HC Deb 15 January 1980 vol 976 cc1432-4
Mr. Harry Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A serious situation has arisen in relation to the Education (No. 2) Bill. The point which I wish to make is connected with the Bill, but the broad issue should be considered by you, Mr. Speaker.

The Secretary of State for the Environment has sent a letter to Warwickshire county council indicating that councillors on that authority who have children in school should not vote on school meals, milk and transport. That means that any councillor who has a child at school, whether or not that child takes advantage of the school meals, milk or transport, cannot vote, although he or she may take part in the discussion.

In spite of repeated attempts this morning I have been unable to discover whether the Secretary of State for Scotland is to issue the same direction to councillors in local and regional authorities in Scotland. In Scotland, a number of councillors have already voted to retain school meals, milk and transport. Unless the matter is cleared up, those councillors who have already voted are in danger of being surcharged. That will create conflict between Parliament and local authorities.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) has outlined an issue that I have no doubt is of considerable importance but it is not one on which I can rule. The hon. Member can pursue this matter with the appropriate Government Department.


Mr. Canavan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you confirm that under our Standing Orders a Standing Committee may request the presence of the Solicitor-General for Scotland to outline the legal aspects of the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing)? Will you please advise us on the best way to proceed in order to achieve the attendance of the Solicitor-General for Scotland?

Many regional councillors in Scotland do not know their legal position and many members of the Standing Committee are ignorant of the legal repercussions of the Bill that we are discussing. The Solicitor-General could give us the benefit—if it is a benefit—of his advice about the legal repercussions. As the prosecuting authority in Scotland he could tell us what action, if any, he will take against defaulting councillors who vote on the issue of school meals, milk and transport, even when their children stand to benefit from the decision.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that the hon. Member will have studied our rules carefully. He will be as aware as I am, now that the book is in my hand, that Standing Order No. 63 says that: Mr. Attorney General, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Solicitor General, and Mr. Solicitor General for Scotland, being Members of this House, or any of them, though not members of a standing committee, may take part in the deliberations of the committee, but shall not vote or make any motion or move any amendment or be counted in the quorum. It is up to the Committee to invite any Minister it wishes to attend, as is stated in that Standing Order.