HC Deb 08 July 1971 vol 820 cc1523-39
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 12TH JULY—Until seven o'clock, Private Members' Motions.

Afterwards, Second Reading of the Diplomatic and Other Privileges Bill and of the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords.]

Remaining stages of the Land Registration and Land Charges Bill [Lords] and of the Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution) Bill [Lords].

Orders on Anti-Dumping Duty, Electricity and Medicines.

TUESDAY, 13TH JULY—Supply (26th Allotted day): Debate on an Opposition Motion on the Economic Situation in Scotland.

Regulations on Grant-Aided Secondary Schools (Scotland).

WEDNESDAY, 14TH JULY—Supply (27th Allotted day): Remaining stages of the Education (Milk) Bill.

Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock.

THURSDAY, 15TH JULY—Supply (28th Allotted day): Until seven o'clock, debate on an Opposition Motion on the London Homeless. Afterwards, on an Opposition Motion on Sport and Youth Services

Remaining stages of the Diplomatic and Other Privileges Bill and of the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Cinematograph Films Regulations.

FRIDAY, 16TH JULY—The House will be invited to approve the Anguilla Bill.

Afterwards, a debate on Privilege.

MONDAY, 19TH JULY—Supply (29th Allotted day): Debate on a subject to be announced.

Remaining stages of the Mineral Workings Bill [Lords].

The debate to take note of the While Paper on the The United Kingdom and the European Communities, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday, is expected to be on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 21st–23rd July, and Monday, 26th July.

I intend to propose that the House should adjourn on Friday, 6th August. If, however—

Hon. Members

Oh !

Mr. Whitelaw

Perhaps I may finish the announcement, which may help the House. If, however, the progress of business permits, it may be possible to recommend that the House should rise earlier.

Mr. Harold Wilson

First, may I express the thanks of, I think, the whole House to the right hon. Gentleman for his statement about the Government's intentions regarding time for debating the Common Market issue. I indicated to the Prime Minister yesterday that I understood that there were generous proposals both for now and for the autumn, and I think that this will be for the convenience of the whole House. I am sure that the Chief Whip will agree that we ourselves have contributed time so that quite lengthy and, I hope, adequate time will be available.

The right hon. Gentleman has intimated his intentions for the adjournment of the House for the recess, about which I asked him some weeks ago, for the convenience of right hon. and hon. Members. Is he aware that, if the House sits into August, it will be entirely because of the Government's obsession with getting the Industrial Relations Bill on to the Statute Book? Although at each stage of the Bill there has been totally inadequate time for debate and, when it was hoped—

Sir G. Nabarro

The right hon. Gentleman can sit on the 12th if he likes.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The hon. Gentleman may speak for himself. At each stage of the debate, including the Report stage—we are coming now to consideration of Lords Amendments, which, I presume, is what the Leader of the House has in mind—there have been so many Government Amendments that it has not been possible for the House even to begin to catch up with matters not discussed at earlier stages. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this has been a quite monstrous treatment of the House, despite his assurances when he announced the guillotine Motion, and that he must take full responsibility if the House sits into a week which will be as unpopular with hon. Members opposite as it will be with his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about the Common Market debate. I acknowledge at once that the Opposition have provided one of their days, through the usual arrangements, towards this procedure, and I am grateful to them for so doing. I hope also that, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, the time for debate in October will be equally gener- ous and considered to be so by the House.

As for continuing into the first week of August, while leaving aside some of his other strictures, perhaps I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was in 1966, I think, that his Government sat longer into August for a Prices and Incomes Bill which they produced very late in the Session. They went on much longer into August. If he has his strictures against me, I am, I think, entitled to retort not with a stricture but with a reminder for him. I think that that is perfectly fair.

As for taking responsibility for what I do, I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman and the House would admit that this is something which I have never been afraid to do, nor ever will be.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

With reference to the adjournment for the Summer Recess, will my hon. Friend take it that, however personally disagreeable it may be to many of us to sit into August, most of us will be happy to do so if in that way we can make sure that this most necessary Bill is carried into law before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I must point out that there are other matters of business before us as well as that before the Summer Recess—in particular, generous time for the Common Market debate. One has to pay a certain price for that as well.

