§ Order for Committee read.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must inform the House that the Instruction on the Order Paper standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) is out of order and therefore I cannot allow it to be moved.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would not seek to challenge your ruling in any way. May I seek your guidance? Without this Instruction, it seems that it will be difficult for a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House to raise points regarding their constituencies and the special interests in those constituencies, as they would undoubtedly wish to do.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that all I can say is that the Instruction itself is out of order. It is beyond the ambit of the Bill, which deals with Scotland and Wales. I have no doubt that the right hon. Lady and other hon. Members will find ways and means of pursuing those special interests.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In your reply you indicated that the Instruction was beyond the scope of the Bill and I understood you to say that this was why you had ruled in the manner that you had. But surely this is a matter which comes within the rules of order laid down for such an Instruction, and that——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman may raise the point of order, but he cannot challenge my ruling that the Instruction is out of order. Perhaps he will pursue his argument a little differently.
§ Mr. Abse
Since you have given no reasons, Mr. Speaker, and since I misunderstood what you said a little earlier when you appeared to give a reason, may I ask whether you would be prepared to give reasons?
May I put it to you in this way? It is clear that the issue which has been raised is one of fundamental importance, 1663 particularly to Members representing English constituencies. It is equally clear that there will be other directions, as I am aware from one that I have put down myself. It is an unusual procedure, which is rarely used, and the precedents for such directions at this stage in a Committee of the whole House are very sparse. Surely, therefore, it would be reasonable if the House could be informed of the framework within which you are operating rather than having a procedure by which it is within your power to give a direction in the way you have.
Given, therefore, that we are aware that there are four or five heads which are normally regarded as reasons why such a direction can be excluded or ruled out of order, it would be exceedingly helpful, particularly since this is a matter impinging upon the rights of Members representing English constituencies, if the matter could be further illuminated.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentlemen. I have a considered statement because I thought there might be some questions with regard to my ruling.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Renfrewshire, East has given notice of an Instruction which, if agreed to, would empower the Committee to provide for alterations to the structure and functions of government in any or all parts of the United Kingdom.
Although the purpose of an Instruction is to allow the Committee to extend the provisions of a Bill to objects not strictly covered by its subject matter as disclosed on Second Reading, it is nevertheless always necessary that any such new objects must be cognate to the Bill's general purposes. This principle is clearly stated in "Erskine May", p. 509. Examples are also given, in the pages following, of Instructions which have been ruled out of order because they would embody principlesforeign to the Billor would attempt to introduce into it subjectswhich should properly form the substance of a distinct measure".Despite the great size and complexity of the Scotland and Wales Bill, the very 1664 brevity of its Long Title makes clear that it has one underlying purpose, and one only, namely,to Provide for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales".Changes in the government of other parts of the United Kingdom in my view cannot possibly be held to be cognate to this restricted purpose. I must accordingly rule that the proposed Instruction would not be in order.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
May I respectfully make a submission to you, Mr. Speaker? It arises out of the Long Title of the Bill which forms the basis of the ruling that you have just given to the House. The Long Title describes the Bill as oneto Provide for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales".You will be aware that there have been placed before the House Bills to provide for the better government of Ireland and that those Bills have included within their contents alterations in the representation in this House of the various parts of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it would have been impossible for those Bills as constituted to pass into law unless the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom had been modified.
I respectfully wish to submit that, on that precedent, on a Bill to provide for changes in the government of a part of the United Kingdom it may be fitly regarded as cognate to its principles to propose provisions for the alteration of the representation of the Kingdom in this House.
§ Dr. Colin Phipps (Dudley, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would be grateful if you could help us with an elucidation of your ruling. Clause I says that this matter will notaffect the unity of the United Kingdom".Those of us who represent constituencies outside Scotland and Wales feel that it might require certain adjustments in the government of the United Kingdom, in particular in England and Northern Ireland, for the stipulation in Clause I to take effect.
It is all very well for the Government boldly to say that this will notaffect the unity of the United Kingdombut if we are not to discuss that, it is hard to see how we can avoid it.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to support what has been said by the last two speakers. In particular, I should like you to consider the implications of the word "cognate" that you yourself used. It is surely "cognate" to this matter that if this Bill were to become law, Scotland, for instance, would have an Assembly—I would prefer a Parliament—of its own. It would also retain its present membership in this House. At the same time Northern Ireland, which at present has no assembly or Parliament of its own, would have no increase in the number of Members sent to this House.
These are very cognate matters because this Bill would change the constitution of the United Kingdom whether we like it or not. It would radically change the balance of political power of the United Kingdom. I should have thought that the Instruction fell within the precedents for such Instructions to a Committee of this House.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) said, this is an infrequently used procedure. It throws up an important question in relation to the word "cognate" which is that the Bill does not, of course, just provide forchanges in the government of Scotland and Wales".But there are references in the Bill to certain aspects of functions of government in other parts of the United Kingdom, specifically in England. The consequence of your ruling and, indeed, a reading of "Erskine May" is that the matter is cognate only when the Government or promoters of a Bill have already put the matter in the Bill. Those hon. Members who will later seek to extend what is cognate to the Bill to other parts of the United Kingdom will, I am sure unintentionally, be discriminated against because they are not the authors of the Bill.
Surely the purpose of our discussing Bills in the fashion that we do is to see that all interests from all parts of the United Kingdom are best represented. That being the case, it is only fair and responsible and relevant to the whole future of the United Kingdom, because of the matters contained in the Bill, for 1666 the Bill to embrace a much wider sphere than you accept that it does at the moment, Mr. Speaker. I hope that it is possible for you to give further consideration to this point simply because matters are already contained in the Bill that go well beyond providing forchanges in the government of Scotland and Wales".
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, the basis of your ruling depends upon the brevity, or lack of it, of the Bill's Long Title. It occurs to me that it is open to the House in Committee to amend the Long Title of a Bill. As I understand the precedents, whether they are well or ill founded, an amendment to the Long Title can be taken only at the end of the Committee stage.
It may not have escaped your attention that there is a manuscript amendment in my name to the motion standing in the name of the Leader of the House to the effect that amendments to the Long Title might be considered at the earliest point in the Committe stage. That would enable amendments to be taken today and, if carried, to enlarge the debate in order to take in amendments affecting Ulster and England and, indeed, other parts of Great Britain if such they be.
Of course, I appreciate that the selection of amendments in the Committee stage is not your responsibility, but perhaps a tactful word from the Chair might encourage the selection of the manuscript amendment and might provide a solution to the problem that is obviously agitating the House at the moment.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will agree that Clause 44 already covers the point about the whole of the United Kingdom. I would therefore have thought that the Instruction was only proper as falling into line precisely with that clause as drafted. It can cover areas far wider than Scotland and Wales.
As has been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland 1667 (Mr. Grimond), questions of representation and so forth will have to be discussed by the House. Further, if you look at page 512 of "Erskine May"—I hope my memory serves me right—you will find, Mr. Speaker that the matter of a referendum will have to be by way of a special procedure and that special procedure will follow the lines proposed by my right hon. Friend. We would therefore be in considerable confusion if a referendum were to be tagged on to the end of the Bill. That would be ultra vires unless such an Instruction as my right hon. Friend proposes is accepted by you. I know that it is a very difficult case, but I think that we need to look at it again before proceeding any further.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Before putting my question to you, Mr. Speaker, let me make it clear that I am not seeking in any way to filibuster; indeed, for so much of this Bill filibustering is quite unnecessary.
Will you be good enough to expand on your phrase "objects not essentially covered by the subject matter"? What guidelines are you issuing to your colleagues who will be occupying the Chair?
To be frank, during the Second Reading debate we saw that a very much tougher view was taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) than was taken by the right hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) who, according to taste, was more tolerant in my view, although others might say that he was more lax. But it seems that there is a very important question about the guidelines which you and your colleagues hope to follow. After all, objects can be differently interpreted.
I mean no disrespect to them when I say that the object of right hon. and hon. Members on the third Opposition Bench is quite unashamedly the objective of a separate Scottish State. That is not the object of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and it may be that some of us have even different objectives. It is very important to define terms at this early stage.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
There appears to be one specific, although not tremendously important, respect in 1668 which the Bill affects the government of England, and that is in the provisions for water. The provisions for water set out in Schedules 13 and 16 require the Welsh Assembly to have various representatives on the Severn-Trent Water Authority. They also lay a duty on the Cheshire County Council, the Hereford and Worcester County Council and one or two other local authorities to have representatives on the Welsh Water Authority. These provisions quite clearly intervene in the government of England, yet they are not covered by the Long Title of the Bill.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
We all know that Mr. Speaker's rulings must not be questioned. But it is strange that we should be having this discussion now, when we are not arguing or disagreeing with Mr. Speaker but when we have what might be termed a difference of opinion amongst ourselves.
A number of right hon. and hon. Members with very long years of service here are putting forward a genuine argument which they believe might not have been within the knowledge of the Chair's advisers when their advice was sought. The Chair might perhaps have been misled because at that time the information was not available or was not known to its advisers. I shall not say that Mr. Speaker may have been wrongly advised, but perhaps he was not as fully advised as he might have been.
There are many occasions when Mr. Speaker finds, having given a ruling, that if he had known this or that he would probably have come to a different decision. A number of right hon. and hon. Members here have put forward their arguments. There are other right hon. and hon. Members who for various reasons cannot be here but who might have been able to give Mr. Speaker some information and some ideas for his consideration.
Therefore, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, not to give a further ruling on these matters at the moment but to hold it in abeyance and, in the meantime, give it deeper consideration and ask right hon. and hon. Members to discuss it with you. That might give you an opportunity to come to a different decision on the basis of further information given to you. That would mean, of course, that 1669 your first decision was right on the basis of the knowledge then in your hands, but that in view of new information which has come into your possession you can perhaps give a different ruling.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
With respect to all right hon. and hon. Members, I must say that we are already getting into a state of confusion because of the two different meanings of the word "government". I bring myself in order in raising this matter because clearly, Mr. Speaker, your ruling was based on the Long Title of the Bill, which readsTo Provide for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales.If we refer to today's Order Paper, in the first item we see the word "government" used in quite different ways. Above that first item we see the wordsThose marked thus"—and then follows an asterisk,are Government Orders of the Day".That is a reference to the word "government" in its narrow but, I suggest, only strictly true meaning. Then, in the Instruction itself, as in the Long Title of the Bill, we see the word "government" used in its broader but, I submit, vaguer meaning.
Strictly speaking, the constitution of any civilised country consists of four distinct elements: first, the electorate; secondly, the legislature, which is democratically elected by the electorate, in our constitution in respect of one House at any rate; thirdly, the Executive, which is the Government in its narrower meaning; and, fourthly, the judiciary. I submit that at this early stage of our proceedings we should be doing a great service to each other if we were to bear in mind that the word "government" is better used in its strict meaning and not in its broader meaning, because that can lead only to confusion.
