§ As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.9.30 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Second Reading, I questioned the legality of the Bill in a paraphrase of the Latin expression nemo dat qui non habet—you cannot give what you have not got. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury did not deal with that point, but he admitted that there was no detailed knowledge about the ownership of the trustee savings banks and that ownership could not be determined.
Therefore, I refused to serve on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill, but I have carefully considered what was said in Committee, because, although I concede immediately that Parliament is sovereign, I do not accept that the House can authorise the TSB to enter what is clearly an illegality — to sell something that it does not own. The Bill is nonsense and should be withdrawn. The Government ought either to include in the Bill an authorisation for the TSB to become possessed of all its assets and proceed from there towards the sale, or to create a mutual company.
Parliament is being asked to pass nonsense and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule that the matter should go back to the Government for reconsideration.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) for having given me notice that he would raise the point of order. I have considered carefully the point that he has made and I have to rule that it is not a matter for the Chair. If the Bill is defective, as the hon. Member claims, it is for the House to decide whether to pass it. It is not a matter for me.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been approached by a number of people who have asked whether Parliament is able to legislate in this way. I appreciate that it does not fall within your purview to take these decisions, but surely the Leader of the House should make a statement dealing with the accusations that have been levelled against the Government and with the suggestion that the Government do not have the right to legislate. Before the Bill comes before the House, the Leader of the House should clear the way. The Bill is consuming parliamentary time and that is a matter not for the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, but for the Leader of the House who protects the interests of all hon. Members.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a matter for me. The hon. Gentleman can table an amendment on the matter —indeed, the Government could table an amendment—or vote against the Bill. It is certainly not a matter for the Chair.