HC Deb 12 July 1979 vol 970 cc686-702

Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

4.17 p.m.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Bolton, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It concerns the Bill, but it has implications for all our procedures in the House and the way in which Bills are presented and considered. It concerns two related facts. The first concerns part of the statement made at the front of the Bill called the explanatory memorandum. At the bottom is a section entitled " Financial and manpower effects of the Bill ", which states: The Bill has no implications either of a financial character or for public service manpower requirements. That is incorrect. I refer the House to page 439 of " Erskine May ". There is no obligation on anyone who is bringing in a Bill to present the House with an explanatory memorandum, but there is an obligation on anyone who presents such a memorandum to make sure that it is accurate. The Government have failed to do that.

The eighth special report of the Estimates Committee says in reference to financial memoranda in explanatory memoranda: where it is not practical to provide in the financial memorandum an estimate of the public expenditure likely to be involved under a Bill because of its permissive nature, then estimates on an illustrative basis should be given. It goes on to say that it is most important to ensure that the quotation of illustrative figures is not likely to prove misleading to Parliament. If it is important that illustrations are not misleading to Parliament, it is even more important that basic statements, such as the one at the front of this Bill, are not misleading.

However, the second point is the one that I really wish to raise. If this Bill has no financial implications, it is not necessary for the House to be presented with a money resolution for the Bill. On page 756 " Erskine May " states: any provision in a bill which is likely materially to raise the level of relevant local authority expenditure is liable to raise the level of rate support grant. A money resolution is therefore needed to cover the resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund. That is very clear. Statements were given by the then Government in 1949 that any financial implications in Bills of this kind would be accompanied by money resolutions. That undertaking still holds firm, and has been reiterated by successive Governments.

Therefore, it is clear that if this Bill has financial implications the House should have been presented with a money resolution. Having said that, it is incumbent upon me to prove that there are financial implications if I am saying that there should be a money resolution.

The examples that I wish to cite in detail involve money that has been committed for spending under this Bill in my area of Bolton. There has been additional expenditure in Bolton recently as a direct result of the Bill. Basically, Bolton had intended to go comprehensive in September. Parents and teachers had been told that there would be no 11-plus this year, parents had been asked for their choice of comprehensive schools, and arrangements had been made for comprehensive intakes. That was the situation before 3 May. After the Queen's Speech, when the new Government announced their intentions of bringing forward this Bill, the local Conservative-controlled council in Bolton changed its mind and said that it would not go comprehensive in September after all. It is quite clear that the changes that have been made in Bolton are dependent on this legislation.

It is now up to me to make clear the timing of these events because the financial implications result from Bolton taking advantage of the conditions in the Bill. At the end of May the local education authority instituted emergency selection procedures. It decided to hold an 11-plus examination this year and this cost a great deal of money. Money was required for examination papers, administrative and postage costs, and overtime payments to the staff involved. I can provide details if necessary. All these items of expenditure are important ones to which the Government contribute through the rate support grant.

Also, there has been a great deal of wasted expenditure in Bolton, especially on teachers' pay. Some head teachers have been appointed to schools which do not exist, and there will be changes in the building programme. The local authority is spending £33,000 on teachers' pay and £73,000 on the school buildings simply because of these changes in the Bill. All this would not have happened—indeed, could not have happened—had it not been for this Bill.

Another matter that should be mentioned this afternoon, as well as the expenditure by the local authority, is the promise made by the present Secretary of State when he came to Bolton before the election. Some of his views were reiterated by his party leader a week later—not that this did the Tories much good in Bolton. The present Secretary of State said that Bolton Conservatives should not implement the comprehensive scheme but should hang on to the grammar schools. He then said that if the council did not go comprehensive he would be prepared to provide extra funds for Bolton schools. I believe that that means that the Secretary of State has committed the Government to providing extra funds to Bolton if it took advantage of this Bill. I have here press statements which say that the Tories would give Bolton more money for new school buildings as a reward for fighting against going comprehensive.

