On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the importance and significance of the vote that will take place at the end of the debate on the employment situation, could you give confirmation of the position concerning the first amendment on the Order Paper, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and myself and over 100 other hon. Members?
There are three matters that I wish to raise. First, in your statement to the House yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you acknowledged that you had on your own authority decided to extend a recommendation of the Select Committee on Proceure by allowing a second amendment to be called after a four-day debate. Could you make clear to the House why more importance should be attached to the duration of a debate—four days—than to the fact that over 100 hon. Members have signified their support of a particular amendment?
Secondly, will you make it clear, Mr. Speaker, whether I am right in understanding that, because no motion was tabled by the Government last night, any option open to you to rule differently today—if you were so minded—has gone?
Lastly, would you confirm that I approached you last night, Mr. Speaker, concerning the possibility of the Government tabling then a precautionary procedural motion which would leave open to you the possibility of considering and affirming or changing the ruling you gave yesterday? You said that you in fact passed this thought to the usual channels, who failed to respond—
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. It certainly was not my intention that that should be the case or that the approach should have been regarded as confidential.
Having been advised by you that I cannot proceed with that point, Mr. Speaker, may I simply underline the fact that there was no initiative taken through the usual channels last night which would have left open to you the option to which I have just referred?
May I add that there are many of us—as you may appreciate, Mr. Speaker—who are very angry that, whoever is to blame, there is now to be no chance for us to vote for our own amendment? We are left with no option but to demonstrate our belief in our alternative point of view by withholding our support from the Government on the main motion tonight.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you confirm that it would have been quite improper for me to try to table a motion last night—the Table would not have accepted it—to facilitate the calling of an amendment which you had already decided not to call?
May I now inform the House of something that you do not know, Mr. Speaker? In view of what you said at Question Time yesterday about looking at it again, before leaving the House last night at 11 o'clock I prepared a motion and gave instructions for it to be tabled if you changed your mind. Had you changed your mind, that business motion would have been put down. You have not done so, the decision being entirely your own, as is quite proper in your case. The Table would not have accepted a motion from me to call an amendment which you had decided not to call.
I must express my own point of view. I take full responsibility for that decision. The reason I accepted the other motion was that it was a four-day debate. If I allow that innovation on a one-day debate, it will probably happen every time we have a three-line whip on a one-day debate. It is a difficult procedural point. I could not make such a serious innovation in our practices without the full authority of the House. I take full responsibility for that decision.
May I establish whether I was given wrong advice when I was told that it would have been proper for the Government to table a contingent motion which would not have pre-empted your decision, Mr. Speaker, to confirm or change your ruling today?
That is an interesting procedural question. Perhaps it will be debated on Monday. I am not sure what the answer is. The selection of amendments is a matter for me, not the Government. If the House chooses to mate new rules, let it do so. As the rules are, I must exercise my authority and discretion.
I should like to put two quick points to the Leader of the House. The first is to express our gratitude to him for responding to representations that there should be no other business after the election of the new Speaker on Tuesday.