Mr. C. Pannell

I am obliged to the Leader of the House now that, after three years, we are coming round to consideration of the Report of the Select Committee of Privileges. But is he aware that this is a rather esoteric subject? Will he issue a note of explanation—I am not asking for a White Paper—to tell the House, and new Members in particular, what it really means?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, whose interest in this matter I very much respect. Motions are on the Order Paper. I am always available to seek to explain, to the best of my ability, this somewhat complicated subject. If I catch Mr. Speaker's eye on Friday, I shall make a speech on the subject. Whether, after I have made it, anyone will understand more about it than he did at the start is not for me to say

Mr. Gardner

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the enormous demand for the White Paper on the Common Market demonstrates, as one would suppose, the immense interest in the subject in the country at large? In view of the historic importance of the debates which are to take place on the Common Market, will my right hon. Friend consider a live broadcast from the Chamber of those debates so that everyone outside the House may understand what is going on inside?

Mr. Whitelaw

I answered the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) last week by saying that the Services Committee would look into the question of a sound broadcast of the debate in October but that I did not think there would be time to consider it for the "take note" debate in July. The Services Committee considered the question this week. It came to the conclusion that the time would be too short for July. It has not taken a final decision on what to propose to the House for October. It will take such a decision next week and will then submit a proposal to the House one way or another as to what might be done about a sound broadcast in the autumn. It will then be entirely for the House to decide whether it wishes to accept or decline whatever advice the Services Committee puts forward.

Mr. Orme

Is the Leader of the House aware that, despite the timetable, going into August, that he has talked about in regard to discussing the Industrial Relations Bill, the Government this morning put down another 12 Amendments in the Lords, there are now over 300 Amendments debated and added, and 10 new Clauses added to this monstrous Bill? A matter of four or five days will be totally inadequate to discuss it. Will he understand that hon. Members on this side will insist on fighting for their democratic rights to discuss this Measure, if it takes us till September?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. These are all matters that can be discussed when the Bill comes back from another place.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Since the great debate on the Common Market has begun with such sweetness and light, with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition agreeing that there should not be a referendum on the matter, will my right hon. Friend, in his capacity as Leader of the House, see that there are talks now between the main political parties so that the decision shall be a real decision of the people through Parliament acting on a free vote?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said on the subject.

Mrs. Castle

Further to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), is the Leader of the House aware that because of the indecent haste with which the Government forced the Industrial Relations Bill through the House and the totally inadequate time allowed here to discuss it, it is being practically rewritten in another place, and that even in the Report stage in the House of Lords the Government keep adding important new chunks of policy? Therefore, we would strongly resist any attempt to repeat in the Commons the closure of debates through the guillotine that we suffered at an earlier stage. It would clearly be advisable to postpone the discussion until after the recess, when adequate time can be given. It is only because of a matter of petty prestige by the Government that they are forcing us to sit into August.

Mr. Whitelaw

I will consider what the right hon. Lady says, together with all the other points put to me, before putting down the Motion that I am entitled to put down under the original Motion, when the Bill is received back from another place. When I do so I shall take fully into account the number of Amendments to her own Transport Bill, and the amount of time allotted by the previous Government for Lords Amendments on that Bill, and the number of Amendments that came back from the Lords. The right hon. Lady, and the right hon. Gentleman who is enjoying it—[Interruption]—perhaps I should say that if the right hon. Gentleman is not enjoying it he had a funny way of showing that he was not doing so. The right hon. Lady and the right hon. Gentleman might like to look up the amount of time given to that. I shall judge what I shall do, and then perhaps the House will compare my judgment with what was done then.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House would throw some light on the arrangements for the second and more important of the Common Market debates. Can my right hon. Friend say when that debate is likely to be, and how long it will last?

Mr. Whitelaw

It will certainly be in the autumn. I expect that it will be in the second half of October, but I cannot be more precise.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Committee stage of the Education (Milk) Bill was completed only at five minutes past one today? The OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of the Committee will not be available to hon. Members until tomorrow. Does he think that to have the Report stage on Wednesday gives sufficient time for those hon. Members who were not on the Committee who I am sure will wish to table a host of Amendments? There seems to be totally inadequate time between the Committee and Report stages.

Mr. Whitelaw

I think that it is reasonable to note what the hon. Gentleman says.

Sir G. Nabarro

Whilst I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his proposals to frame a timetable under his original arrangements to ensure the passage of the Industrial Relations Bill, may I ask him to bear in mind the utter futility of tramping through the Lobbies all night to deal with hundreds of Amendments? Will he therefore frame his Motion this time to make it perfectly certain that Members may vote and go off home at midnight?

Mr. Whitelaw

I shall certainly take into account all the points that have been put to me when framing the Motion.

Mr. William Hamilton

With regard to the debate on the Privileges Motion on Friday of next week, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance on whether the Order No. 28 on the Order Paper today refers to all Select Committees, and that it will be immediately operative as soon as the House approves it next Friday?

