§ Mr. Rodgers
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the action that Her Majesty's Government propose to take and the further consultations that are planned in implementing the decision of NATO Ministers to modernise theatre nuclear forces.This does not refer generally to yesterday's meeting of NATO Ministers, Mr. Speaker, or even to the decision to deploy new nuclear weapons, but specifically to the action and consultations that are planned to implement the decision.
On importance, Mr. Speaker, there can be no argument whatever as to the widespread public discussion of the Government's action. Today's statement demonstrates that there is no doubt of the great importance attached to this matter both by the people of this country and by those who accept that the decision has been made but who have continuing doubts. As to urgency—this is the nub of the matter—the Prime Minister is 1558 leaving for Washington this weekend. The outcome of the NATO meeting will be discussed as part of a wider exchange of views with President Carter. It is essential that the House discusses this matter before further commitments are entered into.
It is simply not good enough, Mr. Speaker, to leave these matters over until the House returns in mid-January, or even to wait a few days to discuss them. As the mood of the House this afternoon has shown, a date at the earliest opportunity is now needed.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) gave me notice this morning before 12 o'clock that he might seek to make an application under Standing Order No. 9. The right hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the action that Her Majesty's Government propose to take and the further consultations that are planned in implementing the decision of NATO Ministers to modernise theatre nuclear forces.I have listened with great care to the exchanges this afternoon and to the arguments that the right hon. Gentleman advanced. The House knows that an emergency debate is not the only way in which this matter can be discussed, but it limits my responsibility in the matter as to whether it shall be debated tonight or on Monday next. That is the limit of the power that is given to me, and I do not decide whether it will be debated. The House itself must remember that. I have no power to decide whether it shall be debated.
As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have to rule that the right hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—Order. There can be no point of order on my ruling.
§ Mr. Heffer
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The point has nothing to do with your ruling. It is another matter of importance. On the Order Paper there is 1559 notice of debates on the Civil Estimates and Supplementary Estimates which I understand will, or can, be discussed after they have been passed on the basis of the Consolidated Fund Bill.
Those Estimates include an increase from £36 million to £40 million for the secret service. When will it be possible for hon. Members of this House to query this increase of £4 million? When may we ask what that £4 million is for, or what the £36 million is for? What accountability is there in the matter? Are the sums for extra pay or new equipment? What is the extra money for? When and how are we in this House able to query the affairs of the secret service, the amount of money spent on it, the way in which it operates, and its accountability to Parliament and the people of this country?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he made his point of order. Today's debate on the motion is in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. Friends. Therefore, it would not be possible for the hon. Gentleman to raise that matter today. The remaining motion on the Order Paper, which presumably will not be reached before 10 o'clock, will have to be put forthwith without debate. However, the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill takes place next week, and the hon. Gentleman—or any other hon. Member—would be able to raise that topic if he were successful in the ballot. I wish the hon. Gentleman the best of Christmas luck. That is all I can say.
§ Mr. Les Huckfield
On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have been informed that I also tried to give notice that I intended to make a Standing Order No. 9 application, but under the Standing Order notice must be given by 12 o'clock. Unfortunately, the urgency of the matter was not apparent until after then, because I was in the British Aerospace Bill Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
I had intended to remind the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), as I reminded the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) earlier in the week, that if notice is not given before 12 o'clock a Standing Order No. 9 application cannot be made. However, 1560 since the hon. Member says that the information was not available before 12 o'clock, he may make his application.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I shall not trespass, on the time of the House or upon your generosity, Mr. Speaker. I seek to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the failure of certain Department of Health and Social Security offices to make appropriate social security payments at Christmas time through the suspension of staff at their various offices.I was unable to give you the appropriate notice, because the urgency of the matter was not brought to my attention by 12 o'clock. I apologise to you, Sir, and to the House for not being able to give that notice.
I submit that the matter is urgent, because if action is not taken by the Department the backlog will not be cleared and many people in my constituency and others will not receive their payments in time for Christmas. There is a cooperative attitude by the Civil and Public Services Association. Action by the management side—and that means the Secretary of State—is necessary if progress is to be made.
I submit that the matter is urgent and that it requires action. I submit that it falls within the competence of the Secretary of State. Unless action is taken and unless the Secretary of State involves himself, many of my constituents and many constituents in other parts of the country will have a bleak and miserable Christmas.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Nuneaton asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the failure of certain Department of Health and Social Security offices to make appropriate social security payments at Christmas time through the suspension of staff at their various offices.I listened with care to the hon. Member. I realise that he has raised an important matter. The House has instructed me to take into account the several factors set out in Standing Order No. 9 but 1561 to give no reasons for my decision. I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.