§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The point of order I wish to raise concerns the membership of the Select Committee on Defence, which has been meeting since 4.30 this afternoon. As you will know, Mr. Speaker, one of the members of that Committee is the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall). The hon. Gentleman sits on the Committee as a Member of this House, and he is also a parliamentary adviser to British Aerospace. Last weekend, because of his unique position, the hon. Gentleman was able to arrange for a joint statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the chairman of British Aerospace in order to, let us say, defuse what at that time was a rather embarrassing public row.
I want to raise the matter of the hon. Gentleman's membership of that Committee, in the context of the Committee's current investigations. "Erskine May" says on page 684:In the nomination of Members to serve on select committees neither the House, nor, where the nomination is entrusted to the Committee of Selection, the Committee of Selection, is bound to consider whether Members are personally interested in the matter or bill referred to the committee, and no objection can be raised in this respect to the composition of the committee".That means the Committee of Selection is not in a position to examine whether the hon. Gentleman's membership of British Aerospace would in any way influence his judgment as a member of that Committee. One would have thought that you, Mr. Speaker, would have alluded in your reply to the fact that the Select Committee cannot deal with the problem that arises, notwithstanding the fact that the hon. Member for Arundel still represents British Aerospace and is paid to do so.
On page 684 "Erskine May" goes on to say:But it is not the practice for a member of a select committee to take part in any Enquiry while the affairs of any body in which he may be personally interested are under investigation".I submit that the affairs of British Aerospace are, in part, under investigation. Basically, what "Erskine May" means is that it is not the practice for hon. Members to involve themselves in those inquiries, but the hon. Member for Arundel is today sitting upstairs in a Committee which is dealing with precisely these matters. You, Mr. Speaker, might consider making a statement, if not a ruling, that in the light of the precedent in "Erskine May" the hon. Member for Arundel might wish to consider his position, in so far as it is not the practice of the House for him to be involved in any investigation of that nature.
§ Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to point out that I wrote to the Clerk of the Select Committee on Defence yesterday about the issue. I am surprised that the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) is in Committee upstairs. I have not had a reply to my letter.
§ Mr. Willie W. Hamilton (Fife, Central)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You are probably not aware that two or three years ago Sir Albert Costain was a member of a Select Committee that was investigating the building of a children's hospital in Glasgow, which had cost many millions of pounds and which within a few years started to fall down. The principal contractor for that hospital was Costains. Sir Albert honourably said that although he was not directly involved he would, to 209 maintain his own integrity, walk out of the investigation. He was a man of great honour and integrity. I hope that the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) will do the same as Sir Albert did.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that I can dispose of the matter now. That is a matter for the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall).
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) quoted "Erskine May". I say to him and to the other hon. Members who have raised the matter that the position from their point of view is clear. If they wish to make a complaint of this nature about the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall), they should make it to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which, as hon. Members will see from Standing Order No. 107, is set up specifically to deal with matters of this kind.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I fully appreciate the difficulties where there is a ruling and a difference in practice. We have a difficult problem before us. The hon. Gentleman—I emphasise "hon. Gentleman" because I am in no way impugning the integrity of the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall), for whom I have the greatest personal respect—acted as an intermediary in trying to resolve the peculiar problems that arose because of one letter from British Aerospace and a complete volte face in a further ambivalent letter that appeared last weekend. It seems utterly improper that the hon. Member should be sitting to adjudicate on a matter to which he was a party.
May I extend this a stage further and ask you, Mr. Speaker, to give us advice, though not now? It goes wider. I do not think that we can wait for a decision of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, when we remember that a further Committee of perhaps far greater importance is about to be established, namely, the Hybrid Committee which will deal with the Channel tunnel. What guidance can you give as to the possible composition of that Hybrid Committee when one bears in mind the controversy that there was over a Select Committee on Transport because some of its members had interests which were not declared?
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not think you should be placed in the position of allowing double standards to operate here. This must seem strange to a person outside this building, because, when a Member of Parliament is named, a chief of police escorts him from the building within three minutes. On one occasion the Serjeant at Arms attempted to escort me from the Chamber. Given those examples, why is it impossible to ensure that the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall), who is obviously breaking the rules, is told, not to leave the building, but to get off the Committee? Why can that not be done?
