HC Deb 01 March 1972 vol 832 cc555-72

10.25 p.m.

The Chairman

The first Amendment is No. 96, in page 2, line 5, after 'and', insert 'subject to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament'. standing in the name of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and the names of other right hon. and hon. Members.

Before I call upon the hon. Gentleman to move it, I think the Committee will be glad to know that I have selected another Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Before the Committee gets too excited, I should add that I would have selected it yesterday but for the fact that the Amendment which went with it was a paving Amendment. The Amendment which now goes with it means that it is complete. If the Committee wishes to discuss that Amendment with No. 96, it may do so. It is Amendment No. 49, in page 1, line 16, leave out from beginning to 'the', together with Amendment No. 99, in page 2, line 11, leave out subsection (3), both also standing in the name of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. We are, of course, most grateful for the extremely small mercy of the selection of the extra Amendment. Perhaps it might be an encouragement to put down another Motion in order to see whether we cannot get another Amendment selected. But that is not the point I wish to raise.

I rise to ask whether it would be in order for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to consider, in view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that it is usually much better to start on Amendments at a different hour, whether it would not be advisable in the interests of the Committee to report Progress and consider the matter further.

There are many aspects of the debate that we have just had in the House which I would have thought the Government would wish to consider. I would have thought that the Government themselves would have accepted that the best way to deal with the situation would be to have second thoughts on what has been discussed and decide how to proceed. We could either discuss the proposition to report Progress or have the opportunity of carrying it in a Division. We could then consider the matter at a later date after the Government themselves had been able to consider the position, both in the light of what was said in the debate and in the light of the debates which will certainly take place on this matter next week. Would it not be advisable for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to speak in that sense?

10.30 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

As the House has just rejected one Motion and passed another so that we can get on with the Amendments it seems reasonable that we should now make some progress. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said yesterday that we had to have the debate today because what would follow would be minor technical Amendments. I should have thought we could have got rid of one or two or those.

Mr. Foot

We will certainly not tolerate any flippancy on this. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to start applying his mind to the details of the Bill. We will not have any of his slap-happy methods here. I am extremely sorry that the Government take this view. It would be better, Sir Robert, if you would accept a Motion to report Progress and ask leave to sit again in view of the lateness of the hour and the implications of the debate that we have just had. It would be a wise course in the interests of the Committee if such a Motion were accepted. You could accept such a Motion from me or a member of the Government.

The Chairman

Order. At this early stage of the proceedings, I could not accept such a Motion.

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I hope we shall be able to make some progress.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. Could I adduce a reason in support of my hon. Friend's proposal that this debate should now be adjourned?

The Chairman

No, I cannot accept that as a point of order. I have ruled that I cannot accept a Motion at this stage. I hope no one will seek to change that, because it is my decision.

Mr. English

If you will allow me, Sir Robert, you will find that I have a well-founded point of order. It is the custom of this House, derived from the ancient practices of every court in the land, that we should always have before us all documents necessary for our purposes. The Leader of the House has promised that we would have them. I have mentioned this once to him privately and twice publicly, but still it has not been done. In this case I mention the specific nature of the documents—

The Chairman

Order. That is not a point of order. What the Leader of the House or anyone else produces by way of documents is not for the Chair. I hope that hon. Members in seeking to raise points of order will come quickly to the point so that we may begin to make progress. It is the duty laid upon me expressly by the House that I do the best I can to see that progress is made.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. Although it is the case, as the Chancellor of the Duchy said flippantly a few moments ago, that two Divisions have taken place after Ten o'clock, the first rejecting our Motion and the second carrying the Government's Motion, in the first Division a large number of Members, albeit a minority, expressed support for the view that you as Chairman of Ways and Means had committed what was considered to be a grave error of judgment. Since that has been the expression of view of a large number of hon. Members, may I ask you whether—

Hon. Members


Mr. O'Malley

Hon. Gentlemen must let me put this point.

May I ask you, Sir Robert—I should be surprised if it were not the case—are you not as Chairman of Ways and Means, particularly in view of what the Leader of the House said this afternoon, going to give the House, before we proceed to any other business, a statement of the situation as you see it? Second, since a large number of hon. Members have, through their votes, expressed doubt about the judgment of the Chair in selecting these Amendments, should you not consider your own position before proceeding?

