HC Deb 21 June 1972 vol 839 cc475-8
Mr. Fell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg your tolerance and the tolerance of the House for raising a matter, of which I gave you notice, Mr. Speaker. It is a matter which was previously raised by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) on Monday, and I wish—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) is on a point of order of which he gave me notice.

Mr. Fell

You very kindly, Mr. Speaker, in your ruling yesterday, gave your answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Derby, North. I am not, of course, going to take up the time of the House with any reference to the subject itself under discussion on Friday. It would be quite wrong of me to do so, and I would not dream of taking advantage of the House in that way.

I only draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, in passing, to the case which was cited by the hon. Member for Derby, North, and a Ruling by Mr. Speaker Lowther in 1919, as referred to on page 290 of Erskine May. I have searched as hard as I might but I really cannot find anything very substantial at all having a bearing on this case. The only thing I was able to find was that on 11th March, 1919, there was a discussion of Lords Amendments when proceedings were brought to an end after 11 o'clock and immediately after there was unopposed business. The moment they came to opposed business the proceedings were ended.

Therefore, I have no argument whatsoever about that part of the ruling which you gave yesterday, when you said, On the one hand, we must be careful not to bend rules and practices which have been evolved throughout the years …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1972, Vol. 839, c. 237.] Of course, every hon. Member is absolutely at one with you in that part of your ruling. Then you said: What happened was according to Standing Orders. Naturally, again, everybody is grateful for that, and it confirms what all of us would like.

On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, you are the champion of minorities in this House, minorities large and small, though it may be a very small minority on one side of the House.

I am raising this matter because later in your ruling you came to a situation which alters the whole procedure of this House, because you said: Meanwhile, I do not believe that the House will be satisfied with what happened last Friday, and I have asked the Leader of the House to consider the situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1972; Vol. 839, c. 237.] This is where I am in difficulty over this ruling, because immediately before that you had said something which raises a doubt in my mind, where you felt that there are some possibilities to feel doubt about the procedure—[Interruption.] I am very sorry if hon. Members do not like this, but I am simply trying to raise this matter as speedily as I can with Mr. Speaker. You had just previously said, Mr. Speaker: I hope, therefore, that the Select Committee on procedure will examine this somewhat technical matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1972; Vol. 839, c. 237.] What I maintain is that the last sentence of your ruling invites the Government to bypass the Committee on Procedure.

Mr. C. Pannell


Mr. Fell

In the sentence before, in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you gave advice about reference to the Select Committee, but it seemed to me that the rules were being invited to be bent, and the practices which we have enjoyed throughout the years to be altered, without reference to the Select Committee, by the Government coming to their ideas of what they might do about this without reference to the Committee on Procedure.

So I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you could consider this matter further—if not now—with regard to the invitation you made to the Government themselves to find a way of bending the rules.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has made his point. I am not quite certain that what he says is a point of order. I was on a technical matter. For example, if a Motion for the closure is accepted and voted upon and the Division takes till, say, seven minutes past ten o'clock, the matter about which the closure was moved is put to the vote. In this case we had two Amendments being considered together. It seems to me that it is for consideration whether the rule applying when one Amendment is under debate should apply when two Amendments are being considered together. It is a purely technical matter. I think the Committee on Procedure will look into it from the technical point of view. Meanwhile, I think that it is not inappropriate that the Speaker should say that he hopes that the Leader of the House will consider the situation.

Mr. Fell

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The only thing I am worried about is the fact that you had appealed to the Select Committee to look at this, and then, after that, before the Select Committee could have looked at it, you suggested that the Leader of the House should look at it. That, surely, would be the effect—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think, with respect, that the hon. Member is not remembering the rôle of the Leader of the House. He is the Leader of the whole House. Therefore, I think it was appropriate for me to suggest that he should consider the situation.


Dr. Dickson Mabon

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), Mr. Speaker, most of us who were in the House on Friday whole-heartedly approved the ruling which you announced yesterday on the procedure to be followed.