Orders of the Day — REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1949 (AMEND MENT) (No. 2) BILL

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th February 1964.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members:

Object.

Second Reading deferred till Friday, 6th March.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I raise with you a question which was raised in the House last Friday. You will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) drew attention to the fact that the practice has been growing up for a long time of certain hon. Members. unidentified, calling out the word "Object" when the Second Reading is formally moved of Bills such as the Representation of the People Act 1949 (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill and the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill. Some of us feel that it is very undesirable, when we have relatively uncontroversial Bills—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—that hon. Members should, without identifying themselves, be able to frustrate the wishes of large numbers of hon. Members on both sides of the House in inviting the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill in order that it may then be considered in Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby raised this Question with you last Friday, Mr. Speaker, and he was supported in the protest he made by other hon. Members in, I think, all parts of the House. I feel that the time has now arrived when some steps ought to be taken in the interests of the House as a whole to consider the undesirability of this practice. Some of us feel that this opportunity, which is open to any one hon. Member by a mere grunt or a mere statement of objection, without identifying himself, to frustrate the wishes of the House is an abuse of the proceedings of the House of Commons.

I do not quite know what it is in your power to do, Mr. Speaker, but I do ask you on this occasion to give us your guidance. I would suggest for your consideration that one or other of two or three courses might be adopted. It might be possible to arrange in future that if any hon. Member wishes to object he should stand up in his place and say "Object" ". That would at any rate enable the sponsors of the Bill and those who support it to identify the objectors and, if necessary, have discussions with them. It would also have the result that the objector would be identified and would be known. If you felt unable, Mr. Speaker, to introduce this change in our procedure on your own responsibility, it would seem to me that this is eminently a matter which might be referred to the Committee which is considering the whole procedure of the House.

I am raising the matter on this occasion, Mr. Speaker, because for a long time past it has given many hon. Members on both sides of the House a great deal of concern. We feel that the present procedure is very unsatisfactory and that something ought to be done about it.

4.14 p.m.

Photo of Sir Rolf Williams Sir Rolf Williams , Exeter

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Might I add one or two remarks? I should like to help the House as much as possible, and as I have probably objected to more Bills than any other hon. Member, I think I have some experience.

With great respect to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), I do not think he understands what is meant by the word "Object". When one says "Object" to the Second Reading of a Bill, one is not objecting to the principle of the Bill. What one is objecting to is the Bill going through without discussion. Eminent authorities on Parliament have expressed a similar view in the past.

It is quite wrong that legislation should be pushed through this House—I have protested against this on many occasions—without groper discussion. The Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill, which is promoted by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), is a controversial Measure. I am not saying whether I should support it or not, but it would be quite wrong for that Bill to go through without the House having a change to discuss is.

It is quite wrong for hon. Members opposite to eer at one of my hon. Friends and pretend that he has not the courage to say that he objects to various Bills—

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Order. One thing is quite clear, and that is that we cannot debate the matter now, leering or no. I thoroughly understand the point put by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) but I can only say that, as he and the House know, I must adhere to what I said last week. I do not decide what goes to the Committee on Procedure.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, we are now in the period of Adjournment.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

No. Had we not started a rather irregular discussion—I say that with no disrespect—we might have reached the Motion for the Adjournment, but we have not got there yet.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Further to that point of order. I understand that the half-hour normally devoted to the Adjournment debate on a Friday afternoon has not been claimed today by any hon. Member or, if claimed, has been abandoned. Therefore, I suggest that it would be convenient for us to ventilate this matter further during the half-hour available for discussion on the Adjournment Motion. I suggest, with great respect, that such a debate would be entirely in order.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

The present position is that we have not finished the Orders of the Day and that we cannot have a debate upon a point of order.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the ventriloquists opposite not to have their names recorded in HANSARD on these occasions?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

All these matters are not, as I have explained, for me. We must get on with the Orders of the Day.