HC Deb 15 March 1972 vol 833 cc550-7

Considered in Committee [Progress, 8th March.]


4.5 p.m.

The Chairman

Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I announce a slight alteration in the provisional selection of Amendments that I have made after representations made to me by the Opposition. It is that Amendments Nos. 179 and 180, in the second group of Amendments, would peferably be taken with Amendment No. 150. The result of that would be that the Committee could have a defence debate on the second group of Amendments and an economic debate on the third group. In that way we shall have two more orderly debates and not get into muddles. I think that is what lies behind what hon Gentlemen want.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Thank you very much, Sir Robert, for the consideration you have given to our representations on this subject. We are most grateful for that.

We still consider that Amendment No. 179 may be a somewhat different subject again, but we understand these problems of grouping which arise under the Bill, and that it is not easy to overcome them. There is also the possibility—I would not wish to press this if you, Sir Robert, felt that it was unwise—that Amendment No. 198, which is taken with Amendment No. 40, in a later group of Amendments, might be taken with Amendment No. 150, because they concern two subjects which deal with the question of publication, or the secret agreement, so-called, or secret matters of that nature. It may be for the convenience of the Committee, if that happened, that Amendment No. 179 should be taken separately, again, as it deals with matters that are concerned with the quota controls from developing countries, which is a rather different subject from the matters dealt with under Amendment No. 180, which concerns economic union and matters of that nature.

I emphasise that we appreciate the difficulties in grouping these matters, and we are still most grateful that you have transferred some of the Amendments we mentioned in the representations made this morning.

However, I wish to raise with you, Sir Robert, a second matter, a matter that I raised yesterday. Again, I understand that this is not a matter for you to rule upon, but it has been raised from both sides of the Committee. It is whether it would be desirable for the Committee to consider Amendments to the first part of the Schedule, at least, with Clause 1, which would mean, I suppose, having that after we reached the end of Clause 1, or at some stage like that. We hope that the Government have had time to consider the representations made yesterday, and those made earlier in the proceedings by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). If the Government could make a statement upon that matter we would be grateful.

We put this to you, Sir Robert, as your relationships with Ministers may be more cordial than ours. If that is so, it is through you, Sir Robert, that we should like to put this to the Government. We hope to have a statement on the subject because we believe a rearrangement would contribute to the orderly nature of the debate. In a Bill of this nature it is extremely difficult for the Chair or anyone else to group together satisfactorily all the different matters that arise. If we do not take the Schedule Amendments as we suggest it will mean returning to these debates later and having renewed discussions when some of them could have been taken at an earlier stage.

We are not suggesting that the whole of the Schedule should be taken at the beginning, but this matter might be looked at.

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

I have considered the points which were raised by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and also by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) about the order in which the Committee might consider the Schedules.

Plainly, there is a link between, for instance. Clause 1 and Schedule 1, as indeed there always is between Schedules and the Clauses to which they relate. Other hon. Members may have had more experience of this point than I, but I understand that there is no rigid rule about taking Schedules at the end of the Clauses and new Clauses. The House has, however, normally adopted the usual practice, notwithstanding the inevitable link between Schedules and certain Clauses.

There have been some instances this Session of re-arrangements of the sort now proposed, and perhaps the best case for a re-arrangement is, as sometimes happens with the Finance Bill, when a Bill deals compartmentally with a series of distinct subjects which are often arranged in parts, and then the Schedules can best be attached to a particular part. That certainly arises on the Finance Bill, and it has arisen on Bills this Session, including the Local Government Bill and the Housing Finance Bill.

But this is not such a Bill. This Bill is an integrated set of provisions; we have found, for example, that the definition of "treaties" runs right through the whole Bill, and even as between the two Parts the Schedules cannot be completely severed since part of Schedule 2, dealing with parliamentary procedure, relates to the Bill as a whole. That is certainly true also in the case of Schedule 1, which gives definitions for the whole Bill.