The only way the local authority could fight against going comprehensive was by using this Bill. Therefore, it is obvious that the Bill has financial implications through the rate support grant on the Consolidated Fund, and because of the commitment of the Secretary of State to Bolton. This commitment must fall on the Department of Education and Science. Therefore, I think that this grave and serious matter should be considered now before we proceed to the Bill.

Mr. Speaker

I have listened to the hon. Lady's extended point of order with great care. I could have told her at the beginning that the substance of an explanatory memorandum to a Bill before the House is the responsibility of the Member in charge of the Bill and is not a matter for the Chair. However, I wanted to give her an opportunity to make her case. The points that the hon. Member has just raised would have been entirely relevant had they been repeated in a debate on the Third Reading, but this is an argument for a debate, and not a point of order for me.

Mrs. Taylor

I mentioned two points, Mr. Speaker. The explanatory memorandum was only one. The other concerned the absence of the money resolution when it was required.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept what you say about the explanatory memorandum, but, although it is not an integral part of the Bill and not relevant to order, it is an indication of the form that the Bill should take, and of the absence or presence of a money resolution.

Money resolutions are covered by paragraph 4 on page 756 of " Erskine May ". The issue first arose in the post-war Labour Government when an equalisation grant was introduced for the first time to the extent that almost all local government expenditure had many expenditure implications. That is why a very important statement on future practice of the House was made by my distinguished Lewisham predecessor, Mr. Herbert Morrison, who was then Leader of the House. His statement was not made in any partisan way, but was an announcement in his capacity as Leader of the House. It declared what would be the proper practice of the House in such cases, and that is now set out in " Erskine May ".

4.30 p.m.

" Erskine May " states:

This undertaking "— that is, Herbert Morrison's undertaking— may be presumed to hold good for the present system of rate support grants which has superseded the system of equalisation grants. " Erskine May " makes it absolutely clear that where a Bill involves local authority expenditure of the kind indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor), where that money has already been spent in preparation for this Bill—similar to the money that was spent in preparation for the constitutional Bills that were recently before Parliament—and where the Secretary of State has specifically and publicly promised substantial public expenditure, the introduction of a Bill without a money resolution is dis- orderly. Therefore, I believe that we should not continue to consider this Bill until we have resolved the question whether the Bill is orderly.

The statement in 1949 by Herbert Morrison was clear. It laid down that, where local authority expenditure of this nature was involved, all Governments would introduce a money resolution to enable hon. Members to table amendments. When the Government decide not to bring in a money resolution simply because they want to rush the matter through in a few weeks, it is wrong that Back Benchers should not have the opportunity properly to discuss the matter in Parliament.

I believe that we cannot go on discussing this Bill now that the facts have been put to you, Mr. Speaker. This has nothing to do with the explanatory memorandum, but relates to the fact that my hon. Friend has now set out the full details of her case. Furthermore, the Bill has not been put before the House in the form laid down by our " bible ", " Erskine May ". In those circumstances, I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that we cannot now properly proceed and that we should have a full explanation by the Government of what has been going on. Alternatively, there should be a motion before the House to enable us to consider the matter so that the Government may bring back the Bill in another form. It would then no doubt be in order for us to proceed upon it.

Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have just had a very long point of order. Perhaps I should reply to it now since it might save the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) having to make his contribution.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) has confused the fact that a money resolution is necessary when money is authorised by a Bill. If he examines the Bill, he will find no authorisation for any money whatever. I have to rule that a money resolution is not necessary.

Mr. Archer

While not challenging your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether we could have your guidance on a point of construction.

I understand from page 758 of " Erskine May " that a financial resolution is necessary when a Bill authorises new and distinct expenditure. As I understand it, that is expenditure not authorised under existing law.

It appears from what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) that what the present Bill does is to empower local authorities which are bent on mischief to bring about a situation in which grant is claimable, whereas otherwise they would not have been able to bring about that situation. With great respect, in those circumstances, does it not follow that the Bill authorises new and distinct expenditure?

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to deal with a slightly different aspect. I wish to draw your attention to the penultimate paragraph of " Erskine May " on page 756 on the subject of Private Members' Bills. I hope that if you cannot rule on this matter now, Mr. Speaker, you will do so next week.

