§ Considered in Committee.
§ [MR. MICHAEL MORRIS in the Chair]3.44 pm
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. May I express the thanks of those of us concerned about the Bill for the preparations that you have made, which I hope will mean that we do not have a repetition of what happened in 1972—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] We had 15 hours of points of order until 7 am.
The first three amendments on the Order Paper, Nos. 73 to 75 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), some hon. Friends and myself, have not, according to the provisional selection of amendments, been selected for debate by you, Mr. Morris. However, I wish to put to you in as simple language as I can, some of the reasons why I hope that you will consider the matter before we debate the amendments that you have selected and will reinstate those amendments.
The European union created by the treaty has two components. First, the novel titles, I, V, VI and VII, which create a new entity known as European union, which is contained in articles A to F and title I; title V on foreign and defence, articles J to J(II); title VI on justice and home affairs, articles K to K(9); and title VII, the final provisions L to S. The second component already partially exists—the treaties of Rome, Paris and Brussels relating to the coal and steel and Euratom treaties. They are in place now and are not new. The treaty will amend, update and strengthen those with various matters relating to subsidiarity, the European Parliament and economic and monetary union.
In the Bill, the Government have been remarkably economic with the words and those matters, which are contained in at least 238 articles in the treaty of Rome, are subsumed only under titles II, III and IV, despite the fact that the Bill provides for the whole treaty, which is particularly on European union—that is the long title. The items that I have specified appear only in subsection (k), which we are adding to the European Communities Bill. The Bill does not provide for consideration of titles I, III and V, which are important to the House in terms of something new in the treaty.
Therefore, we must ask by what method the House can ratify those important new elements of the treaty. According to the Foreign Secretary, who is not here—the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) is present—those matters are an intergovernmental "outer building" and do not involve too much the Community's existing institutions. Indeed, under article C they are required to be a single institutional framework and at least 40 references are made to the Commission, the Council, the court or the Parliament in those new parts of the treaty, so we cannot separate them quite as much as the Minister of State and the Foreign Secretary decide.
In selecting the amendment of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)—one of his hon. Friends will no doubt move it—and the other amendments in the group, all relating to title I, articles A to F, you may allow 148 us, Mr. Morris, at least to debate title II. Debates about foreign affairs, security, justice and home affairs may follow later.
But, Mr. Morris, you have selected the amendments on line 9 of sub-paragraph (k), which is the pipeline to the European Communities Act. That simply adds those matters to the automatic or near automatic obligation of the House and the United Kingdom to the obligations contained in the original treaty. It in no way allows us to deal separately with the major items that I have outlined. Even if they are debated, as they may well be, whether or not they go into sub-paragraph (k) or are left out, that is no way to find out whether the House approves them. All we are doing is making them automatically effective.
Therefore, I submit that if we are to ratify, which is surely what this is all about, the matters relating to European union and its foreign policy, justice and home provisions, which are important to everyone, we must have some free standing amendments.
The amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney propose that we would give a specific debate to each of the titles and have a vote on them, just as we would on a statutory instrument, and approve them or not, as the case may be, to enable the Government to ratify the treaty. But at the moment we do not have that opportunity under the Bill or under the amendments.
There will not be a specific debate on those matters as there would be on a statutory instrument on, for instance, dog licences. The House would be able to decide yes or no on such a statutory instrument, but not yes or no to ratification of those important titles of the treaty.
There is an even greater reason why we must have separate debates on those matters away from subparagraph (k). Foreign affairs and security are matters for the royal prerogative. Having made inquiries, I understand that the Government do not necessarily require the Bill to ratify the European union articles of the treaty.
Under the treaty, all that the Minister has to do is to send a certificate of ratification to the Italian President. Therefore, we are not in a position to say yes or no despite the fact that we shall be handing over to other bodies the power of the royal prerogative itself.
Unless the three amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend, or something similar, are selected, perhaps at a later stage, the House will be deprived of debating the specific importance of the articles, of the surrounding edifice of the European union, in a manner which is less specific than would be the case under a statutory instrument for domestic legislation for a dog licence.
Unless we can do so, the process of ratification by our own constitutional requirements which the treaty provides will not have been followed because we shall not have the opportunity specifically to discuss and vote on those important matters relating to European union.
§ The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. I shall rule on one point of order at a time. We have plenty of time ahead of us.
The hon. Gentleman makes his point of order with his usual thoroughness and conviction and puts it in Memberconstituency 149 succinct a form as he was able, even though it was pretty long. I can provide him with an answer, but it will be rather short.
Amendments Nos. 73 to 75 provide that certain parts of the treaty are to be ratified only when the House has agreed to ratification. This is not a Bill to ratify the treaty. I repeat that: this is not a Bill to ratify the treaty. Therefore, amendments to put a limitation on ratification are beyond the scope of the Bill. Nevertheless, I may say, in respect of the hon. Gentleman's concluding words, that although I cannot anticipate amendments that may be tabled in future, of course I will consider any such amendments—but I am not promising anything at this stage.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I have three brief, genuine points of order. [Laughter.] I can assure right hon. and hon. Members who are laughing that nothing has made me more sick than sitting through all those European debates when Governments of both parties have deliberately restricted discussion. Why cannot we debate a referendum clause? Right hon. and hon. Members have made several attempts. I tabled such an amendment and I see no reason why you, Mr. Morris, as the Chairman of Ways and Means and being responsible to the British people and to right hon. and hon. Members who want to express a view, cannot give approval to debating amendment No. 70, for example, which does not involve any expenditure. It is just a means of giving everyone an opportunity, whether or not they want to take it, to express an opinion on a referendum.
