HC Deb 14 November 1977 vol 939 cc33-48
Mr. Graham Page

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order in connection with the validity or otherwise of the Scotland Bill, which is on the Order Paper for Second Reading today.

The point of order is that, as printed, the Bill provides for changes in the government of any part of the United Kingdom, but the Long Title states it to be A Bill To provide for changes in the government of Scotland and there is added and in the constitution and functions of certain public bodies". I do not think, however, that anyone would argue that the "certain public bodies" included another place, this House, and the Ministers of the Crown.

I ask the indulgence of the House for longer than perhaps a moment in putting this point of order clearly, but I shall endeavour to condense it into as short a period as possible.

On 13th January last my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) had a notice on the Order Paper relating to the Scotland and Wales Bill—a Bill with a Title somewhat similar to that of the present Scotland Bill, except, of course, that it included Wales. It used in its Long Title the same phrase as in the Long Title to the present Scotland Bill, namely to provide for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales". The notice was a notice of intention to move: That it be an Instruction to the Commitmittee on the Bill that it should have power to make provision for alterations to the structure and functions of government in any or all parts of the United Kingdom". But you, Mr. Speaker, ruled on that occasion: 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. Then you ruled in this way: Despite the great size and complexity of the Scotland and Wales Bill, the very 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."—[Official Report, 13th January 1977; Vol. 923, c. 1663–64.] That was a ruling upon an Instruction to a Committee on a Bill which had already been committed—an Instruction to insert something in the Bill at that stage after it had been committed. However, with respect, Mr. Speaker, it followed the logic of the rules relating to the Long Title of a Bill and the contents of a Bill in relation to that Long Title.

Pages 480 and 490 of "Erskine May", referring to the contents of a Bill in reference to the notice of presentation of the Bill, state that a Bill must not contain provisions which are not authorised by that notice. That is the same as saying the Long Title, because the Long Title repeats the notice of presentation.

"Erskine May" states: If it should appear that these rules have not been observed the bill must be withdrawn. "Erskine May" adds: Such objections, however, should be taken before the second reading. That, Mr. Speaker, is what I am now doing. It is not merely that the promotor of the Bill should withdraw it, but that you, Mr. Speaker, can order it to be withdrawn in those circumstances.

At the foot of page 490 of "Erskine May" about half a dozen references are given to instances when the contents of Bills have gone beyond the Long Title and have been ordered to be withdrawn. I quote from one instance when Mr. Speaker allowed the Bill to proceed but only after emphasising the necessity of keeping within the strict rules of Parliamentary procedure and of giving the House and the Committee to understand by the Title of a Bill what the Bill is and what is to be done by it. In your previous ruling, Mr. Speaker, you made quite clear what a Bill is and what is to be done by it when it says in the Long Title that it is a Bill to change the government of Scotland. It is not a Bill that can provide for changes in the government of any other part of the United Kingdom. Clause 1 of the present Bill clearly confirms that.

However, in four instances as the Bill is printed it provides for changes in the laws of the United Kingdom by the Scottish Assembly, by Her Majesty in Council, by a Minister of the Crown, or by this House alone. The changes are not limited to changes of that part of the law of the United Kingdom which affects Scotland. Whether any change of the law can be described as a change in government may be questionable, but certainly a change in the method of changing the law—for example, enabling the Scottish Assembly to change the law of England—must be a change in the government of England, and that is not written into the Long Title of the Bill. So also must a change in the law relating to the ministerial powers over the activities of the individual citizens in England and Wales be a change in the government of part of the United Kingdom other than Scotland.

I turn to the Bill itself. On page 41, in Schedule 2, by the combined effect of Clauses 18 and 19 and Schedule 2, the Scottish Assembly is to be given legislative competence to extend a Scottish Assembly Act to any part of the United Kingdom other than Scotland if that extension is necessary or expedient for making other provisions effective or for the enforcement of other provisions: or are otherwise incidental to or consequential on any other provisions. That power of extension in my submision, Mr. Speaker, is not limited to extensions of a Scottish Assembly Act in order to alter laws of the other parts of the United Kingdom as far as they affect Scotland. It seems to me to go far beyond that. It is wide open.