[That, except as otherwise ordered by this House,

  1. (1) a Select Committee shall have power to admit strangers during the examination of Witnesses unless they otherwise order; and
  2. (2) a Sub-Committee appointed by such a Select Committee shall have a like power except as that Committee otherwise order.

That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I should like to proceed with general agreement in the House in that debate. There will be no question of my wishing to push any Motion through. If on Friday there was found to be opposition to any of those Motions, I would be ready to withdraw them and put them forward again. As to what the hon. Gentleman said about that Motion, I should like to see first what happens in our debates and whether it is approved next Friday.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Will my right hon. Friend be a little more helpful about the debate in the autumn on the Common Market? There are Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegations and Select Committees, and it would be helpful if, just as he gave the date when he hoped the House might adjourn, my right hon. Friend could give the date when he hopes that we might resume. I am not pressing for him to tell us today, but perhaps he can tell us next week when he expects the great debate to take place.

Mr. Whitelaw

I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) that it will probably be in the second half of October. I will look into my hon. Friend's point, in consultation through the usual channels and with all the bodies connected with such delegations. I think that it would be in the general interests of the House that we should try to make sure that they do not have them at around that time.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the exasperation, indeed anger, felt by many of the Government's own employees in scientific research establishments, can the Leader of the House promise a statement about the position of people who feel that they will be given something approaching a zero pay award?

Mr. Whitelaw

The hon. Gentleman, who is more expert in these matters than I, will agree that the question is going to arbitration. However, I will call what he has said to the attention of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department, and if there is any information he can give the House he will make a statement.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman ignore the advice given him on the Industrial Relations Bill by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who appears to want to establish a Reichstag rather than a British House of Commons? Will he take the much better advice given him by his right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)? If he is not prepared to accept the advice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and postpone the final debates on the Bill until after the recess, does he agree that we should continue right through the recess and discuss the whole matter in a proper, democratic way? Will he allow us to discuss the Bill properly and not constantly impose the guillotine? The Bill has not been discussed fully in the House, as it should have been.

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. I should make it clear, as I think I did in answer to the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) that the original Motion enabled me to put down another Motion subject to a two-hour debate and the decision of the House. As I put that down originally, of course I shall implement it when the Bill comes back from another place. In framing the Motion, I shall take into account all the considerations put to me today. Nothing I shall do then will be without precedents in the House. I shall see that I conform to what has been done in the past on many similar occasions.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House some information on another White Paper, not the one issued yesterday but one involving the little matter of rents for 7 million families? Is he aware that in local government circles there is an understanding that the White Paper is to be issued on 15th July? Is that so? Whenever the announcement is made, may we have something more than a few questions and answers that we usually get on such a White Paper? Will there be a full debate on it, since such serious matters are involved?

Mr. Whitelaw

No decision on those matters has been taken, so I cannot confirm or deny what the hon. Gentleman has put to me. I can only say that I will certainly be in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to see what can be done about the method when the announcements are made.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

When my right hon. Friend is considering with the Prime Minister the question of a vote on the Common Market debate in the autumn, would he take into account that, as we have three months to consult our constituents on this matter, it would make sense in that consultation if we had a free vote, and that we would probably have a bigger vote in support of the Common Market if we could obtain agreement on that with the opposite side of the House than we would if there was no agreement?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have already said that I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said, but I note what my hon. Friend says on the subject.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Would the right hon. Gentleman give a little further thought to the point put by his hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg) about the timing of the autumn debate on the Common Market? Since last week, when the House had been given no information at all about the generous time available for the four-day debate, we have read all about it at the weekend. As the right hon. Gentleman has a clear date in his mind, would he consider making a business statement tomorrow? It would be of great value to the House to know when the October debate will take place. We should all understand if he has to change it for any reason, but would it not be for the convenience of the House if Members of Parliament could be told first?

Mr. Whitelaw

Yes, certainly, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The only reason I was not announcing dates was the very point that he put to me, that some of the actual days might have to be changed—not the number of days but the day when the debate started. However, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I undertake, in the first instance, to see whether it is possible to give dates, which I hope we can keep to, next week.—[Interruption.] If it will help the House, I will give some very rough dates now, although I have to say that I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take them with a certain amount of reserve, which he himself put on the original question. I would hope that the days for such a debate would come between 21st October and 28th October.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

I cannot do it.

Mr. Whitelaw

Those are the sort of dates which I would expect.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. We shall all understand if it slips a day or two either way. I have just sent for my diary, too, which is bigger than the right hon. Gentleman's. Would the right hon. Gentleman not now put himself in a position to take the credit to which he is entitled by saying not merely what is the range in which the debate will take place, but how many days he is allocating. He has been very generous, and people should know that and not have to learn about it by reading it in the Press.

