HC Deb 27 July 1984 vol 64 cc1373-4 9.35 am
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not complaining about the change of business of the House. Indeed, I welcome the action of the Government Chief Whip who, in response to our efforts last night, has kindly put on the business about the membership of Committees at a time that is convenient to the House, and when it will attract wider public interest.

I wish to raise a different matter. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that there has been reported to the House the first report in this Parliament of the Select Committee on Procedure. I understand that it will soon be available to hon. Members in the Vote Office. It is concerned with short speeches, but contains within it a report of the proceedings of the Committee, and it is to that that I wish to draw your attention.

The report shows a Division in the Committee, as a result of which the Committee decided that it would not proceed to discuss the matter of Opposition time, and that the next sitting of the Committee would discuss public Bill procedure, a matter of major importance. On 3 April 1984 you, Mr. Speaker, responded as reported in column 819 of the Official Report, to some comments from my right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal party, by saying that he had made "a wise suggestion". You were referring to the suggestion that the Select Committee on Procedure should look into the business of the allocation of Opposition time.

In doing that, Mr. Speaker, you were in tune with the words used on a number of occasions by the Leader of the House, who is in his place, who has said several times that the appropriate course for us to follow in seeking to raise our grievance that we do not have a fair share of Opposition time is through the Select Committee on Procedure. I raise this matter with you now, the Committee having effectively decided that there will be no serious discussion of this matter at least until well into next Session. What alternatives are available to right hon. and hon. Members who feel as we do that we have to pursue other matters on the Floor of the House to ventilate a grievance that we and you, Mr. Speaker, thought could be properly dealt with by the Select Committee on Procedure?.

Mr. Speaker

I have not received the report and it is not in my hands. As to what matters the Select Committee on Procedure discusses and what decisions it comes to, that concerns its members, not me.


Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You told the House a few moments ago that you had not yet received a copy of the report of the Select Committee on Procedure. That is true of all hon. Members. Can we take that to mean that after you have read the report you may have something further to say to the House on this matter?.

Mr. Speaker

I will have nothing further to add to what I have already said, which is that the Committee's conclusions are a matter for it and not for me.

Mr. Steel

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You told the House that it would be wise for the Select Committee to pursue this matter, and I agree that an expression of your wisdom is not a ruling that binds the Select Committee. The difficulty is that if the Select Committee ignores your wisdom and the usual channels refuse to discuss the matter, 'we are left with no recourse but to continue to make our protests on the Floor of the House, which holds up business. Is it not possible to ask that either the usual channels or the Select Committee listen to the wise words of the Chair?.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Member may accept that much of what I think to be wise is disregarded by the House. The remedy is in the hands of the House. It is up to the House to debate the Select Committee's report. That is a matter for the usual channels and not for me.

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