HC Deb 19 January 1977 vol 924 cc349-51

Further considered in Committee [Progress, 18th January].

[Mr. OSCAR MURTON in the Chair]

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Would you be kind enough to reconsider your decision not to select Amendment No. 479, in my name? It is linked with New Clause 14. The amendment and the new clause both deal with the situation in the Shetlands and the Orkney islands, and are related to the debate that we are about to begin on Amendment No. 14.

I regret very much that the amendments are starred, and of course I must take responsibility for that. We sought to table them late on Monday afternoon, by which time, for special reasons, the House had risen. It would help the House if you would indicate whether you are prepared to reconsider your decision so that we may include within the debate the related points referred to in the amendment and the new clause in my name as well as in Amendment No. 4 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat).

The Chairman

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. New Clause 13, which also deals with Orkney and Shetland, and New Clause 14 are somewhat different in substance. It will, however, be in order for incidental references to them to be made during the debate. Selection of the new clauses will be made on a subsequent occasion.

Mr. Pym

Thank you for that reply, Mr. Murton. Are you saying that we may refer to the contents of my new clause and my other amendment in this debate without prejudice to debating their substance fully when we come to the new clauses dealing with Orkney and Shetland and coming to a decision on them then?

The Chairman

Most certainly. They may be referred to without prejudice.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

On a point of order, Mr. Murton, of which you have been given notice. It may be in your recollection that last night I asked Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine whether, as the referendum clauses were crucial to the nature of the debate, the Chair had any view about postponing discussion. Precedents for this action are the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1976, consideration of which was postponed from 24th February to 11th March in not wholly dissimilar circumstances, and the Police Bill, consideration of which was postponed from 2nd March to 16th March.

The Chairman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his desire to raise this point of order. The Chair in the Committee of the whole House has no power in this matter. It is for the Government to decide when they wish to place the Bill on the Order Paper. It is possible for the Committee to report Progress at any time, but I am not prepared, in my discretion under Standing Order No. 28, to accept such a motion at this stage.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

Further to those points of order, Mr. Murton. Do I understand your first ruling to mean that, while New Clause 13 will not be debated now but will be fully debated later, it may be referred to now?

The Chairman

That is correct.

Mr. Grimond

With regard to the second point of order, may I put it on record that the Government's failure to table their amendment to allow for a referendum is placing me and the Committee in great difficulty with regard to Amendment No. 42?

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. May I draw your attention to Amendment No. 474, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson)? It is an extremely important amendment and is also starred, probably for the same reason as that put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). It is, I suppose, conceivable that the amendment will be reached tonight, because it relates to Clause 1. Would it be possible for you to consider selecting that amendment, or perhaps at least assuring us that if a similar amendment could be devised which would fit in with a later clause, it would be called? This is a matter of the utmost importance which all hon. Members will want to debate.

The Chairman

That amendment is not selected at this time.

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