Looking back, I think that our predecessors chose the wrong Short Title for the Government of Ireland Act 1920. But we ought to be able to do better than that to clarify our minds, and I bring myself in order by saying what I say because I have already tabled an amendment to the Long Title which would replace the expression.changes in the government of Scotland and Walesby the expressionconstitutional changes affecting".1670 I appreciate the difficulty that, in accordance with precedent, we do not normally seek to amend the Long Title until we have completed the Committee stage. But I hope that when we reach that point we may give proper meaning to what we intend and that meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, you will be so good as to help and guide the House in the proposition that eventually we wish to give the narrow meaning only to the word "government" and use "constitutional changes affecting" when we really mean that.
§ Mr. Abse
When I raised my original point of order, Mr. Speaker, I was inviting you to give an explanation, and you were kind enough to give the explanation. I rise again because your explanation has bewildered me. It has bewildered me because I did not know upon what view you were depending. Now that you have explained that you think that the direction can be excluded because it is not cognate to the Bill, I am extraordinarily confused.
Perhaps it is my confusion that I am expressing rather than any cogent view, but I put it to you that if you examine the Long Title itself, which readsTo Provide for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales",the immediate question that arises is how that can possibly be done without providing for changes in the government of England. It is not possible.
Since the Bill is fundamentally and vitally affecting major Acts governing this country by tearing them away from the control of this legislature, it follows to a simple man like myself that clearly there can be no doubt that matters which right hon. and hon. Members may wish to raise relating to fundamental alterations in major Acts affecting their constituents must be cognate to the purposes of the Bill. The complexities concerning the arrangements relating to water have already been mentioned. That shows how some of the intentions of the Bill are closely interlocked, how they stretch across Offa's Dyke and find themselves enmeshed with English matters.
The Bill does not affect only peripheral matters such as those. The Bill radically alters Act after Act. Opening the Bill at random, I find that the Transport Act 1962 is mentioned under Schedule 16. As a consequence of this Bill, some members 1671 appointed to the board set up under the Transport Act will be nominated by the Welsh Assembly. How can it therefore be suggested that this Bill does not introduce matters that will affect legislation and will affect every right hon. and hon. Member of the House?
Now that you, Mr. Speaker, have revealed the reason for your ruling, I do not challenge it, but I am bound to question it. A stain penetrates the whole of the Bill and it is part of a pattern whereby matters affecting the whole of the United Kingdom will be altered by the Bill. How can it be suggested that the Instruction is irrelevant and not cognate to the Bill?
The importance of this initial ruling—if it is firmly adhered to—will be that throughout the debates on the Bill right hon. and hon. Members wishing to speak on behalf of English constituencies may find themselves in great trouble. They could be raising matters that they believe will impinge on their constituencies. But they could be told that even though the Bill will affect the government of their constituents, they will be out of order because of the ruling on the Long Title of the Bill. That cannot be tenable, and I hope, with great respect to the Chair, that the House will not easily pass on from this issue.
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
Further to that point of order. The House is in a slight difficulty here. Is it not fair to say that the essence of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, was that this instruction is out of order because it is outwith the Long Title? Representations made by both sides of the House indicate that the Long Title itself is thought to be inaccurate in some respects and that elements of the government of England are mentioned. This was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison). My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) indicated that he would seek to raise the point at a later stage. Representations made by the last four speakers suggest that if the Long Title could be adjusted in some way you, Mr. Speaker, might take a different view about the Instruction. We are in difficulties because of the order in which we are taking things.
1672 There is an alternative, although I have not yet had a chance of discussing it with my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson). If, in the second line of the Instruction, after the word "for", the word "consequential" were added, perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, would take a different view of your ruling.
Many speeches during the Second Reading debate on the Bill were about the government of the United Kingdom as a whole as well as about Scotland and Wales in particular. We are in a difficulty over what appears to some right hon. and hon. Members to be an inadequacy, or even an inaccuracy, in the Long Title which has led the Chair to give such a ruling.
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps I may intervene at this point. I have listened with great care to the representations that have been made following my ruling. The House will understand that I have to rule according to the Bill as it is. I have to interpret the Standing Orders of the House and "Erskine May" according to the measure that I have before me. The Instruction that the right hon. Lady the Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) proposes—which I have read again with great care—goes far beyond the purposes of the Bill. Therefore, I cannot change the ruling that I have given that the Instruction proposed by the right hon. Lady is indeed out of order.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I appeal to you without challenging your ruling? There have been precedents where the Chair has given a ruling on one day, but following representations the ruling has been changed on the next day. There was a recent example of this in relation to the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill. The Chair—quite rightly on the basis of the Bill as it was understood—gave a ruling on one occasion, but, because of representations made by an Opposition Member and after further consideration, then gave a different ruling on a subsequent occasion. We got ourselves into a spot of difficulty, and we are still in it as far as I know, as a result of that ruling.
Because of the representations that have been made there is a powerful case for 1673 examining the Long Title of the Bill, which isTo provide for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales",but Schedule 16(55) talks about removing the words" Great Britain" and substituting the words "England, Scotland and Wales", in reference to the splitting up of the Forestry Commission. In that way the Bill affects—if one uses the word "government" in the way that I understand it—the government of England.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who is a constitutionalist of some renown—although I do not always agree with him—is nodding, and is therefore in agreement with me and accepts my interpretation. There are many parts of the Bill that will have the same effect in relation to various matters, such as water and the Forestry Commission.
There is, therefore, a good case for you, Mr. Speaker, to reconsider your ruling just as you reconsidered a previous one as a result of representations made in the House. If the Bill could be taken away today—we could suspend today's debate—we could receive a ruling from you tomorrow and start again from there.
§ Mr. Powell
Less daring than the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), I wish to put to you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order which is distinct though, if I may use the word, cognate. If I understand rightly, your ruling upon the notice on the Order Paper was founded upon two points—the Long Title of the Bill and the wording—which, as you have indicated, is wide—of the motion on the Order Paper.
You will vacate the Chair when the House goes into Committee and I think that it likely that the judgment of the Chairman in Committee, though it would be his, might be influenced by any ruling which you have given upon the motion on the Order Paper.
I do not wish to invite you to indicate what would or would not be in order in Committee—that is for someone else—but I would ask you to indicate that the ruling which you are giving on the motion on the Order Paper in no way prejudices the question whether amendments relating to the government of the United Kingdom would or would not be in order in Committee.
1674 I do not wish to protract my submission, but perhaps I may refer to a very clear precedent. I have in front of me Chapter 67 of the Public General Acts passed in the tenth and eleventh years of the reign of George V. The chapter is entitled:An Act to provide for the better Government of Ireland.The provisions of that Act altered the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and thereby indubitably made changes in the government of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The Bill which is before us, although its Title follows closely the perhaps unfortunate precedent of the Bills of 1912 to 1914 and 1920, contains at present no such provision for altering the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
I submit that just because at this stage contains no such provision, it would be an unreasonable restriction on hon. Members if, in Committee, we were unable to consider amendments that would assimilate the Bill for changing the government of Scotland and Wales to the Act for the better government of Ireland.
Would you, Mr. Speaker, please indicate that, whatever may be your final conclusion upon the admissibility of the motion on the Order Paper, that ruling will not restrict or bind the Chair in Committee as to the admissibility of amendments directed to altering the constitution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom or other aspects of the government of the United Kingdom as a whole?
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman has raised an important point on which the House is entitled to a reply. The ruling that I have given is obviously without prejudice to any amendments moved in Committee. My ruling applies solely to the Instruction, which I consider to be much too wide and not in harmony with what the Bill proposes to do.
I must now tell the House that I do not propose to allow a debate to take place on my ruling. I have been very tolerant in listening to hon. Members from both sides of the House, but my ruling must stand. The Instruction is out of order.
§ Bill considered in Committee.1675
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Before we proceed with the Bill, could you give hon. Members some guidance? You will recall that during the Second Reading of the Bill, speeches were made from the Government Front Bench inviting hon. Members to table amendments dealing with revenue-raising powers for the Assemblies.
Although we were invited to put down amendments on this subject, when we attempted to do so the valid point was made that if the amendments allowed for any variation, they would be excluded under the rules of order of the House because variations could be upwards as well as downwards.
We therefore have some difficulty in following the request that we should table amendments on this important subject. Would it be possible for the Government to move a Ways and Means Resolution in broad terms to allow Back Benchers and Opposition Front Benchers to move amendments so that we may discuss the revenue-raising powers of the Assemblies?
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his point of order, but I suggest that it is for the Government to decide whether they desire to move a Ways and Means Resolution.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. Could you give your guidance on a related matter of considerable importance which reflects upon the fundamental duty of the House to ensure that no taxation is levied without representation?
The provisions of Part IV of the Bill indicate that there should be created Scottish and Welsh Consolidated Funds to which taxpayers in other parts of the United Kingdom would be expected to contribute as a result of decisions taken in this House not solely by hon. Members representing the non-Welsh and Scottish parts of the parliamentary process. If, as I suspect, this is a departure from the fundamental precept that there should be no taxation without representation, how can it be consistent with the existing constitution of the United Kingdom that 1676 decisions should be influenced by those who will spend the money rather than those on whom it will be levied?
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) referred to the suggestion of the Government Front Bench and the demand of Back Benchers that amendments should be tabled relating to revenue-raising powers under the Bill. We have been told that this is not possible without a Ways and Means Resolution from the Government. You have ruled that this is the position and that it is in the Government's province——
§ Mr. Buchan
Well, at least we shall be in difficulties unless the Government table such a resolution.
§ The Chairman
That is a correct construction of my remarks. That puts the matter right as far as the Chair is concerned.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am not sure whether you are rebuking me for my last remarks, Mr. Murton. May I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, through you, to consider bringing forward a Ways and Means Resolution so that a discussion on these amendments can proceed?
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Part IV is still a considerable way ahead. We shall certainly take into account the points that have been raised because when we come to that part of the Bill we want to ensure the freest possible discussion. We know that there are serious questions to be raised on that aspect. We have not designed the Bill in any way to restrict discussion.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
I ask the Lord President, through you, Mr. Murton, whether he will consider bringing forward a Ways and Means Resolution at an early date so as to 1677 enable hon. Members to table amendments without leaving them to the very last moment?
§ Mr. Foot
I shall consider the matter in the way in which it has been raised by my hon. Friends and the hon. Gentleman. I fully appreciate its importance from the point of view of the Committee as a whole. We shall try to deal with the matter as soon as possible so that hon. Members have plenty of time to put down amendments.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
You will be aware, Mr. Murton, that amendments have been put down to the Long Title. The Committee knows that such amendments will not be debated until the end of the Committee stage. Will you be prepared to allow debate on amendments concerned with the effects upon England of changes proposed in the government of Scotland and Wales?