The Chairman

I cannot accept that as a point of order. Nor can I accept any point of order concerning any business which has been terminated by the House. In other words, any consideration of whether or not amendments are in order before the first Amendment to be called I cannot take as a point of order, because the House has in its wisdom forestalled me on that and made a decision that what I did was the right thing. Therefore, like everyone else, I have to abide by the decisions of the House.

I hope very much that hon. Members will not seek to go back on what the House has already decided. This is an assembly which obeys its rules on the whole. Sometimes hon. Members get a little worked up. I know that there has been a great deal of feeling over what has gone on today and yesterday, but I appeal to the Committee, in all seriousness. Hon. Members have had their say, the House has come to decision on what has been done, and it is our duty to proceed with our work.

If points of order arise on what we are going to do, the Committee knows that I shall be perfectly ready to listen to them, but we must finish with what we have decided already. That is the end of it so far as the Chair is concerned, and I am sure that all hon. Members will support me in that.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. Is not the House in a very difficult position—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—in the sense that it is obvious that a very large body of hon. Members —I am not now discussing what has gone on before—consider that they cannot discuss in any depth the issues involved in the Common Market because of the nature of the Bill? In view of that, it is clear that there may well be a body of opinion on both sides of the House that the Government should withdraw this Bill. If they are not prepared to do so, there may be some sort of Motion urging the Government to do just that. In those circumstances, is it not silly and stupid for the Committee to try to proceed to discuss the Bill when half the House at least is totally opposed to its very nature—

The Chairman

Order. I have got exactly what the hon. Member means. I am afraid that that, too, is not a point of order for me. The Committee must realise that the House has come to a decision and decided that the business of the Committee must proceed. If we do not obey the decisions of the House, we are unfaithful to ourselves as good democrats. So we must make some progress with the Bill this evening. That is the decision of the House, taken by a majority.

The minority know that no Government or parliamentary system is possible unless the minority abide by the decisions of the majority after they have had every opportunity to ventilate the issue and to say what they believe right. I appeal with all the strength I can command to hon. Members to let this Bill proceed, as is the decision of the whole House. I hope sincerely that I shall not be disappointed.

Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)

In the light of the appeal you have just made, Sir Robert, may I put this point of view? I asume that it must be put as a point of order. The Leader of the House must know, because he has held the position which I hold, that after all that has happened in the last two days the Committee is hardly in a position to discuss this Bill with the lucidity that it demands.

You have rightly made an appeal, Sir Robert, but may I say to the Leader of the House through you—[Hon. Members: "No."] I am not concerned about back-benchers opposite. I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman through you Sir Robert, that to start now on the first Amendment to be called by the Chair would not be satisfactory. I am not quite sure what he means by "progress", but would it not be better to start on it at an agreed time next week? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members opposite must listen. If this House is to conduct its business properly there must be understanding on both sides.

In the light of this and to get the best discussion, would it not be better for the Leader of the House to consider that if we are to make progress, which the Chair rightly demands and which the Government have a right to expect, we should discuss in the right atmosphere and move on to a debate next week? If he denies this, the right hon. Gentleman will know that our discussion of this Amendment will lead to a very long debate.

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

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said that I once held the position which he holds. Yes, I did, and I think I did so in the same way that he does; I abided by the rules of the House and decisions of the Chair. This House has pased a Motion to continue progress on the Bill, and you, Sir Robert, have made perfectly clear that progress can go on. It can be no part of the duty of the Leader of the House to go back on a Motion passed by the House or on a Ruling which you have given. This House could not continue to exist if the Leader of the House acted in that way, and I could not do so.

Mr. Michael Foot

Further to the point which the Leader of the House has made, he suggested that the House has just passed a Motion which almost instructs the Committee to proceed with the Bill. That is not at all what the Motion said. It said: That the European Communities Bill may be proceeded with…".

An Hon. Member

"Will be".

Mr. Foot

It says not "will be" but "may be". You, Sir Robert, suggested that we had passed a Motion saying that it was the will of the House that we should now proceed with this debate; but that is not the case. The House has not passed such a Motion. All that it has passed is a Motion which says that we may proceed with the Bill. The Government have a majority and can try to do so if they want, but how far that will assist them is another question. We suggest that it would be better for orderly discussion of this Bill, which is of supreme importance, that the Government should resolve that when eventualy we start on the Committee stage it should be at a better time. I suggest to the Leader of the House that he certainly would not be defying the will of the House if he did that, because the Motion was not that we must proceed with this Bill but that we may do so.