For example, it might be expedient to have uniformity in the law relating to education, traffic, transport, health, planning, and so on, throughout the United Kingdom. It might be easy to plead that it would be expedient to have that uniformity and thereby to say that it is consequential on some Act passed by the Scottish Assembly—that is, to justify legislation by the Scottish Assembly affecting England and Wales.

I turn to Clause 80, on page 37, which provides: A Minister of the Crown may by order make such amendments in any Act passed before or in the same session as this Act and in any other enactment passed or made before the passing of this Act as appear to him necessary or expedient in consequence of this Act. That power is not limited to the effect of a United Kingdom Act upon Scotland. It permits any Act, in its effect upon England and Wales, and, indeed, probably Northern Ireland as well, to be altered by ministerial order, and I do not see how one can say that that is limited to changes in the government of Scotland by providing that it must appear to that Minister to be necessary or expedient in consequence of this Act. I turn now to Clause 35, on page 16, where it is provided: Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any such amendments of the law of the United Kingdom or any part of it (including any provision contained in this Act) and such further provision …". There are three qualifications to that order-making power. One is that it must appear to Her to be necessary or expedient", and I have said before how uniformity, for example, throughout the United Kingdom could be pleaded as being expedient.

The second qualification is that it must be in consequence of any provision made by or under any Scottish Assembly Act. I think that I have already shown how wide such an Act can be.

Thirdly, any such order must be approved in draft by a resolution of each House of Parliament. What protection is the approval of the draft of such an order? To discover that we must turn to Clause 74, on page 34, where it says: Where a resolution passed by the House of Commons … is in pursuance of any provision of this Act capable of being confirmed under this section, it may be confirmed by a further resolution of the House of Commons …". To summarise the procedure: it is carried out by the Commons passing the resolution, by the Lords failing to pass it in the next 10 days, and by the Commons passing it again in another 10 days. Thus, this resolution will be confirmed, whatever that may mean, within a period of less than three weeks.

On the face of it, Clause 74 applies only to commencement orders under Clauses 81 and 82. Although commencement orders can be complicated, applying to one part of the country, or to different parts of the Bill, and so on, that might not be so bad, although I would say at once that this is a wholly novel form of legislation in this House and, as such, cannot possibly be said to come only within changes in the government of Scotland.

However, I think that it goes further than that. Let us suppose that, under Clause 35, Her Majesty in Council thought it expedient that Clause 74—the Commons resolution clause—should apply to Clause 35. The legislation which then could be applied by Order in Council—approved only by the Commons—to the whole of the United Kingdom is absolutely wide open. On that basis, I think that the provisions of the Bill as printed go far beyond the Long Title, as you, Mr. Speaker, described it in your previous ruling upon a Long Title, the words of which were very much the same.

May I quickly come back to the first point I made? What should be done with a Bill which offends the Long Title in this way? It should be withdrawn.

In 1908 there were two cases of which I have supplied you, Mr. Speaker, and the Clerks of the House with the references. If I may use a quotation from those, Mr. Speaker said in one: I find that a considerable number of clauses go beyond the title of the Bill. Therefore the Bill cannot be proceeded with. In the other one, the Speaker said: This Bill is out of order. Clauses 2 and 3 go beyond the title of the Bill. Those are not the only two cases in the history of this House when the Speaker has decided that, because a Bill as printed goes beyond the Long Title, it should be withdrawn. There are cases in 1827, 1829, 1835, 1837 and 1937. Indeed, I am not propounding any new proposition whatsoever, Mr. Speaker. It is clear that a Bill as printed must not go beyond the Notice of Presentation, which is the Long Title to the Bill.

Mr. Ronald Bell


Mr. Speaker

Order. Since the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) was good enough to give me a detailed statement of his point of order this morning, thus providing me with an opportunity to have considered judgment upon the matter and to give a lot of time and thought to it, it might help the House if I gave my answer to the right hon. Gentleman now.

