§ Mr. BATEY
I should like to ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Last Thursday, some answers by the Minister of Labour were so unsatisfactory that I gave notice that I would raise the matter on the Adjournment. Last Thursday I was prevented from doing so because the Minister of Labour could not attend. On Monday night I was prevented from doing so, again because the Minister of Labour could not attend. Last night I expected to be able to take advantage of the Motion for Adjournment. The Prime Minister was very clear in stating the business yesterday. He said that, if the London Passenger Transport Bill were 1014 disposed of before Eleven, the Committee stage of the Austrian Loan (Guarantee) Bill would be taken. We found last night, however, that the Government Chief Whip took some Orders affecting the Home Office, which he need not have taken, and the purpose —
I am not quite sure what the hon. Member's remarks are going to be. I thought he was rising for a particular purpose.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am, but I was prefacing that particular purpose by these remarks. I consider that we were badly treated last night, and, because of that, I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, "the starvation of men, women and children in the county of Durham by the operation of the means test as administered by commissioners appointed by the Minister of Labour."
I am afraid it is quite clear that I cannot admit this as a matter coming within the terms of the Standing Order. It is not sufficiently definite, being based upon an allegation as to a particular set of circumstances which, if existing, has existed for some considerable time past, and, therefore, it might have been raised previously.
§ Mr. LAWSON
May I ask you when we are going to get an opportunity of discussing this matter? May I draw your attention to the fact that Mr. Speaker was asked a fortnight ago whether, in the case of money voted by Parliament and administered by appointed commissioners, the House was going to have an opportunity of discussing the commissioners such as in the past, in these circumstances, the House has had? Apparently the House is not going to have either an opportunity of discussing these matters on the Adjournment—[HON". MEMBERS: "To-morrow !"]—it is all-right for you; you can afford it; you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
That is really a question of business; it is not a question that should be addressed to the Chair at all.
§ Mr. BATEY
On a point of Order. You say that we cannot raise this matter on the Adjournment. Surely private Mem- 1015 bers have some rights in this House, and is it not the duty of the Chair to protect private Members? Is it not the right of a private Member to raise matters on the Adjournment; and, if steps are taken to prevent it, surely it is the duty of the Chair or someone else to see that the right is maintained?
I am afraid I must recommend the hon. Member to study the Rules of Procedure in regard to this House. What took place last night was, no doubt, unfortunate from the point of view of the hon. Member, but these Motions were down on the Order Paper in a perfectly proper way in the ordinary course of business, and were exempted business; and, therefore, it was the hon. Member's misfortune that time was taken up in that way without leaving him time to raise the question that he wanted to raise on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
May I ask you, Sir, whether, in the circumstances described by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), it would not be possible for each intimation that a question would be raised to be forestalled by the simple process of putting down such Orders as these? In this case it is perfectly true that no one deliberately did anything out of order, but, although the Minister of Labour had been warned, and Mr. Speaker had been warned, that the question was about to be raised, and officials from the Ministry of Labour were present at 11 p.m., the Patronage Secretary persisted in taking these Orders, which he was legitimately entitled to do. In these circumstances, would it not be possible on every occasion, so long as there was any Order on the Paper that was exempted business, for the intimation that a question would be raised to be avoided by the simple process of debating such an Order?
The hon. Member seems to have interpreted the procedure of the House correctly. I can 1016 only suggest to the hon. Member who wanted to raise the question that, if he has tried and failed two or three times, he can still try again.