§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
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 failure of any Minister to inform the House of the legal effect on Commission Documents Nos. R/451/76 and R/452/76 of the House, acting pursuant to the advice given by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, passing a motion to disapprove the said Documents.It is on record that last night, in the debate on those Commission Documents, the Minister of Agriculture, speaking not as a Back Bencher, but as the Minister at the Dispatch Box, advised the House to accept the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition with the result that the motion passed by the House, and now entered in the Journal, reads:That this House disapproves of Commission Documents Nos. R/451/76 and R/452/76 relating to Protein Deposits and Private Storage Aid Proposals.It is inconceivable that the Minister should ask the House to take a course of action without knowing what the consequences would be if the House accepted 1161 his advice and took that course of action. To everyone's astonishment, the right hon. Gentleman declared that he would have to consult the Government on what the effect of the motion would be.
This is a specific matter, because the request to move a motion to adjourn the House refers to a specific event—namely, the passing of that motion by the House.
It is important, because compounders will not know, until a statement is forthcoming, whether they are bound by this Regulation—a Regulation which purports to be in force already.
It is urgent that the matter should be considered because, until it is resolved, that important practical point remains in suspense. There is also an important constitutional point, which ought not to remain in suspense—namely, what is the effect of the House, not by accident in the Division Lobbies, but after due deliberation and consideration, passing such a motion on the advice of the responsible Minister?
I do not believe that it is right that the House should persevere with the normal order of business laid down for today without remedying this matter before we rise.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the failure of any Minister to inform the House of the legal effect on Commission Documents Nos. R/451/76 and R/452/76 of the House, acting pursuant to the advice given by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, passing a motion to disapprove the said Documents.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision.
I have given careful consideration to the representations made by the hon. Gentleman, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Cryer
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that the House is 1162 somewhat at a loss. Clearly you have ruled—we do not question your ruling in any way—on a Standing Order No. 9 application. Last night, when the debate had concluded, there was a general opinion that there should be a statement today to clarify the legal position. Obviously a number of people outside are extremely concerned about the precise legal status of these Documents—whether they are legally valid—and about the effect of the Minister's acceptance of the Opposition's amendment.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for one moment? I understand that such a statement is indeed to be forthcoming in the debate on the Adjournment, or that an opportunity will be taken then to make such a statement to the House.
§ Mr. Cryer
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. If you understand that there will be a statement on the Adjournment, that is, I believe, satisfactory. I was going to seek your assurance that you would use your best endeavours to prevent such a statement from being made by means of a Written Answer since the House rises tomorrow. Perhaps you could give us more detail. Since the House is approaching the Easter Recess, hon. Members who would otherwise seek to be present may miss this statement. It would give us a further indication if you could tell us precisely when it will be made.
§ Mr. Peyton
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. While I would in no way wish to challenge your ruling, particularly as, on this occasion, time is quite unusually not on your side, I would like to say to the Leader of the House that, while we shall welcome anything he is to say on this subject, he is not quite as acquainted with it as is his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture who has gone backwards and forwards on this subject and has got himself thoroughly familiar with it. It is for this reason that I would like to be assured that, in the event of the right hon. Gentleman not being able to satisfy the House today, perhaps the House should nerve itself for the likelihood of a statement by the Minister of Agriculture tomorrow.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Further to the point of 1163 order, Mr. Speaker, although not of course relating to your ruling about Standing Order No. 9, I perfectly understand that the Minister of Agriculture has a much wider knowledge of these matters, both of agriculture and of fisheries, than I have. Nevertheless, I hope that I shall be able to satisfy the House in what I say. We thought that the debate on the Motion for the Easter Adjournment would be the most appropriate time for a statement to be made and I shall certainly be making it.