The provisions of the Bill make clear that the legislative powers which are proposed to be conferred upon the Scottish Assembly are in no way absolute. No power is conferred upon the Assembly to legislate for the remainder of the United Kingdom, except in the context of action concerning devolved matters which relate to Scotland. The purpose stated in the Title is to make changes in the government of Scotland. Since, as matters stand at present, government is applied uniformly to Scotland and the other parts of the United Kingdom, I do not think that it would be conceivable to provide that a change in the government of Scotland could in no circumstances have an incidental effect upon the government of other parts of the realm. The important thing is that the second should be seen to be totally dependent on the first and this, in my view, is secured by the existing provisions of the Bill.

Finally, I should remind the House that a relevant precedent exists in the shape of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. The Title of that Act is to make new provision for the government of Northern Ireland. Yet, although this makes no mention of the United Kingdom, provisions in the Act confer powers for the making of Orders in Council, subject to the approval of this Parliament, to amend the law of any part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to advance some slightly different arguments of which I think I have given to you, albeit short notice, some notice. My right hon. Friend referred to the terms of the Notice of Presentation, which is the Long Title. My first submission is that there are different criteria for Second Reading and Committee stages. In the case of Second Reading, the Bill must conform with the Notice of Presentation, namely, the Long Title, whereas, when one is considering what amendments may be proposed in Committee, there is the further question of the scope of the measure. Whichever of those tests one applied, I submit that one would find that the Bill did not comply with them. But I submit that it is the stricter test which applies to Second Reading.

Then I invite your attention, Mr. Speaker, to Clause 35, to which reference has been made. Dealing with it not as a matter of substance but as a matter of order, what is important is that hon. Members in all parts of the House should know at the time of Second Reading what they are voting for. They cannot know in full detail what the Bill contains until it is considered in Committee, but they should know that all its provisions are contained within a clearly-defined vector, or sector. That is the purpose of the rule of the House to which I am appealing now.

Clause 35 bears a deceptive resemblance to the sort of clauses one has seen in a good many Bills. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you referred to one in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act. These are not uncommon provisions but, in my submission, one must look very carefully at these repeal power clauses to see whether they are truly consequential upon or dependent upon the main provisions.

Those that I have been able to find are all clearly made subordinate to the main provisions of the Act in question. For example, it is said in the Highways Act 1959 that it can only apply to provisions in existing Acts which are inconsistent with or redundant in the light of the provisions in that Act. In the Public Health Act 1875 there are similar limitations. I submit that neither in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act nor in any other Act is any general power given of repeal of other statutes.

But Clause 35 goes as far as that. It is not consequential, in spite of the rubric, which is misleading in this respect. The wording says Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any"— I leave out the word "such"— amendments of the law of the United Kingdom or any part of it … as appear to Her to be necessary or expedient"— "expedient" is a very wide word— in consequence of any provision"— not in this Bill, but— made by or under any Scottish Assembly Act". This is not a pawn, or even a bishop: it is a queen that can go any distance in any direction. The Scottish Assembly might pass any Act on any subject within its competence, and under this clause the Secretary of State may then consider the new position that has arisen and make, in respect of all the United Kingdom or any part of it, any new law which he thinks it would be expedient to have in the new context, the new circumstances.

One knows, of course, that usually there is the backstop of the courts. If an order is made which is ultra vires, even though it has the affirmative procedure, the courts can nevertheless lay it aside as being ultra vires. The mischief of this clause is that it is so widely drafted that the courts could never say that anything done under it was ultra vires. It would be impossible to say that, because the clause refers to any part of the law of the United Kingdom which it is deemed expedient to change in the light of any action of the Scottish Parliament. That distinguishes Clause 35 from all the precedents with which one is familar, in private or public Acts, allowing redundant provisions to be repealed. Such a provision must appear in the Notice of Presentation.