Several Hon. Members


10.45 p.m.

The Chairman

A number of hon. Members are rising to their feet. I do not know whether they have their names to an Amendment.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

May I make this submission and appeal to you, Sir Robert, in the interests of orderly debate and in the interests of the Chair? Your announcement, which changes your decision on one Amendment fortifies my point. The House has now rejected a Motion which was critical of the Chair. We now find ourselves in the situation that a number of Amendments have been ruled out of order, and a great many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen do not know on what grounds they have been ruled out of order. There is, therefore, a clear clash of opinion in the House as to the proper way in which this Committee stage should be conducted. I have in my hand—

The Chairman

Order. I have already ruled that I cannot entertain any points of order on Amendments up to Amendment No. 49, because the House has made a decision on that and the House is superior to me. Therefore, I cannot entertain any discussion whatever upon the Amendments before Amendment No. 49.

Mr. Jay

What I was about to submit to you, Sir Robert, and to the Leader of the House was the following. In view of this situation, which is clearly unsatisfactory to a large section of the House and to yourself, would it not be in your interests and in the interests of orderly debate if you were to respond to the appeal which has been made today from both sides of the House that we should take a certain amount of time to see whether it is possible to find a solution about the conduct of the Committee stage? Surely it would be unsatisfactory to proceed in an orderly way now, with all these questions unresolved.

The Chairman

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman, but I have no power to do anything that he says. I am bound by what the House has decided. I am bound by my duties as expressly put on me by the House to get the Committee to work on the Bill. If the Committee will not work on the Bill, it will not work on the Bill, but it is my duty to do my best to see that it does, and that is what I propose to go on doing, no matter how long it takes.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. May I put a double point of order to you on the announcement that you have made concerning the new and additional selection that you have made. As I understood it, you intimated that you now intended to call Amendment No. 49 and to take another Amendment with it. I understand that you also suggested to the Committee—though I believe this would be in the hands of the Committee—that this should be taken together with Amendment No. 96 and those grouped with it in your previous selection.

If I am right in my understanding, I would wish to put two points to you. The first is that these two groups of Amendments, the new pair and the old group of five or six, raise substantially different matters which, I submit, it is highly inconvenient should be taken together since this would not lead to a satisfactory debate. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why split hairs?"] I am not sure that my hon. Friend who talks about splitting hairs has looked at the Amendments or given them any study. If he had done so, he would have been able to satisfy himself that I am correct in saying that they raise substantially different matters.

My second submission is linked with that. As you know, Sir Robert, when the selection of the Chair is notified, as your selection was yesterday morning, hon. Members who wish to take part in proceedings on the Bill are enabled and, indeed, obliged thereby to concentrate upon the Amendments which they have reason to suppose will be called. Therefore, we are put in great difficulty if we are confronted by the calling immediately of a major Amendment of really great importance which none of us until a few moments ago had any reason to suppose would be called at all.

I ask you, in no way with the intention of delaying progress but because this is part of the orderly conduct of the proceedings of the Committee and because this is connected with the reasons for which you intimate your intention to indicate your selections in advance to hon. Members, very seriously to consider whether these two Amendments should not be taken separately, and whether, in the circumstances of the Committee being unadvised that they were to be taken at all, you should not make arrangements for them not to be proceeded with at this time.

The Chairman

The reason why this Amendment was not selected was that there was only a paving Amendment down without the Amendment itself. That is why I could not select the Amendment yesterday. There was only a paving Amendment down. I was trying to help the Committee by selecting any Amendments that were in order. I had to rule the other one out of order yesterday because it was a paving Amendment and the main Amendment was not there.

I realise that the selection of these Amendments for discussion puts the Committee in some difficulty, because they must be taken before the group which was already there. Of course I am at the disposal of the Committee about the grouping. If the Committee does not like it, it has only to say so. It is always possible to change it. I am quite happy if the Committee does not wish to discuss those Amendments with Amendment No. 96. The Committee may take them separately. But I am afraid that if they are to be discussed at all they will have to be taken now, because they come before Amendment No. 96.

