On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to bother you with this point of order, but I was so moved this morning on looking at the Order Paper that I felt I must raise this matter. I wish to call your attention to Early Day Motion No. 344 entitled "Football". It is in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison), and I have given him due notice that I intended to raise this matter.
The Motion states:
That the Best is the enemy of the good.
I say very feelingly that many people in this House, whether or not we have played football, are jealous of the good name of the House, jealous of its customs and conventions, and there is no doubt whatever what is the imputation of this wording.
I have taken the advice of many senior Members of the House and they are all disturbed by this being allowed on the Order Paper. If you will look at the text, it is not—without being too unkind—even a sentence, and it is not the usual format. There is no doubt about its meaning. Although many of us have our own views about this young man George Best, we feel that the imputation is there. We feel that this is more than the usual flippancy which sometimes debases the coinage of the Order Paper. We feel that it goes far beyond that.
I and many hon. Members feel that this is a calculated insult to a young man who cannot answer back. We in this House are privileged, and whatever this young man has done or has not done is a matter which many people feel is for himself and his own club, Manchester United, and Sir Matt Busby. I would like to know how this got past the Table. I feel it is a dangerous precedent that any hon. Member can attack a citizen, a constituent, in this way. It is quite a different matter if there is a business house in the City about which there are allegations of speculation or defalcation. But here an individual citizen is picked out, insulted and attacked on the Order Paper. It is a dangerous precedent, and I would like to know how it got on the Order Paper.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) in his polite way told me that he would raise this question. As might be expected, I am a strong supporter of Heart of Midlothian Football Club, and this Motion may be regarded as a bit of Celtic humour. I will do my best not to offend in future.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) for having given me considerable notice of his intention to raise this point of order. I think the doctrine is very clear. It is set out at page 366 of Erskine May:
As the notice paper is published by authority of the House, a notice of motion or a question to be put to a Member, containing unbecoming expressions, infringing its rules, or otherwise irregular, may, under the Speaker's authority, be corrected by the Clerks at the Table. These alterations, if it be necessary, are submitted to the Speaker, or to the Member who gave the notice. A notice wholly out of order, as, for example, containing a reflection on a vote of the House, may be withheld from publication on the notice paper. If the irregularity is not extreme, the notice is printed, and reserved for future consideration.
I must say that I cannot conceive that this instance could be regarded as an extreme irregularity.
An hon. Member takes responsibility for the terms of his own Motion or his own Question. The idea of censorship by the Chair really is dangerous having regard to the rights of individual Members; and it would also be very disagreeable for the Chair to have to assume it.