Question of Privilege (MR. Speaker's Ruling)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th March 1976.

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Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 26th March 1976

Yesterday, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) raised with me what he claimed to be a matter of privilege arising out of a document, a copy of which he handed in, setting out an offer by European Ferries Limited to the ordinary stockholders of the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company. This document is dated 25th February, and its contents appear to have been a matter of public knowledge from an even earlier date, having been reported in the Press on 20th and 21st February. It is clear, therefore, that this matter has been known about for some time.

As is made clear on page 343 of "Erskine May", before I allow a complaint of Privilege to be made to me in the House I am bound to satisfy myself that the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity. Had I known yesterday the facts about this document which I have explained to the House, I would not have been able to permit the hon. Member for Bolsover to raise the matter as a complaint of breach of Privilege, and, clearly, I cannot now allow priority over the Orders of the Day to a motion relating to the matter of the complaint. If he so wishes, the hon. Member may pursue the matter by other means.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Sowerby

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, when the Privilege issue was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) you quite properly said that you were not prepared to consider matters relating to the application until you had made your statement on the question of Privilege. You will remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) raised the related issue of the possibility on Private Business of the votes of hon. Members who have a pecuniary interest in that business being disallowed. Would you be prepared to consider giving guidance to the House later on this issue, as many of us believe it to be of great interest and concern to the House?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I cannot rule on general matters. There must be a specific complaint about an hon. Member, and I understand that no such complaint has been registered.