§ Mr. Speaker
I wish to add something to my ruling yesterday on the matter raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham). It is in clarification of the answer which I gave to his supplementary question.
The hon. Member expressed concern that he might be debarred from asking the Prime Minister about any ministerial speeches made abroad on the ground that there was always a presumption that a Minister speaking abroad did represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Although this may in practice often be the case, the basic distinction—this is the new point—is not simply between 1099 speeches made abroad and at home; it is between those made, for want of a better description, in a representative and a non-representative capacity. If a Minister of Cabinet rank addresses a public meeting, whether in London or in Paris, then the only question which is in order is one to the Prime Minister asking whether what the Minister said represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government. On the other hand, if any Minister officially represents the Government at an international conference or deliberative body, whether at home or abroad, then any speech he makes must be presumed to be made in such a representative capacity, and questions about its details can be addressed to whichever Minister is departmentally responsible for their substance.
In ruling in this sense in 1963 my then predecessor was not making any innovation but was giving expression to a practice of long standing. The practice is, in my view, sensible and advantageous to hon. Members.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for that further clarification. May I say, without disrespect, Mr. Speaker, that your rulings of yesterday and today do not totally remove the problems that face hon. Members. In your ruling of yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you said—you have repeated it today— that the situation created by what happened in Strasbourg was not new in that Ministers have frequently spoken at the meetings of the Council of Europe, and so on, in the past.
1100 I put this point to you, Mr. Speaker, for its future relevance. In the past, so far as I know, Ministers may have reported the views of the Council of Europe or of some other body of which they were members, but surely it is unprecedented—this is the new point—that a Minister apparently expressing his own views when he expressed them was found later to have modified those views in the light of the majority opinion of the European Council of Ministers. In other words, he was doing that compromising operation which happens within a cabinet of a national Government.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that that raises new issues. We have for the first time a British Minister not reporting the views of a body of which the British Government is a member but putting them over as the British view, having first modified the British view to take account of the views of other members of the body. In this situation I say respectfully that there are considerations which go beyond the bounds of order and of what can be dealt with by a ruling from the Chair. What is required now is that there should be a statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy, the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister—perhaps by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the European Community—so that in future we know were we stand when a British Minister speaking abroad confesses that he has adapted his views to take account of the views of the Council of Ministers.
§ Mr. Speaker
I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman said. I do not propose to say anything more about the matter today.