HC Deb 13 May 1971 vol 817 cc633-4

Considered in Committee, as amended in the Select Committee.

[Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]

4.0 p.m.

Mr. George Thomson (Dundee, East)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. I seek your advice and guidance, as the guardian of the rights and interests of the members of the Committee. We are about to engage in a discussion based on a report of the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. I am sure that the Committee is grateful for the work which our colleagues did on the Select Committee. They had 11 sessions and produced a report of about 180 pages. I complain, Sir Robert, that the Government did not place this report in the Vote Office until Tuesday night. I do not think that this gives the House and the Committee adequate time to consider this interesting and important report, a report which is only before us once every five years. That is my point of order.

I should add that we are not helped by the singularly clumsy way in which the Government, from the beginning, have handled the Bill. They thought best to introduce it in the House of Lords to begin with, and then thought that they had made a mistake. It is unfortunate that, now we have reached the Committee stage, we had a very short time to consider the report before putting down Amendments.

The Chairman

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for drawing the attention of Mr. Speaker to the point he wished to raise. Mr. Speaker has asked me to deal with it as it was being raised about business in Committee. In so far as that was a point of order, I am satisfied that all possible steps were taken to produce the report in as short a time as possible. The facts about that are not, strictly, a matter of order.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)

In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, may I say that I respect his view. In view of the shortness of this time, I took special care to make sure that this matter was discussed and that consideration was given to it. I was given to understand that this was accepted by the party opposite, and it was only on that basis that I was prepared to proceed.

Clauses 1 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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