§ Mr. Latham
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 now confirmed military incursion into Laos by South Vietnamese forces with United States support, such representations as have been made and are being made by the British Government in this matter, and" —[Interruption.] May I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to restrain hon. Members opposite from appearing to show a callousness and indifference to the suffering of the Vietnamese people, the Indochinese people and the American nation?
I want to include in my submission alsothe danger of British involvement in a general conflagration in South-East Asia under South-East Asia Treaty Organisation and the Treaty of Manila.Last week, I made a similar application concerning unconfirmed reports. Next day, I think that the House was grateful that you allowed a Private Notice Question, although the matter might still have been held to be a hypothetical one—[Interruption.] You will recall that, at that time, the Foreign Secretary told the House that he had been unable to obtain corroboration of the reports—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Latham
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Last week, as I was saying, a Private Notice Question was allowed on what might then have been held to be still a hypothetical matter. The invasion of Laos is no longer hypothetical, no longer a matter of kite-flying under a cloak of censorship to test world reaction in advance. It is, sadly, now a tragic reality.
There is no longer a news censorship and one assumes, therefore, that the Foreign Office is now officially aware of what is happening. Also, I am making the presumption that the British Government would still claim to have some influence with their American allies.
I submit that the matter is now specific enough, and that the importance of the issue can never have been in question. I seek to make only two other points on this point of order. First, in regard to urgency, I think that the grave risks and the dangers involved should be quite clear. There was, in 1964, a reply by the then Foreign Secretary, who is now Foreign Secretary again that British forces could only be involved in going to the assistance of American forces if there were a danger of a general conflagration in South-East Asia. That now seems to be an imminent risk with every step by which the war is escalated and prolonged.
Second, you may consider, Mr. Speaker, that under Standing Order No. 9 it could be held that there are other ways of bringing this matter before the House, but I submit that it was demonstrably inadequate to have an Answer to a Private Notice Question last week to cover this issue, and, second, that even a Ministerial statement would be an inadequate substitute for a proper debate by the House.
I would therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to allow this vital, important, urgent and dangerous situation to be discussed by the House. I request you to place my application before the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member asks leave—and I am grateful to him for giving me notice—to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter 40 which he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the now confirmed military incursion into Laos by South Vietnamese forces with United States support, such representations as have been made and are being made by the British Government in this matter; and the danger of British involvement in a general conflagration in South-East Asia under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation and the Treaty of Manila.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9, Mr. Speaker is directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for his decision. I have given careful consideration to the representations that the hon. Member has made, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether it is in order, in your judgment of a situation such as my hon. Friend has raised, to suggest that the wishes of the Opposition Front Bench are taken into account?
§ Mr. Speaker
It certainly is not in order. Under the Standing Order, Mr. Speaker is not allowed to give his reasons or particulars of the matters which have affected his mind. If the House should choose to change the terms of the Standing Order it will be open to the Chair to give reasons and to comment generally, but as the rules are at present I am directed not to give any reasons.