§ The Chairman
The Chair cannot deal with that matter now because it is a hypothetical question. The Chair will look at the matter as the debate develops.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. It may he hypothetical in one respect, but it is a foregone conclusion that within the orbit of this Bill there will be a great number of changes agreed to which will have effects upon England. As a result, it is very important to establish precisely what the position is now, at the beginning of our consideration of the Bill, before we start debating amendments concerned with the effects on England.
§ The Chairman
The Chair will bear in mind at the appropriate time any matter that is relevant to the Bill.
§ Mr, Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. The Long Title as it stands is defective as a matter of fact. If the Long Title can be shown to be defective now, as I believe it can, it must be right to entertain an amendment to it so that our debates can be in order.
I give one specific reason why I consider that the Long Title is defective. I have a particular interest in the Police Federation, which is a statutory body and is part of the government of England and Wales. Scotland has its own separate Police 1678 Federation. Under the terms of the Bill, the position of the Police Federation of England and Wales will be changed, because the Welsh Assembly will have the capacity to alter the local government of Wales. But the police service in Wales, as in England, is based on the local authority divisions. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State for Wales, who is trying to intervene, has said specifically in a public place that he will ask the Welsh Assembly to alter the local authorities, as one of its first orders of business.
My point is that there are powers in the Bill for the Welsh Assembly to alter the local government structure upon which the statutory Police Federation of England and Wales is based. That must mean that the Long Title as it stands is defective and inadequate to cover the position of the Police Federation of England and Wales today. Therefore, it would be much wiser if the Long Title were to be amended now, or if debate on it were to proceed, so that the rest of our consideration of the Bill would be more nearly in conformity with the facts.
Would you, Mr. Murton, be prepared to accept a manuscript amendment to the Long Title at this stage? Although the precedent is that we do not normally amend the Long Title until the end of the Bill, for perfectly obvious and sensible reasons, there is nothing which says that the Long Title cannot be amended at a different stage. It is open to the Committee to seek to amend the Long Title at any time that it judges appropriate. I ask you to allow an amendment to the Long Title to bring the Bill into conformity with the facts at this early stage.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. It will not have escaped your attention that there is a manuscript amendment in my name to the motion standing in the name of the Lord President. That amendment would permit the Committee to debate the Long Title and amendments to it in advance of the other amendments, which would meet precisely the point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Devizes (Mr. Morrison) and Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). If you could indicate whether you will select the manuscript amendment, Mr. Murton, that 1679 might save many points of order and prevent the time of the Committee from being wasted.
§ The Chairman
I regret that I cannot accept the amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees). Hon. Members will see from page 531 of "Erskine May" thatthe title can only be amended if the Bill has been so altered as to necessitate such an amendment"."Erskine May" also states that debate on an amendment to the Title must be limited to the question whether the alteration is necessary to bring the title into conformity with the Bill. Neither of these conditions could be fulfilled if the Committee were to consider the Title first. The hon. and learned Gentleman's amendment is accordingly not in order.
§ Dr. Phipps
Further to the point of order, Mr. Murton. The Committee is put in some difficulty. Following the rejection by Mr. Speaker of the Instruction put forward by the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), and now this rejection of a change in the Long Title, difficulties will arise. For example, Clause 18(2) states:A Scottish Assembly Act may amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament.I submit that this provision goes as wide as anything suggested by the right hon. Lady or any other Opposition Member, if it enables a Scottish Assembly to amend Acts of Parliament which this Parliament has devised for the benefit of the whole of the United Kingdom, without further recourse to this Parliament. I would like your guidance, Mr. Murton, whether the Committee is prohibited from discussing the effect of Clause 18(2) on the rest of the United Kingdom. I submit that a change of the kind requested in the Instruction or a change in the Long Title would allow us to discuss those matters, the breadth of which is already embodied in the clauses of the Bill.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
The hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) has raised an extremely serious point. The Long Title is fallacious. I submit that the situation described in "Erskine May", whereby the Title may be amended only where the Bill itself 1680 requires such an amendment consequential upon the alteration of the Bill, obtains now. We have discovered that the Long Title is so deceptive that it no longer adequately describes the content of the Bill. I have no doubt that it effectively describes the alleged purposes of the Bill as seen by the Government, but it does not so describe the proposals.
Reference has been made to Clause 18(2) whereby the Scottish Assembly can alter Acts passed by this House of Commons. If one moves on to Clause 44 one finds that any provision made by the Scottish Assembly can be brought into law in this country by Order in Council approved by resolution of this House. One could therefore have the odd situation that anyone seeking to amend an Act—and we all know how complicated a procedure that is—might be able to do it simply by getting the Scottish Assembly to pass a resolution altering an Act of this House and then for an Order in Council to be laid on the Table and prayed against. That would mean that a half-hour debate could alter a measure passed by the House of Commons. Although that might sound ludicrous, that is the effect of taking these two clauses together. It could have a considerable impact on the method by which the United Kingdom is governed.
§ Mr. Pym
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton, I agree with the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) that there is much in the Bill and therefore no reason to seek to try and cause an iota of unnecessary delay. But I feel that matters of real substance have been raised in the points of order which have challenged the accuracy and validity of the Long Title. All that the Lord President has done is to sit on the Front Bench and listen, except for one intervention promising to consider the possibility of a Ways and Means Resolution. No one has attempted to justify the Long Title. A manuscript amendment was tabled by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) but it was not found acceptable. Neverthless, the issue raised there, as with the issue previously raised 1681 with Mr. Speaker, was totally germane to the debate.
I hope that the Lord President will consider it right to help the House by seeking to justify the Bill which he is introducing rather than let the present situation continue.
§ Mr. Foot
The matter before the House is not a subject for debate but a point of order. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) has invited me to engage upon a debate upon a point of order. He will be aware that I would be ruled out of order if I attempted to do that. Hon. Members have properly raised points of order and you, Mr. Murton have ruled upon them. We accept your ruling just as we accepted the previous ruling by Mr. Speaker.
Under the rules of the House matters concerning the Title of a Bill are taken at a much later stage and we believe that there are good reasons for that. I do not propose to engage in a debate about the nature of the Bill as a whole on a point of order. I suggest that we proceed to the debates on the Bill and debate these matters at the appropriate stage when each of us can develop our cases properly. We cannot do that on points of order because we would be ruled out of order.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. The Lord President has perhaps unwittingly put his finger precisely on the difficulties that we encountered in that we shall be unable to deploy the full case that we need to deploy if the Bill is to be fully explored. I have no wish to, nor can I, challenge your ruling that my amendment is out of order, Mr. Murton. The passage which was read from "Erskine May" was based on the premise that no Bill will be introduced in the House which does not conform to its Long Title. But this Bill clearly goes outside the Long Title.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who has an encyclopaedic mind, provided a precedent which demonstrates clearly that there will be consequences in this Bill that will go far outside Scotland and Wales.
If you do not feel minded to accept my manuscript amendment, Mr. Murton, I seek your guidance. I assume that the 1682 earlier words of Mr. Speaker during the last hour were drawn to your attention. He said that this in no way prejudices the admissibility of amendments concerning England and Wales. I seek your guidance to see how far we can go in the amendments which we may legitimately put down on matters affecting England and Wales which will be consequential to matters already contained in the Bill. I ask for your guidance with respect on this important point.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) raised two points. The first concerned the question of the Long Title of the Bill. That is a matter for argument and not a matter for the Chair. The other matter is hypothetical at this stage. We shall see how we develop as the debate continues.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. If this is a matter of argument and not for the Chair, with whom do we argue the point? Three people have offered advice to the House. Mr. Speaker said that his ruling was based on precedent and "Erskine May"—and "Erskine May" still rules. He had to give a ruling that the consideration of the government of England was excluded by the Long Title of the Bill. In your capacity as Chairman of the Committee, you told the Committee that according to your advice and previous custom——
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member should not embroider Mr. Speaker's ruling. He used it as an illustration.
§ Mr. Ogden
I accept that. But according to custom, precedent and rules and criteria by which the Chair and the House operate, consideration of the government of England is excluded by the Long Title. I have no doubt that the Long Title was selected because the Government had similar advice.
It is clear that hon. Members want to discuss a certain matter. We do not want the Bill to be decided by filibuster or points of order but by discussion and votes. But, if the Committe is limited by these present rules, I ask your advice about how we can overcome or change the rules so that the Committee can decide by vote at some stage whether we should be able to discuss what we all want to discuss.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. On the first item on the Paper before the Committee a motion stands in the name of the Leader of the House. Already on the Order Paper are five amendments, including one in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who is leading for the official Opposition, which are amendments to the Long Title of the Bill. In the motion which stands in the name of the Lord President—and one can only assume that this is deliberate—there is no mention at all of any stage at which the Committee is to consider amendments to the Long Title. In view of the importance of the ruling——
§ The Chairman
Order. Perhaps I might interrupt the hon. Gentleman I hope with courtesy. The question of any amendments to the Long Title is considered at the end of the Bill.
§ Mr. Gow
With respect, Mr. Murton, what I am asking you is this: are you advising the Committee, or are you ruling, that it would be out of order for the Committee, even if it so wished, to decide that it wished to discuss the question of the Long Title before any of the other amendments? Are you telling the Committee that it could not, even if it so wished, and in whatever order the Committee decided, debate the question of the Long Title? That is of very great importance because of the ruling given earlier by Mr. Speaker, because Mr. Speaker relied not upon the substance of the Bill—it was not that which led him to give earlier the ruling that he gave—but upon the wording of the Long Title.
If the Government of the day are able to exclude discussion of certain key elements in a Bill by themselves drafting the Long Title in such a way as can then prevent this Committee or the House of Commons from deciding what is subject to debate and what is not, I submit that that could be a very serious violation of the rights of hon. Members.
§ The Chairman
To discuss the question of the Long Title now would be contrary to the practice of the House. I have so ruled when I dealt with the point of order raised by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees).
§ Mr. Gow
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I understood you to say that it would be contrary to the practice of the House. Are you ruling that it would be impossible, inadmissible or out of order for this Committee to decide that it wished to discuss first any amendments to the Long Title?
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I wonder whether you can help me. Are we to understand that the question whether the Committee wants to retain the wording of the Long Title in its present form is one which should come, and can come, under the practice of the House, at the end of the debate on all the clauses—that is what I think you have just said—but that meanwhile the present wording, which we have not yet established is good or bad, whether or not we agree with it, will to some extent—I stress "to some extent" be binding in determining what we can discuss and what amendments can be moved before we get to the discussion of the Title?
That situation, if true, is so manifestly absurd that it is perfectly credible that, this being the House of Commons it is the current practice. However, I wonder whether the House needs to stick to all the most imbecilic of its precedents.
Can you also clarify a further point, Mr. Murton? As I have always understood it, it is not the Long Title or the Title of the Bill which is the last word upon the content of the Bill. I have forgotten the magic word. It is the "ambit" of the Bill, or some such word, which is held to be the metaphysical thing which we are supposed to stay within. Am I right in thinking that if you were to decide that a certain subject came within this metaphysical ambit of the Bill and that the Government had botched it by not putting it inside the Long Title, you would be perfectly free to allow that subject to be discussed because it was within the ambit of the Bill although not within the Long Title?
