HC Deb 12 June 1975 vol 893 cc669-71
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Andrew Faulds, on a point of order.

Mr. Faulds

Did you say a point of order or a business question. Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

A point of order.

Mr. Faulds

One cannot win them all, Sir.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise with you what seems to me, and I think to certain other hon. Members, to be an abuse of the conventions of the House.

I intend to make no comment whatsoever on the contents of yesterday's personal statement, since that would be totally improper. However, I had always understood that it was the convention that a Minister who resigned was allowed to make a personal statement. I had not understood that the House had consented to extend this practice to a Minister who had been fired. Had this been the case—[Interruption.] This is a more important point than some of my colleagues seem to appreciate. Had this been the case, I dread to think what the House would have had to suffer on the historic occasion when Mr. Macmillan sacked a number of his Ministers. We should probably still be listening to personal explanations and the airing of personal grievances.

Secondly, I had always understood that personal statements should contain no words reflecting on fellow hon. Members.

Thirdly, I had always understood that a personal statement had to he cleared by you, Mr. Speaker, before it was made. On the one occasion when I thought it proper that I should make a personal statement I had to clear that statement with your predecessor before I was allowed to make it.

May I add that yesterday's statement seemed to me to be an abuse or rather another example of the abuse we are having to suffer through the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House.

I should be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you would let me have your consideration of the Flatters I have raised.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) has raised three points. I do not agree for a moment, so far as it lies within my right to express an opinion, that the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House had anything to do with this matter.

On the point the hon. Gentleman raised about the difference between resignation and being fired—or whatever the word is—as he indicated, I am not without personal experience of this situation. In my view, it is a distinction without a difference.

On the serious point of the nature of a personal statement, in my view such statements vary. It is quite appropriate that in certain cases they should be submitted to Mr. Speaker and should be approved by him. However, the House would be putting too much upon Mr. Speaker if he was expected to approve the terms of a resignation statement. In that instance it must be left to the judgment of the right hon. or hon. Member concerned. In my view, the Chair should not be brought in to give an approval.

I still think that the rule is right that in all circumstances the permission of the Chair should be sought, as it was in this case, and also that in other cases, not resignation cases, not only the permission of the Chair should be sought but the terms of the statement should be approved by the Chair. The hon. Member will have to be content with that ruling.

Mr. Peyton

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for what you have said. I should like to put one point to you. When a personal statement is made by a Minister who has left office, for whatever reason, it is done against the background of enjoying the sympathy of the House. I cannot help feeling that it is wrong and a departure from what is desirable if, in the course of making that statement, some highly polemical and very controversial remarks are made.

Mr. John Mendelson

Come off it.

Mr. Peyton

I am much obliged for the advice of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) but I do not propose to take it.

It seems to me, in those circumstances, that there is a very grave danger of exploiting an opportunity in an unworthy fashion.

Mr. Speaker

As I have said, I think it is a matter of judgment. I have read one or two resignation statements. I should be very surprised to find that they were all totally uncontroversial.