Will you inform the House whether the Bill, as presented, could have been produced by a private Member without a money resolution? " Erskine May " refers to the example of a Private Member's Bill of wide scope which involves expenditure by local authorities. It does not refer to a Bill imposing a charge. It refers merely to public expenditure by a local authority. In that case, the Government of the day would be required to move a money resolution because a private Member cannot take such a step under the rules of the House.

I submit that the matter could be settled quite simply. Could the Bill have been introduced by a private Member without a money resolution? The answer to that question is " Yes" or " No ". Although you may not be able to give an answer today, Mr. Speaker, I submit that if there is any doubt on the matter, we should not proceed with the Bill.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I am not questioning your ruling, Mr. Speaker. You more than anybody know that practising teachers are aware of when money has to be expended and when it does not have to be expended. However, I am in some confusion following what I am sure was a perfectly good ruling.

If a Bill says in good faith, as I am sure is the case, that there are no financial implications and no public service manpower requirements involved, I am inclined to take such a statement as being correct. But as soon as I go on to the Bill I see that it is as clear as daylight to us all—certainly to Labour Members—that the Bill has financial implications and requirements in respect of public service manpower. Therefore, surely we should put the Bill off until we can be given a detailed explanation of how such nonsense came to be written on the front of the Bill.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

Without in any way wishing to challenge your ruling, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether we could have your assistance on a fairly narrow point? If we have a clear view on that point, it may resolve the problem of the absence of a money resolution.

I am concerned about whether there is a resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund. If there is no such charge on that fund, that would dispose of the matter of the absence of a money resolution. If there is a resulting charge on the fund, it follows from " Erskine May " that a money resolution is needed. That could arise—and perhaps this matter is wider than your earlier ruling—either directly or indirectly from the Bill. Paragraph 756 reads as follows: Since under those Acts"— the Local Government Act 1966 and the equivalent Scottish Act— the Minister in fixing the level of rate support grant is required to take into account the amount of relevant and local authority expenditure, any provision in a Bill which is likely materially to raise the level of relevant local authority expenditure is liable to raise the level of rate support grant. That is the issue, Mr. Speaker. Therefore, it is as clear as a pikestaff that a money resolution is needed to cover the resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund. That is the simple matter on which I should like to have an assurance.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) said that the matter was as clear as a pikestaff. If it were as clear as a pikestaff, I do not understand why the Bill has been before the House for such a long time. [HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."] If it has just appeared, I withdraw what I said. However, I understood that the Bill had been in Committee upstairs. I must stay with my ruling, namely, that a money resolution is not necessary. I spent much time this morning considering this question because I was given notice of the point of order which the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) intended to raise.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am puzzled about the matter because in Committee we pursued it at great length, to get more information. We did get that information and it suggested that there were costs involved. In essence, the Bill is concerned with repealing the 1976 Act. When that Act was passed there was a money resolution. It seems od that because of the procedures of the House there has to be a money resolution in orer to move an-Act but that if that Act is to be repealed the converse should be true and a money resolution should be necessary again. I hope that you will consider that point. I hope that you will consider clause 1(3), in which a local authority has to seek approval for the revocation of the order. That involves expenditure, first, in making the decision to go ahead with the revocation and, secondly, in carrying out that decision. Therefore, there are powers under the Act for local authorities to make expenditure.

Mr. John Morris

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was obliged for your assistance a few moments ago, but I wonder whether the Government are being fair to you. Have they or have they not disclosed the reality of the position? I return to my original question. Is there or is there not a resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund? In fairness, that is not a matter for you to answer but it is a matter for the Government to answer. Given the information that is to hand, that a local authority in one instance has spent about £18,000 by way of preparation for the bussing of pupils and matters of that kind, it follows that that sort of expenditure attracts rate support grant. Therefore, the Minister would be obliged to increase his contribution to meet that RSG element in accordance with the principles enunciated in " Erskine May." If that is the case, there is a resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund.

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, these are matters that should be raised in debate. I have given my ruling that a money resolution is not necessary. It is time that the House moved on to the new clauses.

