Before we begin the debate on the Recommittal Motion and the Instruction on the Order Paper—
That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee, and
That it be an Instruction to Standing Committee A that, notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.—
I understand that the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) wishes to raise a point of order.
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)
I wish to raise points of order arising from the fact that we are facing a situation which has never faced the House before in so far as there is no precedent for the effective Clauses of a Government Bill being struck out in Committee. All the 11 precedents which there are refer to Private Members' Bills and none of these was proceeded with. There are, therefore, two sets of precedents: first, that there is no precedent for a Government Bill; and, secondly, that there is no precedent for a Recommittal Motion or Instruction of the kind now on the Order Paper.
I therefore suggest, for your convenience, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, that I refer to all the points of order for your guidance as they affect both Motions at the beginning of the debate, although I understand that the debate will thereafter proceed on the two Motions separately.
The first point on which I wish to seek your guidance concerns the first Motion on the Order Paper:
“That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee” . This is the Recommittal Motion and the first question is whether it is governed by Standing Order No. 52. You will be aware that, if this Motion is governed by Standing Order No. 52, then speeches upon it are restricted to two speeches of 10 minutes each, one from the Government side and one from the Opposition.
I submit that Standing Order No. 52 does not apply and I also, of course, submit, in general, that the points of order [column 425]I am raising now are far wider than those which apply to the Education Bill. They are points of order of general impact which will affect all hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I submit that Standing Order No. 52 does not apply for the following reasons. First, it applies only to a recommittal of a Bill as a whole. Its opening words are:
“If a motion to recommit a bill as a whole …” and it then goes on to say what happens. The Motion before the House does not say that the Education Bill as a whole be recommitted. It does not even say that the Education Bill “be recommitted” . It says:
“That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted.”
The phrase “so far as amended” must therefore mean something different from the Bill as a whole. It comes from a Motion at the ninth sitting—[Interruption.]
Order. I am being addressed on a point of order, and a serious one.
It comes from a Motion at the ninth sitting of Standing Committee A, namely:
“That the Chairman do report the Bill, so far as amended, to the House” .
That Motion did not refer specifically to the Bill as a whole. It refers to the Bill “so far as amended” , and I submit that this is less than the Bill. What is left of the Bill—that is to say, the bit that is “so far as amended” —cannot equal the phrase used in Standing Order No. 52, “… a bill as a whole …” and the Bill as a whole is the only Bill which can be obtained today from the Vote Office.
There is no Bill as amended by Standing Committee A. Nor is there any Bill “so far as amended” by Standing Committee A. The only Bill which we have is the whole Bill consisting of Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 4, and this is not the Bill “so far as amended” to which the first Motion on the Order Paper refers.
Erskine May, on page 569, of the 1964 edition, says:
“The limitation of the motion to a partial recommittal of the bill, or the inclusion of [column 426]any matter other than that necessary for recommittal removes the motion from the scope of the standing order and the restriction on the number of speakers is not enforced” .
It refers to a precedent in the footnote—House of Commons Debates (1924), Vol. 176—which I have checked and in which there were seven speeches on the Recommittal Motion.
The second reason why I submit that Standing Order No. 52 does not apply is that these events are outside its scope and that it would be using it for a purpose outside the intentions of the House when it was created.
Erskine May, on page 569, refers to the Select Committee on House of Commons Procedure in 1914 and to Question 2,410 to the then Clerk of the House. That Question was as follows:
“In regard to the recommitment of Bills I understand you think some check might be put upon motions to that effect?”
The answer from the then Clerk of the House was:
“That also was a suggestion which the Speaker asked me to make … The only case in which the recommitment of a Bill is really necessary is where it is desirable to insert a money provision which cannot be inserted at the Report stage. I think we have observed in recent times a tendency to multiply motions to recommit, and I am inclined to think you may safely invest Mr. Speaker with a discretionary power as to accepting or rejecting such motions.”
