§ Mr. Gow
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 prospective loss of £800 million involved in the Government's so-called job saving projects, disclosed in a memorandum from the permanent secretary to the Treasury addressed to the permanent secretary to the Department of Industry, and described in The Guardian newspaper of 28 February 1979.Last Wednesday The Guardian disclosed the contents of a memorandum from the permanent secretary to the Treasury which showed that over the four 908 months ended December 1978 the Government initiated seven job-saving projects involving the country in losses of up to £800 million.
I must satisfy you, Mr. Speaker, that this matter is specific, and I shall deal first with the specific nature of the projects. I take first the Rolls-Royce project, which the memorandum states is inherently risky and, even on an optimistic assumption, could not be expected to break even until 1993.
My second instance is the British Aerospace 146 project, in which launching costs are expected to be between £250 million and £300 million, with a loss to the country of between £90 million and £210 million.
The third specific matter to which I draw attention is the airbus project, in respect of which it is stated that there will be a negative cash flow of £300 million by 1983, and a loss, on today's prices, of £110 million.
I turn to the importance of the matter. Sir Douglas Wass included in his memorandum the following statement:We seem bent on, or have decided on, going ahead with projects which seem likely to waste economic resources.I believe that there is no more important matter for this House to discuss than the question of the control of Parliament over the expenditure of public money.
The third criterion relates to urgency. There was a suggestion—I believe it to be well founded—that these projects had been initiated during the four months ended 31 December 1978 because it was widely assumed that during that period a general election might fall. It is now even more likely that we shall have an early general election. Unless this House debates this matter urgently, who knows what the Government Front Bench will get up to in trying to buy votes at the next general election?
I consider that this submission fulfils all three criteria. It is specific, it is important, and it is urgent that the House should debate the matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter 909 that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the prospective loss of £800 million involved in the Government's so-called job saving projects, disclosed in a memorandum from the permanent secretary to the Treasury addressed to the permanent secretary to the Department of Industry, and described in The Guardian newspaper of 28 February 1979.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have given careful consideration to the representation which the hon. Gentleman has made, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. James Lamond
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it causing you any concern that a practice seems to be growing up of Opposition Members raising Standing Order No. 9 applications with the purpose of making speeches about matters which have appeared in the press recently on which they know they would not otherwise be able to speak? We have just heard an Opposition Member make reference during what was supposed to be an impartial submission to the Government's buying votes and to the Government's so-called job creation programme.
I should like to suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that you examine the speeches being made by Opposition Members in support of Standing Order No. 9 applications to see whether those Members are keeping strictly within the Standing Orders of the House.
§ Mr. Madden
Adding to what my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) has said, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will agree that over recent weeks we have heard a large number of applications under Standing Order No. 9. I am sure that the House would be grateful for a reminder from you, which you have given from time to time but which seems to have been overlooked recently, that the main objec- 910 tive of such applications is to advance arguments why a debate should be granted rather than to advance the substance of matters which would be heard in such a debate.
A number of hon. Members are placed in great difficulty. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) made reference today to a situation existing in many parts of the country, and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) clearly took exception to some remarks made about his own constituency. We are denied an opportunity of refuting inaccurate statements which may be made about our constituencies if applications are made as widely as they have been today.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman, if he were advancing an application for an emergency debate, would be one of the first Members who would wish to state the facts on which he based his application. It is within the power of the House to change its rules. There is a long-standing report waiting for discussion by the House which deals with this very question of Standing Order No. 9. Until the House changes its rules, I am under instructions to fulfil the rules that exist.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is perfectly true, as you suggest, that there is a report which, if carried into effect, would deny the House altogether the possibility of raising Standing Order No. 9 applications at the present time in its proceedings. This is, of course, a matter for debate by the House. Some hon. Members might think that such a proposal, if implemented, would deprive Back Bench Members of their rights. Some might wish to resist it on that score. Whether hon. Members are trespassing so far as to breach the normal manner in which they can raise these matters is a different question altogether.