I seem to recall that around 1971 or 1972 there was some precedent, relating, I think, to Ireland, where there was a 1685 point held to be within the confines of the Bill—that is the word; "confines"—but which was not covered by the Long Title. Can you assure us, Mr. Murton, that as long as you can be satisfied that a matter is within the confines of the ambit of the present content of the Bill. it will be open to us to discuss it? For example—if I may assist—can you assure us that we shall be able to discuss changes in the government of the education in England arising from the fact that in future there will be people in control of that education, having a say in that education—namely, the Members from Scotland—who will have a right or a say on English education although English Members will not have a right or a say on Scottish education?
§ The Chairman
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. "Scope" is the word to which the hon. Gentleman was really referring, and "Title" is not the same thing as the word "scope". However, if a Bill is amended within its scope, the Title can be amended consequentially.
May I add that Part III of the Bill governs relations within the United Kingdom. This may help the Committee. Amendments relevant to this subject can be tabled and will be selected if they are relevant and otherwise in order. If the Title should eventually prove not to cover the Bill as it has been amended, the Title can be amended.
§ Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. It seems to me that this will still leave the Committee in very considerable difficulties. I know that this is a matter of scope, but hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will have great doubts as they come to the various stages of the Bill about what is in order. It seems that operating under his particular Title will put an intolerable pressure on the Chair throughout the working of this Committee. I ask you earnestly to look again at this matter because I am sure that it will ease the progress of the Bill and facilitate the work of the Chair.
§ The Chairman
Perhaps I could explain, from the Chair, that the Chair is ultimately bound by the scope rather than the Title.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. As I understand it, Mr. Speaker's ruling was that certain amendments were out of order because they were not consistent with the Long Title of the Bill. You, Mr. Murton, have ruled that the Long Title can be amended only at the conclusion of the proceedings if the Bill has then become inconsistent with the Long Title. I think that the difficulty that the House is in is that it does not understand how it can amend the Bill in a way inconsistent with the Long Title if any such amendment is out of order before it is discussed. If you could assure the Committee that, at certain stages of the Bill, anyway, an amendment will be out of order because it is inconsistent with the Long Title, I should have thought that the difficulty could be resolved.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps understand that the ruling that I gave is in line entirely with that which I gave to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham).
§ Mr. Powell
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. Perhaps I may refer back to the ruling which you gave a few moments ago—it seemed to me a very helpful ruling—in which you referred to Part III of the Bill as a part of the Bill to which in your view it would, in principle, be admissible that amendments relating to parts of the Kingdom other than Scotland and Wales would be in order. The point that I wish to put to you, Mr. Murton, is that that Part is restricted, as it stands at present, at any rate, to what is described as "United Kingdom Authorities". What I am inquiring is whether the proposition which you admitted in relation to Part III, which relates to Authorities, could also apply to other Parts of the Bill where the rest of the Kingdom is involved and affected by what is being enacted by the Bill as it stands.
At the expense of another few seconds, perhaps I might intimate what I have in mind. Clearly amendments to Part III would relate to the operation of Authorities in other parts of the United Kingdom. What is indicated in Parts I and II might be thought by Members to 1687 involve changes in the legislative powers and other aspects of the government of the rest of the United Kingdom. Therefore, Mr. Murton, I respectfully suggest that it would be helpful to the Committee if you indicated that your reference to Part III was, as it were, by way of example, that we can table non-Scottish or non-Welsh amendments to Part III relating to authorities, and that we can by parity of reasoning table similarly relevant amendments to other parts of the Bill affecting the government of the rest or the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Heffer
I seek clarification on a specific issue. Up to now the Government have not put forward their proposals for the referendum in the form of new clauses, or however they will do it. It could well be that the Government will propose that the referendum applies only in Scotland and Wales. It is clear that the Bill affects the people of the whole of the United Kingdom, and it may well be that Members who represent English constituencies feel that there should be amendment to the Government's proposals, whatever they may be. That may imply that Members representing English constituencies believe that the English should have some sort of vote on this issue. Would such amendments be ruled out of order because of a narrow definition in respect of the Long Title—namely, that it applies to Scotland and Wales? This is an extremely important matter. If we do not receive clarification, we might as well wrap up the whole debate and English Members might as well go home.
§ The Chairman
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point of order and his view. He has raised an entirely hypothetical question.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I seek your advice, Mr. Murton, on a matter that arises from your earlier ruling. As I understand it, you said in your clear remarks that you were relying upon the interpretation in "Erskine May" of the practice of the House. Surely it must be the case that 1688 the House is master in its own house and that it can, if it so wishes, change the practice of the House at any time that it desires to do so.
I should be obliged to receive your guidance, Mr. Murton, on three specific matters. First, is there any Standing Order of the House that governs us in amending the Long Title? As I understand it, Mr. Murton, you have relied wholly upon the practice as described by "Erskine May" and not upon any Standing Order. If I am right, will you advise me as to how the House can change that practice?
Secondly, you will have noticed, Mr. Murton, that in page 506 of "Erskine May" under the heading" Functions of a Committee on a Bill "it is stated:The objects of a bill are stated in its long title, which should cover everything contained in the bill".It is the view of many Members on both sides of the Committee that the objects of the Bill as stated in the Long Title are inaccurately described. I quote again—The … long title … should cover everything contained in the Bill.If the House were to take the view that the Long Title does not describe everything contained in the Bill, how, Mr. Murton, would you advise the Committee that we should change it?
My third point arises from page 489 of "Erskine May", under the heading "Examination of a Bill". Paragraph (1) "Provisions to be within the order of leave or notice of presentation".
states:In preparing Bills, care must be taken that they do not contain provisions which are not authorised by the notice of presentation or the order of leave".After several sentences it is statedIf it should appear that these rules have not been observed, the bill must be withdrawn.It is my contention that these rules have not been observed and that the Long Title does not accurately describe all that is contained within the Bill. How does the House, which must be supreme in its own House when it is not bound by any Standing Order but solely by practice, as interpreted by you, Mr. Murton, change its practice so that it can deal with a defective title that does not accurately describe the real content and consequences of the Bill for England?
§ The Chairman
As I have said previously, it is a question of the practice of the House. The practice can be changed by a resolution of the House. On the hon. Gentleman's third point, the Bill is in Committee and the Chairman has no power to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Would you be prepared to entertain now, Mr. Murton, a manuscript resolution so that the Committee could consider the matter?
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ The Chairman
Order. I think it is time that we were moving on. I shall take two more points of order.
§ Mr. Abse
Wittingly or unwittingly, the Leader of the House has allowed a Bill to come before a Committee which quite clearly from all discussions that have been taking place, including the representations made to Mr. Speaker and those now being made to you, Mr. Murton, has caused Members on both sides of the Committee to express anxiety about its title. Mr. Speaker appears to have refused to accept the anxiety that has been expressed by hon. Members representing English constituencies that they may be gagged or restricted when trying to speak up for their constituencies on a matter which impinges so much upon their interests.
I put it to you, Mr. Murton, that the least that the Committee expects of the Leader of the House is not that he should say, "Let's get on with it", which is a very comfortable view when it comes from the Executive and which may be highly desirable from the point of view of someone who wishes merely to get his Bill through, but that he should make a greater contribution to meeting the anxiety that has clearly been expressed.
In your earlier ruling, Mr. Murton, you indicated to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that within the context of Part III it would be possible directly to table amendments dealing with relations with the United Kingdom authorities. You said, Mr. Murton, no doubt correctly, that when it came to Parts I and II it would be possible to 1690 move amendments relevant to the scope of the argument. I am using your words. That is a very different thing. I would ask what is the distinction——
§ The Chairman
Order. If I might interrupt the hon. Gentleman, I would point out that I changed those words to the phrase "the scope of the Bill".
§ Mr. Abse
I am obliged, Sir. It appeared to me that there was a nice distinction but one which could be of great importance when it came to distinguishing between debates on Part III and debates on Parts I and II.
I was, elliptically, asking my question of the Leader of the House and perhaps the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who obviously had a clear understanding that the difficulty in which the Committee finds itself could be corrected by a more restricted direction along the lines of that suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
Back Benchers may, I hope, through this medium of points of order, look to both right hon. Gentlemen and ask whether we may anticipate overcoming these difficulties by the placing of a suitable direction and by the Leader of the House showing his traditional concern for Back Benchers' rights by co-operating in ensuring that such a direction is made so that these anxieties are removed.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I wish to raise a different kind of point of order and I hope a constructive one. We all know that Mr. Speaker's Office and the Clerks are extremely helpful, but when I asked for a copy of Mr. Speaker's ruling, one was not forthcoming. Those of us who are not lawyers are at something of a disadvantage in taking in necessarily complicated rulings at first go. When I asked the Clerks for a copy of your ruling, Mr. Murton, with your permission they kindly gave me one.
I should like to point out—not as a complaint: this is not a point of complaint—that it will be much easier for us in the debates that we shall have on this Bill if rulings which have to be made are made available in writing to hon. Members if they ask at the Table.
§ The Chairman
It will of course be in Hansard tomorrow. I did give the hon. 1691 Member a copy of my ruling but I gave it to him after I had ruled.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
Further to the point of order. A few minutes ago, Mr. Murton, you answered a point raised by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) who had asked whether it was possible for the Committee so to speak to enlarge its powers and to deal with matters which might be imperilled by what is regarded as the defectiveness, in some parts, of the Long Title. You said that there was no power for the House so to do while in Committee. Is it possible for the House to go back into plenary session, so to speak—to come out of Committee—and for a resolution then to be moved enabling this matter to be enlarged?
It is obvious that many hon. Members on both sides, including those like me who support the Bill, are unhappy with the fact that it is self-evident that the Long Title is not a satisfactory Long Title for the Bill.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
On a point of order. In giving your rulings, Mr. Murton, you have referred to the precedents in "Erskine May". But this is a unique situation. What we are talking about is not just the scope of the Bill but the scope of the United Kingdom and the scope of the powers of the House of Commons. Therefore, rather than looking at precedents, we should consider the situation before us and if it is the will of the Committee that we should proceed in devolving powers in a different way and if that necessitates an alteration to the Long Title, the House should be given the opportunity for that will to be decided.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I beg to move,That the Bill be considered in the following order: Clauses 1 and 2; Schedule 1; Clauses 3 to 19; Schedule 2; Clauses 20 to 23; Schedule 3; Clause 24; Schedules 4 and 5; Clause 25; Schedules 6 and 7; Clause 26; Schedule 8; Clauses 27 to 56; Schedule 9; Clauses 57 to 75; Schedule 10; Clauses 76 to 85; Schedule 1692 11; Clauses 86 and 87; Schedule 12; Clause 88; Schedule 13; Clauses 89 to 96; Schedule 14; Clauses 97 to 115; Schedule 15; new Clauses; new Schedules; and Schedule 16.I hope that what I say may assist some hon. Members who have raised points of order. I have no complaint at the fact that they have done so, because raising points of order is the way in which anxieties are expressed at the beginning of debates on a major Bill of this character. I was invited to reply on a point of order to these questions, but I do not believe that that would have been the proper way to proceed.