Mr. Morris

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In no way would I quarrel with your judgment on a matter of information that is to hand. However, the Government have been unfair by not disclosing the full picture to you. It is the clear responsibility of the Government to tell the House whether or not there is a resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund. If you have not been fully appraised of the facts, will you reconsider your ruling?

Mr. Archer

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The difficulty in which the House finds itself is that if the Bill reaches the statute book it will not be possible for the courts to go beyond the procedures of the House in order to see whether those procedures were properly observed. It will then be for the courts to see whether, on the wording of the statute, a local authority is empowered to bring about the paying of a grant. In those circumstances there would be no further redress and it is for that reason that some of us, at the risk of being tiresome, invite you to reconsider your ruling before it is too late to do anything about the matter.

Mr. Speaker

There is a third opportunity for redress. There is the Third Reading, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows well.

Mr. Christopher Price

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is the hon. Gentleman making a new point or is he pursuing an old one?

Mr. Price

It is a new point, which is tangential to the other point. It has been said that it is a little late to bring up the matter. However, events of this sort occurred during the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, during the last Parliament. At that time, although the Examiners had examined the Bill, you were not the sort of adamant Speaker that other Speakers might have been; you were flexible. You listened to Back Benchers, anxious, as you always are, to protect their rights. It is common ground that the Bill does not lay any particular charge. However, the words of Mr. Herbert Morrison indicated that Bills do not have to produce a new charge to create a money resolution.

4.45 p.m.

When Mr. Morrison referred to the Local Government Act 1948 which introduced the new system of equalisation grants he said: This grant differs from the old block grant which it replaced in that any increase in the expenditure of an authority receiving equalisation grant results directly and immediately in an increase in its equalisation grant. Consequently any Bill increasing rate-borne expenditure by more than an insignificant amount now requires cover in the Financial Resolution for the resulting increase in equalisation grant."—[Official Report, 10 May 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1664.] I cannot imagine a more direct, clear and forthright statement of the constitutional position than that. If the Government were to say that they would take the first part of the Report stage now but leave the Third Reading until a further date, in all the traditions of the House that would be a proper and constitutional statement. If they refuse to do so we can make judgments about their motives for wanting to put forward a Bill in this way—clean against constitutional precedent, as laid down—and rush it through every stage in the House tonight. I urge you to re-read Herbert Morrison's words. To me, as a humble and simple Back Bencher, they are clear.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. My local authority is one of the few that are affected by the Bill. There are expenditure implications for the local authority if the Bill passes. Does your ruling mean that if the Bill does not overtly refer to those expenditure implications the fact that they are incurred by the passage of the Bill means that a money resolution is not needed? If the money is expended and the Government should have tabled a money resolution, does that mean that the authority will be debited by the district auditor for having incurred unlawful expenditure? If it does mean that, there are serious implications for my councillors. I ask for a clear ruling about the matter.

Mr. Speaker

I am ruling only on the Bill, and I shall make no general ruling. The Bill does not alter the charge, and a money Bill is not necessary. I have made my ruling and the House should move on to new clause 1.—[HON. MEMBERS: " No, no, no."] Order. It is no good for hon. Members to say " No, no, no " to me when I have answered the points of order. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) referred to my flexibility. I have listened to more points of order today than on any other day since I have been Speaker.

Mr. Roger Stott (Westhoughton)

What about the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall not argue about that matter. That was a point of order upon which I ruled on the following day.

Mr. Neil Kinnock ( (Bedwellty)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With no discourtesy or challenge, and not even with a charge about inflexibility, because I recognise the difficulties that that might provoke, but with judiciousness I should like to raise a matter. You will be aware that I raised this matter with your office at 1.30 pm. That was because it was only in the course of the morning that it became apparent to those of us who have studied and examined the Bill that in the case of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) there are implications that arise from the way that the Bill is drafted, together with the memorandum that we see before us. When we became aware of that, we naturally went to the sources that you have examined in your wisdom, Mr. Speaker. We concluded that a money resolution was necessary only for expenditure arising from the provisions of a Bill. Even in the short time since the matter was first raised by my hon. Friend we have been able to demonstrate that if the provisions of the Bill are taken advantage of by local authorities, expenditure will be required. Indeed, expenditure will be wasted and implications may follow for the local authorities concerned, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon), who is acutely conscious of these matters since the North Yorkshire authority is affected by the Bill.