Two points arise from that about the scope of Standing Order No. 52. First, that a Recommittal Motion is only moved, or should only be moved, in cases where something cannot be done on Report. According to the Leader of the House last Thursday, this could be done on Report. He referred to that matter at c. 1577.
The second point is that the Standing Order came into existence because there were too many Motions to recommit and it was desired to cut down the number. Today, we are dealing with a case for which there is no precedent whatsoever. Therefore, it would be desirable to hear from as many senior Members of the House as possible upon this very novel procedure.
Those are the two submissions that I make on Standing Order No. 52.
The second of my points of order—[Interruption.]
—is on the part of the Recommittal Motion which refers to “the former Committee” . I submit, Mr. Speaker, that “the former Committee” has now no existence. This was terminated by the Committee's acceptance of the Motion moved by Edward Shortthe Minister. At the end of that we did not even need to have a Motion to adjourn. No notice, in accordance with the sittings Motion, has appeared on the Order Paper. I suggest that “the former Committee” has ceased to exist.
I have looked at precedents on “former” committees. All of them refer to the dates when the Standing Committee was in continuous existence with a nucleus of Members. These days Standing Committees are virtually Bill Committees and have no continuous existence. Therefore, we should be in grave difficulty in recommitting to a “former” Committee if it does not exist, because we should not know how next to proceed.
I then move in my points of order to the Instruction Motion, which is the one in italics before the House today. I submit, for the following reasons, that the Instruction Motion is out of order and cannot be debated. Erskine May, on page 537, points out——
Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The 1964 edition. It is the only one that we can get in the House, if hon. Members are fortunate enough to get their hands on one at all. Erskine May has been in great demand these last few days.
Erskine May, on page 537, points out that since Standing Order No. 42, which acts as a general instruction to Committees, the number of occasions when it is necessary to widen the powers of a Committee by an Instruction has been reduced and the Rulings of the Chair much more restricted than formerly. It gives seven sets of circumstances in which instructions are admissible.
Mr. William Hamilton
Let us have them all.
The hon. Gentleman will get them all, if he will permit me to give them.
First, extension of objects within the scope of the Bill; secondly, extension of [column 428]area; thirdly, division of a Bill into two or more Bills; fourthly, consolidation of two Bills into one; fifthly, priority to the consideration of a portion of a Bill; sixthly, power to hear counsel; and, seventhly, a reference to a mandatory Instruction, which does not affect the Instruction before us. Those are the seven groups of Instruction which are admissible.
I submit that this Instruction does not fall into any of those categories. If, therefore, the Instruction is in order, we are creating a new category of admissible Instruction, which is an extremely important thing for the House to do. Moreover, the category which we should be creating would purport to give a Committee instructions to repeat consideration of something which it has already considered.
I submit that this is basically contrary to the rules of the House which are used every day against repetition. Indeed, Standing Order No. 22, on irrelevance and repetition in the House, is applied by Standing Order No. 59(5) to Committees. To use an Instruction for this purpose has never been done, and it is a matter of grave principle with implications far wider than the Bill, for which it is merely the occasion.
Moreover, in Committee, if this were to be done, the Chairman would be faced, on the one hand, with Standing Orders against repetition, on the other, with a permissive Instruction for repetition, and, thirdly, with Standing Order No. 33(2) telling him to treat an Instruction and a Motion to recommit as an Amendment. I submit that this Instruction is not admissible.
Erskine May then goes on to classify five categories of inadmissible instructions. The first, which does not affect us, is that the Instruction is outside the scope of the Bill. I mention it only to reject it.
The second group of inadmissible Instructions are superfluous instructions. As whoever put down the Motion has chosen to recommit, if he may, to “the former Committee” , he can only be conferring on that Committee powers with regard to considering Clause 1 of the Bill which it already possessed at the outset under Standing Order No. 42. The only additional power which he would be conferring by an Instruction of a repetitive [column 429]kind would be to reconsider what it had already power to consider. I submit, therefore, that the Instruction is out of order on the ground that it would be superfluous.