§ Mr. Speaker
We are only wasting time on the matter, because it can be done. I did not appoint the hon. Member for Arundel to the Select Committee. He was appointed by the House. I have no power to take him off that Committee. The House well knows that. It is a matter for the House. Under our procedures we set up Committees specifically to deal with issues of this kind. I have already 210 said to the hon. Member for Workington that his right course is to draw the matter to the attention of the Select Committee on Members' Interests. I say again that it is not a matter for me, because I did not appoint the hon. Gentleman to the Committee.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I feel that we are making ourselves somewhat ridiculous in the eyes of people who think that as a legislative assembly we should be able to deal with these things as they arise. I do not know how we can resolve this problem, but matters like this arise from time to time. May I suggest that this subject might be taken on board by the Speaker's Conference?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is as may be, but it is hypothetical at the moment. I say again that I am being put in an impossible position if the House expects me to adjudicate on a Member's conduct. I did not appoint the hon. Member for Arundel to the Committee. The House appointed him to the Committee, and the matter is in the hands of the House. The simple way to resolve this problem is through the usual channels.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
May I intervene, since charges are very easily thrown around in these circumstances? It has been asserted that my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) is breaking the rules. I should like to seek confirmation from you, Mr. Speaker, that he is not breaking the rules.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is true. The hon. Gentleman is not in any way breaking the rules. He was appointed by the House to the Select Committee, and the hon. Member for Workington has fairly pointed out in his quotation from "Erskine May" that the question of his remaining on the Committee and his activities on it are entirely a matter for him.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course, it is not a matter simply of the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) breaking the rules or not. If you rule that he is not, obviously he is not. The point is taken. Is it not important that justice should be seen to be done? I am not saying that the hon. Gentleman has played a dishonourable role, but he negotiated the letter which the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry agreed to accept from the chief executive of British Aerospace. You have said that this is a matter for the Select Committee on Members' Interests. Clearly, the Committee will not be in a position to take action until the Select Committee which is looking into the Trade and Industry matter has completed its findings. What purpose would be served then?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I shall take one more question from the hon. Member for Workington. In regard to what the Leader of the House has said, no doubt the hon. Member for Workington will have given notice to the hon. Member for Arundel that he intended to raise the matter.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Yes, I wrote to the hon. Gentleman. May I make it clear that I am not accusing the hon. Member for Arundel of breaking the rules. I have not done that. What I have done is to draw attention to the fact that there is precedence for the practice, and it is a practice on which I thought you might wish to comment, Mr. 211 Speaker. If you were to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the practice, he might feel that it was in his best interests not to proceed as he has done. There is a precedent which I should like to quote in regard to a Select Committee on National Expenditure, which met in 1943:Major C. S. Taylor asked the hon. Member for Kidderminster, as Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, whether he will give an assurance that when any investigations are carried out into the organisation or activities of any private or public company, firm or corporation, no member of the Select Committee who is directly interested in that concern or in any competitive business sits as a member of the committee or sub-committee that is charged with this task?
Sir John Wardlaw-Milne
Yes, Sir, to the limited extent to which the Question applies to the inquiries of the Select Committee, it is our practice"—
note, "practice"—that a Member would not so take part."—[Official Report. 14 December 1943; Vol. 395, c. 1402.]We are talking not about rules, but about practice. My appeal is that you, Mr. Speaker, may wish to guide the hon. Member for Arundel as to practice so that he can remove himself from the embarrassing position in which he has placed himself.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not necessary for me to do that because the hon. Member for Workington has given notice to the hon. Member for Arundel that he intended to raise the matter. The hon. Member for Workington has said that the hon. Gentleman is not acting in any way outside the rules. It is my function to see that the rules are maintained. There is no way in which I can help the hon. Member for Workington. It is not for me to comment on matters of this kind. The Select Committee on Members' Interests was set up specifically to deal with matters of this kind, and I cannot do anything about it.