I conclude by drawing attention to the Long Title, which provides for changes in the government of Scotland", which is the main business of the Bill. It then provides—in Clause 66 and the related schedule—for changes in the functions of certain public bodies. The draftsman thought it necessary to put that into the Long Title because the Bill was not making provision for the governance of Scotland, but was adjusting the functions of public bodies in the light of the changes which the main part of the Bill introduced. If that is so, how much more necessary it is that legislation at large and at two removes should be reflected in the Notice of Presentation, because, were it not for the two points of order that have been raised today, only a handful of hon. Members would have known what they were approving in principle on Second Reading.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that hon. Members who wish to pursue this point of order will be brief. I have a long list of those who wish to participate in the debate, and some hon. Members might have to be kept out if the points of order take too long. However, I want to listen to the argument.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

If I may continue in the same vein, Mr. Speaker, Clause 1 states: The following provisions of this Act make changes in the government of Scotland as part of the United Kingdom. They do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it. Parliament does not have such authority. It is the Crown in Parliament that makes the laws, not Parliament on its own. If, therefore, this preparatory statement is passed, the Royal Prerogative will be circumvented and there will be a change in the law—indeed, in the law-making process—of the United Kingdom as a whole.

To circumvent the Royal Prerogative would, one would have thought, even under the precedents that you quoted, Mr. Speaker, have required a mention in the Long Title of The Bill. There is no such mention. Had Clause 1 read: They do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of the Queen in Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it", I should have no criticism of that. But it does not say that. It circumvents enactment by the Sovereign and substitutes enactment by Parliament, which is, to put it mildly, a constitutional novelty which should not pass or be included in the Bill without inclusion in the Long Title and a mention of waiver of prerogative.

Mr. Madden

You may be pleased to know, Mr. Speaker, that my point of order is entirely different from those raised already, and that I shall certainly be more brief.

Last Thursday—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Does the hon. Member's point of order relate to the Bill?

Mr. Madden

No, Mr. Speaker. It is concerned with an entirely different matter.

Mr. Speaker

In that case I shall deal with the hon. Member later, I hope.

Mr. Gow

May I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to the foot of page 506 of the latest edition of "Erskine May," where it is stated: The objects of a bill are stated in its long title, which should cover everything contained in the bill, as introduced"? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) has rightly drawn your attention to the fact that the Long Title of the Bill refers to changes in the constitution and functions of certain public bodies. Schedule 13 lists 18 so-called public bodies. You might have thought, Mr. Speaker, that in the definition clause of the Bill we should be told what are public bodies, but the first item listed in Schedule 13 is not a public body at all. Therefore, in my respectful submission, the Long Title is so framed that it cannot include the first Item in Schedule 13, Part I.

That item is, of course, the British Waterways Board. I know that to be a nationalised industry, because it is top on my list as a candidate for denationalisation. Unlike the other bodies, which really are bodies, it is a nationalised industry. I submit, therefore, that the Long Title does not extend to the British Waterways Board because that is not a public body whereas the other items in the schedule are.

That is a defect in the Long Title of the Bill. If it had been intended to cover the British Waterways Board, the Long Title should have referred to a nationalised industry and not to a public body. That is another reason for the Bill to be withdrawn.

Mr. Tebbit

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I understood you rightly, you based the ruling you gave earlier upon the argument that it was clear from the Bill that the powers under Clause 35 could be used only in matters which were clearly and specifically concerned with the government of Scotland. If we discussed this entirely in a vacuum it would be difficult to make the point that that conceivably may not be so. For example, it would undoubtedly be in order—indeed, I understand that it is the intention of some hon. Members—to move amendments to grant certain powers of taxation to the Scottish Assembly.

You will, then, perceive that if, for example, the Scottish Assembly changed the duty on, say, Scotch whisky, and by some stroke of genius decided to reduce it, and that action caused difficulty in the trafficking of Scotch whisky across the border, or a fall in the sales of Scotch whisky in England, it might be deemed expedient—indeed, even necessary—to take powers under Clause 35 to introduce orders in this House to reduce or change the taxation of the United Kingdom—that is, to change English taxation—in direct consequence of an act of the Scottish Assembly. That, falling directly under the powers of Clause 35, would clearly be expedient.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield pointed out, Clause 35 is drawn so widely that it would not be possible to rule that it was ultra vires. But a change in the law which would enable the taxation of England to be decided or altered by Order in Council, subject only to the normal procedures of such orders, would be a change in the law of England and the government of England. Therefore, surely this Bill is out of order.

