HC Deb 29 March 1976 vol 908 cc897-9
Mr. Speaker

On Thursday last the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) raised as a point of order matters arising from the proceedings on Wednesday on the British Transport Docks (Felixstowe) Bill and on the Money Resolution relating to it, and I am grateful for the trouble he has taken in explaining the matter more fully to me in writing.

The hon. Member has asked me to rule whether there was any breach of Private Business Standing Order No. 168—which requires that all charges in any way affecting the public revenue which occur in the clauses of any Private Bill shall be printed in italics—arising from the fact that Clause 5(1) of the Bill prescribes the sum which the British Transport Docks Board shall pay for the stock units of the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company.

The hon. Member correctly points out that the Money Resolution agreed to by the House validates the words printed in italics in Clause 3 (1) of the Bill. This clause applies the provisions of Clauses 19 to 21 of the Transport Act 1962 to this Bill and thus enables the Board to borrow money from the Secretary of State for the purposes specified in Clause 19 of that Act, or to borrow in other ways with a Treasury guarantee.

The essence of the Money Resolution is embodied in the words: That it is expedient to authorise all such increased payments into and out of the Con- solidated Fund and the National Loans Fund as may result, under Sections 19 to 21 of the Transport Act 1962 … from an Act of the present Session"— namely, the British Transport Docks (Felixstowe) Bill. The words in brackets merely describe Sections 19 to 21 of the Act of 1962. The remaining words, after "Session", simply repeat the Long Title of the Bill.

It is the Money Resolution which is the essential authority from Parliament for any expenditure by the Board imposing a charge upon the public revenue. If, in order to raise the money prescribed in Clause 5(1) for paying for the stock units in the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, the promoters choose to resort to the powers given to them by Clause 3, they will be covered by the Money Resolution.

The purpose of the use of italics in a Bill as first presented to this House is to warn the Committee on the Bill to make sure that the relevant provisions have been covered by a Money Resolution agreed to by the House, before it enters on consideration of any clause containing an italicised passage. If, by some error, provisions covered by a Money Resolution were not printed in italics, the validity of the clause would not be affected. The omission would merely be an inconvenience to the House and to the Committee.

In this case, Clause 5(1) in terms imposes no charges on the public revenue and, therefore, there was no need for it to have been printed in italics. There has, therefore, been no breach of Standing Order 168.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for that long and full ruling. Would it be convenient to print my submission in the Official Report so that the circumstances in which you have been good enough to give that ruling are made clear?

Mr. Speaker

Much as I should like to print everything the hon. Gentleman says, it is not for me to order private correspondence to be inserted in Hansard.

Mr. Ridley

May I ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, arising out of the statement you have just made? Supposing another place were to seek to amend Clause 5, including the financial sums mentioned in it, would that be in order, bearing in mind that another place does not have the right to legislate on financial matters—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have heard enough to know that I cannot rule on what may happen. I have enough to do to rule on what has happened when questions are raised.