§ Mr. Hal Miller
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be grateful if you would guide me as to the admissibility, in debate in the House, of a reference to proceedings in Standing Committee. Last night the Minister of State, Department of Industry, when making his winding-up speech, referred to proceedings in Committee. He dealt with the content of the matters there being debated and commented on the arguments taking place on an amendment that had been moved, the arguments put forward in support of the amendment, those who supported it and the result of the vote. He went on to comment on the reasons that might have led hon. Members to speak for or vote on the amendment.
I should be grateful if you could help the House by giving your guidance on the extent to which such references to Committee debates are admissible.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful also to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) for giving me notice of his point of order and for the courteous way in which he has returned to the matter, which he raised last night when the House was a little excited. I think that that is within his memory, as it certainly is within mine.
654 References to proceedings in Standing Committee before the Committee has reported are not wholly out of order. The House will recall that on 16th April last my predecessor had occasion to make a considered ruling on the matter. He gave a number of instances which, in his view, fell on the right side of the line. One of those was a reference to the attitude of Government supporters on the Committee. It seemed to me that the Minister last night was making similar references to the attitude of Opposition Members of the Committee. For this reason, I take the view that he also was just on the right side of the line, but only just.
I should like, however, to repeat the wise words of my immediate predecessor, which were used at the conclusion of his ruling and which, I hope, the House will bear in mind. He said:My conclusion is that, before Standing Committees have reported, the Chair should strongly deprecate references in the House to what has been going on in them. We already have quite enough to argue about on the Floor of the House.But I do not think that I can make the rule absolute. Nevertheless, I hope that common sense will prevail in the House's interpretation of my Ruling, and that the time of the House will not be unreasonably taken up by such matters."—[Official Report, 16th April 1975 ; Vol. 890, c. 444.]I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch for raising this point of order so early in my experience in the Chair. I hope that the House will bear in mind the ruling that has been given.
§ Mr. Hal Miller
Further to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, for which I am most grateful, I should like to assure you that I would not have raised it or taken up the time of the House if it had not occurred to me that some of the Minister's remarks had gone rather beyond describing the attitude of supporters and opponents and had gone, indeed, to the heart of the matter being debated in the Standing Committee. That was my reason for raising it. However, I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your ruling.
§ Mr. Speaker
It might well have been that I should have been sterner last night, but the future is a long time, I hope.