The relevant passage in Erskine May appears at page 542:
“An instruction is superfluous and therefore out of order if it seeks to confer upon the committee power … already possessed by the committee under the provisions of Standing Order No. 42.”
The next two categories of inadmissible Instructions do not apply. They are, “Impracticable division of bill” , and “Deletion of part of bill” .
I come, now, to what I believe to be the most important point of order. [Interruption.]
Order. The Chair is listening to a very serious submission.
The most important point of order on the Instruction concerns the fifth category, where Erskine May says that an instruction is inadmissible if it is not specific.
I submit that this Instruction is not specific. Erskine May says:
“An instruction is out of order unless it is drawn in clear and specific terms, so that the committee may understand definitely what provisions the House desires that they should take into consideration.”
It follows that with three precedents.
The Motion on the Instruction says:
“… notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill …”
The only Question put to the Standing Committee was:
“That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14th April, 1970; c. 322.]
Clause 1, as amended, was materially different from Clause 1. The Question on Clause 1 was never put to the Committee, and I believe could not be put, and the Committee could not therefore disagree with Clause 1. It is a matter of conjecture what would have happened had it been put, or could have been put. The Instruction therefore refers to an event which did not happen, and rests—I am grateful to J. Diamondthe Chief Secretary—upon that non-event.
The Instruction continues:
“… they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.”
Like effect to what? The Committee disagreed to Clause 1, as amended, but it had no opportunity to disagree to Clause 1. It cannot be Clause 1, as amended, because that is not what the Instruction says, and in any event the provisions in Clause 1, as amended, were radically different from the provisions in Clause 1. I submit, therefore, that the Instruction is out of order because it is not clear; alternatively, because it is null and void, as it depends upon an event which did not happen, and could not have happened.
I turn to the relevant precedents. The first one is the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, 1st June, 1896, in which case an Instruction was ruled out of order for the following reasons. The Instruction was on the Order Paper, and W. Gullythe then Speaker said:
“There are on the paper two Instructions, the first standing in the name of the hon. Member, Yarmouth Division. That is out of order. It is of the highest importance that Instructions should be perfectly clear in their terms, that the Committee may understand definitely what provisions the House desires that it should take into consideration.” —[Official Report, 12th June, 1896; c. 977.]
As the Instruction gives no information to the Committee what the provisions are which the House desires it should take into consideration, I think that the Instruction is bad for want of clearness and definite direction.
The second precedent mentioned in Erskine May is the Education (Scotland) Bill, 21st July, 1897. There, an Instruction came before the House, and W. GullyMr. Speaker, referring to the first Instruction, said that it
“is out of order in the first place, on the ground that it proposes to instruct the Committee to repeal ‘part of Section 19 of the Elementary Education Act 1876’. To be in order it should be clear and specific, and should indicate expressly to the Committee what part of the section it is proposed that it should deal with.” —[Official Report, 21st July, 1897; c. 641.]
That Instruction was also out of order.
The third and final one in which the Instruction was out of order because it was not specific was the Marriage with Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, 12th February, 1902, in which W. GullyMr. Speaker, ruling immediately on an Instruction, said:
“That Instruction is out of order, because I think, in the first place, an Instruction to [column 431]the Committee ought, on the face of it, to state plainly and clearly what further alterations in the law the Committee are to consider …” —[Official Report, 12th February, 1902; c. 1112.]
This Instruction is neither clearly one thing, nor clearly the other. Indeed, it is not clear, and hinges upon an event which did not happen.
Those, Mr. Speaker, are the submissions which I wish to make, and I am grateful to you for your patience.
Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Order. I think that it would help the House if I ruled on the detailed submissions which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has made, after which I shall be willing to hear further points of order.
Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
Mr. Speaker, you may be enlightened by hearing further points of order before you give your Ruling, or your judgment might be influenced by them.
