I want to make a Ruling which may help any hon. Member who is interested in item No. 17 on today's Order Paper.
The House will remember that on Thursday, 18th July, the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) submitted that the Ecclesiastical Committee's Report upon the Prayer Book (Further Provisions) Measure, 1968, which was presented to this House on Wednesday, 17th July, was never laid in draft before the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly and that, in consequence, an important step in the legislative process by which such Measures are submitted for the. Royal Assent, after being approved by both Houses, had been omitted.
Last Thursday, I declined to reply in advance on the matter, but the Motion is now before the House among the effective Orders for today, and I must, therefore, give the Ruling which I promised last Thursday.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West has submitted, in support of his contention, a letter, signed by the Secretary of the Church Assembly, which states,inter alia:
No meeting of the Legislative Committee did in fact take place between the meeting of the Ecclesiastical Committee and the presentation of the Measure and the Report to both Houses …
In these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman's submission that a preliminary step in the legislative process has been omitted cannot be ignored by the Chair. In consequence, it would not seem right to propose the Motion to the House until such time as the Report which accompanies it has met the formal requirements of the Statute. I therefore propose not to put item No. 17 to the House.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the hon. Member who was to have moved the Motion if it came before the House tonight, may I ask whether you are aware that, on 27th June, the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly passed a Resolution which includedinter alia the fact that, in the event of the draft report of the Ecclesiastical Committee being favourable, the Secretary was authorised to signify the desire of the Legislative Committee that the Measure be presented to Parliament? Are you also aware that I understand that this has been the procedure for perhaps 20 or 40 years? Have you had regard to this fact and to whether you are not creating a precedent?
The simple answer is that Mr. Speaker is guided by the Statute. The provisions of the Statute are formal. Whatever arrangements the hon. Gentleman refers to have been suggested, if a matter involving a breach of the Statute is brought to Mr. Speaker's notice, he has no alternative but to act as he has. The hon. Gentleman must seek further advice as to what he can do about his Motion.