Your Clerks, Mr. Morris, have been more than helpful, but is it the case—as I fear—that the Bill has been drafted in such a way as to prevent right hon. and hon. Members from expressing a view on whether there should be a referendum? Despite the restrictions imposed by not having a money resolution, would it not be possible to have a vote on amendment No. 70, which would give right hon. and hon. Members the right, not to express a view, as some of them want, but to say yes or no to whether the people of this country should have some say in handing over their freedoms and liberty without their specific permission? Could we not have a debate, on any clause or amendment, on whether or not there should be a referendum?
§ The Chairman
Order. I will deal with points of order one at a time.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but there cannot be a vote on amendment No. 70, simply because it is out of order at this time—[Interruption.] Order. May I respond? I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I cannot select any amendment that is out of order. That is the rule of the House. However, if the hon. Gentleman shows his usual ingenuity and continues with his usual degree of creativity—doubtless assisted by right hon. and hon. Members on his own side and across the Floor of the Committee—he may yet succeed. The hon. Gentleman must be clear that there is no money resolution associated with the Bill. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman keeps trying.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I draw your attention to clause 3 and to the proposed amendments to that clause, none of which has been selected. The list of selected amendments refers to a "provisional selection", and the remarks that you made a few moments ago, Mr. Morris, were very helpful.
When I saw the helpful Clerks in the Table Office after tabling amendment No. 89, I was informed that the fact that there was not a money resolution in the Bill did not debar an amendment such as mine making provision for a referendum. In the terms of that amendment, a money resolution is not necessary—but before the amendment could be implemented, the Government would have to table a Ways and Means resolution.
Have amendment No. 89 and the others on clause 3 been rejected, or will the published provisional selection be supplemented by further examination of amendments that have not been considered so far—including amendment No. 89? Or was your reply, Mr. Morris, to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) an intimation that my amendment is debarred because of the absence of a money resolution?
When I saw the Clerks, I was informed that my amendment was perfectly in order for selection and debate, even though the mechanism for implementing it was not available in the Bill. I share the view of the hon. Member for Southend, East that the House should have an opportunity to debate the question of a referendum—and if that proposal were carried, it would be up to the Government to provide the machinery and the Ways and Means resolution to put it into operation.
It would be an important denial of the debating powers of the House if such an amendment were not selected and considered. If the amendment is defective, clearly we shall have to devise one which is not, but when I submitted my amendment I was told that it would stand, and that it could be debated. My information was that the House could consider a referendum. If it does not do so, millions of people will question the validity of the House in ignoring that possibility.
§ 4 pm
§ The Chairman
Order. May I rule on the point of order that has already been raised? I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) for raising it, but I am afraid that the information that he was given on amendment No. 89 was not correct. The amendment is out of order as it stands. I re-emphasise to the hon. Gentleman and to all hon. Members that the list is a provisional selection of amendments. We are starting on clause 1; the hon. Gentleman, understandably, is raising questions about clause 3, so he has a little time to get his amendment in order.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. May I make a general point about the difficulties involved in interpreting the meaning of the treaty? As you know, with domestic legislation the words that a Minister uses in advancing his argument about the meaning of a clause have now become 151 more important and binding, because, following a recent decision of the House of Lords, the Minister's words may be considered when the wording of the legislation is being construed. Furthermore, if by chance the House of Lords, or even the Court of Appeal, gives the words of a statute a meaning that was not anticipated, it is relatively easy—I do not pretend that it is very easy—for the Government to introduce amending legislation, and sometimes even to rectify with retrospective legislation any injustice which may have been done because of the misunderstanding about the wording.
Here we have an entirely different situation. We are not dealing with domestic legislation which will be interpreted by the House of Lords, and which is subject to possible amendment by a sovereign Parliament. If the treaty is ratified, it will be interpreted first by the Commission, which has the right of initiative, and secondly by the European Court.
It is important to understand that the Government have already made some extremely wide assertions about what the treaty does not do. At the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister—
§ The Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is addressing a matter to which I can attend rather than Government policy.
§ Mr. Budgen
Indeed, Mr. Morris. You have enormous power and influence over these proceedings, and as we struggle to understand the meaning of the treaty, the very raising—or even the half raising—of your eyebrow will cause the Government to jitter with fear. If you were to say that you thought that an external objective explanation of what the treaty meant would assist the House, I expect that thet Government would immediately accede to your suggestion.
I shall explain briefly why I think that that is necessary. For instance, at the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister made five points about the treaty which I, as a pompous lawyer—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If my right hon. Friend had made those assertions before any judge who happened to be even half awake, they would have been described as very brave.
My right hon. Friend was brave enough to say, for example, that the treaty had nothing to do with immigration. I invite the Committee to look at the treaty. The Committee will see that it deals specifically with immigration. After my right hon. Friend's splendid and brave speech, which was so well received by the Tory party conference, all of whose members had read the details of the treaty with great care, no doubt—
§ The Chairman
Order. The Tory party conference is not a matter for the Chair. I commend to the hon. Gentleman the publication HMSO 13409, which I imagine he must have in his possession. I am not of a mind now to call for an external and objective assessment. I move on, therefore, to Mr. Winnick.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). As we are beginning our deliberations in Committee today—we know why we are beginning them—it is important to realise that the Bill is the most crucial legislation that could come before the House. I am sure that you take the point, Mr. Morris.
If the Bill is passed, the constitutional arrangement of the United Kingdom—we will argue this when we come to the details—will undoubtedly be changed. Many of us believe that the change will be for the worse, although I realise that that is not a matter for the Chair, but a matter for debate.
I cannot conceive of any other measure that will come before us for many years which could have such a crucial bearing on the future of this country. That is true whether one takes a critical view, as I do, or whether one takes the view that we should go down the federal road, which I believe to be the whole purpose of the treaty. I ask you simply this, Mr. Morris: what opportunity can we be given to say, either as a House of Commons or as a Committee, that the people of our country should be consulted?
