confidence in the Chair. The Chair has a duty, and it is fulfilling that duty.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

Further to the point of order. We understand, of course, Mr. Speaker, and we respect the fact, that you make a selection and that we must abide by your decision with regard to it. When, however, selection is made in this way, surely it is open to hon. Members to put before you grounds on which you can reconsider your decision. In regard to the matters that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) is raising, I respectfully suggest that there are strong grounds why you should reconsider your decision with regard to the question of selection.

Mr. Speaker

I have ruled and explained exactly the difficulty of the position.

Mr. W. Howie (Luton)

On a point of order. I am sorry to appear to persist in this matter, Mr. Speaker, and I am reluctant to do so, but I refer to my Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 8, which have not been selected. I quite understand the powers of Mr. Speaker and the problems which face him. We on our side have problems as well, which you will appreciate.

I wish to draw to your attention that on Second Reading, on 13th February, I criticised certain parts of the Bill. I do not intend to repeat my arguments, but in the course of my remarks, as appears at c. 1630 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, I gave notice that if the Bill went to Committee and if I were appointed to the Committee I should submit Amendments.

As it happened, I was not appointed to the Standing Committee. I make no complaint about that, but it means that the Amendments of which I gave proper and due notice on Second Reading could be put down by me only now, on Report, this being the only opportunity open to me. I wonder, therefore, Mr. Speaker, whether you could reconsider your provisional selection in reference to the Amendments which appear in my name.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is making quite clear the position I took up at the outset. We should spend quite a long time if every hon. Member, for any reason, were to address the Chair at length about the non-selection of his Amendment. Every hon. Member has a good reason for putting down an Amendment. The fact that the hon. Member spoke on. Second Reading and was not appointed to the Standing Committee is not a matter which affects the Chair in making the selection of Amendments. I assure the House that I have given grave and earnest consideration to the selection which I have made, and I have made that selection.

Amendment No. 7, Mr. Silkin.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Further to the point of order. I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for pursuing—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not persist. The Chair is given a duty, and the Chair is carrying it out.

Mr. Silkin

I wish only to seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a matter of general importance which arises out of this subject. If in the course of his opening speech on Second Reading the sponsor of a Bill specifically states that there is a certain matter which, in his view, can appropriately be considered when the Bill is being considered in detail, and that he would be willing to consider some alteration in that respect, is that not a matter which should exercise influence in the decision whether an Amendment which would give effect to what the hon. Member has said should be selected?

It is solely on that basis that the Amendments with which I am concerned have been put down. A considerable amount of debate followed what the sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), said on Second Reading, during which more than one Member of the House took the same point as the hon. Member who was in charge of the Bill.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have given consideration to all that the hon. and learned Gentleman has said but I have made my selection.

Mr. Weitzmanrose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Member is now wasting the time of the House and challenging the Chair.

Mr. Weitzman

I apologise for persisting in this matter, Mr. Speaker, but I wish to raise what I believe to be an important point for the guidance of hon. Members generally. Is your Ruling in this matter that when a selection is made by you, no hon. Member can put forward reasons why that selection should be altered? I ask for your guidance in regard to that matter.

It is rather important from another point of view. When the Bill goes to another place, obviously Amendments may be made there and a discussion may take place in regard to those Amendments. It may well be that the Amendments which you have not selected are put down in another place and argued upon. The result will be that Members of this House have not had the opportunity of arguing and debating on those Amendments although another place may have that opportunity. I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, with regard to both these points.

Mr. Speaker

In reply to the first point, representations are made to me very occasionally on behalf of an Amendment. In reply to the second point, it is not unknown for an Amendment which has not been selected in this House to be selected in another place.

Amendment No. 7, Mr. Silkin.

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