I begin with an apology, in that I have to take the Chair at a meeting of the Trustees of the Members' Fund at 4.15, and I may, therefore, not be present to hear your Ruling.
I want to raise a simple point. I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said about the Instruction. The recommittal procedure is, surely, an abuse of the process of the House. The whole of our recommittal procedure was designed so that something could be done in Committee which could not be done on Report, and it does not apply here at all. It was designed particularly so that Finance Bills could be recommitted, or something could be done in Committee with the approval of the House which could not be done on Report. I submit that to use this procedure for this Bill is an abuse of the procedure of the House.
I think that it would help if I made a careful Ruling on the points which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has put to me and to the House. I thank her, first, for her courtesy in letting me know the general line that she intended to raise in the points of order that she was put[column 432]ting on a day which, in her own words, has no exact precedent.
The first Motion must be considered in the light of the provisions of Standing Order No. 52, which relates to the recommittal of a Bill. I think that it would help the House if I read again the whole Standing Order. It says:
“If a motion to re-commit a bill as a whole be opposed, Mr. Speaker shall permit a brief explanatory statement of the reasons for such re-committal from the Member who moves and from a Member who opposes any such Motion respectively, and shall then without permitting further debate put the question thereon.”
“the Education Bill, so far as amended,”
in the Motion means the whole Bill, with all the Amendments which the Committee has made, up to the point where it decided not to proceed further with the Bill. The usual phrase is “the Bill as amended” , which the Committee uses when reporting to the House on completing its consideration and amendment of the Bill. But in both instances the House is put in possession of the entire Bill, with such Amendments as have been made. The only difference is that in the first case the Committee's work is incomplete.
I have decided that the Motion does fall within the ambit of Standing Order No. 52 and that, therefore, I am permitted to call only one Member to speak for and one Member against the Motion. This is on the first part of the hon. Lady's submission. I would emphasise that the statements on each side according to this Standing Order must be brief and that, if the House desires, a Division may follow.
The second Motion on the Order Paper is an Instruction which, of course, can be called only if the first Motion has been agreed to, since it would relate to subsequent proceedings in the event of the Bill being recommitted to the Standing Committee. Under the normal rules of the House, a Committee which has disagreed to a Clause cannot proceed to agree to it or to similar or identical provisions unless specially empowered by the House to do so.
The Instruction is permissive. It may help the House if I briefly summarise the rules on such an Instruction. Debate on a Motion for an Instruction must be [column 433]strictly relevant thereto and must not be directed towards the general objects of the Bill to which the instruction relates, nor may debate on the Instruction anticipate the discussion of any Clause of the Bill. The narrow subject matter of the Instruction is, therefore, whether the Standing Committee should be given the exceptional power of reversing its earlier decision on Clause 1 of the Education Bill. Debate on the merits of the Clause which was disagreed to, or on the subject matter of the Bill itself, would be out of order. I might also remind the House that there is no right of reply by the mover of an Instruction.
The hon. Lady has asked me to comment on the validity of this procedure. It is true that my advisers have been unable to direct my attention to any precedent for the particular proceeding envisaged by the two Motions on the Order Paper. It is not, however, the duty of the Chair to forbid the House from embarking on a course which has no precise precedent. The whole procedure of the House is flexible. Motions to meet unusual circumstances have been tabled before, and, if they are not irregular in form, may be put to the House from the Chair for its decision.
I have given prolonged and careful study to the Motions standing on the Order Paper today and I have also considered all the arguments so clearly put forward by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. I cannot find that there is any irregularity in the Motions which would prevent me from proposing the Questions on them from the Chair.
The hon. Lady also referred to the phrase “the former Committee” . This phrase means the same Standing Committee with the same Chairman and with the same hon. Members which considered the Education Bill after it was first committed on 12th February and which made a special report to the House on 16th April. There are several recent precedents for a Recommittal Motion in these terms, so the point which she has made has no validity.