You, Mr. Morris, have said that the selection of amendments is provisional. Those who have a view different from the view of those of us who are critical may share the belief that the British people should be consulted. If that is not the case, and if we are to debate measures that, in so many ways, will change the constitutional arrangement of our country and which will take substantial powers away from the House of Commons—there is no doubt that that will happen if the treaty comes into effect—what opportunity will the British people have to express their views?
The British people may come to the view that the treaty is right we do not know. In the 1975 referendum, the British people voted in the way that I did not want, but at least they were consulted. I choose my words carefully and I make no criticism of you, Mr. Morris. It will be a tragedy both for the House and for our country if we pass into legislation the provisions of the treaty concerning the United Kingdom without being able to say to the British people, "Here is your opportunity to speak."
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I can say to him only what I said to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). I suggest that the hon. Gentleman works with him. I recognise the importance of the issue. However, I have to be bound by the rules of the House, and matters have to be in order.
§ Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. May I ask you to guide the Committee? There seems to be a small but vociferous minority of Members who are attempting to impede the Bill. Will it be possible for you to remind the House that the Bill was passed with a substantial majority? Those of us who are members of other Committees, such as Standing Committees, very much desire to participate in this Committee and not merely to listen to impeding and blocking points of order. The Bill should go ahead with all haste.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. There is something very sinister about this affair. I listened very carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who kicked off with his point of order regarding certain amendments. I listened to a couple of other hon. Members talking about the need for a referendum. I also read the papers this morning. For the first time on this issue I was able to read briefings in almost every so-called quality newspaper about how the Chairman of Ways and Means would deal with hon. Members who happen to have an alternative view to that of the two Front Benches on the common market and on Maastricht. That is sinister.
You should understand, Mr. Morris, that you are sitting in that chair because of the democracy that is practised in this country. Under the treaty, in some circumstances it is likely that some of those powers will be eroded, yet those briefings suggest that the Chairman of Ways and Means is going to take action to stop Members of Parliament representing their constituents, 68 per cent. of whom in many of the surveys that have been conducted want to get out of the Maastricht treaty and do not want anything to do with it. However, when my hon. Friends and others try to call for a referendum, we are steamrollered because of the briefings that we have already read.
I regard that as a distasteful development and it should be stopped. It is high time that we stood up for the people of Britain, the majority of whom want to say no to Maastricht. The House of Commons, on occasions, is supposed to represent the views of the British people. I get the clear impression that, generally speaking, when the two Front Benches are in agreement, the Chair goes along with it. I am waiting for an answer in the negative to that.
I have been a Member for a considerable time, and it has always been the case that, when the two Front Benches agree, and we have the Liberal Democrats throwing their weight behind them, Back-Benchers' views are treated with disdain, even though we represent a massive majority of the people outside. I believe that we should discuss that amendment on a referendum, and I do not—
§ The Chairman
Order. I cannot take a point of order on a point of order. Mr. Skinner was just concluding.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)
The hon. Gentleman has only just referred to Conservative colleagues as his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Skinner
I never called him my hon. Friend—read the record. I am not that big a fool. The hon. Gentleman might be in the same Lobby as me on these occasions, but that is as far as it goes.
We are going to have a proposition for a referendum in the future. It xs just conceivable that it might happen after Edinburgh. The game now is that the Government of the day want to go to Edinburgh without anybody being able to say that we have made a very important decision in the House of Commons to table an amendment on a referendum. I regard that as chicanery. It is high time that the Chair and the House of Commons, irrespective of the two Front Benches, understood that those of us who have a different view from that of the Front Bench, and believe 154 that the common market has been an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end, are fed up with British families having to pay £18 every week to bail out that tinpot club. It is time that the voice of the British people was heard and not stifled by anybody, including the Chair—and no more briefings.
§ The Chairman
Order. I am most grateful, but let me rule on this point of order. I re-emphasise that it is a provisional selection.
§ The Chairman
I did the selection. The selection rests with the Chair.
I take full responsibility for that. I have to recognise that the House has given a Second Reading to the Bill. Finally, I say to all hon. Members that my door is ever open. Anyone who wants to come and talk about the Bill or amendments is most welcome.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. As I understand it, new clause 7, in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), escaped the difficulties that are inherent in the requirement for a money resolution. However, there were one or two small errors that needed to be corrected. As I understand it, it was for that reason that the new clause could not at that time, this morning, be included in the provisional list of amendments. Given the fact that suitable adjustments will be made, am I correct in thinking that we are getting close to the target and that the new clause, which I have retabled, is likely to be selected?
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You very kindly invited some people to your room yesterday in order to avoid a frustrating points of order session, but this is not just a point of order. What we are discussing is the relationship between different parts of the constitution. You pointed out that the House has no power to ratify or not to ratify the Maastricht treaty. That is correct, because the Queen has the power and the Prime Minister exercises it. So you reminded us of our inherent impotence.
You then told us, Mr. Morris, that you were prepared to consider, and you did not rule out, amendments on a referendum, and you advised us to try at different stages to see whether we could get past the Clerks. That is no way to treat our constituents. I was elected 42 years ago on Friday. I am not prepared to wait until later to find out whether the people of Chesterfield have any role in a treaty which, if implemented, would change fundamentally their relationship with the Executive. I am not prepared to do it.
If you say that there are certain ways in which this can be done and that the Clerks will be empowered to help us do it, that is one thing, but why should we play games with the Clerks—"Line 2 is out of order and I cannot tell you why. Like Mr. Asquith, wait and see whether I select it." At the outset of consideration of the Bill, the British people are entitled to know whether they have any rights at all in determining whether the treaty goes through.
155 I first advocated a referendum in 1968. It took me about seven years to persuade the Labour party; my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition voted for a referendum. Now I am afraid there has been some slippage which will need to be dealt with again. [Interruption.] Of course it will be dealt with. Does anyone honestly think that the Labour party will unite with the Tory party on the one issue on which the British people have no rights? Is the House saying now that the British people have no rights?
