§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
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 allocation of time for party political broadcasts for 1982".It is a specific matter, because I have just heard this afternoon that despite my representations, the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons has decided to go ahead with chairing discussions between the Chief Whips of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties and representatives of the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the BBC about the allocation of time for party political broadcasts in 1982; the third year after the general election, when one-third of party political broadcasts are allocated on the results of all subsequent by-elections, as stated in the report of the "Future of Broadcasting", Cmnd. 6753, paragraph 18:17.
It is an important matter, because time is to be allocated for broadcasting for the whole of 1982. This will affect the way in which the Social Democratic Party—which in its own right already appears to command greater national support than any of the three parties represented at the discussions—is able to present its case fairly to the electorate during the time before the next general election, and will undoubtedly influence the allocation of time during that election.
This matter must be of concern to all hon. Members and to millions of citizens outside the House. It is urgent because the Crosby by-election result was announced only on Friday and these discussions will be taking place at 5 pm today. This, therefore, is the last opportunity to discuss the issue and to have the meeting postponed so that the House can make its view clear that the SDP should be represented at these discussions as of right, before any final decisions are made about broadcasting in 1982.
This matter goes to the roots of parliamentary democracy. The Social Democratic Party is now the third largest party in the House since 1935. We are not dealing just with a by-election success of a new party in the country, but with a new party in the House—a situation without precedent since the inception of political broadcasting in 1936 and the recommendations of the Ullswater committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman gave me notice this morning that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the allocation of time for party political broadcasts for 1982".I listened with care to the right hon. Gentleman, because he has raised some important matters, and many factors are involved in the issues that he raised. The House has asked me to give no reasons for my decision when I announce the result of an application under Standing Order No. 9.
I listened with very great care to the right hon. Gentleman and to the application he made on behalf of his party, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.