HC Deb 19 July 1976 vol 915 cc1289-91
Mr. Dodsworth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you prior notice. I seek your guidance about your intentions in certifying the Finance Bill as a Money Bill under the Parliament Act 1911.

There are three reasons that lead me to ask for your ruling. First, under Clause 52 and Schedule 6, Inland Revenue inspectors are allowed, after application to a court, to enter private premises and to take away private papers. This is clearly an issue of constitutional change and of individual freedom.

Secondly, it is possible to divide the Finance Bill between taxing resolutions and a Revenue Bill. That Revenue Bill could have been the subject of the normal procedures of scrutiny by another place, after approval by this House.

Thirdly, it is clear from page 791 of "Erskine May" that where actions such as the provisions of the present Finance Bill passing outside its normal scope are contemplated a resolution may be passed beginning with the words: notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to matters which may be included in Finance Bills, any Finance Bill of the present Session may contain the following provision…". The procedural resolutions approved by the House do not make reference to the Taxes Management Act 1970, which is relevant to Schedule 6 and Clause 52. "Erskine May" goes on: In such a case the matter covered by the resolution must not be so far removed from central finance as to make its inclusion indefensible. Nor can this procedure be used other than sparingly without inviting complaints from Members. Finally, Mr. Speaker, I ask your ruling as a matter of constitutional importance on what I suggest is an infringement of the privileges of this House, as clearly set out on page 802 of "Erskine May", which refers to the "tacking" of foreign matter to Finance Bills, and says: respect for constitutional practice prevents the inclusion of such matters among their original provisions".

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Dodsworth) for giving me warning of his intention to raise this point of order. I am, however, sorry that I cannot help him at this stage.

It has been the invariable practice of my predecessors to defer any consideration of certification as a Money Bill until after a Bill has received its Third Reading and is ready to go to another place. Indeed, Mr. Speaker Lowther gave a ruling to that effect in 1912 shortly after the passing of the 1911 Parliament Act, which lays down the procedure for certification.

If the House gives a Third Reading to the Bill today, I shall, however, be considering the Bill throughout the course of tonight and tomorrow morning and I shall take a decision tomorrow. I shall, of course, take into consideration the points raised by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West.

Mr. Dodsworth

I am grateful for your patience and kindness and your observations, Mr. Speaker. In view of the other pressing matters before the House, I say merely that I hope to have the opportunity to enlarge on some of these points in the course of a later debate on the Finance Bill.