It may be claimed that the whole of Part I of Schedule 1 is particularly related to Clause 1, but only part of Part II of Schedule 1 is directly related to Clause 1. In Part II of Schedule 1 the definition of "enforceable Community right" is related in terms to Clause 2.

In these circumstances I have decided that there is no overriding advantage in this case in departing from the standard order of proceedings in the Committee and, therefore, no case for re-arranging that order on this Bill as there sometimes is on Finance Bills and as was desirable on other Bills this Session.

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

Further to the point of order, Sir Robert. I was listening very carefully to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, and I was glad to notice, despite the apparently negative final conclusion of his remarks, that he was careful to express his views in tentative terms. Perhaps therefore I might briefly emphasise two points.

Of course, the terms defined in Schedule 1 run through the Bill. That is hardly the point, because terms defined in Clause 1 run through the Bill. The question is whether the Committee is better fitted when it has just parted with Clause1 to address itself to the contents of Schedule 1. Here there is a common interest between the Government and the two sides of the Committee, because should we eventually dispose of the Clauses, many of the explanations which are fresh in our minds now, and which would be carried forward to the consideration of Schedule 1, would have been obliterated by much that would have happened in the intervening months and might, therefore, require to be repeated. Therefore, on the grounds of both time and efficiency I submit that it would be a gain and an abbreviation to be able to consider the Schedule at once.

4.15 p.m.

My second point is that Schedule 1 is germane to Clause 1 in the sense that most Schedules in most Bills are not germane even to the Clauses to which they are appended. Clause 1 sets the meaning of the entire Bill. It is not a Clause by itself from which we shall then proceed to other matters which also stand by themselves. Clause 1 sets the meaning of the whole Bill, as does Schedule 1, which in logic requires to be considered before we proceed to Clause 2 and subsequent Clauses.

If, as I hope, my hon. and learned Friend, in view of the terms in which he phrased his answer, is open to reconsider the matter, I will offer one point of difference from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I think it would be too pernickety to split the Schedule, and convenience would better be served in taking the Schedule as a whole even though elements of Part II of the Schedule refer to Clause 2.

I also have a minor submission to make to you, Sir Robert, on the grouping of Amendments.

The Chairman

I think I can dispose of that now. There is not much that I can say on what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said on the first point. I would like to leave the selection as it is now.

Mr. Michael Foot

I understand the problems of selection and of making a change which inconveniences other hon. Members who have already seen the postting, and, therefore, I fully acknowledge that my submission now is different from those I have made previously when I have sought to influence the selection that you would be making at a future date, Sir Robert. But I would have thought it was not a major matter but a minor suggestion that Amendment No. 198 should be taken with Amendment No. 150. This seems to me a logical arrangement which would not lead to inconvenience for any hon. Member.

The Chairman

I shall be prepared to concede that point.

Mr. Foot

Thank you, Sir Robert. On Amendments No. 179 and No. 180, I understand that this causes difficulties and that you have ruled that you want to stand by the arrangement you have already made. We shall, no doubt, have to seek some other way in which we can look afresh at the question of Amendment No.180, which deals with an extremely important matter, and I am sure you will take this into consideration.

The Chairman

I did not mean to imply that I was altering what I said at the beginning. That stands. I was merely trying to meet the hon. Member on his last suggestion to me.

Mr. Foot

I understand that you are standing by the ruling you made previously, Sir Robert, and I understand that it is difficult to alter it. On Amendment No. 180 we shall have to seek a debate by some other means.

As for taking another look at the Schedule, in the light of what has been said by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), I hope the Chancellor of the Duchy will be prepared to reconsider the proposal, as it would be more convenient and he did not say that he had absolutely and finally decided the Government's view on it. The last item in Part I of the Schedule has figured prominently in many of our debates. But it is a most extensive question that is raised, and some of the Amendments raise questions on how other groups of treaties should be incorporated in those Schedules.

