§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise an entirely different subject. In anything I say I make no reflection on either the Official Reporters, who we know do an excellent job, or on the Chair and its present occupant.
May I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to last Friday's HANSARD at column 1594. You will see there a reference to a Bill which was brought from the Lords. You yourself were in the Chair at the time, and you will no doubt recollect that the Bill was given an unopposed Second Reading which was moved by the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan). As is customary according to Standing Orders, the House was then requested to allocate time for the further procedure to be followed, in this case the Committee stage. The hon. Member for Hove said "Friday next", but before he made that remark I rose and said "Now, Sir", to which you, Mr. Speaker, said that as the hon. Member for Hove, who was in charge of the Bill, had asked for further proceedings on Committee stage next Friday, I could not then move "now".
48 My point of order is that no reference to that is in HANSARD, although it will be in your recollection that that took place. This was the only Bill on that day which was from the Lords. It was not a Private Member's Bill for which a Member had won the ballot. This was a Bill which the hon. Member for Hove, rightly, had voluntarily agreed to sponsor, or to take over, which is customary. My point of order is that I understand that it is in order immediately after Second Reading to move that the next stage is taken, in this case the Committee stage. Indeed, If hon. Members wish, all the stages can be taken, Committee, Report and Third Reading, the point being whether the House gives its consent.
On Friday there was no objection when I moved that the Bill be further proceeded with. I agree that had an hon. Member so objected the Bill would have stood over. The hon. Member for Leominster (Sir Clive Bossom) had an example of this happening a few weeks ago. On the first occasion the House did not give its consent for further proceedings to be taken, but the following week the Bill went through Committee, Report and Third Reading on the nod.
I am not being critical in any sense of the Chair when I say that nothing can prevent the House proceeding as it wishes, provided that Standing Orders are not contravened or any attempt is made to usurp the authority and power of the Chair. In this instance, the power of the Chair was not involved. The only Standing Order which has a bearing on this matter is Standing Order No. 50. Page 42 of the 1969 edition, which has not been altered since 1969, refers to consideration of a Bill which has been brought in into a Committee of the whole House. But this had not been brought into a Committee of the House because, with respect, you had prevented that procedure taking place.
Obviously, I am not trying to upset anything that was done last Friday, but I think there is a question of principle here and the procedure should be established for the future. First, if this is not recorded in HANSARD and a similar incident were again to occur there would not be the opportunity of referring to HANSARD and, second, if the Chair has the authority to deprive the House of rights which are laid down in Standing 49 Orders that should be clearly understood, because in future the same or a similar situation may well arise.
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider this at your leisure, because there is more to this than you probably can give your attention to on the spur of the moment, although I have given you a little notice of this matter. I ask you to consider this as a matter of general principle for the future. I make no adverse comment about what happened last Friday.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having given me notice that he would seek to raise this point of order and also for the way in which he has put it. What happens at four o'clock on a Friday is not without its pitfalls, particularly for a fairly new occupant of the Chair: things go very quickly all of a sudden.
I will certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman has said. On one matter I am prepared to rule immediately. If the day is named by the Member in charge of the Bill I must accept that day and no other hon. Member can put forward another day. I will consider the rest of the hon. Gentleman's statement and rule upon it, if necessary.