Finally, on the last point which the hon. Lady made, and a very important one, it is true, as she submitted, that an Instruction is out of order unless the Committee to whom it is directed understands definitely all the provisions which the House desires it to consider. This [column 434]Instruction is, of course, permissive. It gives the Committee power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect to Clause 1 of the Education Bill to which it disagreed. I think that the Committee can interpret that Instruction, if it is given, quite clearly. I cannot rule it out of order on the grounds that it is not sufficiently specific.
I have examined all the precedents to which the hon. Lady referred. I have given great consideration to what is a very important issue, which she has raised in a very clear and important way. I have to rule that the two Motions are in order and that the debate can proceed.
Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
On a point of order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, for further guidance on one point? The Instruction is
“… that, notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.”
What the Committee disagreed with was Clause 1, as amended, which is a very different thing from Clause 1. It is given powers to insert in the Bill provisions “with a like effect” —presumably not powers to insert provisions with a like effect to something else.
To what does “like effect” refer? Is it Clause 1 as originally in the Bill, or Clause 1 as amended?
That will have to be decided by the Committee when it debates Clause 1.
Several Hon. Members
I did not quite hear your Ruling on that, Mr. Speaker.
I said that what the like effect will be is a matter which the Committee will have to debate when it discusses the Clause.
I accept your Ruling on that, Mr. Speaker, but with respect, the point is that it says “like effect” . Like to what? The Committee must judge what is like, but we must judge to what it should be like.
The Instruction is quite clear. It is like effect to Clause 1 of the Bill.
Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)
Further to that point of order. [column 435]With respect, Mr. Speaker, I should like to seek your guidance on two points. The first relates to your Ruling, when you said that neither you nor your advisers had been able to find any precedent for using this procedure in a case of this kind. I would submit to you that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has said, this is a quite new and important departure, and possibly a breach of the conventions and traditions of the House. Surely, if something without precedent is to be embarked on by the House in a Bill of this kind, it should be done by changing the Standing Orders first, by Resolution of the House, so as to make action on this Bill possible. That is the right way to do it, not to create a precedent which has the effect of changing the Standing Orders simply by reference to a Resolution on the Education Bill. I submit that this, therefore, is the wrong way to do it.
My second point is the question of this Motion falling within the ambit of Standing Order No. 52. No one questions the fact that, if this is the committal of a Bill as a whole, it falls within Standing Order No. 52 and you are, therefore, bound to limit the debate in the way that the Standing Order provides. But while I see that it can be argued that what is sought to be recommitted is all that is left of the Bill, I cannot see how the recommittal of Clauses 2, 3 and 4 plus the Preamble and Long Title only can conceivably be said to be the recommittal of the whole Bill. That seems to me plainly a contradiction in terms.
The Bill as a whole was the Bill which passed Second Reading in the House and was originally committed to Standing Committee A in February. The Bill which is now sought to be recommitted cannot be the Bill as a whole, because it lacks the operative Clause. To use the phrase “the Bill as a whole” must surely in this case be nonsense.
I have already ruled on the second point. On the Motions themselves, this is a matter for the House to decide after debate. All that the Chair can rule on is whether the Motions are in order. I have ruled that they are in order and that the procedure will take the form which I have ruled.[column 436]
Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Perhaps I may refer to the same point of order as was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), which is about Standing Order No. 52. Erskine May appears to make it clear that Standing Order No. 52 was passed with the object of dealing with Motions to recommit which were, in fact, obstructive and dilatory. It was to restrain that practice that the House passed that Standing Order. It is, therefore, apparently, the first time that the Standing Order has been used in a way which appears to imply that a Motion to recommit by the Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, is of an obstructive and dilatory character.
In these unprecedented circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to reconsider your Ruling on the Motion and Instructions, having the two in your mind together rather than considering them entirely separately, because, as my hon. Friend has said, Standing Order No. 52 applies only to a Motion to recommit the whole Bill.