Mr. Speaker

I have listened with great care to the arguments advanced by the hon. Gentlemen. It so happens that they are all covered by the consideration which I had already given this morning before I gave my ruling to the House, with the exception of the point raised by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who thought that the Royal Prerogative was being challenged by the Bill. The hon. Member knows "Erskine May" as well as he knows Holy Scripture—I realise that—and he will not be surprised, therefore, to be reminded that "Erskine May", in Chapter 1, says: Parliament is composed of the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. These several powers collectively form the legislature; and as distinct members of the constitution they exercise functions and enjoy privileges peculiar to each.


Mr. George Gardiner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order is entirely separate from the matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) but, as some of his submission overlaps that of which I gave you notice, I may be able to curtail it.

I submit that we should not proceed with the Scotland Bill this day on the around that it is defective by including another clause that lies outside the scope of the Bill as defined in its Notice of Presentation and in its Long Title. Both Notice of Presentation and the Long Title read: A Bill to provide for changes in the government of Scotland and in the constitution and functions of certain public bodies. In my submission the clause which falls outside the scope of that is Clause 82, providing for a referendum and, depending upon its result, for certain steps to be taken to repeal this legislation by Order in Council.

I wish to stress, Mr. Speaker, that in making this submission I am in no way concerned with the merits or otherwise of holding a referendum. In fact, I supported the reasoned amendment that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) tabled to the Second Reading of the Scotland and Wales Bill, which secured from the Government the pledge that a referendum would be held. I am also among those who have added their names to the first amendment on today's Order Paper seeking a separate referendum for the people of the Shetland Islands. So my submission to you, Mr. Speaker, must not be taken as opposition to the holding of such referenda, by proper constitutional means, should the appropriate point ever be reached.

My point arises from the fact, laid down in "Erskine May", that there should not be provisions in a Bill which are not covered and authorised by its Notice of Presentation and Title. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby said, there are precedents for Mr. Speaker ruling that where a Bill contains clauses falling outside its Long Title, that Bill cannot proceed. I raise the issue of the inclusion of referendum and repeal provisions in a Bill in which no provision is made for such practice in the Long Title.

You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, of the rulings by Mr. Speaker in 1893 and 1912 when Instructions were put down that Government of Ireland Bills should not come into force until approved by a majority of the electorate in referenda. In 1912 Mr. Speaker said of one such Instruction: I have come to the conclusion that an ad referendum is a matter of such transcendent importance that it could not be brought within the scope of the Bill by an Instruction to the Committee. I know that the ad referendum has been included in the provisions of some Private Bills enabling the ratepayers to decide by a vote whether or not they should adopt a particular Act which imposed a charge upon them. But this Instruction is a proposal to enable the electors to override the decision of this House; to go over the heads of the elected representatives of the people, and to submit to the electors generally whether a Bill of this great magnitude should come into force or not. That, I think, is quite beyond the scope of the Bill, and could not be brought within the scope of the Bill by an Instruction."—[Official Report, 11th June 1912; Vol. XXXIX, c. 743.] In 1920, during discussion of another Government of Ireland Bill, the Chairman ruled that an amendment with the same intent lay outside the scope of the Bill and so was out of order.

