HC Deb 09 June 1976 vol 912 cc1432-5
Mr. Speaker

I have to make an important statement to the House.

I wish to give my ruling on the submission made to me on Monday by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) concerning the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, to which I have given careful consideration. I may tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that the authorities of the House and I have been looking at the matter for 48 hours. It is a very considered judgment that I seek to give.

The hon. Gentleman submitted, first, that the House is still bound by its approval on 14th February 1949 of the recommendations contained in the Report from the Select Committee on Hybrid Bills (Procedure in Committee) which stated, in paragraph 19, that an opportunity must be provided for those interests which have been singled out to state fully their case for amending the Bill in order to secure their protection or compensation. That Committee, of course, was not appointed to consider hybrid Bills in general, but only The procedure in Select Committees on public Bills to which the Standing Orders relative to Private Business apply. Perhaps it would be helpful to the House if I begin by reminding Members of the status of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill at its present stage of consideration.

On 26th May, I delivered my opinion that the Bill is prima facie hybrid. On 27th May the House decided to dispense with the consideration of any of the relevant Private Business Standing Orders. As the Report of the Select Committee to which the hon. Member has referred states, in paragraph 6, A public Bill becomes a hybrid Bill when the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills have reported that it affects private rights in a manner which requires the serving of notices under the Standing Orders relating to Private Business. In respect of this Bill, the House has decided that the Standing Orders shall not be inquired into, and there will therefore be no point at which the Bill will become beyond doubt a hybrid Bill and subject to any of the procedures that might be appropriate to such Bills.

Returning to the hon. Member's particular submission, the extract from the Report which he read to the House was dealing with the situation in which a hybrid Bill has been committed to a Select Committee, and Petitions against that Bill have been referred to the Select Committee by an order of the House. In the present case, there is no obligation upon the House to deal with the public petitions that may have been presented against this Bill in any particular way. It is for the House, not me, to decide what, if any, action should be taken and if the House makes no order, the petitions will continue to lie upon the Table in the same way as other public petitions.

I now turn to the hon. Member's submission as to the effect of the Resolution of 27th May, by which the House dispensed with any Private Business Standing Orders that may apply to the Bill. The hon. Member contended that the effect is to revive the former procedure under which petitioners were heard at the Bar of the House. Let me say straight away that I accept the hon. Member's view that the right to petition the House for leave to be heard by counsel is not affected by the Resolution of 27th May. Leave for petitioners so to appear has, however, always been given, on those occasions when it has been given, by means of an Order of the House and could only be so given. There is no right so to appear, and it cannot be given by me.

The hon. Member concluded his submission by asking me to indicate in what manner petitions against the Bill should be presented. I am satisfied that, since the House has made no Order to the contrary, such petitions should be presented as public petitions in the ordinary way, and may not be presented as Private Bill petitions in the Private Bill Office. It would be for the House to decide whether it wished to make any special provision for such petitions, and it does not fall to me to impose any conditions as to dates and so forth such as the hon. Member invited me to do.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

May I first most sincerely thank you, Mr. Speaker, and those who advise you, for the many hours of diligent research which has been devoted to investigating the points which I raised with you.

Will you confirm that at this moment the Examiners are frustrated from performing their function of examining the petitions which petitioners wish to place before the House, and that therefore it is no ruling of yours but the action of the Leader of the House which is preventing the petitions from being examined and preventing the Examiners from ruling finally on whether this is or is not a hybrid Bill, lest that event should he attributed wrongly outside the House to your ruling rather than to the action of the Leader of the House?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening words. I think that my ruling when it is studied will be quite clear. I understand that it was a long ruling and almost as complicated as the hon. Gentleman's point of order. I suggest that he and the House look at it. I do not wish in any way to enlarge on the ruling that I have given.

In case anybody thought to do so, perhaps I should say that it is not common to raise points of order on the Speaker's ruling, which is final.

Mr. Peyton

On a point of order—

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Speaker

Order. No one knows[HON. MEMBERS: "We know."] It would not be the first time some hon. Members were wrong. I shall hear the point of order.

Mr. Peyton

I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for that piece of wisdom.

I should like to raise on a point of order a question for the Leader of the House and in no way for you. I am not questioning your ruling in any way, but I am saying to the Leader of the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to be as generous as possible, but it can hardly be in order to raise a question with the Leader of the House as a point of order. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, who is not without ingenuity, will discover some way to pursue it.

Mr. Peyton

Not for the first time, Mr. Speaker, I am very much obliged to you for your friendly guidance. May I put it this way—that your very wise and comprehensive ruling has, I believe, raised a need for the House to discuss this matter at a very early moment. I hope that what I have said to you will have been heard by other people.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.