§ Mr. Heseltine
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance?
Yesterday, 4th March, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House withdrew his original explanation why the Norton Villiers Triumph motion had featured in the Business Statement on Monday night, 3rd March. Originally the right hon. Gentleman told the HouseIt is because the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph had informed us today that 1481 this money must be forthcoming this week, otherwise there will be redundancies. This is the first that the Government have heard of the urgency of the matter."—[Official Report, 4th March 1975; Vol. 887, c. 1227.]Subsequently yesterday the right hon. Gentleman told the House:I have now found that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry met Mr. Poore, the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph Ltd., on Thursday of last week. My right hon. Friend telephoned me yesterday from Bristol, and said that this matter must be dealt with this week, otherwise there would be great difficulties in the firm. I pointed out to him the great inconvenience to the House in debating the matter this week. However, he insisted that the matter must be dealt with this week, otherwise there was a danger of redundancies. Therefore, I announced the matter last night."—[Official Report, 4th March 1975; Vol. 887, c. 1275–6.]On 18th February and 24th February letters went to the Department of Industry in which the Government received final warning of the consequences for NVT of further delay in the NVT motion. In other words, the explanation given after the sitting was suspended yesterday is no more accurate than that which led to the trouble in the first place.
Further, the Secretary of State for Industry yesterday, in column 1272, told the House that he spoke to the Leader of the House late on Monday morning of this week. It follows that a Business Statement could have been made to the House at the normal time of 3.30 p.m.—unless the Government had already decided to guillotine the Finance Bill and that they would—regardless of progress made in Monday's debate—be making a Business Statement late on Monday evening.
My question to you, Mr. Speaker, is whether you will now guide me as to the appropriate manner in which the House can obtain a full and accurate explanation of this regrettable chain of events.
§ Mr. Speaker
This matter has been raised as a point of order. It is not a point of order. It is not a matter for the Chair. It is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council whether he wishes to say something on this point today.
I must ask the House to support me on this issue. We are to have a debate on this subject later today when all these matters can then be raised. Furthermore, whether there is disclosure of certain 1482 letters is again a matter for the Leader of the House and not for me. These are not matters which should be raised in the form of points of order. Recently the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party asked in a point of order why the Lord President of the Council did not make a statement on a certain matter. Again, that has nothing to do with the Chair. These are false points of order. If the Lord President of the Council wishes to say something on this matter I shall not rule him out of order. However, I repeat that these are not matters for me.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Comons (Mr. Edward Short)
It is difficult to understand why the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is making such a fuss about this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The simple fact is that the firm needs money and needs it urgently. [Interruption.] Of course I knew about the guarantee to the bank. I put the motion on the Order Paper months ago and I have answered Questions on this topic in the House.
The hon. Gentleman referred to two letters. They are letters from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I did not know about those letters. The first I heard about the extreme urgency of the situation was on Monday morning. Therefore, I made a Business Statement. Such a Business Statement is made either at the end of Business or at the beginning of Business. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The only error that occurred was when I said originally, in reply to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), that yesterday—meaning Monday—was the first the Government had heard of the matter. It was the first that I had heard of the extreme urgency of the situation.
My last words to the House yesterday were words of apology. I am sorry that it occurred and I am sorry that it was done at the end of Business. But the fact remains that the firm needs money and it needs it this week, otherwise there will be redundancies. What is all the fuss about?
§ Mr. Speaker
We are getting to the stage whether or not the authority of the Chair is flouted by putting forward these matters as points 1483 of order. These are points of argument which can be discussed later. This is a matter in which I must ask for the support of the House. I am not prepared to allow hon. Members to put points of argument as points of order.