HC Deb 13 November 1978 vol 958 cc30-2
Mr. English

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On page 534 of the Order Paper, among the remaining Orders of the Day and notices of motions, stands item 29, which says: That this House no longer has confidence in the Chairman of Ways and Means. Will you order the record to be put right, since that motion should stand in the names of myself and of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and not in his name alone, as it is printed? It was put down in the names of both of us on Friday night after the circumstances which took place at 3.59 p.m. that day.

I am sure that you would rule me out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I went into those circumstances except in accordance with my motion, but I would like to ask you how your own rulings are to be enforced.

You will recollect that when the digital clocks were installed on 13th October 1976 you gave a ruling which stated: I propose in future to go by the time shown on the digital clocks, which I think are clearly visible to all hon. Members."—[Official Report, 13th October 1976;Vol. 917, [...]. 428.] As long as you have been in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, that has been true. You will also have learnt, however, at column 1463 of Friday's Hansard, of a statement by one of your Deputies that I rose within one minute of four o'clock, less than 20 seconds before. You will be aware that the digital clocks switch over only from minute to minute. In other words, that is a quite clear statement that I rose before four o'clock, although you are also no doubt aware that the same individual denies it at column 1461.

I wonder, since that is the case, your ruling having been broken, and because, I would have thought, of the great confusion to the whole House if it is not adhered to, whether you would void the proceedings which took place after 3.59 p.m. on Friday and order the appropriate proceedings to be taken again on this forthcoming Friday.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) gave my office notice this morning that he would seek to raise this point of order. I am grateful for the notice because it enables me to give a considered reply.

First, I will, of course, see that the record is put right to include the hon. Member's name on the motion. I think that it has already been explained to the hon. Gentleman that a genuine mistake was responsible for that omission.

I have read the report in Hansard of the events in the House on Friday afternoon 10th November. The first comment I wish to make is that I strongly deprecate the expressions that were used in addressing the Deputy Speaker. Those of us who seek to serve this House in the Chair have a difficult task at the best of times, and we are all entitled at least to courtesy even when hon. Members are speaking under great emotion.

I understand that there was much noise in the House at four o'clock, and I know what it is like in such conditions. The Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means did not see the hon. Gentleman rise in his place and he has told the House so. Similarly, I have on occasions had to explain to the House that I did not see the hon. Gentleman. He will recall that last week he came to me when I was in the Chair and said that he wished to raise a point of order, but when the moment came for his point of order to be raised I had overlooked it and was moving on.

It is easy when the House is excited for such an oversight to take place. Nor is it by any means the first time that an hon. Member has failed to be seen by the Chair. I wish that hon. Members would sometimes consider what they would do if they were sat in this Chair trying to serve the House in times of stress.

I must explain to the hon. Gentleman that I have not the power to annul the business of the House on Friday afternoon. Only the House has power to do that.

I want in conclusion to say in the strongest terms possible that I have every confidence in my right hon. Friend the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means and I have not the slightest hesitation in accepting his word

Mr. English

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. In the incident regarding yourself and myself which you quoted, you, of course, immediately put yourself right by recollecting that I had spoken to you about my intention. If such had occurred on Friday, I would have had no complaint, but it did not.

May I also suggest to you that we must accept all the words of Mr. Deputy Speaker on Friday? I apologise if in the heat of the moment I said things about him that I should not have said, but on the other hand he said three things. The right hon. Gentleman says that he did not see me; he says that he knew that I was rising to speak, because I had spoken to him; and he states the time at which I rose to speak. We must accept all three statements of his, I think.

Mr. Speaker

The House works on good will—the fact that I am here makes no difference to what I shall say—but above all it depends on proper respect for the Chair on both sides of the House.

Many people have said in the heat of the moment things that they have regretted afterwards. I know that Mr. Deputy Speaker will accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. I hope that the incident can now be forgotten.

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