What we would seek is not to have debates on every treaty that might be itemised in the Schedule, but at least to have a method by which under Amendments to the Schedule we should have a grouping of the main forms of treaties; that is, five or six different groupings of treaties so that the Schedule would set out clearly what is intended. Those are matters we have certainly touched on in the debates on the Amendments to Clause 1, and it will be extremely inconvenient if all that must be considered again at the end of the Bill.

So I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say that he will consider the matter afresh during the interval, however long or short that may be, before we next have a parliamentary day to discuss the Bill, and will then make a statement as a result of which we shall have the opportunity to look at the Schedule in what we believe to be a much more appropriate and tidy way.

Several Hon. Membersrose

The Chairman

I hope we shall be able to get started fairly soon.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. Do I understand that with Amendment No. 150 we shall take Amendment No. 198, and are we also to take Amendments Nos. 179 and 180?

The Chairman

I think it is the second group that the right hon. Gentleman is concerned with. It is Amendments Nos. 148, 149 and 187. The next group is Amendments Nos. 150, 179, 180 and 198.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

May I ask you two questions, Sir Robert, arising out of what you have just been good enough to say? First, on the first group of Amendments, can you confirm what I think you said provisionally when I raised the matter yesterday, that you will call Amendment No. 31 for a separate Division? Second, what are your intentions in regard to calling a Division on Amendment No. 187 in the name of my right hon. Friends and myself?

The Chairman

I hope to be able to oblige the right hon. and learned Gentleman on both those counts.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has said. I am sure that, as he said, the entire Committee is grateful to you, Sir Robert, for separating the defence debate. You will realise that, provided that we do not have too many separate debates, the passage of the Bill is not held up. However, the grouping including Amendment No. 150 will make for a very confusing debate. I am grateful to you for putting Amendment No. 198 with it, because that also relates to secrecy of treaties, but we are to have with it Amendment No. 179, on the underdeveloped countries, and Amendment No. 180, on economic and monetary union and a common currency. It will be difficult for any hon. Member to make a speech on all those three subjects together. May I suggest that as a possible alternative you consider taking Amendments Nos. 150 and 198, still together, at some other stage, so that at least we could have economic affairs separated from secrecy of treaties?

The Chairman

There have been considerable discussions about the matter. I think we should be wiser now to let it stand as it is, though I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said and should like to help him. Perhaps I shall be able to help him another time.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

I have two short points of order, Sir Robert, My first relates to the question of the Schedule and the consideration the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will undoubtedly give to the representations that have been made. The Clause is a definition Clause, and the Schedule has two parts, both of which deal with definitions. Whether a matter is defined in the Clause or in the Schedule seems to be rather a matter of chance, as all three parts of the Bill relate to definitions. If they were not taken together, some people would wonder why. That fact alone is something the right hon. and learned Gentleman might bear in mind before making a statement on the matter.

My second point relates to Amendment No. 179, in the name of some of my hon. Friends and myself, which deals with the relations of the E.E.C. with the third world through limits on quota imports. Although you have ruled on this, Sir Robert, may I ask you to bear in mind that this is a subject which stands on its own and has considerable ramifications? It is now grouped with another matter with which it does not sit happily in the interests of orderly debate. Perhaps you will bear that in mind when a further selection might have to be made bearing on this subject.

The Chairman

I am always happy to bear in mind anything that hon. Members want me to, and I shall do that. Mr. Peter Shore—

Mr. Powell

On a point of order. I apologise, Sir Robert, for prolonging these difficult points for a few seconds, but may I inquire whether it is your intention on the group to which we now come, which I think consists of Amendments Nos. 29, 194 and 31, to allow a separate Division on Amendment No. 31, since it would appear that Amendment No. 29 might be a probing Amendment?

The Chairman

I think I have already said so.

  1. Clause 1
    1. cc557-664
    2. Short Title and Interpretation 40,332 words, 2 divisions
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