We pursued the matter and discovered that a certain permissiveness was built in. If the monetary implications of a Bill could be considered to be peripheral; there may still be no need to table a financial resolution. The question is what is peripheral. We have heard the figure of £18,000 mentioned. Even higher figures, in excess of £70,000, have been referred to. If advantage is taken of the Bill, even a proportion of the £2 million spent so far by the North Yorkshire council in pursuit of comprehensive reorganisation could come under consideration.

" Erskine May " says that any provision in a bill which is likely materially to raise the level of relevant local authority expenditure"— I emphasise " local authority expenditure "— is liable to raise the level of rate support grant. You will understand, Mr. Speaker, the obvious relationship between the two sums. " Erskine May " continues: A money resolution is therefore needed to cover the resulting charge on the Consolidated Fund. We have further wisdom from the eighth special report of the Estimates Committee, which was referred to by my right hon. And learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris). That said: Where it is not practicable to provide in the Financial Memorandum an estimate of the public expenditure likely to be involved under a Bill because of the permissive nature of the powers sought, estimates on an illustrative basis should be given. We have had since mid-morning to consider the matter, while you, Mr. Speaker, have had only since mid-afternoon to consider it. We have come to expect either a firm money resolution or a figure on an illustrative basis when a Bill is to concern itself with money. We are not used to a situation in which it is said that there are no implications for finance in a Bill when we can demonstrate clearly from local authority sources that there are financial implications.

I hope that you will permit me to refer to what the Secretary of State said, since that may have a bearing on your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, from a sedentary position that we had had three weeks to consider these matters. You made a similar reference earlier, Mr. Speaker.

I referred to these matters in Committee when I said: The explanatory memorandum states: ' The Bill has no implications either of a financial character or for public service manpower' I suppose that in many respects that is technically correct, but these authorities which are trying to freeze progress towards comprehensive education and to maintain selective systems and which will take full advantage of subsection (3) of clause 1 are engaging in the most enormous waste of public resources."— [Official Report, Standing Committee A, 28 June 1979; c. 34.] Even after examining the Bill and its implications, I thought that we were concerned with little more than a technicality. It is only through telephonic contact with local authority sources that we who have been interested in little else over the past few weeks have become fully aware of the implications of the Bill

As we who have studied the Bill have only just become aware that there are major financial consequences implications, and given the evidence in " Erskine May " and the other sources that have quoted and the fact that we have yet to hear an explanation from the Government for using this form of words, I hope that we may either suspend the sitting or adjourn consideration of the Bill so that further time may be given for reflection for the benefit of the House and yourself, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I realise the depth of feeling of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and his right hon. and hon. Friends. I have listened with care, because I am a servant of the House and I want to do the right thing.

I have to watch the technicalities concerning a money charge and see whether a Bill meets them. Other arguments are not my concern. However, although I know that it is disorderly to interrupt the House in a debate, I hope that hon. Members will allow me to return at 6 o'clock and make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) is grateful for what you have said about looking at the matter again.

I understand that the hon. Member for Bedwellty was good enough to indicate to you that the point was to be raised. May I make clear that no indication was given to me or the Government that what is, according to the hon. Member for Bedwellty, a tecnical matter was to be raised? We were given no warning of that fact, or that remarks that I had made outside the House were also to be raised.

If the Opposition wished to have the matter considered they might at least have had the courtesy to inform the Department, so that I might have been able to assist you, Mr. Speaker, and the House.

Mr. Kinnock

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I acquit myself of the charge of discourtesy? If precedent means anything in the House, it is reasonable for me to point out that the previous Labour Government were not the beneficiaries of the Conservative Party in regard to the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill.

In addition, vengeance is the Lord's and not the Opposition's. There was no vengeful instinct in our not raising the matter with the Secretary of State. That was caused by the novelty of the event and the fact that evidence has only recently been made available to us. In addition, when we raised the matter in Committee we received no reasonable response from the Government.

