HC Deb 22 January 1973 vol 849 cc45-6
Mr. David Steel

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on the activities of the Committee of Selection under Standing Order No. 62(2) which provides: In nominating such Members the Committee of Selection shall have regard to the qualifications of those Members nominated and to the composition of the House. As has already been stated, the Standing Committee dealing with the Local Government (Scotland) Bill was published on the eve of the Christmas Recess and there has been no opportunity to make representations direct to the Committee of Selection since then. Apart from the point which has already been made, that three of the eight regions are not represented on the Committee—nor, for that matter, are the island districts set up under the Bill—there is a party point, that of the 30 Scottish Members out of the 71 Members serving on the Committee there is not one of the three Liberal Members. There is also an individual point in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), the only Member of this House who served on the Royal Commission on Local Government, who is still available to serve on the Committee and has, I should think, exceptional qualifications so to serve. My point is to ask how Members who feel a distinct grievance in this matter can seek redress.

Mr. Mackintosh

Further to that point of order. I hoped it would be possible to obtain this redress or an opportunity of raising it between the resumption of the House today and the first meeting of the Committee tomorrow. As the hon. Gentleman said, the selection was not announced until the Christmas Recess. Therefore, we have only 24 hours in which to make our points before the Committee starts to operate. In reply to the point mentioned by the Leader of the House, I have here a series of letters from Ministers which say "These are points which we hope you will raise during the Committee stage of the Bill". Yet we are not able to do so because Members representing the entire region are not on the Committee.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) gave me notice that he would raise this point of order. I have had an opportunity of considering it. It is not a matter for the Chair. My predecessors have deprecated the habit of the Chair being asked to give public guidance. I have considered the Standing Orders carefully, but there is nothing I could have done under them about this matter. If the hon. Gentleman needs private advice on how to proceed, we will, of course, do our best. However, it is not a matter for the Chair in public session of the House.