Whether there is a referendum depends on what the House decides, but I beg you, Mr. Morris, not to appear to be leaving it open as if it was a game with "Erskine May". It is not a game with "Erskine May". A fundamental question is involved. The Government do not object to a referendum, so long as it is in Denmark. If there is a Danish referendum and the Danes say no again, the Maastricht treaty goes down the pan anyway. So my constituents are being told that their future will be decided by Crown prerogative here and by the Danish people there. Politically it is not on.
I launched a petition for a referendum, and I am getting thousands of letters. I have another petition to present tomorrow. People of all opinions from all over the country want to have their say on Maastricht. The Liberal party is for Maastricht and for a referendum, as will be made clear when we come to it.
It is essential, Mr. Morris, if I may put it to you in my last word, that you make it clear that it is possible to find a form of words which does not fall foul of a money resolution and which will allow the British people to have a say. I put that to you with great passion and fervour. It is not my rights which are at stake but the rights of the people who sent every hon. Member here.
§ The Chairman
I shall make two points. First, the Clerks are not empowered to make decisions. Secondly, I have had to make those decisions and they have had to be based on the rules of debate of the House. I have more constituents than the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and they are just as important as everyone else's. I recognise the strength of feeling, but debates in the House have to be in order. I hope that we can find an amendment that is appropriate and in order. I am encouraging those people who have done a great deal of work on that to continue with that work, and to hone the amendment so that it is in order.
§ Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest)
I seek your guidance on a narrow point of order, Mr. Morris. In the remarks that have been made so far it has been made clear that the Maastricht treaty is a legal document and it is therefore essential that the wording is precise in all its different forms. Before we debate clause 1, title I, might I draw your attention to page 88, article S of the treaty available in the House, which states:This Treaty, drawn up in a single original in the Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages, the texts in each of these languages being equally authentic".However, on page 7, in article B, I do not find the English translation that I expected but two untranslated French words, "acquis communautaire".
§ Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson
My hon. Friend suggests that they are untranslatable. For the purpose of clarity, I took the trouble to obtain a copy of Collins English-French dictionary, because the word "acquis" has a number of possible meanings. It could mean "experience", "gain", "achieve", "be sure of", or "take for granted"—and those are just some of its meanings. A number of words of French origin are in common parlance in my constituency and in the House—for example, "laissez faire". Cooks talk about something being "garni"; and we talk about omelettes. I have no doubt that hon. Members could think of other possibilities. But "acquis communautaire" is not in common parlance.
If we are to discuss title I and to accord it the detailed consideration required by a legal document which has to be precise, can you, Mr. Morris, with your sweep of foreign languages, immediately translate it for me, or will you invite someone else to do so, before we discuss the matter, because it is of some importance?
§ The Chairman
The Bill is in English—as the hon. Gentleman will have noted—and I am not responsible for what is written in the treaty; nor are we debating it. I hope that he will bear that in mind.
§ Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)
Are you aware, Mr. Morris—as I hope you are—that the House will support you entirely in condemning the outrageous allegations which were made against you and the Chair by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? I have been here almost twice as long as the hon. Gentleman and I have never heard such allegations made; nor have I ever heard the Chair allow them to be made. Indeed, my experience has been exactly the opposite—that we Back Benchers know the extraordinary lengths to which your predecessors and the other occupants of the Chair have gone to to ensure that we get proper treatment. I pay tribute to them for that.
I hope that, when the hon. Member for Bolsover calms down, he will withdraw his completely unjustifiable allegations against you as the Chair. You are in the Chair and we shall support you in your decisions on the choice of amendments down for discussion. Those hon. Members who want to use your decisions as a means to make their speeches are not justified in doing so in any way. Finally, it is obviously your responsibility as well as in your power to consider any amendments that are tabled, but I do not think that it is within the power of the Chair to suggest that it may be possible for amendments to be tabled which will meet the needs of individual Members, so we shall support you in making your decisions, and support you to the full.
§ The Chairman
I examine amendments only once they are tabled. The Office of the Clerk is available to help hon. Members perfect their drafting finesse, which is entirely appropriate because the vast majority of hon. Members are not lawyers.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. It seems to be one of those afternoons in which we are all making statements about sticking out for this or that group, and interpreting what the British people want. Perhaps I could simply chuck in my lot. I should like to stick out for the decisions of the Labour party conference, which were distinctly and overwhelmingly in favour of 157 Maastricht. I simply tell those who have talked a great deal about conference decisions in the past that they should face it that—like it or not—there were clear decisions at the Labour party conference in favour of Maastricht—
§ Mr. Dalyell
I concede that there were clear decisions at the Labour party conference on defence and, certainly, on Maastricht. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and I are not united on that issue.
Furthermore, if we are to interpret the national view, my interpretation—I will put it no higher than that—of the electors and the generality of the Linlithgow constituency is that they want the Maastricht Bill and closer ties with Europe.
§ The Chairman
That did not seem to be a point of order for the Chair. I hope that any further points of order will be specific, arid ones for which the Chair has responsibility.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I draw your attention to the treaty of union which created this Parliament. That treaty places certain items of Scottish life and activity into a matter of perpetuity.
Order. I do not know whether the hon. Member heard Madam Speaker's ruling on that matter. That ruling stands and cannot be reopened now.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
On a point of order, Mr. M orris. My point of order is less controversial than the previous ones, but it is within your competence in the Chair to direct me on it. The great odyssey on which we have just launched ourselves will require Members of Parliament to have great sustenance during the many days ahead—the sustenance of information rather than anything stronger, I hasten to add.