I believe that the motion can assist the House. It envisages a simple and straight forward order of discussion, taking all the clauses in numerical order and slotting in the various schedules with the clauses on which they arise, in accordance with common practice. The one minor exception is that the motion puts Schedule 16, which contains amendments to existing enactments, at the very end, since we believe that to be more convenient. It is a sweeping-up operation which we thought would better be dealt with at the end.
I am in no sense criticising or seeking to modify the rulings given from the Chair, whether by Mr. Speaker or by yourself, Mr. Murton—that is not my business —but I would say on behalf of the Government that we are not seeking to restrict debate on these important questions. Obviously, if the Bill is to go through and to be accepted throughout the country as we hope, it has to be seen that there has been full opportunity for debate and that the House has been able to give its mind to these matters.
§ Mr. Heffer rose——
§ Mr. Heffer
Would my right hon. Friend give way before he replies to a point which I have not yet made? I accept entirely that he does not wish to restrict discussion and would probably be happy to see the widest possible amendments moved and accepted. But he does not determine that: it is determined by the Chair on the basis of the nature of the Long Title. That is the point that we were trying to get clear. I am afraid that I did not make it clear, but if my right hon. Friend can give us an assurance that the 1693 Chair will agree with what he says, I should be absolutely delighted.
§ Mr. Foot
I was going to reply to what my hon. Friend had said before and I was hoping to do so in a sense which was helpful to the Committee. I will come to the specific point that he has just raised in a moment. First, I should like to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who asked whether our method of proceeding would restrict debate on taxation. Of course, we recognise that that is a major question which has to be discussed and we should have no intention of restricting debate on it. Certainly the Bill has not been drafted with any such intention.
Indeed, as I understand it, it is not even necessary for us to put down a Ways and Means Resolution to ensure that debate shall take place. If it were found to be necessary, we should do so, but I understand that it is not. I hope that my reply will set my hon. Friend's fears at rest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) mentioned the referendum and asked whether, if a motion were moved during these debates asking that England be included in the referendum process, that would be in order. My hon. Friend the Member for Walton is perfectly correct in saying that I do not interpret the rules of order. That is done by the Chair and I do not question that. If any question which the Committee wished to discuss was ruled out by the rules of order as they prevail at the moment, the Government would take steps to ensure that the Committee was able to debate such matters. That does not mean that we shall lay down new rules of order for the discussion of the whole Bill.
As I said, the placing of the Long Title at the end of the Bill accords with the practice of the House for which there are good grounds. If in the course of our debates on the Bill we found that the provisions of the rules prohibited a debate that was passionately desired on both sides of the Committee, the Government would have to take account of that on a major Bill of this nature. I promise from the start that we should do so. I am not promising to set aside rules 1694 of the House that have prevailed for good reasons.
I hope that the Committee will not think that I am being authoritarian in saying that I hope the discussion on the motion will be fairly short. We are to have a debate later on a major matter concerning the Bill which has been selected by the Speaker. I promise the Committee at the beginning of the debate that we shall do everything in our power to meet its wishes in ensuring that there are no restrictions on any debate it wishes to have.
§ Mr. Raison
The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to facilitate discussion upon taxation. The design of the Bill avoids any reference to the Act of Union. I assume the reason for that is that the Government do not want to give the impression that the Bill has anything to do with the break-up of the Union. The Act of Union—unless it has been recently changed—provides certain limitations on the power of taxation. For example, Article VII provides:That all parts of the United Kingdom be for ever from and after the union liable to the same excises upon all exciseable liquors".That means that there must be the same taxation throughout the country. Does that affect what the right hon. Gentleman said about introducing amendments to deal with taxation?
§ Mr. Foot
We have not referred to the Act of Union because we are not proposing to abrogate it. On the Act of Union I speak with great diffidence in the presence of the Lord Advocate who knows even more than I do about that subject, but if there were in the Act of Union any restrictions which prohibited our discussing taxation, we should do our best to overcome them.
I hope that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and the Committee will accept the assurance I have given. I repeat that I make no promise to remove the rules of the House, most of which have been developed for very good reasons. If we got into a jam on a matter that a prominent minority insisted we must debate, we should have to see how we could deal with it. It is partly for that reason that we put down the motion. We set out clearly how we should proceed, but if that method of procedure is found at some stage to be 1695 unsatisfactory for the Committee as a whole, there is a method by which the Committee can take steps to interfere with the procedure for which I am asking approval.
I want to follow up the right hon. Gentleman's welcome announcement that the Government will facilitate discussion which impinges on the general circumstances of the United Kingdom. I understand that he is resisting any amendment to the Title of the Bill. Therefore, it remains a highly restrictive Title. How will he get round that so long as the Title remains unamended?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not accept that it is restrictive. I do not accept that it is wrong. We have not had an opportunity to debate it and we are not debating it on the motion. I am fully in accord with your ruling, Mr. Murton, that there is an arrangement whereby the Title of Bills is discussed at the end, and there are good reasons for that. The amendments that have been selected to be discussed today are wide-ranging amendments. I do not believe that either the Long Title or the drafting of the Bill will inhibit the Committee from a full discussion of all matters relevant to the Bill including the consequential effects it might have on the United Kingdom as a whole. I believe that such matters will be in order.
If at some point we find that I am wrong about that and there is a restriction which prevents the Committee from being able to proceed in the way it wishes, we shall do our best to meet that difficulty. I do not believe that it would be met by doing what the right hon. Gentleman asks, because I do not accept the argument that the Title is restrictive or wrong. Under our normal procedures the proper time for discussing the Title is at the end.
§ Dr. Phipps
My right hon. Friend has been extremely helpful, but we are still faced with the rulings we have been given as they apply to specific English or Ulster legislation. I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the case that might arise, for instance, under Clause 18(2). English Members might feel it necessary to have a specific piece of English legislation to protect themselves and their con 1696 stituents in connection with matters that are being devolved to Scotland. As I understand the rulings, we should not be able to do that. Can the Leader of the House help us on this?
§ Mr. Foot
I am not questioning the rulings that have already been given by the Chair. I am sure that they are accurate rulings. The Committee would do well to study them. I do not believe that those rulings will be restrictive of debate. When we come to Clause 18, my hon. Friend will be able to put down amendments and we shall see what is the situation. If we found at some stage during the course of the debate that the rules that are applied in other instances inhibit serious general debate, we should have to look at them. I hope on that basis we can proceed.
The first group of amendments selected by the Chair is wide-ranging. None of the questions raised that cause anxiety impinges upon that group of amendments, so I hope that the Committee will proceed on that basis. We are discussing procedural questions. The sooner we can move to the discussion of questions of merit and to amendments which hon. Members seek to make under the present rules, the sooner we shall discover the reality of the situation, which is that the Committee will have the fullest opportunity of discussing these matters.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman is being helpful, but how will he discover whether the Title and the rules are restrictive? The one way in which he can find that out is to listen to the arguments—and how much better to listen to the arguments now, at the beginning, before we come to the Bill proper.
§ Mr. Foot
If the House in its wisdom in previous centuries had thought that the right way to deal with a Bill was to take all the arguments on the procedural motion at the beginning, the hon. Gentleman's comments would have great force, but that has not been procedure devised by the House of Commons over the years. The House has devised a system in which some procedural measures are discussed at the beginning so that one may see which measures are in order and which are not. When Charles Stewart Parnell was asked how he had become 1697 such a great authority on the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, he replied "I learned so much about the Standing Orders by breaking them". That is one way of going about the matter, although I am not suggesting that any hon. Member has done anything of the kind today.
If we examine the selection of amendments, we cannot suggest that there has been any restriction. I hope that we shall proceed to debate the amendments, but I repeat my assurance that the desire of the Government is that we should have the fullest possible discussion. I do not believe that the rules of the House will be restrictive. Indeed, I hope that our rules will help us to guide our discussions, so that we do not discuss everything at the same time.
What happened on earlier points of order and in the preliminary procedural discussions was that some hon. Members tried to raise matters that will be in order for discussion at a later stage. But we cannot now settle those matters holus-bolus in one procedural motion.
I ask the House to proceed to deal with this Bill in the same traditional manner as we have dealt with previous Bills. In my opinion there is much more wisdom in the traditional procedures of the House than some hon. Members give the House credit for. Some of these procedures have enabled orderly debates to take place, and I hope that that will happen on this occasion.
§ Mr. Onslow
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity of poacher turned gamekeeper, to help the House a little further on the point put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison)? Is the right hon. Gentleman advising the House that, in his opinion, the Bill is so drafted as to preclude any possibility of an amendment being in order, let alone being carried, that would have the effect of requiring consequential amendment to the Act of Union? If we knew that at the outset, it might save further discussion later.
§ Mr. Foot
I shall not make a judgment—and it would be wrong for any Leader of the House to do so—about hypothetical amendments that might be tabled in the future. It is scope rather than Title which determines what is in order, as was made clear by the Chair 1698 a little earlier. I believe that we should proceed with this Bill in the way in which the House of Commons has proceeded with previous Bills. Members will table amendments, there will be a selection, and discussion will take place.
When we examine the first group of amendments, we surely cannot claim that there is any great restriction being imposed on debate. Indeed, the House by continuing discussion on procedural matters is imposing some restriction on itself. I hope that we shall liberate ourselves from that bondage as speedily as we can and quickly come to the first group of amendments. As we proceed, I believe that many fears will be dissipated.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I do not doubt my right hon. Friend's sincerity when he says that he does not want to prohibit discussion, but is it not the case that these matters are not entirely in his gift but will be determined by the Chair? Therefore, are we to have guidelines as to what is and what is not in order? We have had experience of different interpretations as between different Chairmen. Therefore, should we not get the matter clear? I do not in any way criticise the Chair, but it would be advisable to have clear guidelines. We face a problem on this issue because, for example, you, Mr. Murton, by a slip of the tongue, spoke of scope for argument rather than scope for the Bill. There is a great deal of argument about what is within its scope and what is not.
§ The Chairman
Within the discretion of the Chair, guidelines will be given as the debate continues. I hope that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman and that we shall be able to keep the matter right.
§ Mr. Pym
I hope that the Lord President will feel that my brief interventions in this debate have been helpful. I thought that when many points of order were being raised the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be sitting in his place as though nothing were happening. Therefore, I thought that it would be helpful for him to intervene.
1699 The right hon. Gentleman in moving the Government motion could have given more adequate reasons in seeking to show why the arguments about the validity of the Long Title were wrong. I think that this is the moment when he should give that information.