If we consider the Motion in isolation, it could be said, I realise, that the Bill as reported to the House with Clause I knocked out is the whole Bill as it stands, but when we also see the Motion for an Instruction which is to authorise a Committee to put back into the Bill provisions which have been struck out, I ask you to look at the substance of the matter; and to recognise that this is, in fact, not a recommital of the whole Bill, but a recommital of a part of the Bill which has then to be supplemented in accordance with the terms of the Instruction. I ask you, therefore, looking at the substance of the matter, because there is no precedent, to rule in that way.
Perhaps I may make just one or two related suggestions. The wording of the Motion betrays the underlying difficulty. It speaks of the Bill “so far as amended” . That is a very strange phrase. If the Motion referred to “the Bill as so far amended” one would understand what that meant; that it referred to the Bill so far as it had been amended in the Standing Committee. That, however, is not what the Motion says. The reference to the Bill “so far as amended” must mean something less than the whole [column 437]of the Bill. The use of those words means that it is not the whole Bill, but the Bill so far amended. I confess that I find it rather difficult to understand what is meant by that phrase, but that is because of the inherent difficulty of the subject matter.
Turning now to the Instruction, I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to consider whether this is not caught by the rule to be found in page 545 of Erskine May, to the effect that an Instruction may not deal with something which has already been dealt with in the same Session. That cannot, of course, mean something dealt with in a Committee, because this is a Motion in the House, but something that has been dealt with by the House in the same Session. Examples are given in the footnotes.
This is a matter that has been dealt with by the House in the same Session, because the Bill as it passed on Second Reading was committed under the Standing Order, in default of a special Motion, to the Standing Committee, and the Committee then struck out Clause 1. If we consider the Motion and the Instruction together, this is a proposal that the House should do something which it has already done in the present Session. Therefore, the Instruction is, in fact, a repetitive Instruction, and underlines the fact that this is without precedent, because this procedure has never been used for this kind of purpose before, and never should be.
Perhaps I may test the validity of this submission by suggesting that the Standing Committee might, perhaps, do the same thing again. Would it then be in order for the right hon. Gentleman——
Order. We have enough to discuss on this important question of order without the hon. and learned Gentleman seeking a hypothetical Ruling on something that may happen in the future.
Mr. Ronald Bell
I was only seeking to illustrate my point, which is: if the Bill came back on a second occasion would the procedure also be in order? If not, it cannot be in order on the first occasion that it is repetitive. Therefore, I submit that this point is caught by the ruling in page 545 of Erskine May.
Several Hon. Members
Order. Let me deal with points as they arise.
I have dealt with all the points that the hon. and learned Gentleman has put before the House, and I have ruled on them in answer to the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).
As to the hon. and learned Gentleman's reference to page 545 of Erskine May, in which Erskine May is talking about the way in which the House cannot go back to matters which have been already decided in the same Session, the simple fact is that that does not apply to a Committee. A House can over-rule something on which a Committee has decided, and, although Erskine May says that matters which have already been decided during the current Session cannot be brought forward by an Instruction, that refers to matters which have already been brought before the House.
Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
With regard to the point twice put from the Opposition Front Bench, that the Committee did not disagree and could not have disagreed with Clause 1, is it not the case that when Clause 1 was amended, as amended it automatically became Clause 1? If that is so, does it not dispose of the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)?
Several Hon. Members
Mr. Peyton. A point of order.
Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I want to put it to you that you have not yet replied to the point of order raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirrall (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). My right hon. and learned Friend suggested to you that this Motion was an abuse of the recommital procedure on the ground that it did not involve doing something which could not be done on Report. I hope, with great respect, that you will rule on that point for the guidance of the House.
I should like also to put the following point to you. It seems to me that although you have ruled today expressly and explicitly that the House is not inhibited from accepting a Motion for which there is no precedent, that in itself involves us in a very serious situation.