Clearly, the rules of debate in Committee are different from those that normally pertain to debates on the Floor of the House. We want you to rule on the matter of the provision of information to us. As ever, the Government are greatly assisted by the civil servants who sit in i he Box. They can pass pieces of paper and take writing material into the Box with them. That is in order.
Those of us who must battle against the serried ranks of the civil servants and Ministers can normally, in Committee, rely on our advisers sitting next to us to perform a similar function. However, when we are in the Chamber, our advisers sit under the Gallery. Normally, anyone who takes writing material into the Box or tries to write notes is quickly admonished. I wonder whether you could rule that it is in order for us to have our advisers under the Gallery and freely exchange written notes and material with them during the course of what I suspect will be an exceedingly long Committee.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member knows the conventions of the House; he has been here long enough. It is not necessary for me to rule on the point of order.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I wonder whether you could help the House and the people outside who are watching our affairs by explaining how you propose to proceed with the Committee. Several points of order have already been raised with you on the amendments that you have not selected. In my experience, the selection of amendments is 158 rightly left to you and the Clerks, under strictly understood rules and regulations, and questions to you regarding amendments that you have not selected are strictly out of order. Is that the procedure that you are going to adopt in Committee?
Would it therefore be out of order to raise issues about amendments that have not been selected? I think that the Committee would be grateful for your ruling on that, so that we can proceed in an orderly fashion and know exactly when we shall get down to matters of substance.
§ Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. As a relatively new Member of the House, may I seek your guidance on voting procedure on the amendments that you have selected? I do so as an ardent pro-European who believes that our future is in Europe and who voted yes in the 1975 referendum, but who feels that the Maastricht treaty is fatally flawed. Its monetarist economic framework will impose massive deflation and lead to mass unemployment and cuts in public spending.
I believe that if a leading amendment—for example, amendment No. 36 on the European central bank—is moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition and voted on, the other amendments in the group do not necessarily have to be voted on. If, for some reason, there is no vote on the leading amendment, will you give consideration to votes on later amendments for example—amendment No. 101, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Dr. Berry), as the amendments related to the central bank and budget deficits contain many complex issues?
§ The Chairman
Yes, I shall certainly consider that, but I did not think that we would reach those amendments this evening. I call Mr. Taylor.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor
I am grateful to be called. On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Will you provide some guidance to the Committee? This is a three-clause Bill, and is very short. However, you have chosen to provide the Committee with a long series of grouped amendments on separate subjects, which is extremely helpful and will enable us to have a proper debate under clear subject headings. It will help the Committee and those people outside who are following the debate with great interest.
The House gave the Bill a thorough Second Reading and I believe—I seek guidance on the matter—that the measure has already spent more time on the Floor of the House than did the Single European Act during its passage through the House. Therefore, would it not be helpful if we made as rapid progress as possible through the various headings? It would be inappropriate to have further debates on amendments that you have not called, some of which—such as those relating to a referendum—many Conservative Members do not believe to be appropriate.
We believe that it is the duty of the House to scrutinise the Bill, and any further discussions on items such as 159 referendums will delay the Committee's ability to consider the helpful groups of amendments already tabled. Can we make progress?
§ Mr. Morris
I think that we are making some progress, and I re-emphasise the fact that the selection of amendments is my decision and mine alone.
§ Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I apologise for leaving the Chamber for a moment, but I had a note that a constituent of mine who was in the Gallery was so distressed by your ruling against a referendum that she was reduced to tears and had to go home—
§ Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Most of the points of order that we have heard so far do not appear to me—an absolute lay person—to have been points of order—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. The Committee appreciates the difficulty of your position in conducting the debate, and that it is entirely proper that there should be a full debate and the proper procedures should be adopted. Will you bear it in mind that in the previous debate hon. Members overwhelmingly expressed the view that they were in favour of the principle of the Bill, and that any attempt to frustrate the will of the majority of hon. Members should be rejected? Secondly, thousands of jobs across the country will be at stake if we have an unnecessarily prolonged debate.
§ Mr. Marlow
As the Bill progresses, there will no doubt be a small minority of hon. Members who will put the point to you the point that has just been put—that there has been a Second Reading debate and that we should abjure further debate and ratify every amendment on the nod, but the fact is—you know it as well as I do, Mr. Morris—that since the Second Reading debate, the world has changed. The ERM has been blown out of the water, the Danes have voted down the treaty and we are in totally different circumstances.
§ The Chairman
I have already ruled that the point that the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) made was not a point of order, and it is still not.
§ Mr. Cash
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You have selected amendment No. 93 which deals with title I, arising from which is a matter that raises a question of a money resolution, because article F and the amendment in the names of myself, the Leader of the Opposition and many other hon. Members, which would bring in article F, deals with the raising of resources, the means necessary for the 160 Community to achieve its objectives. That seems to many of us to be quite clearly a question which relates to money that would be raised to pay for the objectives of the treaty. Therefore, we should like you to rule on whether that matter gives rise to a requirement for a money resolution if title I is accepted as part of the Bill.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor
This is my second very brief point of order and there is no question of my doing anything more than asking things that matter. You, Mr. Morris, have selected amendments in large groups; one of them has 27 separate amendments. I ask a general question: would it be your intention, as some of us believe these are rather important issues, that something should be said on each amendment if the hon. Member who has tabled it wishes to speak, before consideration is given to a motion for the closure? It would honestly be, although I appreciate the very good reasons—
§ The Chairman
With the greatest respect, I gave an answer; whether the hon. Gentleman was listening is another matter, but I repeat that we shall have to see how we get on.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In your very generous selection of amendments—and I commend you on how they have been done—may I draw your attention to amendment No. 93 which is the leading amendment in the first grouping? In the debate on that amendment and on the others in that group shall we be able to raise the matters that are guaranteed for ever under the Act of Union between Scotland and England? Those are the words in the Act. I draw your attention to the fact that there are aspects of Scottish law—a separate legal system and a separate educational system. I am sure you know that in Scotland the ancient universities are guaranteed in perpetuity.
