Prices and Incomes Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st August 1966.

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Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland 12:00 am, 1st August 1966

On a point of order. I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the transformation of the Prices and Incomes Bill into proposed legislation which has not been considered by this House at Second Reading. I submit that this matter is certainly definite for the Amendments are now on the Notice Paper and that they fundamentally alter the character of the Bill. Even if they come within the Title they introduce an element of compulsion and interference with bargains freely arrived at which was not there before and which is quite alien to our legislation, at least in peace time. It is also contrary to the intention expressed by the Prime Minister in the House on 20th July.

I submit that the matter is urgent, for the Bill is now in Committee. I submit that it is certainly of public importance for these drastic proposals will, if accepted, affect everyone in the country. Yet they have not been considered by their elected representatives in this House. Standing Committee B has 25 Members, none of whom is a Liberal. This means that the Liberal Party and most hon. Members of all parties will have no opportunity whatever for discussing these most important proposals.

Therefore, I submit that the House ought to have an opportunity of discussing the implications of the problems of the Bill and whether, if we do not have a Second Reading, that at least the procedure of the Committee of the whole House should be used for the purpose for which it is expressly designed, to discuss a matter of the widest importance to all in the country, and that the new Amendments ought to be referred to the House.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). With his usual courtesy he informed me that he might be seeking to raise this matter under Standing Order No. 9.

The right hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the transformation of the Prices and Incomes Bill into proposed legislation which has not been considered by this House at Second Reading". Among the rules governing the acceptance or otherwise of an application under the Standing Order is that which prescribes that, when an ordinary Parliamentary opportunity will occur, the Motion cannot be put to the House. The House will find numerous instances of the application of this rule on page 365 of Erskine May. Nor can such a Motion anticipate events here or in Committee.

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety about this subject, but I think that I am right in saying that the matter cannot be dealt with by the procedure under Standing Order No. 9. The Amendments to the Prices and Incomes Bill, were, I gather, tabled on Friday, and their possible effect on the Bill will have to be studied by the members of Standing Committee B, to whom the Bill stands committed.

Standing Order No. 42, which deals with Amendments in Committee, entrusts the Standing Committee itself both with the powers and the duties respecting these Amendments. In particular, the Chairman of that Committee has full authority to rule them in order or out of order, and, as Speaker, I could not possibly venture an opinion on that matter or follow any course which might involve interference by Mr. Speaker in the work of the Standing Committee.

I cannot, therefore, allow the application to move the Adjournment under Standing Order No. 9 today.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You said that one of the reasons why you could not accept this Motion was because an ordinary Parliamentary occasion would arise on which these matters——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is not going to argue with the Chair. I have ruled——

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I was about to ask for clarification——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

No. I have ruled very carefully and, I think, very clearly. I cannot accept it.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I certainly did not intend to question your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was about to ask you for a little clarification.

You said that an ordinary Parliamentary occasion would arise on which these matters could be debated. It is my understanding that an Amendment identical to one which has been debated already in the Standing Committee cannot subsequently be moved on the Floor of the House on Report. I wished to ask you on what occasion it would be possible to raise these matters on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The hon. Gentleman must not invite the Chair to go into details about the hypothetics of the future. I have ruled that this does not come under Standing Order No. 9. He must accept my Ruling.

Photo of Sir John Hobson Sir John Hobson , Warwick and Leamington

On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you assist the House by advising us how it is possible, when the Government introduce what amounts to an entirely new Measure, that the principles of it should be discussed upon the Floor of the House and not in Committee?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

As I have already ruled, this is not a matter for Mr. Speaker. If is a matter which must be raised in the Standing Committee to which the House has committed the Bill.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Mr. Speaker, would it be in order for me to ask the Leader of the House to take account of the view, which has received considerable support on his side of the House as well as this side, that, by those Amendments, a new Bill is being presented to the Committee without Second Reading? Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman bring the Bill back for a fresh Second Reading, or, alternatively, give us an undertaking that the new Clauses will be considered on the Floor of the House and not in Standing Committee?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

This is not a matter for the Chair.

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Mr. Speaker, if it should so happen that the Committee brings back a different Bill from that which was committed to it, can objection be taken here before the Report stage is proceeded with?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) must know that this Speaker, like all his predecessors, never rules on hypotheses.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. While, of course, accepting your Ruling, can you assist the House and particularly protect the rights of backbenchers? We are in a situation in which nine new Clauses have been tabled, running into seven pages. Would it not be possible for the Leader of the House, having taken note of the feelings expressed on both sides, to seek your permission to make a statement which might assist the House at this stage?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

That again, as the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) knows, is not a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Mr. Bowden. Notice of Motion.

Later

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not rather unusual for anyone as pleasant as the Leader of the House not to answer a question which is put by this side of the House and by the other side?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) knows as well as anyone in the House that that is not a point of order for me at all.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is quite apparent, if I may so put it, that the House this afternoon finds itself in a very difficult and extremely dangerous position, one of the results of which we have just seen in that the Bill which was down to be referred to the Second Reading Committee has now been rejected by the House.* That is obviously because of the tension caused by the incidents over the Amendments to the Prices and Incomes Bill which are to be considered by Standing Committee B.

May I put it to you that the House is in a particular difficulty because it wants to consider what action it can take. Normally, Mr. Speaker is the custodian of the rights of all hon. Members in this * Note: See col. 44. matter, but whenever we refer a question to you we are told that the question is hypothetical and no guidance is given. May we ask you in which way we can obtain guidance as to how to deal with an important and critical situation which affects the whole country?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I think, first of all, that the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) is unfair in suggesting that whenever the Speaker is asked for guidance on a point of order he treats it as something hypothetical.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

If you wish me to withdraw, Mr. Speaker, I will. I was not saying "on every occasion". I was saying that this afternoon you have said that the situation is hypothetical.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

There is no need for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw. I was making my own comment.

On the issue itself, if the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will study the Ruling which I gave, the remedy is in the hands of those hon. Members of the House who are members of the Committee to which the Bill has been referred, where the matter will have to be raised in the first place. It is not a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

I think that the difficulty in which we find ourselves, Mr. Speaker, is to know how, under the rules of order, a Standing Committee can discuss the principles of what is virtually a new Bill. That is what we want to know.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I still rule as I did, that it must be raised in Standing Committee.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

While accepting every word that you have said, Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that you find yourself in a very difficult position. Over the years, when similar instances have occurred, it is usually the Leader of the House, who is responsible to private Members on both sides, who has come to the rescue of the situation. Today, he is funking it. Let him face up to it.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.

Hon. Members:

Shame.