The order in which the right hon. Gentleman has placed the clauses and schedules seems to be reasonable and sensible, and I do not raise that matter as a point of order. However, it cannot be denied that in the last couple of hours we have been arguing why the Long Title does not represent any accurate description of the scope of the Bill. This is why many hon. Members on both sides of the House have argued that we should take amendments to the Long Title first.
The Lord President was right to say that there are very good reasons behind the rules and practices of the House of Commons for taking these matters at the end rather than at the beginning of a Bill. But I emphasise that it has been made extremely clear in this debate that the Long Title of this Bill is not accurate. If we pass this motion and proceed to the debates—and I shall be glad to do so at the earliest possible moment—there will be no further chance to discuss the procedures in a major way.
The right hon. Gentleman said in a helpful tone that if there were any passionate desire to take a certain course, or if amendments were found to be too restrictive in terms of discussion, he would in a benevolent spirit act in a miraculous way to try to find some way round the problem. I am certain that, when that situation is reached, he will not want to find a way round it, because there will be plenty of other arguments going on.
We should have an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to how he sees himself intervening in this benevolent way. I remember sitting through a series of points of order on the European Communities Bill, when I sat in the corner seat above the Gangway. Those points of order did not end just after six o'clock in the evening but at breakfast time the next morning. We do not want that sort of thing to occur again, from whichever side of the House. How is the right hon. 1700 Gentleman to make these adjustments if the House has a passionate desire, as he calls it, to debate a measure relating to Northern Ireland or a part of England, and the Chairman has ruled it out of order? Will the right hon. Gentleman come forward with a motion?
It is not a good idea to alter the Standing Orders. I have criticised him for setting aside Standing Orders which proved inconvenient to the Government. But the proposal to take the Long Title first is not like altering Standing Orders. It would be a commonsense adjustment to our practice in view of the significant fact that the scope of the Bill is not truly reflected by the wording of the Long Title. This is a legitimate grievance.
It may be that the right hon. Gentleman has an adequate answer, but we have not had it yet, and we ought to have it before we pass this motion, because it is difficult to see at what other stage we shall be able to raise it, or, if a situation arises when an hon. Member wants to raise a matter of this kind, how the right hon. Gentleman is to handle it without coming forward with a special motion, which would seem rather unnecessary. It seems to many of us that if the matter of the Long Title were dealt with at this stage, we would be satisfied with the arrangements proposed in this motion, which I support.
§ Mr. Foot
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for agreeing to the motion in its entirety, but he asked me to respond on another matter which he happened to raise incidentally—the question of the Long Title. What is in order and discussable is, as the Chair has stated, determined by the scope of the Bill and not its Title. The fears about the Title of the Bill are misplaced, but I would add that I do not believe that this is the proper moment to discuss it. It is not the proper moment according to the normal methods of the House.
I do not believe that we shall get into any difficulties on that account. Therefore, I suggest that we should proceed. If we do get into difficulties, we shall have to face them, but I do not believe that we shall. This motion is a different matter. It is not about the Title or scope of the Bill. It is a restricted motion about the order of business. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that he is 100 per cent. in favour of the motion, 1701 and I hope that on that basis the Committee will agree to it. Then we can proceed to discuss some of the merits of the Bill. If we do proceed in that way, I think that hon. Members will see for themselves how wide is the discussion tolerated under the rules of the House.
§ Mr. Pym
With some of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I agree, but there was a manuscript amendment, which was not selected, in relation to the Long Title. The right hon. Gentleman used the words "passionate desire". There has been a passionate desire this afternoon to require a justification for the Long Title and in refutation of the fears that the Long Title may be inaccurate. If we pass this motion and get on to the substance of the Bill, the stage at which we shall be able to deal with the Long Title will be months away, when we come to the end of the Committee stage.
If the right hon. Gentleman is asserting that if there is any validity in the doubts about the Long Title it will in no way restrict debate on any matter dealing with the government of the United Kingdom, or restrict the Chair in selecting any amendment germane to the government of the United Kingdom, he has no power to say so, in the first place, but even if he had, it seems to me that in those circumstances the Chair might very well not be exactly carrying out the practice of the House. That is why we say that if the Long Title is not considered at this stage it will be a long time before the right hon. Gentleman has the opportunity to justify himself and reply to the criticisms.
There will be many instances when it will be out of order to go back to the fundamental aspect of this Bill—that is, the effect of the changes in the government of Wales and Scotland on the rest of the United Kingdom. It is that fact that the House has shown itself unsatisfied about. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say more now, in justification of the Long Title. A passionate desire has been expressed for such a justification. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give it now, there will not be another opportunity for a long time to come.
§ Mr. Heffer
At the risk of being accused of filibustering—my hon. Friend 1702 the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said that there was no danger of filibustering, although the Bill will go on for a long time—may I say that I believe that my right hon. Friend is genuinely trying to meet the points raised by many hon. Members, but point out that the final decision is made not by him but by the Chair? Therefore, we shall be proceeding in the dark, hoping that amendments, or debates, or speeches are in order and that we shall not be constantly interrupted by the Chair saying "The hon. Gentleman is out of order. He is going beyond the narrow terms of the Long Title."
How we can possibly discuss such a constitutional issue as the establishment of Assemblies in Wales and Scotland without having the right to say how it will affect the rest of the United Kingdom, I do not know. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right in what he said, and we shall have to proceed on the basis that he suggests, for I do not think that we can get much further now in discussing the question of the Long Title. We must hope that it will all work out as we want it to, but if it does not, hon. Members will have to call on my right hon. Friend to suspend the work of the Committee until a procedural motion has been introduced to take into consideration and meet the points that we have made.
I have a feeling, in studying the clauses—I say this for the benefit of my local newspaper, which, from time to time, prints lists of Division records of hon. Members—that on this Bill my Division record is going to be almost nil unless I am voting for an amendment of which I am in favour. I am not very enamoured of this Bill at all; therefore I am not likely to be trudging through the corridors supporting the Government in its various clauses. I might do so on an odd clause.
I am saying this strictly for the benefit of my local newspaper, so that it can record that the number of times I vote on this Bill may not be very large. That does not mean that I will not be in the House, taking part in debates, and that I will not have something to say. I have a feeling that I shall have quite a lot to say on the matters which are affecting my constituents and the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. I do not 1703 want anyone to hold up the Bill by a filibuster. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President is fully aware, we did not hold up the Bill to reform the House of Lords. No one could accuse us of filibustering on that occasion. No one thought of making lengthy speeches to hold up that Bill, and it would be reprehensible for anyone to suggest that we should do that on this occasion. I appeal to hon. Members not to adopt that course. The Bill on that occasion did not meet with universal support, and ultimately the Government had to drop it. I do not know whether the Government will have to drop this Bill; I believe that in the end they may well get it.
We must examine the Bill in great detail, clause by clause, and see how it affects the people of every part of the United Kingdom. We must ensure that it is in their best interests. The only way to get a good Bill will be by proper, careful and minute examination, and I trust that that is what the Committee will do when finally we pass this motion.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I have listened to over two hours of the debate on points of order and I have not intervened. That must be a record for me, because I could never resist points of order——
§ Mr. Ross
That sedentary interruption was. I think, valued by the Chair, because I suggested that the hon. Member in question was referring not to the scope of the argument but to the scope of the Bill.
I have not intervened on the points of order because I thought the rulings of the Chair were right. I think that my right hon. Friend was helpful when he intervened, and I warn those who are concerned about the scope for amendment not to draw too much attention to something which they think will restrict them. Over the years that I worked on Bills I would have hated it to be laid down that the Long Title strictly determined whether or not my amendments were in order.
I have taken part in the Committee stage of as many Bills as any hon. Mem 1704 ber present. I took part in the Committee stage of every Scottish Bill from 1946 until 1962 or 1963. That enables me to speak from a certain amount of experience. The Long Title is taken last because at that stage one is in a position to see whether it reflects what is in the Bill. I have known Long Titles to be changed where amendments, carried in the course of the Committee stage, made that appropriate. I can think of nothing more nonsensical than to start talking about the Long Title now and to tie it down at this stage. That would rule out what might be desirable changes during the course of the Bill.
People do not pay so much attention now to Money Resolutions as they used to. In terms of restricting amendments, Money Resolutions are much more important than are Long Titles. The scope of the Bill and its purpose are what matter, and it is the interpretation of the scope and the purpose of the Bill that determines whether amendments are relevant.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on his patience. He has been far more patient than I would have been in the circumstances. For a change, I am supporting the Chair, but I warn you, Mr. Murton, that that will last for only about three minutes.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Perhaps I may make a constructive suggestion. None of us doubts the good faith of my right hon. Friend the Lord President in what he has offered. However, after listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) I realise that there is a problem here. Perhaps the basis of the problem is that the offer that the Lord President has made is not really within his gift to make; it is within the gift of yourself, Mr. Murton, and Mr. Speaker. I suggest, therefore, that over the weekend you and Mr. Speaker and your advisers study what has been said about the problem of scope. If a resolution of the House is needed to bring vital argument within the scope of the Bill, you or Mr. Speaker could then make a statement on Tuesday, before we begin again, giving your view.
§ Mr. Abse
I have listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock 1705 (Mr. Ross) saying that he thinks we are being jejune in drawing attention to what is likely to be restrictive, and in particular in drawing attention to possible inadequacies in the Long Title. I, too, have my experiences. With the Bills that I have had to steer, usually without the benefit of draftsmen or officials, my experience has taught me the importance of the Long Title. I do not treat the matter with the insouciance that my right hon. Friend brings to it.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, and said it surely in its proper place, that we are discussing the procedures for dealing with the Bill. I think that is relevant. Why have we not heard from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House why he is so utterly confident that the Long Title is both correct and so drawn that it will not inhibit us in any reasonable amendment that we put forward. He has indicated—I am sure in good faith—that if we encounter obstacles, provided apparently that we express our arguments passionately, that he will seek to make adjustments. I do not know when they will be regarded as being passionately expressed, warmly expressed or tepidly expressed. What I do not like is that we should be treating a Bill of this importance in an ad hoc manner in which, apparently, what we may do will be dependent to some extent upon the caprice of the executive.
I do not like the House to operate on an ad hoc basis. It needs a structure and form. The reason we have developed our practices and Standing Orders is that we know we are lost unless we have a framework within which we operate and which we understand. If we do not have a ground plan upon which we are constructing this Bill we are being invited to walk into an increasing mire. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House may attempt to extricate us, but I do not think that that is the way to proceed. If the usual channels are not effective enough to sort this matter out perhaps the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire should take an initiative to make clear that this House must, by motion or resolution, have a precise idea of the rules by which we are operating.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is generous and honest. When 1706 he gives an assurance, as he did today, he means it. But the House should not operate upon the generosity of any man; it must operate according to its rules. This afternoon deep anxiety has been expressed because we believe that to some extent we are in a straitjacket as far as Members representing English constituencies are concerned.
