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Members of the European Parliament

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1979.

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Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall , Leicester South 12:00 am, 19th December 1979

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely. the provision of facilities for Euro-Members of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, and the House will agree that this application is specific, since it concerns the 81 individual British Members of the European Parliament.

On the question of urgency, I draw two matters to your attention. The first one is that the European Members are likely to have to leave their present premises across the road from the House in a few weeks. The second issue of urgency relates to the other place. As you are probably aware, Mr. Speaker, the other place has been giving this matter consideration for the past two years, and I understand that there is to be a debate on the third report of the House of Lords Offices Select Committee this afternoon. It is alleged that the report concludes that there should be urgent consultations between the other place and this place with a view to getting concerted action on the question of facilities for Euro-Members of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster.

I believe that the matter is important for two reasons. Access to facilities in the House of Commons by Euro-Assemblymen raises big questions about the rights and privileges both of Parliament itself and British Members of Parliament. As the House knows, and you as the guardian of the privileges and rights of Euro-Members know only too well, Mr. Speaker, the only people who have access at the moment are the people who serve Parliament, whether they be Officers of the House or secretaries. I believe that this positon could be usurped if Euro-Assemblymen have a right of access to the Palace of Westminster.

On the question of importance, my view is quite clear. If the Euro-Assemblymen wish to have facilities in London they should be provided by the European Commission or by the European Parliament. To underline that point, I believe that we are already paying enough to the Common Market and if further expenditure is required for European Members of Parliament it should be provided either by the Commission or by the Parliament.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you are convinced of the urgency, the importance and the specific nature of my request and that you will be able to accede to it.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) gave me notice before 12 o'clock today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the provision of facilities for Euro-Members of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have given careful consideration to the representations that the hon. Gentleman has made but I have to rule that they do not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Later

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not giving you notice earlier of my point of order, but that was not possible under the circumstances. I refer to the facilities at Westminster for Members of the European Parliament. May we have an assurance that no decision will be taken during the recess and that no decision will be taken without a full debate in the House? Not only is accommodation of importance; an important constitutional question is involved. It would be unfortunate if a decision were taken by the Services Committee during the recess without a full debate in the House.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you take into consideration that in the past two years hon. Members have experienced growing difficulties when trying to book rooms for various parliamentary activities? Last week, for instance, the important Labour Party trade union group tried to arrange a meeting with a leader in the trade union movement. Normally the trade union group can guarantee finding a room somewhere. However, such is the pressure on all the rooms, despite there being one or two more available, that the group had to cancel its meeting at the last minute.

In the past few months, in particular, the use of many rooms and other facilities have been cancelled because of the pressure of activities by hon. Members. We are talking not only of the 81 Members of the European Parliament who will want to come here but of the many others who will be associated with them. After the thin end of the wedge we must think in terms of several hundred people requiring facilities on some occasions in premises in and around the House.

This is a big issue. I hope that no hurried decision will be taken. You, Mr. Speaker, carry considerable weight. During your long career as Speaker this may be one of the most important decisions that you will have to take. I hope that you will think carefully about any decision that you have to make with a view to ensuring that the already overloaded facilities in the House of Commons are not further overloaded by the Members of the European Parliament and their associates.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I am obliged to the hon. Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) for the way in which they expressed their point of view. I can give the House an assurance. The Services Committee do not decide this matter. No decision will be taken during the recess. Of that I can give the House an assurance, so far as I am concerned.

I do not decide on the subjects for debates; that is a matter for somebody else. The House of Commons Commission has considerable responsibility. I feel cure that since we are to rise the day after tomorrow—I hope—no decision on such an important matter will be taken during the recess. The hon. Member for Bolsover was kind enough to refer to my long career. It is half-way through.