§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In a few moments, we shall be asked to consider a ten-minute Bill tabled by the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). It is my submission that that Bill should not be proceeded with, for a number of reasons.
If you, Mr. Speaker, consult page 464 of "Erskine May", you will read that the normal rule applying to ten-minute Bills is that
a private Member may not move for leave to bring in a Bill of which the main object is to create a charge by way of taxation or expenditure.A footnote explains that, under a ruling made in 1985,Even the use of the word 'Finance' in the short title has been refused.That ruling resulted from a decision made earlier that a ten-minute Bill could not be proceeded with because it sought to raise money.
The word "pay" in the Bill's description could be construed as a form of expenditure. My first reason for objecting to the Bill's consideration relates to its short title, which, because it refers to Ambulance Staff Pay Determination, is not permissible. Secondly, the mention of the appointment of a pay board in the Bill's description again endorses the belief that it seeks the expenditure of revenue by the creation of a pay board, and for that reason the Bill cannot be countenanced.
My third reason concerns the operation of the Bill. I refer right hon. and hon. Members to Hansard for 5 March 1929, when there was a debate on a ten-minute Bill whose subject was superannuation. A former hon. Member, a Mr. Kelly, raised that issue because in those days a civil servant who was asked to serve in one of the colonies lost his entitlement to superannuation payments during the time that he was away. Mr. Kelly sought to introduce a ten-minute Bill to correct that situation. On that occasion, Mr. Speaker listened for a few moments, and then said:
It is the question of the exact operation of the Bill if it becomes an Act of Parliament. Probably he"—the civil servant in question —would be entitled to a larger pension if the Bill passed.Later he said:I could not allow a private Member to bring in a Bill which increases the charge on the Exchequer".—[Official Report, 5 March 1929; Vol. 226, c. 218.]The Bill about which we may shortly hear would, by inference, commit the House to expenditure by setting up a pay board and, because the description of the measure refers to annual increases in ambulance staff pay, would more or less commit us to increases in staff pay. I submit, therefore, that, under the precedent which I have cited, the Bill cannot be proceeded with.
§ Mr. Speaker:
Order. An important matter has been raised with me—[Interruption.]—and I trust that hon. Members will allow me to deal with it. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) for having given me notice of his intention to raise it because that has enabled me to look up the precedents, as he has done.
172 I am satisfied that the main purpose of the Bill about which we are to hear is the appointment of a board. However, the hon. Member is correct in saying that, if leave is given for the introduction of the proposed Bill, its text should not have as its main object the creation of a charge. The Public Bill Office may be relied on to ensure that that will not be the case. [HON. MEMBERS: "On a point of order."] Order. I cannot see how there can be anything further to that point of order, with which I have dealt.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North )
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. After most of us have left the House and have been long forgotten—that is, if any of us have been noticed in the meantime—[Interruption.] You, Mr. Speaker, will be remembered. I am not seeking to ingratiate myself. I am not an ingratiating sort of person. You will be remembered, Mr. Speaker, as the Back-Benchers' Speaker, the tribune of the Back Bencher. You will also rightly be remembered for being concerned about the dignity of the House. Governments and Oppositions are powerful machines, but from time to time they are a little clumsy and allow issues to pass by. On such occasions, it is the Back Bencher who can sometimes have the opportunity to bring forward vital issues. One need only mention——
§ Mr. Marlow
The issue before us is the question of the ten-minute rule Bill, the jewel in the crown of the Back Bencher's armoury. For most of the time, life for a Back Bencher is splendid, but is dependent on chance, others and the ballot. The ten-minute Bill allows the humble Back Bencher who is persistent the opportunity in prime time to bring an important measure before the House of Commons. That right has traditionally been reserved for the Back Bencher. An arduous process is involved ——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Member is seeking to allege that members of the Opposition are not Back Benchers, that is not correct.
§ Mr. Marlow
I was saying, Mr. Speaker, that it is an arduous process. The hon. Member concerned must go to an office, a garret, an attic above the Chamber and spend a sleepless night tossing and turning about among yellowing folios, concerned lest he might lose his opportunity with a ten-minute Bill and another hon. Member might—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think there is any matter of order in the point that the hon. Member is now raising. The same procedures must be carried out whether hon. Members sit on the Government or Opposition side. I think we had better get on.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order There can be no further point of order on the issue. I have given the hon. Member a considered ruling.