We have had no apologia or explanation why we have had a Long Title to the Bill which, by its nature, is bound to provoke feelings of disquiet—rightly or wrongly—among hon. Members representing English constituencies.
During the exchanges that we had when discussing the business of the House I indicated that there is now a desire on the part of some Welsh Members that the Bill should be divided. The direction will be coming before the House. It is quite clear that such a direction will considerably impinge upon this procedural motion. I hope that when the Leader of the House looks at that direction, he will examine what the Prime Minister has said could be done—the bringing about of a disengagement. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at it in the light of this procedural resolution.
I do not believe that we shall be able to proceed effectively, and with any real sense of order, when as the procedural motion makes clear, we shall be dealing with clauses that will shift us from one moment to another from amendments dealing with the Welsh language to the powers that will be taken in a Scottish legislature.
I see no reason why Wales should—in language that will be used by the Welsh nationalists—fight to liberate itself from London in order that it should come under the control of Edinburgh. That is not good enough. That is why we have repeatedly sought, by representations both privately and in this House, to get two Bills. The stubbornness that has been displayed in getting the two Bills entangled has led to the present situation, in which we have a procedural motion concerning the way in which the matter should be dealt with.
When the motion is accepted I hope it will be understood that I and many 1707 Welsh Members will still seek an opportunity to disengage these two Bills as they should be. There should be one Bill for Scotland and one for Wales, so that people in Wales will know that at the end of the day the House of Commons has adequately considered all the issues that impinge upon Wales.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) attempted I to give a prognostication. I would also give one, now that we are considering how we shall be spending our time ahead. The time will come when the Leader of the House will be pleading that we are not perhaps moving at the rate that he would like. He will tell us that it is right that there should be a guillotine. My right hon. Friend can expect no sympathy from many hon. Members on this side of the House if he does not take the immediate steps necessary to disentangle these two Bills.
Many hon. Members on the Government side of the House feel that Scotland has one case and Wales another. The Leader of the House is inviting trouble that he could avoid. It will be no good his making pleas at a later stage when the opportunities are now available for a more rational way of Proceeding— [a1]dividing the two Bills.
I look with some concern at this procedural motion, because I do not think it is adequate. I look with greater concern at the fact that the Leader of the House, who has given so much consideration to the Bill, has still not told us why he is so confident and certain that the Title is right and that there is nothing within that Title that inhibits hon. Members representing English constituencies from putting their point of view.
As my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said, I hope that consideration will be given between now and next week to the rulings that have been given today. I hope that consideration will be given to what may be needed to make certain that we have a proper framework within which to work. I hope that my hon. Friend's plea will be taken seriously.
Improvisation is not the method that should be the province within which an important constitutional Bill of this kind should operate.
§ Dr. Phipps
The Leader of the House has been helpful by saying that he would consider ways in which matters that you, Mr. Murton, and your colleagues, found unacceptable could be discussed in the context of the Bill. What concerns me and other English Members is that included in Clause 1 is the statement that what goes on after the Bill is enacted willnot affect the unity of the United Kingdom".I am an opponent of the Bill in general. I do not wish to see it enacted. However, I accept that it may be enacted. If it is to be enacted I want to see changes that will specifically protect the unity of the United Kingdom and, in particular, specifically protect England and English interests which I represent within my constituency.
The rulings that we have had this afternoon, both from you, Mr. Murton, and Mr. Speaker, suggest that an amendment dealing specifically with England would not be acceptable and would therefore need some other device to be brought before the House. How does the Leader of the House intend to go about bringing such a matter before the House? In particular, at what stage in the procedure that he is laying down will matters of this sort be introduced into the Bill? We shall want to know exactly what provision will be made for England and also, I am sure, for Northern Ireland before we are prepared to accept other matters within the Bill.
I do not believe it would be sufficient to have these things discussed after the Bill has been passed. I am assuming that these matters are ones that you, Mr. Murton, or Mr. Speaker, would not be prepared to see discussed. What device would the Leader of the House use to put them in the Bill?
We have been promised a referendum. When does the Leader of the House see the clause with regard to the referendum being introduced? Will it be part of the proceedure that he has laid down today? The earlier that we can discuss the referendum the more it will affect——
§ Mr. Foot
I think I dealt with my hon. Friend's earlier point by what I said previously. With regard to the referendum, the normal way by which an amendment on the referendum will be dealt with will be by a new clause. That 1709 would be the best way of dealing with it. However, if there were a desire that it should be dealt with in some other way at an earlier stage, that might be done. But that is our present arrangement and our present intention. That is the answer to my hon. Friend's question.
§ Dr. Phipps
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Perhaps I may complete my remark, however. I was asking that provision for a referendum should be included in the new clauses. I hope that it will be before the Committee as early as possible, because the form that it takes will affect the way in which amendments are tabled and the attitude which right hon. and hon. Members take to the further passage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Kinnock
We hit difficulties earlier because this is a difficult Bill. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has been most helpful in offering his reasoning of the issue, which is highly satisfactory. However, there are obvious difficulties, because this is an unusual Bill. It means that the very reasonable procedure whereby we can change the Title of the Bill towards the concluding stages of its passage so that it adequately describes the picture as it has changed during our debates and as a result of the revisions that we have made is not really adequate for a general measure of this nature.
Unless the Title is broadened, it prohibits an area of discussion effectively on the Bill. However, I am sure that given the reasonable nature of this debate, that should not present too much of a problem since there is general recognition that we have moved on from the time in the whole devolution debate when those who were particularly zealous about devolution both in Scotland and Wales and to some extent in England could presume that it was a matter which could be fairly easily shuffled off to become the preoccupation of the Celtic fringe. We have had it demonstrated today, as it will be demonstrated on many other occasions, that there are wider interests to be taken into account.
Since we are, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has done, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) has done and as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has 1710 done, discussing the whole approach to the Bill, my own approach is that this Committee stage is not only a Committee stage but is an integral part of the referendum campaign. For me, the referendum campaign begins effectively today. I appear to be the only Welshman for whom the referendum campaign begins today, because I see that in today's Western Mail a number of my compatriots have spent a substantial amount of money——
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am informed that my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Evans) is something of an expert on bags.
§ Mr. Kinnock
In case it should not have been heard clearly, my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) said "Saucepan bags". I do not think that the Committee should lose that because of any inadequacy in the public address system.
I was saying that many of my compatriots have spent a considerable sum of money promoting this advertisement. I am glad to see this novel enthusiasm for a referendum. It may be that, if in the last two years during which I and some of my colleagues have been fighting to get a referendum, we had had this kind of financial and manpower support, we might have secured it by now and the people of Wales might have made a democratic decision on the matter. But, better late than never. We look forward to joining battle.
It has been said already that this devolution question is often a problem of definition, not least for this House itself, its whole approach to the Bill and specifically its approach to the Title of the Bill. But that affects not only this House. We have the problem of my compatriots who have advertised in the Western Mail and who believe thatan unanswerable case exists for a real extension of democracy.…That present arrangements for accountability to the existing governmental administration in Wales—is wholly unsatisfactory.1711That as Parliament grapples with the increasing volume and complexity of European legislation it is unrealistic to expect it to devote more time to Welsh affairs",and so on—so much so that there can be very few who could broadly disagree wth these propositions. We who represent Welsh constituencies are all in favour of more democracy, more accountability, more compassionate efficiency of government and more attention to Welsh affairs. We are also in favour of escaping from the grave economic depression affecting Wales and the misery, tragedy and deprivation that that causes.
The answer from my compatriots comes in the form of a Welsh Assembly, in thatWelsh economic and social problems as well as the problem of accountability cannot be met through any reform of the procedures of one central Parliament"—I do not know of anyone who suggests that they can—and, thereforeThat the situation in Wales demands the establishment of a directly-elected Welsh Assembly".In our approach to the Committee stage of this Bill, those are some of the considerations which will have to be taken into account. I venture near the very perimeters of order when I say that we have an opportunity in this Bill——
§ Mr. Kinnock
Stretched perimeters are often a major feature of democracy, Mr. Murton. But I will not take that to excess, other than to say that it has been most fortunate for you, as one who will share many long hours with us, to get a sample of the general approach which will be taken by right hon. and hon. Members during the Committee stage, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for entering into the spirit of the matter.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Lord President referred to a new clause on the referendum. When can we expect, that new clause to be introduced?
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The motion before the Committee is very clear, but I 1712 for one disagree with it. I should have preferred that before Clauses 1 and 2 we should consider the Title of the Bill.
There has been some debate on this matter, and I do not want to weary the Committee, let alone to irritate you, Mr. Murton, by reverting to the matter of the Title. But I think that it is in order to say that I disagree with this proposal, because I should have liked to see the matter of the Title being clarified before we went on to discuss Clauses 1 and 2.
I should like to give notice that, with some of my hon. Friends, I shall seek to raise the matter again next week. Following your own ruling that we are not here dependent upon some Standing Order but merely upon the practice of the House, I shall seek to ensure that there is a debate upon that practice of the House so that we may be able to make a decision that the Long Title is amendable if we come to the conclusion that it does not describe accurately the contents of the Bill.
My other objection to the motion concerns a matter referred to by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). He said that from his point of view the referendum campaign was starting now. However, it cannot start now because there is no new clause in the Bill to enable it to start now.
If there is to be a new clause dealing, for example, with a referendum or with some of the other matters which affect English constituencies, we should not have to wait until the very end of the Bill to deal with it and with other new clauses. Once again we are bound by the conventions of the House and not by Standing Orders. It is the normal practice that we do not deal with new clauses until we have disposed of all other amendments during a Committee stage. However, in this case, I believe that the referendum is so crucial a matter and that whether English people are to be excluded from that referendum is so important to many English Members that we should not have to wait week after week and month after month but that we should have the relevant new clause before us at an early stage.
The Leader of the House sought to be helpful. He indicated that if, after listening to the representations of hon. Members, he concluded that new clauses 1713 should be introduced not in the normal order but in a different order, he would bring what I presume will be a procedural motion before the House to enable us to to that.
Although I respect the desire of the Leader of the House to be helpful, he has reserved wholly to himself and the Government the decision whether the new clause ought to be taken earlier. This is a matter for the House as a whole. I am not content to accept that it should lie wholly and exclusively with the Leader of the House to decide whether we should get to the new clause rather earlier on a matter so vital as the referendum.
That is why I should have liked the motion to include the possibility that some of the new clauses could be taken after the portions of the Bill to which they pertain rather than be relegated to the end. The Leader of the House has sensibly divided the Bill logically and organically into sections that fall to be discussed together, but it would be more convenient to the Committee and it could be more helpful if a new clause that was relevant to a section of the Bill under discussion could be taken at the same time. I ask the Leader of the House to consider that suggestion.