Mr. Powell

Further to that point of order. With respect, Sir Robert, what you have just said in reminding the Committee that the substantive Amendment to which Amendment No. 49 is only paving was not even on the Notice Paper yesterday merely strengthens my submission. Whereas it is reasonable to expect hon. Members to seek to understand and to arrive at a point of view on Amendments which are on the Notice Paper even before they know that they are to be selected, I suggest that it is impossible for hon. Members to be prepared to consider or to debate an Amendment which was not on the Notice Paper until today and of which there was no suggestion or knowledge in advance that it would come into debate. If I may say so, the information of which you have reminded the Committee strengthens my submission that we should be in great difficulty in proceeding to Amendment No. 49 and the linked Amendments now.

The Chairman

That is a matter for the movers of the Amendment to decide, as soon as we can get to it. I repeat what I said before. I was anxious to give the Committee every chance to discuss all the Amendments that I could find it possible for it to discuss. I wanted only to be helpful. After all, this is a starred Amendment. Everyone knows that, generally speaking, that means that it is not called because the Ministry has not had time to consider it. In this case, it seemed to be in the interests of the Committee that I should try to call it. If when the time comes no hon. Member wants to move it, that is the business of those who have tabled it.

Mr. Michael Foot

Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. This illustrates the difficulties the Committee is placed in by having to proceed at this time, if we are to proceed.

Amendment No. 49, which you, Sir Robert, have said now should be discussed with Amendment No. 96 and a number of others, was put down, as I understand, with Amendments Nos. 50 and 51. Those three Amendments, in effect, operate together. If they were not called together, it would be extremely difficult to make sense out of them. Therefore, we are in a peculiar situation if Amendment No. 49 is called and has to be discussed with several other Amendments which do not necessarily cover the same ground, and Amendments Nos. 50 and 51, which were put down for the purpose of dealing with this point, are not called.

Therefore, I submit that it is not satisfactory to discuss the matter in that way. You, Sir Robert, may say, "All right; the way to solve that is not to discuss Amendment No. 49 at all." However, I submit that we ought to have the opportunity of discussing and considering Amendments Nos. 49, 50 and 51 to see how they relate to the other Amendments.

The Chairman

Order. Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 are not in order.

Mr. Foot

I suggest, Sir Robert, that the Committee is placed in a serious situation. This is an illustration of the situation.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Stop this illegal picketing.

Mr. Foot

You have now said, Sir Robert, that you have called Amendment No. 49, and that Nos. 50 and 51 are out of order. As I understand it, that would mean that the proposition being put forward in Amendment No. 49 would not make sense in the Bill. Indeed, the Minister might get up and try to attack the Amendment on that basis. I suggest that it would be much better—

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

If the hon. Gentleman stopped wasting time.

Mr. Foot

One day hon. Gentlemen opposite will learn what the House of Commons is for. We shall have to teach them. They will have to have simple lessons night after night. Some of them, of whom the hon. Gentleman who interrupted is one, take a long time to catch up.

I suggest that it is extremely awkward for us to consider whether we wish to proceed to discuss the Amendment which has been called. We have put down three Amendments together. We would have to consider the effect of those Amendments if one is to be taken and the others are out of order. These are matters which hon. Members normally have a chance to consider after they have seen the Chairman's selection.

What you have now proposed, Sir Robert, is that we should discuss the Amendment which you yourself thought to be of sufficient importance to take exceptional steps to ensure should be called when we have had no opportunity to see how it affects the other Amend- ments which we have put down. I suggest that if we try to proceed with the discussions in Committee by this method at this hour we shall not get an effective debate on these various Amendments. Those of us who wish to put our own arguments on these matters will not have a fair chance to do so, because we shall not have had a fair opportunity beforehand to examine the exact meaning of the Amendments which have been called. Therefore, what you have suggested as a method of dealing with these Amendments is a quite novel proposition.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)

Whose Amendment is this?

Mr. Foot

The Amendment has been cut in half by the Ruling of the Chair.

Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)

Make half a speech then.

Mr. Foot

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has fully sustained his reputation as the silliest Member of the House of Commons.

