HC Deb 08 April 1974 vol 872 cc42-4
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I should now like to raise my second point of order—completely different—of which I have given you notice, Mr. Speaker. In the Eighteenth Edition of Erskine May, on page 366, with reference to Early-Day Motions tabled by hon. Members, one reads: A notice wholly out of order, as, for Instance, containing a reflection on a vote of the House, may be withheld from publication on the notice paper. If the irregularity is not extreme, the notice is printed, and reserved for future consideration. That is quite clear.

Following the debate a week ago last Monday on rates, I wrote to the Prime Minister a short letter concerning a statement made by one of his Ministers in Exeter. I have supplied you, Mr. Speaker, with a copy of that. I received back a letter which purported to be from the Prime Minister which in fact covered none of the points that I had made, and the explanation that it gave could not conceivably nave been true. That left two alternatives—either that the Prime Minister had put his name to a letter which could not possibly be true or that the letter had been sent in his name though not in fact signed by him.

I therefore submitted to the Table Office last Thursday a motion which read as follows: That this House, noting that the explanations given of the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary for Industry in Exeter recently in what purports to be a letter from the Prime Minister to the hon Member for Tiverton dated 4th April 1974 cannot possibly he true, requests the Prime Minister to have this letter examined by the Police to ascertain whether it is authentic, or another embarrassing forgery. That was accepted by the Table Office and I naturally expected it to be on the Order Paper on Friday—the more so because I had appended to it for greater clarity the correspondence to which it referred.

The motion did not appear on the Order Paper and I had a note from one of the Clerks saying that he has shown it to the Clerk of the Table. He went on: He has expressed the opinion that the Motion is not suitable for inclusion on the Order Paper, and I regret therefore that I have to return it to you. The point, Mr. Speaker, is this: whether the Clerk at the Table thinks that something is suitable is immaterial. This House is governed by very clear rules. I have quoted Erskine May to you, Mr. Speaker. If an irregularity is not extreme"— I know of no irregularity in the motion whatever— the notice is printed, and reserved for future consideration. That notice, Mr. Speaker, should therefore have been printed and should have appeared on the Order Paper on Friday.

Mr. Speaker

I received notice of this point of order only very shortly before I came into the Chair. I had time to read hastily page 366 of Erskine May, where it appears lower down the page that the Speaker has also directed that a notice of motion should not be printed, as being obviously not a proper subject for debate, being tendered in a spirit of mockery, or being designed merely to give annoyance or as irregular. However, I shall consider the hon. Member's point and if necessary communicate with him further.