Mr. Whitelaw

The proposal was six days, which I thought reasonable. On the question of diaries, I have never believed that size was a very important matter.

Mrs. Renée Short

In view of the obvious bias in the "take note" White Paper and the obvious omission of any real discussion of the disadvantages that attach to acceptance of the terms contained therein, would the Leader of the House consider very carefully giving the House a longer opportunity to discuss the White Paper? Would he consider giving at least one extra day for the "take note" debate, so that we shall not be hurried, by Members on either side of the House, to get on as quickly as we can and to make five-minute speeches, because this will not be possible on such an important issue?

Mr. Whitelaw

I would not wish to follow the hon. Lady's comments about the White Paper. Her right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has very fairly said that the times allotted for the "take note" debate and for the debate in the autumn were generous timetables for the House. I think that they are. I am afraid that I could not offer more time for the "take note" debate. As for the number of Members who will be able to speak, I can only give the time honoured answer that that will depend on for how long those who are called decide to speak.

Mr. Lawson

Regarding the Mineral Workings Bill, which the Leader of the House proposes to bring on on Monday week after 10 o'clock, quite apart from the fact that the Government were not able to sustain the most important part of the Bill, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister in charge gave to the Committee the very definite undertaking that, as he could not explain some of the important provisions of the Bill, he would do his utmost with the Leader of the House to ensure that the Bill came on sufficiently early in the day to permit a proper discussion of what could not be properly discussed in Committee? Would the right hon. Gentleman look again at the question of bringing the Bill on after 10 o'clock on a Monday night?

Mr. Whitelaw

I would have hoped that it was reasonable, but in view of what the hon. Gentleman says, I will certainly look at the question again.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is the Leader of the House aware that it was on 16th June, 1970–not 1971–that the Prime Minister said that a Conservative Government would at a stroke reduce the rise in prices? It is only a year since he made that promise. Has the right hon. Gentleman seen my Motion No. 615, which gives about 50 or 60 of the basic staple food prices that have risen by as much 36 per cent.? As it would be the Government's wish to publicise those figures, may we have a debate on that Motion?

[That this House notes that on Tuesday, 29th June, 1971 the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in a written Parliamentary reply, columns 71 and 72, OFFICIAL REPORT, disclosed that between 16th June, 1970 and 18th May, 1971 the following average percentage rises in food prices have taken place:

Lamb: Home Killed
Loin (with bone) 9.1
Breast 15.2
Best end of neck 8.6
Shoulder (with bone) 8.7
Leg (with bone) 7.6
Lamb: Imported
Loin (with bone) 8.9
Breast 15.9
Best end of neck 8.6
Shoulder (with bone) 9.2
Leg (with bone) 7.5
Beef: Home Killed
Chuck 15.7
Sirloin (without bone) 16.1
Silverside (without bone) 16.3
Back ribs (with bone) 18.0
Fore ribs (with bone) 17.1
Brisket (with bone) 22.5
Rump steak 15.9
Beef: Imported Chilled
Chuck 20.8
Silverside (without bone) 19.2
Rump steak 14.1
White, 1¾ lb. wrapped and sliced loaf 5.6
White, 7¾ lb. unwrapped loaf 5.7
White, 14 oz. loaf 7.7
Brown, 14 oz. loaf 6.7
New Zealand 36.3
Danish 30.0
Eggs, per dozen
Large 17.6
Standard 22.3
Medium 29.6
Ordinary, per pint 8.7;

observes that these figures are at complete variance with the statement issued by the Prime Minister on 16th June, 1970 that a Conservative Government would, at a stroke, reduce the rise in prices; and, in the knowledge that the poor, disabled and sick, retirement pensioners, and those on welfare benefits spend most of their very limited incomes on food, demands an immediate increase in all welfare benefits of at least 20 per cent. to offset the average rise of 10.4 per cent. in food prices to date and the prospective annual rise of more than 10 per cent. per annum.]

Mr. Whitelaw

Without wishing to follow the hon. Gentleman in his various points, I have noted his Motion. I had to look it up as I received so many questions on the Motions following it that I had to recollect which one it was. I have looked at this one and have noted it, but I cannot offer time for a debate.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

The right hon. Gentleman will have noted that, in a Written Answer last week, his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Trade and Industry announced a new policy of withdrawal of Government finance from films. Is he aware that to announce in a Written Answer a momentous change such as this, which could cripple the industry, is a gross breach of the procedures of this House? In view of this, may we have an urgent debate on the film industry and on this momentous change in the withdrawal of Government finance for British film production?