§ The Chairman
Order. One example is probably enough. Madam Speaker has ruled that such issues are not cognate to the Bill, and that ruling must stand.
§ Mr. Marlow
I have two brief points of order to raise with you, Mr. Morris, because we all want to get on. First, you will be well aware that this is a real cruncher of a Bill. It is enormous, and vast numbers of amendments have been tabled. The amendments, as is traditional, have been set out and put down in sequence in the Bill, and they have numbers. The new clauses at the back are fairly easy to refer to, because they are in numerical order.
I have no doubt that during the Committee stage on the Floor of the House, hon. Members will from time to time, as is their wont, refer to various amendments. There are about 84 pages of amendments, and interested hon. Members wishing to follow the debate will be scrabbling through trying to find a particular amendment to which reference may just have been made.
I suggest that it would be helpful, if it were possible, for us to have two lists of amendments, the traditional one, which is right and proper, and a further list that would be 161 composed of the same amendments but in numerical order. That would be very helpful to us and I see no reason why that should not be done.
The second point that I wish to raise with you, Mr. Morris—
§ The Chairman
Order. One point at a time, please. What I have tried to do in the provisional selection of amendments is quite clear. It should be within the ability of hon. Members to find their way round eight amendments, and hopefully, hon. Members will have done just a little preparation before coming into the Chamber.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In regard to the grouping of amendments., may I ask you to confirm that only the first of a group is moved but that there is no impediment or prohibition on any hon. Member speaking to other amendments in the group? May I further ask you to confirm that if, on other amendments in the group, an hon. Member wishes a separate vote to take place, he can ask for that to happen? My understanding of the general custom is that in most cases, such a separate vote is allowed.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman is correct on his first point. On his second, relating to Divisions, an hon. Member can indeed ask. The decision whether there shall be a separate Division rests solely with the Chair.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Almost the final words of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill are:The Bill will have no direct financial effect in the United Kingdom.I am confused, if only because of the cohesion fund in the treaty and the fact that the British Government are now engaged in budgetary explorations, as President of the Community. So I cannot reconcile an assertion of that nature with what is contained in the treaty and what we are about to be asked to legislate for in the Bill. What is the ruling on the basis of an assertion of that nature, when the nation and the House know full well that financial implications for the country and taxpayers arise as a result of the consequences of the Bill?
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that point, but I must tell him that the Chair is not responsible for what is in the Bill. I suspect that the hon. Member might catch my eye and be able to question the Government, who will, no doubt, wish to refer to the point.
§ The Chairman
Order. Is it a new dimension? I have ruled very clearly on the referendum issue. Many points are important. I hope that the right hon. Member is raising anew dimension; he is a senior colleague, and I shall listen attentively to his point of order.
§ Mr. Benn
I hope that you take seriously my points, Mr. Morris. I am not trying to delay or frustrate. Politically, the matter is important and I am trying to find a way round the difficulty.
162 As this is a provision for Community citizenship, why should not the Community pay the cost of the referendum, avoiding the problem of the money resolution? We are in entirely new territory now. Hitherto, there have never been resources to do anything in Britain, except from the British Government on the initiative of the Crown through the Treasury. Now we are in a new position and I am asking—I am sure that you will consider my request carefully, Mr. Morris—whether you will consider the possibility of an amendment being tabled saying that, before the Bill comes into effect, the Community shall be required to organise a referendum in this country at no direct cost to the taxpayer, because it would come out of the British contribution. I put that forward as a serious suggestion.
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for raising what is a new dimension. If he will submit a text, I shall look at it very carefully.
§ The Chairman
Order. I note that most, if not all, of the hon. Members who are now rising have raised at least one point of order. Some have already raised two. I hope that they are now raising new points of order that have not been covered by any other hon. Member on either side of the House.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Will it be in order, during the many debates that we are bound to have on the large groupings of amendments, for me to draw attention to the impact that amendments and clauses may or may not have on Scotland? I have particularly in mind matters over which Scotland now has control under its Scottish Office administration—its legal system and its education system.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor
I raise my third—again, a genuine—point of order, Mr. Morris. [Interruption.] My other points of order were equally genuine, whatever some hon. Members may think.
We have found with other European treaties, and as a result of debates on European issues, a wide variation between what we thought we were voting for and what actually happened. That has not happened with normal domestic legislation. A good example of that was the merchant shipping legislation and its effect on Scottish fishermen.
Is it possible for you, Mr. Morris, as our chairman, to ask for written notes either from the Commission, which would seem the most appropriate, or from the European Court, for example, on issues that might show whether the United Kingdom would be under an obligation to join the ERM? I have read five different proposals and interpretations and I do not know which is right. The Government and Opposition do not know either, and we shall have to wait until we are told by the European Court. To save the time of the House and to prevent unnecessary and tedious debate, may I ask you to examine whether there is any procedure for you, as our Chairman, to ask for a ruling from the Commission or the European Court?
§ The Chairman
Order. It is clear that I am about to give a ruling. In any case, one at a time, please.
163 The occupants of the Government Front Bench will have heard what the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) said—the matter is certainly not one for the Chair—and I have no doubt that they will decide whether they can help him.
§ Mr. Cash
On a point of order, Mr Morris. I raise with you the question of the Queen's consent to the Bill. It is clear that the measure affects prerogative, and of course the Queen would be regarded as a citizen of the so-called union. In those circumstances, may I ask whether the Queen's consent has been obtained? I cannot recall that happening on Second Reading. I understand that in important or urgent circumstances, it may be given at any point during the proceedings.
Will you be good enough, Mr. Morris, to ensure that the Queen is not only asked, but is given an opportunity to be fully briefed on the implications of the legislation as respects her prerogative so that her consent may, if necessary, be given?
