Conduct of Members

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1976.

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Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 1st November 1976

Before I call the Prime Minister to move the order of reference to the Select Committee on the conduct of Members, I should like to explain the procedure that I propose to follow.

When motions setting up Select Committees are moved in the House they usually go through "on the nod" and for that reason the Questions on orders of reference, nominations and powers are put en bloc to save time. When such motions are debated, and more particularly when amendments have been selected, it is clear that the practice is to put the several Questions on the order of reference, nomination of the Committee and its powers separately.

I propose, however, that all the separate motions comprising orders of reference, nomination and powers in this instance be debated first, together with such amendments as I have selected, so that we may have a broad debate on the motion and on the amendments, again to save time.

At the conclusion of the debate I shall put the separate Questions on each paragraph, calling each Member whose amendment I have selected to move his amendment if he so wishes at the proper place in the paragraph concerned, provided that it has not already fallen as a result of the House having agreed to an earlier amendment.

I have selected the amendment in line 22, to leave out from 'That' to end of line 24 and insert 'the Committee shall conduct its proceedings in public:'. I have also selected both amendments in lines 24, which are as follows:

In line 24, at end insert— 'That no witness summoned to appear before the Committee shall claim Crown Privilege as a justification for refusing to answer questions asked by the Committee:'. In line 24, at end insert— That the Committee shall at their discretion sit in public if they consider that at any stage of the inquiry the requirements of justice or of the public interest requires them to do so notwithstanding any of the foregoing:'. The amendment to leave out lines 22 to 24 is unnecessary since under the arrangement I have just announced the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) may vote against the motion when I put the Question on the paragraph comprised in lines 22 to 24.

Finally, I remind the House that the conduct of Members may not be criticised save on a substantive motion which admits of a distinct vote of the House. This is not such a motion since it goes not further than appointing a Select Committee to make a particular inquiry. While it is open to hon. Members to refer to circumstances attending the inquiry, it will not be in order to make allegations against individual Members. This would prejudge the Committee's findings and recommendations.