Mr. Whitelaw

I was not aware of the existence of the answer made by my hon. Friend, and of what the hon. Gentleman describes. I should like to look into it before accepting entirely what the hon. Gentleman ascribes to it. I cannot find time for a debate but I will look into the matter and I shall seek to question his hon. Friend and my hon. Friend in the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. English

Regarding the debate on privileges, all the right hon. Gentleman's Motions on the Order Paper are specific and probably unexceptionable. But would he, therefore, put down a general Motion, such as a "take note" Motion on the original Report, as a peg on which we can hang other things than those specific in his Resolution?

Mr. Whitelaw

Such a debate took place in the last Parliament. I thought it right to give the House a chance to come to a decision on specific matters. I give all hon. Gentlemen the positive assurance that if, on Friday, I find specific objections to any of these, rather than pressing them to a vote and trying to win them on that basis, I would consider withdrawing them and seeing if we could make progress. I hope, nevertheless, that some of the matters will command general acceptance in the House, and those I should like to get on to the Standing Orders of the House, as I believe the whole House would.

Mr. Douglas

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government are clearly committed to a statement on shipbuilding industry credits before the Summer Recess. Because of the importance of these credits to this very important industry, would he indicate when that statement will be made?

Mr. Whitelaw

I accept the importance of what has been said. If the hon. Gentleman says that the Government are committed to such a statement, clearly they are. I will look into the matter and, having checked it, I will speak to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about it.

Mr. Golding

May I ask the Leader of the House whether we can expect the Prime Minister to be present during the first week of August in order to answer Questions?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have been fairly tolerant with questions, but they must be serious questions.

Mr. Fred Evans

I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) was given a rather cavalier answer by the Leader of the House when he raised the matter of the interval between the conclusion of the Committee stage on the Education (Milk) Bill just after one o'clock today and the Report stage which is to be taken next Wednesday. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the need for some protection of back-bench Members. We do not have the facilities afforded to Ministers and shadow Ministers of all kinds. We have to do our own research work. We have to frame our own Amendments. Very often, that can be quite a technical exercise. The OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee's last sitting will not be available until tomorrow. That imposes on back-bench Members on both sides an extremely difficult task. If this becomes the practice, we shall be in danger of removing some of the qualities that back-bench Members add to the House. The Leader of the House is extremely generous in his regard for back-bench Members. I ask him to look at this position closely.

Mr. Whitelaw

If the hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) felt that my original answer was in any way cavalier, I am very sorry. I did not mean to do that. Incidentally, perhaps I might welcome the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen back to the House.

I had some discussions about the timetable for this Bill. It was felt that on this occasion such an interval might be reasonable. I think that it is reasonable on this one occasion, but I assure hon. Members that it will not be regarded as a precedent for other occasions.

Mr. Lipton rose

Mr. Burden rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am a little embarrassed. If allowing business questions to continue adds to the appetite of hon. Members, and hon. Members who did not rise originally seek to catch my eye, the situation becomes rather difficult. I shall call the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) and then the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), but no more.

Mr. Lipton

When the House has the "take note" debate on the White Paper on 21st July and succeeding days, will the Leader of the House consider the possibility of extending the rule by one hour or soon each day so as to allow more hon. Members to take part?

Mr. Whitelaw

Certainly I am prepared to discuss that matter through the usual channels.

Mr. Burden

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for coming in so late. I had hoped that another hon. Member would raise the point. I understand that agricultural codes of practice are to be presented to the House on Wednesday of next week. If that is so, may I ask my right hon. Friend what time will be allowed to debate them?

Mr. Whitelaw

I think that it is 1½ hours. I will check that and make sure. If I am wrong, I shall inform my hon. Friend.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I have not had an opportunity to give you notice of it. With respect, you may care to rule upon it at a later date, when you have had an opportunity to consider it.

When there are important debates, Mr. Speaker is put in a very difficult position. We know that he always tries to be fair. When we come to debate the Common Market, Mr. Speaker will be in an even greater difficulty than usual. In the special circumstances, perhaps you will be willing to consider one or two suggestions.

The first is that the usual channels might consult you with a view to seeing whether they can assist you.

Secondly, I suggest that hon. Members on both sides who may wish to catch your eye during the debate might be allowed to write to you in advance suggesting whether they are in favour of, against or sitting on the fence about the White Paper. In that event, you might be able to consider working out a geographical, an industrial and a political, democratic debate which otherwise, without foreknowledge of hon. Members' views, would be impossible.

Perhaps, in the next week or so, you will consider the position.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The points that he raises have not been altogether absent from my mind. I have already been giving them some thought. I shall discuss these matters between now and the beginning of the debate.