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that point, although I imagine that he will have read today's Order Paper. In case he missed it, I refer him to page 2484, where it says:European Communities (Amendment) Bill: Committee. (Queen's Consent to be signified on Third Reading).
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I seek your guidance on a point that arises on the first grouping of amendments but which may also arise on later groups. We are dealing in the Bill with a brief piece of domestic legislation, but we are looking through the measure to substantive provisions in the treaty. That is evident in the first group of amendments.
The lead amendment, No. 93, proposes that title I be added to the Bill—be included in the provisions that are incorporated in domestic law—but all the subsequent amendments, with the exception of No. 108, suggest that we add title I minus one or other of the articles in title I. That means that, unlike the provisions of a clause in a domestic piece of legislation, we are required to vote on the wider provision before voting on amendments to that provision.
In other words, if title I were clause 1, we would move and debate and presumably then vote on a succession of amendments to clause 1. Only then, when we had established the shape of clause 1, would we vote on the broad question of "clause stand part". That is a sensible and logical way of proceeding. By virtue of the way in which this group of amendments is constructed, however, we are required to vote—I assume, if the ordinary rules apply—on amendment No. 93; that is, on the overall question whether title I should be added to the Bill.
What I want to know from you, Mr. Morris, is what would be the effect of a decision in either direction on our ability to vote on subsequent amendments. I take the point that you made in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) a moment ago, but on the assumption that you were disposed to allow divisions on subsequent amendments, how would that be possible if we had voted either to add title I in its entirety or had voted not to add title I at all? What possibility would we have of voting on Amendments Nos 344, 345 and so on?
§ The Chairman
If the House chooses to add title Ito the Bill, I shall have to consider the position. Otherwise I am quite happy with the selection of amendments that I have made.
§ Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Is it the intention that votes will be taken immediately after a particular group of amendments has been debated? Also, would it be the intention that each one of those amendments, although grouped together, could be voted on separately when the time came?
§ The Chairman
The Chair will follow the normal procedure, which is that the votes will take place where they come in the Bill, except for the lead amendment. I have already dealt with the hon. Member's other point.
§ Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
I should like your guidance on a similar point, Mr. Morris. I understand the necessity to group the large number of amendments under these headings, and in most cases I understand why one must wait until the amendment comes up, because often those amendments are somewhere later in the Bill. In the vast majority of cases now, however, the groups of amendments are at exactly the same place in the Bill as the one before, because of the narrow nature of the Bill. Will you therefore have discretion to call the amendments for a vote, if you accept them, in order, rather than wait for some subsequent time to vote on an amendment which is 10 or 13 amendments down the road, although they are all in the same place in the Bill? I understand why in normal Committee procedure one must wait: amendments grouped with others may come later in the Bill. In this case they are in identical positions, with all the amendments in the same spot.
For sheer simplicity and for the ease of understanding of hon. Members, is it in your discretion, if you accept amendments after the lead amendment and you allow us to have a vote on them, to call them straight away rather than wait for some esoteric moment?
§ The Chairman
Such discretion is not mine. We will follow the normal procedure as they come on the amendment paper. That does not remove the right of hon. Gentlemen to have a vote at the appropriate time.
§ Mr. Budgen
Further to the point of order made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). Perhaps I could make a suggestion on which you, Mr. Morris, may be able to act. It would seem that the European Court cannot give an advisory opinion on anything except a proposed treaty between the Community and some external body; it therefore seems unlikely that the court can give us an advisory opinion. It is also perhaps unwise to obtain an opinion from the Commission because it is such a political body.
I am informed, however, that the Council has some 2,000 employees and a substantial legal staff in its employ, and I understand that it would be able to give an advisory opinion, particularly since, at the present time, the British Government hold the presidency. So I hope that you, Mr. Morris, will perhaps offer some word of advice to the Government.
May I take another point, before you rise, Mr. Morris—
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I am not in any way questioning your judgment and decisions in the Chair. I think that the whole Committee will agree that your response has been extremely helpful today in clarifying a number of areas where hon. Members on both sides of the Committee were somewhat confused about the relationship of the Bill to the treaty and other aspects, and how, for example, in response to the important point of order of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), you explained how extraneous material which was encompassed in the treaty could perhaps, possibly by a vote, come to be part of the Bill, which some of us might regard as a difficult concept but none the less an important one for the Committee to consider. You have been very helpful and there have been a number of significant clarifications, so I am not questioning in any way your decisions in the Chair, Mr. Morris.
I note, however, that for over one hour and 20 minutes we have had points of order of varying quality, substance and depth. As one who, reflecting other hon. Members' wishes, would like to get on to debate the amendments in the very helpful combinations which you have selected and put them together—in clusters which are extremely rational—I feel that the sooner we can do so, with your approval and decision, the better. I sense that many hon. Members would like to make progress and start the debate.
§ The Chairman
I note that the hon. Members who are standing, with one exception, have had at least two points of order, if not three. I hope that they will find totally new territory—otherwise, I will propose that we start on the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
I hope that it may be a new point of order, Mr. Morris. Having read all the amendments and new clauses, I find that no point has covered my concern about the definition of subsidiarity. As a new Member, I seek to know from you whether it is possible, even at this late stage, and having heard what other hon. M embers have said about the difficulty of getting anything through the Clerks, to table a new clause relating to the definition of subsidiarity, which might clarify article 3B, which does not define subsidiarity in a way that anyone has found useful and merely obfuscates rather than clarifies. Would it be possible to bring in a new clause?
§ The Chairman
May I help the hon. Gentleman? There is plenty of time for any new clause. The Clerks are there to help me to ensure that the material that they bring before me is in order. That is their function, and they do it exceedingly well.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I seek further clarification of the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). I am not clear whether the Chair has the right to look at the question whether a Bill needs a money resolution. lf, as a matter of fact, further financial resources are committed by the British Government under the treaty of union, is it a matter for the Chair whether the Bill will be valid without a money resolution? If not, how do hon. Members 166 properly raise the issue in debate? It is critical for many reasons, not least because it is necessary to have a money resolution if some of the amendments are to be allowed.