I urge you again, Sir Robert, to exercise the right which you certainly have to accept a Motion to report Progress so that we shall be able to consider the state of the Amendments. That is a proposition which is open to you. If we do so, I suggest that we shall be able to discuss in an orderly manner the state of the Amendments which are being called and which relate to other Amendments. This is normally the way the House seeks to establish the procedure on which Amendments are to be called. If we are to proceed by the method you have suggested, I believe that you will get deeper and deeper into a procedural muddle, and it is your responsibility to try to assist us in escaping that situation.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. Before he lost his temper, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was telling us that this was a serious situation. I must agree with him, because the true seriousness of the situation is that the majority of hon. Members wish to make progress with the Committee, and the measure of the seriousness of the situation is that the wish of the majority reached by a vote is being frustrated by the persistence of a minority of hon. Members in employing the device of dilatory points of order to prevent any progress being made.

One of my hon. Friends might have described this as the parliamentary equivalent of illegal picketing in which we have seen the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in a characteristic burst of bad temper and intimidation.

So I put to you, Sir Robert, one of the most serious points of order which can be raised, not simply a nit-picking point about the precedence of Amendments, not a mediaeval debate for scholiasts only, but a question about the extent to which our time-honoured procedures are allowed to be frustrated by devices of that kind.

The Opposition Chief Whip may be right in saying that hon. Members on his side are incapable of sensible debate on this matter because they have whipped themselves up into a lather of indignation, but that does not apply to all hon. Members, and many hon. Members are willing to proceed.

Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)

To breakfast, if necessary.

Mr. Onslow

The question that confronts us now is the extent of the willingness of the minority to be bound by the rules of democracy. We should ask the Leader of the Opposition to come and take charge of that rabble.

Hon. Members

Who is he?

The Chairman

In answer to what has been said, it is at least quite clear that we should get on with our work. There is no question but that the majority of the Committee want to get on with the work, and I think we should do so.

I am not going to say that hon. Members should not raise points of order—they are perfectly entitled to—but I put it to them that they have a duty to the Committee to make some progress now that the House has decided that that should be done.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

Further to the point of order which was raised by the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), who suggested that the time-honoured procedures of this House were being frustrated by points of order being raised on this, and indeed, on the other side. It is he and his hon. and right hon. Friends who have done their best to frustrate those time-honoured procedures by preventing fair debate.

Many of us want to contribute to the discussion on the Amendment which you have selected, Sir Robert, but we have not had an adequate opportunity for preparation. Surely the rights of back benchers should be protected by the Chair. [Interruption.] I do not know what the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) is gibbering about, but I have been here throughout the day, and I am not prepared to take insults from the hon. Gentleman, whose contribution to these matters has been absolutely nil. I am being prevented from making a serious point of order by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Surely it is right, Sir Robert, when you have selected an Amendment as important as this, that hon. and right hon. Members should have an opportunity of fully preparing their contributions to the debate?

The Chairman

I am seized of the hon. Gentleman's point. I have a high opinion of the intellect of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and his hon. Friends. They would not have put down the Amendment unless they knew all about it. The six hon. and right hon. Members whose names are on the Amendment are well able to conduct a debate on that Amendment if they so wish. If they do not do so now that I have given them the opportunity, I can only conclude that they do not so wish.

Several hon. Members


Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley)

I under stood you to say, Sir Robert, that we should not be in order in discussing any Amendment on the Notice Paper before Amendment No. 49. With great respect, I draw your attention to Amendments Nos. 59,50, 24, 25, 35, 45, 26, 27, 32, 33, 47, 14, 36, 37, 42, 71, 72, 73, 74, 46, 75, 51, 43 and 60. I am sure the Committee will be familiar with the text of every one of those Amendments. The Amendments to which I have referred all appear on the Notice Paper after Amendment No. 49, and I therefore infer from your ruling that I shall not be out of order in discussing them with you. The reason why I have chosen those Amendments to discuss is that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) referred earlier to a letter from yourself, which I take it I am in order in referring to—

The Chairman

Order. I take this to be an attempt to re-open our previous debate. All that I referred to as being out of order are the Amendments which I have already ruled on prior to Amendment No. 96.

Dr. Gilbert

Let us start again from No. 96. I would be happy to delete Nos. 50, 59, 24, 25, 35, 45, 26, 27—

The Chairman

Order. Those are the Amendments about which the debate took place. They are finished with.

