HC Deb 27 June 1974 vol 875 cc1743-5
Mr. Heath

On a point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) suggested a moment or two ago that one way of dealing with the matter which we discussed during business questions, of political advice to the Government, would be for the House to ask to be allowed to debate the matter on the Adjournment, moved under Standing Order No. 9. I should like to adopt that suggestion.

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration; namely, the announcement by the Leader of the House of his intention to lay an order tomorrow which is not debatable in the House, to alter the rules on the political activities of civil servants by allowing special advisers to Ministers, who are paid from public funds, to stand for Parliament and local authorities. It emerged clearly from the questioning today that this is a specific matter. It is an important constitutional matter. It is also a matter which right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have expressed a desire to debate before a decision is reached. It is, therefore, urgent.

In this connection, perhaps I can make what I hope will be a helpful suggestion. Of course, Mr. Speaker, the decision rests in your hands. Should you decide to allow the House to debate the matter, I understand that there are two alternatives under the Standing Order, which I have just consulted: either the debate would be granted this evening—it cannot be granted on a Friday—or it would be granted for the first part of Monday.

Since today's business is undoubtedly of extreme importance—you have already indicated the large number of hon. Members who wish to take part—may I put forward the suggestion that, if you did decide to grant leave, the Leader of the House should agree to postpone the order from tomorrow, that we should be allowed to debate it on Monday afternoon, and that he should then, if the House agrees, lay the order next week.

The right hon. Gentleman has given no indication why it is essential that the order be laid tomorrow. I hope that he will, therefore, find it possible to cooperate, in that, if you do grant this request, he will be prepared to postpone laying the order for 72 hours so as to enable the House to debate it on Monday afternoon rather than interfere with today's important debate.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

Rather than put you in that position, Mr. Speaker, and in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I will defer laying the order until the meeting of the Privy Council at the end of July. That will give us time to find adequate opportunity, if it is thought desirable, through the usual channels to debate it.

Mr. Speaker

In the light of that intervention, does the Leader of the Opposition still wish to pursue his application?

Mr. Heath

In the light of what the Leader of the House has said, for which I express my appreciation—on behalf, I am sure, of the whole House, since there was a general desire to debate the matter—I will withdraw my request for leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 to permit the matter to be debated.

Sir Bernard Braine

On a point of order When the Leader of the Opposition rose to seek leave to move the Adjournment, I naturally thought that he was seeking to question the Secretary of State for Employment on his important statement. I felt that I was entitled to put a supplementary question to the right hon. Gentleman since my constituency has one of the most threatened environments in the country—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentle-made a speech about this matter yesterday. I have to have some regard for that sort of factor. It is a matter for my discretion whom I call to put supplementary questions. I will tell the hon. Gentleman that he has not been backward in putting forward the interests of his constituents, but I cannot call him every time.