These precedents were cited by my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) on 10th February this year during discussion of the Scotland and Wales Bill when he submitted to the Chair that in selecting for consideration the new clause in the name of the Leader of the House providing for referenda to be held in Scotland and Wales before the provisions of the Act should take effect the Chair was: departing from the precedents very firmly set by past rulings established in strictly comparable circumstances. On that occasion the Chair did not accept his submission, largely on the grounds that: the Referendum Act 1975 has largely destroyed the basis upon which the previous rulings were given."—[Official Report, 10th February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 1674–78.] There was considerable concern in all parts of the House over the implications of this, and a motion was tabled in the names of many right hon. and hon. Members seeking to prevent this ruling from being taken subsequently as a precedent. But, before that motion was moved, you, Mr. Speaker, stated: I am, therefore, ruling that the decision referred to in the motion is not one that is regarded as a binding precedent for future legislation."—[Official Report, 30th March 1977; Vol. 929, c. 538.] The consequence of that ruling is that the status quo ante is restored. The earlier precedents I have cited, therefore, are still directly relevant to our situation today. They make it clear that referendum provisions should not be added to a Bill by amendment or through the mechanism of an Instruction if they fall outside the terms of its Notice of Presentation and Long Title. If an amendment is out of order by virtue of its contents in relation to the Long Title, so must be a Bill with a clause of the same content that is equally uncovered. The referendum on continued membership of the European Community referred to by the Chairman on 10th February was, of course, conducted as a consequence of legislation that dealt specifically with that matter in its Long Title.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, Clause 82 of this Bill, presented for Second Reading today, provides that Before a draft of the first order to be made under section 81 of this Act … a referendum shall be held", and, if it subsequently appears to the Secretary of State, having regard to the answers given in the referendum and all other circumstances, that this Act should not be brought into effect he may lay before Parliament the draft of an Order in Council", and, if approved by a resolution of each House", that legislation would be repealed. This constitutes a change in the procedure for repealing legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament and after Royal Assent. As such, it cannot be said to fall within the Long Title's provision for changes in the government of Scotland Or in the constitution and functions of certain public bodies". It concerns the very procedure by which United Kingdom legislation is given effect, and no cover is offered for this in the wording of the Notice of Presentation or Long Title. Therefore, so long as Clause 82 remains in the Bill before us, that Bill's Long Title is defective. We should not proceed to give it Second Reading consideration.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, therefore, to rule accordingly so that the Bill may be withdrawn and, if the Leader of the House so wishes, re-presented to us in a correct and constitutional form.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman did me the courtesy of supplying me in writing this morning with the very arguments that he has now advanced to the House. This has given me an opportunity to consider them at length.

The House will recall that on 30th March last, when it was about to enter into debate on the motion criticising the Chairman of Ways and Means for having selected a new clause to the Scotland and Wales Bill which provided for a referendum, I made a statement, as the hon. Gentleman says. I said the words that the hon. Gentleman said, but I prefaced them by saying that I believed that the Chairman had been entirely correct in what he did, and the House did not dissent from that. I am still of the same belief and could not with consistency now rule that such a provision is out of order when included in the Bill itself.

Mr. John Mendelson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will recall, a number of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House were involved in the discussion on the last point that you mentioned. What I am concerned about in submitting this point of order is that, as the matter has now been raised in relation to the Long Title of the Bill, which I, for instance, do not hold to be defective—other hon. Gentlemen may share my view on this—I am anxious that the rights of the House to reconsider the question of the referendum clause itself should not be lost because you have now ruled that it does not properly arise under the problem of the Long Title.

As you will know, at the time, as a result of the Chairman's ruling, a lot of controversy arose, and I believe that at one time a motion was on the Order Paper which was later removed after certain consultations had taken place. It was decided not to take the matter any further at that time. But, as new legislation is now before the House, I think that those of us who had an interest in this matter should now, without prejudice, be able to raise it again with you, although you have now ruled in connection with the Long Title of the Bill.

Mr. Speaker

I think it possible that the hon. Gentleman may have misinterpreted what I said. The right of amendments in Committee is not affected by my statement in any way. The motion on the Order Paper to which the hon. Member has referred was withdrawn in the Chamber after a very short debate—in fact, after a statement by myself.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be possible for you to have agreed with the ruling of the Chairman of Ways and Means on that occasion, which was given after Second Reading and in relation to an amendment, while still adopting the stricter rule which relates to conformity with the Notice of Presentation, because on this occasion my right hon. Friend has raised this matter before Second Reading and when the stricter rule applies? Therefore, you could agree with the Chairman that he had given the right ruling on that occasion and still, quite logically, apply the stricter rule now.

Mr. Speaker

I have looked with great care at the precedents of my predecessors and I have examined this matter in depth, but I must stand by the ruling that I have given.