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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.