HC Deb 25 January 1978 vol 942 cc1553-6

Amendments made: No. 583, in page 89, leave out lines 9 to 16 and insert— '9. Every regional and islands council shall place the services of its officers at the disposal of the counting officer for its area; and if the council of any region or the counting officer for any region so requests, the council of any district situated in that region shall place the services of its officers at the disposal of the counting officer for that region.'.

No. 624, in page 89, leave out lines 29 to 35 and insert— 'Parliament has decided to consult the electorate in Scotland on the question whether the Scotland Act 1978 should be put into effect '.—[Mr. John Smith.]

Schedule 17, as amended, agreed to.

Mr. Pym

On a point of order, Sir Myer. The whole Committee will be aware of the disgraceful incident that took place in the Division Lobby earlier. We remember that earlier today, when the Government were criticised for what they tried to do on the first business this afternoon, they tried to resist accusations of skulduggery. What occurred in the Division Lobby less than an hour ago warranted a description infinitely worse than that. It was a deliberate attempt to try to frustrate a subsequent vote when the Committee was operating under the allocation of time procedure.

We are deeply indebted to you, Sir Myer, for taking the steps which you felt to be justified. I should like to ask you whether you are prepared to tell the Committee the details of the report you received from the Serjeant at Arms, whom you thought fit to ask to go and look into the Lobby. As you will know, there are precedents for what you did and there are precedents for subsequent action which the House decided to take on earlier occasions.

I ask whether you would feel able to tell the Committee what the Serjeant at Arms reported to you, because there was a very strong feeling in all parts of the Committee that what happened was a deliberate attempt to try to cheat the Committee on a subsequent vote. That is a very serious accusation to make, and I make it in all honesty. I ask whether you would report to the Committee the information which you received.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)


Hon. Members


The First Deputy Chairman

Order. There is no sense in the spokesman for the Opposition, on the one hand, making a point of order and other hon. Members, on the other hand, trying to usurp the duties of the Chair.

Mr. Foot

Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. My view is that, if there was improper delay in the Lobbies, that would be a most reprehensible matter. I therefore hope that you will consider the representations put to you. I am not sure whether the best course would be to report to the Committee now or at some later stage. But I would not condone, nor, I believe, would the Committee, any use of the Lobbies for preventing subsequent votes.

Although this is not on a point of order, may I also say, with regard to the votes that have taken place, that the Government's view is that the decisions of the Committee are most unwise? We shall seek the normal ways of presenting these matters to the House again, just as we are entitled to do according to the normal procedures.

I do not retract from what I have said in response to the point of order, and I believe that the whole House would wish to see that matter disposed of quite separately.

Several Hon. Members


The First Deputy Chairman

Order. There is no use in prolonging this matter. As hon. Members know, I have given careful consideration to what action the Chair could take in the circumstances reported to me. I asked the Serjeant at Arms to make certain inquiries, which he did, and he reported to me. I took what I considered to be appropriate action. The practice and duties of the House and the Chair were not in any way hindered, and the business of the Committee proceeded as the House wished it to proceed. That is all I have to say.

Several Hon. Members


The First Deputy Chairman


Then The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again, pursuant to Order [16th November].

Committee report Progress; to sit again tomorrow.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Sir Myer—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Order. The Chairman is no longer in the Chair.

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not know about you, I do not know about the rest of the House, but I am getting worried about the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) as Leader of the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows, as I hope all other hon. Members appreciate, that I, acting now as Mr. Deputy Speaker, am not going to take any points of order dealing with when the House was in Committee.