HC Deb 16 February 1977 vol 926 cc551-3
Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Sir Myer. I apologise both to you and the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), but I have a prima facie breach of privilege to report which, I am told, I must raise at the earliest convenient opportunity. The opportunity is at this moment.

A group of parliamentarians were invited to go to the Chrysler Corporation, and they accepted. The Chrysler Corporation arranged to convey them at a quarter to six this evening in a coach. A number of us have been waiting downstairs—[Laughter.] My Front Bench should not laugh. There is a junior Minister who is laughing. I am more concerned with the privileges of Members of Parliament than with junior Ministers. We waited from a quarter to six to six o'clock. The group included Members from both sides of the House. Lo and behold—[Laughter]—this is no laughing matter; it is serious—we were told that the Whips' Office, without consulting us, had cancelled all the arrangements. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I am interested in the rights of Members of Parliament.

You, Sir Myer, and I know that no one is entitled to prevent Members of Parliament from doing their duty, and if hon. Members are going on a commission such as this, no Whips have the right to cancel the arrangement without notifying or consulting any of the hon. Members concerned. I claim that this is a breach of parliamentary privilege.

Hon. Members can laugh as much as they like, but I am not having Government Whips or Ministers telling me what I can do and what I cannot do. Therefore, I have raised this as a prima facie breach of privilege, and I ask you to have an investigation made into the matter to see who cancelled the arrangement and by what right in order to try to prevent me from carrying out my duties, together with other hon. Members from all parties. If hon. Members want to laugh and jeer they may do so, but this is a serious matter.

Several Hon. Members rose

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. We have enough trouble with the Scotland and Wales Bill in Committee.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) has raised a question of a breach of privilege. I have listened carefully to him and what I have to consider, as Chairman of the Committee at this stage, is whether what he has raised affects the working of the Committee. I am sure that he will agree that it does not affect the working of the Committee. He has observed the Standing Order in giving notice as soon as possible of his submission, and therefore it is recorded that he has done so and he will be able to pursue the matter tomorrow with Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Lewis

Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. I am afraid that it is not a question of interfering with the Committee but of the working of Parliament and the rights of hon. Members. This Committee is only one small facet of Parliament. I have raised the matter now, the first opportunity, because it is in the rights of Members of Parliament that I am interested.