Dr. Gilbert

I want the record straight. I am deleting from my previous references Amendments Nos. 59, 50, 24, 25, 35, 45. 26 and 27, so that we are left with Nos. 32, 33, 47, 14, 36, 37, 42, 71, 72, 73, 74, 46, 75, 51, 43 and 60. The last group comes after No. 96. I therefore return to why I have chosen those Amendments. They are referred to in your letter of today's date, Sir Robert, to my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), in which you distinguish between—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite are calling me to order. That is the task of the Chair. On the one hand we have Amendments Nos. 34, 30 and 15 and on the other we have Nos. 14, 38 and 39. Having ruled out of order—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is now going beyond the mark—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—because all this has been decided. This was dealt with when the House decided not to carry the Motion of censure, so that the hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the Committee. [Interruption.] He knows what I mean when I say that he is indulging in a form of opposition which is not strictly parliamentary. He has no need to do it in that way.

Dr. Gilbert

As I was saying, Sir Robert—

The Chairman

Order. I have heard the hon. Gentleman's point of order, and I do not see any need for him to continue with it. Mr. Loughlin.

Dr. Gilbert

Further to my point of order—

The Chairman

Order. We are dealing with points of order. If I decide that have dealt with one—and I have ruled that I have dealt with the hon. Gentleman's—he must not persist, though that does not preclude him from raising another point of order with me later. Meanwhile, I have called Mr. Loughlin.

Dr. Gilbert

But—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] I hope I may be permitted to put to you, Sir Robert—

The Chairman.

Order. I called Mr. Loughlin.

Dr. Gilbert

On a point of order—

Hon. Members

Name him.

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

I had called Mr. Loughlin.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

This must be the first time in many years I have been in this House that I rise to speak amid cries of "Hear, hear" from hon. Gentlemen opposite.

My point of order concerns a Ruling given by Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster in 1962. I cannot give the precise date of the debate in which he gave this Ruling, but I am sure that your officials will easily trace it for you, Sir Robert.

The documents that we have before us are the Treaty of Accession and the decision of the Council. Without dealing with them and wasting the time of the House, I submit to you, Sir Robert, that there are a number of documents which ought to be before the House before we can discuss the matters with which we are concerned.

11.15 p.m.

In a debate covering the British Broadcasting Agreement, Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster adjourned the debate at about 3 a.m., on representations made by my hon. Friends, on the ground that no full discussion of any issue can be entered into by the House unless Members of the House have before them the requisite papers. On that occasion all that happened was that it was discovered— [Interruption.] The Chair cannot listen to two of us. I am willing to wait. I am perfectly willing for the learned Clerk to advise you, Sir Robert, and to wait until he has finished, but I cannot see how you, Sir Robert, can be seized of the points I am making when at the same time you have to listen to the learned Clerk. I say that quite respectfully to both you, Sir Robert, and the learned Clerk.

The occasion to which I refer was important to the House because Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster gave a Ruling which, as far as I have been able to ascertain, has applied up to the present. His Ruling on that particular issue was that the debate stood adjourned until the officers of the House could provide the requisite papers for the continuance of the debate. I am perfectly willing, Sir Robert, if you wish me to do so, to refer to a considerable number of documents which we ought to have. But on the occasion to which I have referred only one document was involved, and that was the British Broadcasting Agreement. My hon. Friends objected to the fact that I had procured the only copy from the Library and that the Vote Office could not provide copies.

If Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster ruled—it is a rule that has applied and been accepted by the officers of the House and by each succeeding Speaker—that there can be no discussion in this House of a matter on which the requisite papers are denied to right hon. and hon. Members, I submit to you, Sir Robert, that it is not possible to continue this discussion because the requisite papers are not available to us.

The Chairman

I quite understand what the hon. Member is saying, but he has not given chapter and verse. [Interruption.] I will give him chapter and verse. Would it not be better if hon. Members contained themselves and allowed the Chair when it is on its feet to continue? Neither the Speaker nor anyone else can rule that documents like that should be laid before the House. It is for the Government to lay the documents. Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster might have expressed an opinion—

Mr. Loughlin

No, he adjourned the debate.

The Chairman

As far as I know there is no discretion from the Chair that cer- tain documents should be laid. I may be wrong, but I do not think so. But as far as I am concerned in this Committee there is nothing I can do from here to ensure that anything more is done than what the Government have said is being done.

Mr. Loughlin

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Elysian Morgan (Cardigan)

Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. Without in any way intruding on the contribution that has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), perhaps I could very briefly draw attention to the passage which appears in the current edition of "Erskine May" on page 421. The heading there is:

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