§ The Chairman
Order. I intervene to refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). For the record, I want to correct a ruling that I gave in reply to him when he asked whether the rules about the Long Title derive from practice or from Standing Orders. My answer was that they derive from practice, but I ought to add that Standing Order No. 42 is also directly relevant. The Committee probably knows that, but I should like to place it firmly on the record.
§ Mr. Buchan
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. It might be helpful if we could be told what the Standing Order says.
§ Mr. Foot
I could read it to the House. It bears on our whole discussion and bears out what both I and the Chair have said:All committees to which bills may be committed or referred for consideration on report shall have power to make such amendments therein as they shall think fit, provided they be relevant to the subject matter of the bill: but if any such amendments shall not be within the long title of the bill, they shall amend 1714 the long title accordingly, and report the same specially to the House.That is the basis upon which I gave my reply and it is the basis upon which the Chair ruled at the beginning. The Government are not proposing that we should proceed on an ad hoc basis. We propose to proceed according to Standing Orders. I do not retract or qualify anything that I have said. The Standing Order indicates the way in which the House can proceed.
As to the referendum, I hope that we can bring discussion on it to an end for the present. It is not for me to say whether the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) was in order, but that speech would have been even more in order on Tuesday, when we hope to reach the matter. Perhaps by that time he will have a new speech, or he will have been converted. On Tuesday he will be so much in order that I shall not complain if he repeats today's speech word for word. But that is a different matter.
Of course, I understand the interest that the Committee has in the referendum. Work is proceeding on the new clause that the Government will recommend to the Committee and I shall take into account the representations that have been made today. I cannot promise when it will be put on the Order Paper. We might consider taking it earlier. That might be a reasonable proposition. If so, the procedures of the Committee would enable us to do so perfectly well. The motion that we ask the Committee to pass now would not prohibit it.
Right hon. and hon. Members who have seen major Bills go through the House know that the Government and others can propose ways in which procedures can be altered in order to assist the situation. Many of the procedures laid down are greatly to our benefit. That is why I have said nothing further about the Long Title. We think it is proper and correct, but, as Standing Order 42 indicates, if it is found that the subject matter of the Bill is injured by the Long Title there are procedures for altering that. I fully acknowledge that point.
I do not question the fears and anxieties genuinely felt by right hon. and hon. Members. There are major controversies in the country about the Bill, 1715 and the Government do not think that a Bill of this character can be carried without discussion in the House. I did not intend to make a further speech now; I intended merely to answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty. I ask the Committee that, after my reply, we should proceed, because many of the matters that have been raised today would be more relevant for discussion under the clauses and amendments that have been selected by the Chair. Anybody looking at them can see how wide discussion on them may be.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I appreciate what the Leader of the House has said in relation to Standing Order No. 42, but that surely means, in effect, that the Long Title can be altered only after discussion of amendments. Therefore, amendments relevant to the Bill will be out of order and never discussed. That is the point that we have been considering, and that is what will happen. I suspect that the Leader of the House is about to tell us that this need not necessarily happen, but it is bound to be the case as the Long Title stands.
§ Mr. Foot
I respect the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) when she intervenes on procedural matters, because she has been an occupant of the Chair and she knows how these things operate. But it is the Government's view—and such indications have been given by the Chair today—that that is not the case. This was taken into account when the amendments were put down. Anyone can judge that fact by looking at the selected amendments.
This is the only way to proceed. If we find ourselves in hopeless difficulties we shall have to overcome them, and the House has the means of doing so. But we cannot lay down in this motion the means of overcoming all those difficulties in the future, nor could we do so by the proposal to alter the Long Title, because that would beg the question. We say that the Title is perfectly proper. On that basis, and particularly because the Opposition spokesman has said that he absolutely agrees with the motion—we do not often have absolute agreement from the Opposition Front Bench on anything that we propose, but because we have his absolute, unanimous, unquali 1716 fied agreement, or at least his generous support—I hope that we can proceed to carry the motion and move on to discuss the merits of the Bill. Then the Committee will see how wide the discussions may be.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I do not seek to detain the Committee further on this point, but my mind was not put at ease by the intervention of the Leader of the House or by your ruling and reference to Standing Order No. 42, Mr. Murton.
I want to see the Bill on the statute book, and I accept the Leader of the House's generous description of his future behaviour and that he will seek to give us every opportunity to amend and improve the Bill in Committee.
However, in the ignorance of a Back Bencher who is not versed in the strict niceties of rulings from the Chair and procedures of the House, I am worried that some of the amendments that I should like to see included may be ruled out of order because they do not fall within the ambit of Standing Order No. 42.
The Lord President is shaking his head, but he has not given me the confidence that I have no need to worry about this matter. I am concerned that the Long Title is not correct. If we are providing by legislation for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales, we must, by that action, be producing consequential changes for the other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, since it will save my having to make a speech on this subject. Surely the important word in the Standing Order is "relevant". The Long Title says that the Bill provides for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales. The fact that such a provision may necessitate changes in relation to England automatically makes those changes relevant and amendments in the English context may properly be called. They are consequential upon and tied up with the provision for Scotland and Wales.
§ Mr. Crouch
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Unfortunately, I was watching him while he was 1717 speaking, and I did not see whether the Lord President was indicating agreement with what the hon. Gentleman said. The Lord President is nodding now, and that helps, because a nod is as good as a wink from the right hon. Gentleman.
I intend to be present for as much time as I can find during the coming months to watch the Bill's progress and to see that it is improved. I do not want to feel, however, that if, for example, I wish to table amendments to reduce the representation of Scotland and Wales in this House consequent upon the changes proposed in the Bill, they will be ruled out of order because they have nothing to do with changes in the government of Scotland and Wales.
§ Dr. Phipps
That is the nub of what we are discussing. It is not a question whether a matter is consequent upon the proposals in the Bill. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that if there were provisions that he wished to insert for purposes that were not necessarily consequent upon the Bill, he would be able to do so?
§ Mr. Crouch
Again, I was not watching the Lord President during that intervention. I can see that we shall have to keep a close eye on him. I think that he was half nodding, but I must not impute nods where there is none. The concern which I have expressed remains, to some extent.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Thank you for amending your earlier ruling and for drawing attention to Standing Order No. 42, which makes plain that if you or Mr. Speaker judge an amendment to be relevant to the subject matter of the Bill you will permit a debate to take place upon it.
An amendment may touch upon matters pertaining to England or the United Kingdom, or, as was implied by the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps), to equality of treatment for the English. These are not necessarily consequential, but they may be matters of compatibility. If you allowed a debate to take place on such amendments and it transpired that they did not, under Standing Order No. 42, fall within the Long Title, the Committee would have the power immediately to amend the Long Title and to report that fact back to the House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am not sure at what stage that would occur, but there is nothing in Standing Order No. 42 which appears to mean that it must be only at the end.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am relying strictly upon the wording of the Standing Order. If any such amendment did not fall within the Long Title, the Committee could amend the Long Title and so report to the House. There is nothing that implies that this can be done only at the end. It is left open to the Committee to determine whether it wishes to amend the Long Title.
§ The Chairman
I shall endeavour to help the hon. Gentleman. Practice and the Standing Order are intertwined, and it is done at the end.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have argued that it should be open to the House, which is supreme in its own affairs, to change its practices. You courteously pointed out to me, Mr. Murton, that it was not solely a matter of changes in the practice of the House but that Standing Order No. 42 was also relevant. As I always follow your suggestions and directions, I examined the Standing Order and, far from finding it unhelpful, I found it extremely beneficial to my case. It says precisely what I have always supposed to be the case—that if the Committee is not satisfied with the Long Title it can change it.
Nothing within the Standing Order—though possibly within practice—says that it must be at the end.
§ The Chairman
Order. I was just going to say that it would be done as a result of amendments made to the Bill.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I realise that it could arise only if amendments were made. If an amendment were carried that was outwith the Long Title, it would be for the Committee to amend the Long Title and so report to the House.
No doubt this is the wrong time and place to bandy about these points. However, many of us who respect and understand the deep feelings of the people of Scotland and Wales and who wish to see them given expression in more democratic 1719 ways are deeply concerned about the potential impact of the Bill on the United Kingdom as a whole and upon our constituencies in particular.
I am pressing these procedural points—and the procedures of the House are central to its manner of legislating—simply because I find it almost impossible to conceive that changes can be made in the government of Scotland and Wales without inevitably having repercussions on the government of England. I shall need to be persuaded again and again during our consideration of the Bill that it is possible in one body politic to make changes to the heart—which I might perhaps attribute to the Welsh—and to the head—which I might attribute to the Scots—that will not affect the rest of the entity. That is why again and again we come back to the point that a large number of hon. Members on both sides want to be assured at the beginning that we shall not be prevented by the way in which the rules are being laid down, and by the way in which the deck is being stacked, from raising these very proper matters about the possible effects of the Bill upon England and the whole of the United Kingdom.
We need a great deal of reassurance on this point. The Lord President has come some way towards giving it, although, as he has stood the procedure of the House on its head for his own purposes on numerous occasions—on some occasions that hon. Members regarded as scandalous—it is very difficult to accept from him that the procedures of the House are so important and sacrosanct, and that we should change them only with great reluctance. He is the great changer of procedure, the person who has set aside the practice of the House of Commons. Yet in this matter, where it suits him, he takes refuge in the practice that has been built up over the centuries and says that it ought not to be changed, though we are dealing with the most fundamental changes in the government of the United Kingdom.
I do not apologise for having pursued these procedural points. I am grateful to you, Mr. Murton, for having drawn attention to the advantages to my case of Standing Order No. 42. I would prefer to see the batting order rearranged so that there is no question in the mind of 1720 any English Member that matters pertaining to the government of the United Kingdom and England will be excluded from the fullest discussion.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
It is important that we get the matter right at the beginning and do not rush into what is a major constitutional issue. It has been said that this is a unique Bill. We have not discussed a constitutional Bill of this nature for hundreds of years, as the Government's White Paper said.
I am concerned about the procedure for the selection of amendments. Will the normal criteria for the selection of amendments in Committee upstairs operate on the Floor of the House? Members feel very deeply about certain amendments and the chance that the Chair may not select them.
§ The Chairman
I can give the hon. Member and the Committee my personal assurance that the normal procedures will be followed and that the most deep and careful consideration will be given to every amendment.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Bill be considered in the following order: Clauses 1 and 2; Schedule 1; Clauses 3 to 19; Schedule 2; Clauses 20 to 23; Schedule 3; Clause 24; Schedules 4 and 5; Clause 25; Schedules 6 and 7; Clause 26; Schedule 8; Clauses 27 to 56; Schedule 9; Clauses 57 to 75; Schedule 10; Clauses 76 to 85; Schedule 11; Clauses 86 and 87; Schedule 12; Clause 88; Schedule 13; Clauses 89 to 96; Schedule 14; Clauses 97 to 115; Schedule 15; new Clauses; new Schedules; and Schedule 16.