We are under no obligation to run to the Government. Our only obligation is courtesy to you, Mr. Speaker, and I tried to discharge that.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I am not surprised that he quotes the Scriptures to me. I shall look up that reference again. I think that it is: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. I suggest that I should return at 6 o'clock and make a brief statement when I have reconsidered the mater.

5 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

May I thank you on behalf of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, for the manner in which you have responded. It is not our desire to challenge your ruling in any way, but we think that on our construction of " Erskine May ", especially of page 756, the information that has come to light merits reconsideration.

When you have considered the matter, Mr. Speaker, it will be for the Secretary of State to indicate, if he will, whether it is the case that local authorities have incurred, or are in the process of incurring, expenditure which would fall on the Consolidated Fund. That seems to us to be the essential point.

For the Secretary of State's benefit I should like to quote the essential points from " Erskine May ", which is quite clear on this matter. After hearing these points, which are quite simple, the right hon. and learned Gentleman may change his mind. " Erskine May " says that rate support grant is payable to local authorities ". That is clear. Secondly, under those Acts "— the Local Government Acts— the Minister in fixing the level of rate support grant is required to take into account the amount of relevant local authority expenditure ". There is no difference between us on that. Thirdly, any provision in a bill which is likely materially to raise the level of relevant local authority expenditure is liable to raise the level of rate support grant. I do not know whether there is a difference between us on that, but to us the information that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has provided shows that there is an increase in the expenditure which is likely to raise the level of the rate support grant. If that is so, " Erskine May " continues: A money resolution is therefore needed ". This is the issue. I have tried to sum it up in as uncontentious a way as possible for your consideration, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Secretary of State to check what expenditure is being incurred and whether it will fall on the Consolidated Fund. Then he can help us when you return with your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Further to what the Leader of the Opposition has just said, Mr. Speaker, with respect, the point that I was trying to make earlier was that I had not been given the opportunity to consider this matter or invited to answer the sort of point that the right hon. Gentleman has made.

All that I would say at this stage is that the only effect of the Bill is to relieve local authorities of obligations that they would otherwise have. As far as I know and am advised, it has no financial implications at all. But, of course, if the Leader of the Opposition asks me to take further advice on that matter, I shall do so. I have told the House of the advice that I have at present. I had not had an opportunity to consider that advice until I entered the Chamber when the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) was on her feet.

Mr. Speaker

Whilst I am considering the matter further, I shall have a transcript of everything that has been said.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

On a new point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has just said that he will seek to ascertain from his Department the facts about the expenditure by local authorities and about any possible charge upon the Consolidated Fund. In view of that Statement, Mr. Speaker, and the fact that you have undertaken to examine the matter, surely it would be in the interests of the House and the speedy passage of the Bill, if it was in order, if you considered a suspension of our proceedings for a short time so that you might give the matter the urgent consideration that you have undertaken to give it. Then the Secretary of State might come to you privately to give you the benefit of the researches within his Department, for you to take them into account in giving a ruling.

I seriously suggest that it would be in the interests of the House to have a temporary suspension of our proceedings so that those necessary and desirable steps might be taken. It would be in the interests of parliamentary democracy that the proper advice and knowledge should be in your possession, Mr. Speaker. Then you may give a ruling on the full facts, made available to you as a result of the statement that the Secretary of State has just made.

Mr. Speaker

I should have thought that it was in the interests of the House to continue whilst I was considering the matter.

Mr. James Callaghan

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hoped that I had brought this matter to an end by what I said, but as you are returning at 6 o'clock, will the Government please, to prevent its being an irregular procedure, consider moving the adjournment of consideration of the Bill then—I am not asking for it now—so that proper consideration may be given to the matter? I ask the Leader of the House, if he is to avoid difficulty on this matter, to consider what is a very reasonable request.

Mr. Speaker

I expect that a reply will come in due course.

  1. New Clause 1 45,264 words, 1 division
  2. cc823-57
  3. Clause 1 12,595 words, 1 division
  4. cc857-69
  5. Clause 2 4,431 words
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