§ The Chairman
I am not sure that I can help the hon. Gentleman a great deal. The Bill has had its Second Reading. It is on Second Reading that the hon. Gentleman should have raised such points. Further to that, those on the Government Front Bench will have heard him.
§ Mr. Skinner
You will know, Mr. Morris, that when an hon. Member who has no Government backing introduces a Bill. let us say, on a Friday, and manages to get it through Second Reading without a money resolution and, as a result of various changes in the course of proceedings, finally manages to get it through the House, there have been scores of occasions when the Government, because they have been satisfied with the nature of the Bill, have decided to allow a money resolution to be added. The Bill may not have started with one, but many times it has finished with one.
I suggest to you, Mr. Morris, that in this case any amendment which leads to the necessity for a money resolution could be treated in the same way as a private Member's Bill which starts off without Government backing. It is the same principle and it ought to be allowed on this occasion as well.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is correct; a money resolution could be brought forward by the Government at any time; but it is not a matter for decision by the Chair.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Marlow
There are points of order which are said to be helpful, but are not. This point of order is intended to be genuinely helpful, Mr. Morris. It is obvious to you that many hon. Members would like a debate on the subject of the referendum. It is obvious, if public opinion polls are anything to go by, that large numbers of people outside the House would agree. You have yourself signified that you would be happy if it were in order for an amendment to be put down which would allow the House to have a debate on a referendum. I am sure that you want to be as helpful as possible. There are in the House some of the best brains in the country—or people who think that they have the best brains in the country. Amendment No. 89, which is obviously out of order, because it has been so ruled, says:This Act shall come into operation on such date as the Secretary of State may"—
§ The Chairman
Order. There is no point in the hon. Gentleman reading out amendments that are out of order. I am happy to have any amendment on any subject so long as it is in order. On the referendum, I have made the position abundantly clear. I have made it clear three times underlined, and I cannot say any more on the referendum.
§ The Chairman
I thought that the hon. Gentleman had finished, because he was about to quote something that is out of order.
§ Mr. Marlow
Can you help the House and those who think that they are the best brains in the country by saying what parts of that amendment are weak, so that we can put our brains together to strengthen it and fulfil the will of the House, and your will as well, Mr. Morris?
§ Mr. Spearing
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. A short while ago, in response to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), you drew our attention to the Third Reading of the Bill, where Queen's Consent to the prerogative was mentioned. There have been many attempts, both in Select Committee and in questions, to get a Government view on whether the monarch, the Crown, with or without family, with or without taxes, will be a citizen of the European union. Article 8 of the treaty reads:Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights conferred by this Treaty and be subject to the duties imposed thereby.I infer that possibly the fact that the Queen's prerogative has been placed at the disposal of the House in this respect means that, if this treaty is indeed ratified and comes into effect, provided all nations concerned ratify it, the monarch, whoever that may be in the future, will be subject to the duties imposed thereby as a citizen of the union. The constitutional implications of that with regard to foreign affairs, security, the administration of justice and the courts' decisions are, as you will know, profound.
I do not necessarily expect you to answer immediately, Mr. Morris, but how can the House find out whether the monarch of the day will become a citizen of the union? If you cannot rule on that now, because you may not know yourself, can you indicate to the House how it can find out before we reach the debate on this most important matter?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman has been here a long time. He knows that it is not for the Chair to rule on the interpretation of the Bill.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands). You said, Mr. Morris, that you had no discretion to take a vote on an amendment immediately following the lead amendment and that the vote had to take place in the order of the amendment on the amendment paper. I accept that, of course, but can you tell me why you do not have discretion and what rule prevents your having it?
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the amendments are put down in the order in which they are tabled—first come, first served.
§ Mr. Gould
May I ask you, Mr. Morris, for a slight elaboration of the ruling which you kindly gave in answer to the point of order I raised earlier? Am I to understand that if the lead amendment in the first group of amendments were carried—so that title I was added to the Bill—there would be no insuperable procedural or logical problem about subsequent Divisions on amendments to add title I minus one or two articles to the Bill? In other words, are you telling us that it would be, as is ordinarily the case, a matter entirely within your discretion whether to allow a Division on those provisions, or is there some further difficulty that we shall have to face?
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but it is a hypothetical question. I would have to consider the matter if and when we reached that position, and it would clearly require very serious consideration.
§ Mr. Budgen
I am sure that you, Mr. Morris, and the House will agree that we all wish to pace ourselves in the consideration of the Bill and the treaty. I have no doubt 168 that the House would like to ensure that we have proper consideration of all parts of the treaty, so that the last part is as well considered as the first. You may have noticed—I was not a party to these discussions—that it is alleged by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) that a very significant promise was given to him in order to obtain his support in the voting in the paving debate. It is said by some that it was merely an anticipation and explanation of the likely course of the proceedings on the Bill.
Please do not get up for a moment, Mr. Morris; just let me finish my point.
§ The Chairman
Order. The only reason that I get up is that the hon. Gentleman is talking about issues that are nothing to do with the Chair. I am sorry; I can only conduct the debate in the Chamber when we are discussing matters on which the Chair has responsibility. The Chair has no responsibility for the details of promises made by one hon. Gentleman to another on a paving motion. If it was a different point of order, the hon. Gentleman should not have started on that basis. I will give him one chance: let us have a point of order for the Chair and not something to do with Government policy.
§ Mr. Budgen
With great respect, Mr. Morris, I have no doubt that you wish to know how it is planned that these proceedings should be timed. It is a relevant question for you and for the House—