§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
On a point of order. There stands on the Order Paper a Notice of Motion asking for approval for the amendment of the fishing vessels grants scheme, the effect of which would be to cut the rate of grant for new fishing vessels by 25 per cent. You will have noted, Mr. Speaker, that the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments drew the special attention of the House to the fact that the Government are acting ultra vires in seeking to proceed with the Scheme. My hon. Friends and I were concerned lest the Government should seek to pass 319 the Scheme in spite of the Select Committee's findings.
Can you advise the House, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for the Government to proceed with the Statutory Instrument which, on the face of it, is ultra vires the Sea Fisheries Act, 1968. Secondly, however you may rule on that point, Mr. Speaker, would it be in order for the Government to proceed with the Statutory Instrument before the House has had the opportunity to study the advice of the Select Committee?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. He is certainly within his rights in objecting to a Notice of Motion on the Order Paper, although it is more usual to await the point at which the Motion is set down as one of the items of the day's business, but as the Motion appears among the remaining Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion I will deal with the point now.
It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments has drawn this Instrument to the special attention of the House for the reason given on the Notice Paper. The Speaker is, however, bound by the practice of the House and by Rulings given from the Chair on earlier occasions, and this practice shows that the Chair is not concerned with the merits of this or any other Motion. Provided that the Motion itself does not offend against the rules of the House, its legal effect or validity is not for the Speaker to interpret. These are matters for the House and the right hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity of arguing that the House should not approve the Schemes.
All I have to do as Speaker is to consider whether anything out of order would be taking place when the time comes for me to call on the Minister to move the Motion or when I propose the Question for approval to the House. There is nothing in the past practice which suggests that the Chair should intervene to prevent discussion of the Motion as it stands on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Hughes
Further to that point of order. I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and, of course, I accept it. But, as grave consequences may follow the passage of the Statutory Instrument 320 through the House before we have had the opportunity to look at the evidence of the Select Committee, would it be in order for me to suggest that the Leader of the House might indicate the Government's view on this extremely important point?
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
Further to the point of order. I recognise the importance of the matter which the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) has raised and of the Ruling which you, Mr. Speaker, have given.
The Government will naturally, as all Governments have done in the past, take note of any Report from the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. It is extremely important and the Government recognise the point which has been made. I believe that there is a satisfactory explanation which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture could give in debate when the Statutory Instrument is put down. However, in view of what the right hon. Member for Anglesey has said, I will look into the matter. I will investigate to discover when the evidence will be available. The Scheme has not yet been put down for debate. Before it is, I will consult the right hon. Member for Anglesey.
§ Mr. Booth
On a point of order. I submit that the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, in carrying out its duty to the House to examine this Scheme, has taken evidence relating not only to whether the form of the Scheme is correct, but whether the three Ministers concerned with the Scheme have met the requirement of the Sea Fisheries Act to consult the fishing boards before making any directives in connection with the laying of a new scheme. The Committee has taken evidence on whether the three Ministers concerned have prevented the boards from carrying out their statutory duties. You will accept, Mr. Speaker, that within the time limits laid down for a debate to approve such a Scheme, it would not be possible for the full explanations of these considerations to be given to the House in addition to the statements which hon. Members must make on the merits of the new Scheme.
Therefore, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the House has not 321 given us an assurance that the evidence of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments will be published prior to the debate, that provision will be made for a statement on the considerations before the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments on this Scheme before the debate takes place?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I am sorry, I have not made myself clear to the hon. Gentleman. I thought I did say—and if I did not I now say—that of course we shall not put down this Scheme for debate until the evidence of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments has been published.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Further to that point of order. Three weeks ago the Leader of the House gave a personal assurance that he would consult the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with a view to him making a statement. To say the least, he is somewhat dilatory. I hope that we shall get this statement at the earliest possible moment. All hon. Members representing fishing and boat-building constituencies view with the utmost alarm this 25 per cent. cut, and it is up to the Minister to give the House a firm, clear statement, particularly as he himself represents a fishing constituency.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Further to the point of order originally raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes). Is one to understand from the Leader of the House that the Minister of Agriculture has suggested that there is an explanation which will satisfy the House that the Instrument is proper? If this is not so and the House is dissatisfied, the Scheme will be in direct conflict with the findings of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments and will place the whole fishing industry in extreme difficulties. This is a point of substance which calls for a statement from the Minister of Agriculture prior to the debate.