Statutory Instruments (MR. Speaker's Ruling)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th April 1974.

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Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral 12:00 am, 30th April 1974

I am afraid that I must now take up some time of the House in giving a number of rulings.

First, I want to deal with the matters which arose out of the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck) yesterday.

I deal first with the point made by the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) about the availability in the Vote Office of Statutory Instruments laid before the House. This matter is one for the Government, who, some 20 years ago, undertook to see that copies of instruments subject to negative resolution should normally be available in the Vote Office when the instruments were laid. I understand that in this case the instrument was so laid, but if hon. Members have any points to raise on the implementation of that undertaking, it is a matter for the Ministers concerned.

The next matter is that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) and the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) asked me to consider whether there might be an element of contempt of the House in the making of regulations which prevent Members who are barristers from appearing before Family Practitioners' Committees on behalf of their constituents. I think that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West used the phrase "verging on contempt".

Parliamentary privilege is intended to cover proceedings in Parliament. I do not think that there is authority for supposing that protection given by privilege to proceedings in Parliament can be extended to this sort of activity. The decision whether to exclude Members who are barristers, who are paid or unpaid, from representing their constituents before such committees is one for the House to take under the proceedings prescribed in relation to these regulations. I am therefore afraid that I cannot rule that the points raised by the hon. Members for Newham, North-West and for Nottingham, West would justify me in giving the matter precedence over the Orders of the Day.

Now for the hon. Member for Watford, who originally raised the subject. He asked for my help. I have considerable sympathy with the import of his complaint. However, there is no procedural action that I can take in the matter. It must be for the Member himself to take such steps as are open to him to seek the annulment of these regulations. I must not comment on the merits of a regulation —nor have I heard the case for the regulation deployed. But I do confess to a degree of unease about the whole matter, and I hope that it may be considered by those who have the power to act.