The background is, I think, unarguable. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of [column 439]the House the other day, with that characteristic modesty and gift for under-statement for which he is well known and well loved, said that a mistake had been made. I think that we would all very warmly agree with that statement. But, that mistake having been made, what I think the House is in some difficulty over is allowing the Government to go to the Clerks of the House and requesting to be salvaged and extricated from their embarrassment. They having enlisted the machinery of the House on their side, there is no protection whatever for the minority——
Order. The second point that the hon. Gentleman is making is a point that he can make in the debate on the Instruction, when the House will have to take a decision.
I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker.
The question which I now wish to put to you, with great respect, is: why are there not two Motions today? You yourself have indicated that this thing which appears on the Order Paper will be put in two bits. Why? It may be, again, that the modesty of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has reasserted itself, and that he does not wish his name to appear twice attached to so disgraceful and shoddy a Motion——
Order. This is a debating point, and not a point of order. It is quite in order to have the two Motions on the Order Paper.
That is precisely my point, Mr. Speaker. There appears to be only one Motion, in that the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State appear only once, which indicates to me that there is only one Motion on the Order Paper.
Yet from what you have said, Mr. Speaker, we understand that the Motion will be put in two sections. I should like to know whether there is any precedent for a Motion to appear on the Order Paper and for it to be bisected halfway through.
The other points I wished to raise have already been referred to by my hon. [column 440]Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), in a most lucid and brilliant submission to you, Mr. Speaker. I can only express my regret that you did not find yourself overwhelmed by the force of her arguments. However, I hope very much that you will remember that the power of the majority in the House changes from time to time. There was a time when, if I may say so with great respect, you, Mr. Speaker, sat on this side of the House as a member of a party—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw” ].—which was passionately and very often noisily over a long period of time addicted to espousing the cause of the minority.
I believe that if Parliament goes through with this procedure today it will have taken one more step towards steamrollering and bulldozing the basic rights of the minority on which freedom depends.
The hon. Gentleman might well put his last point in debate. I am sure that he is not suggesting that Mr. Speaker takes any notice of the majority or the minority. It is his job to protect the whole of Parliament. He is not interested in the result of the battle which will take place later. He is in command of the rules of order and must interpret them.
Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
With great respect, will you accept a point of order from this side of the House, Mr. Speaker? I understand that you have given a decision, having listened to the submission of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)—[Interruption.] Mind your own business.
Order. I am minding my own business.
I listened to what the hon. Lady said and hon. Members opposite might listen to me. Since then several legal luminaries have addressed you, Mr. Speaker, including some who regard themselves as experts. You have given your decision, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you whether we might adopt a very simple expedient? Having given your Ruling, let the House decide whether it accepts Mr. Speaker's decision or not. Accordingly, I beg to move, That we accept your decision.[column 441]
Several Hon. Members
Order. One of the rules of order is that when Mr. Speaker is on his feet every other hon. Member sits down.
I am not prepared to accept the Motion of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).
I imagine, however, that by now all the points which have been made in support of the submission of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley are covered by my Ruling, except one, of which the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) reminded me. I had forgotten to take note of the point of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), about whether this was an abuse of the procedures of the House. That is a matter which the House must decide in its debate, but not as a point of order.
There was one point in your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which I did not understand and on which I must ask for further clarification. You said that it was for the Committee to decide the meaning of the Instruction. That implies that there is some doubt about the meaning of the Instruction. I read to you three precedents in which there was doubt about the meaning of Instructions and they were out of order.
You, Mr. Speaker, seemed to say that there was some doubt about the meaning of today's Instruction. Therefore, is it not out of order? If not, should we continue the debate in Standing Committee on your authority that there is some doubt about the Instruction, although it is in order?
With respect, the hon. Lady must not put words into the mouth of Mr. Speaker. I have read the three precedents to which she referred, including the operation of the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, 1902, and I carefully and categorically ruled on her point about the clarity of the Instruction.
I repeat that the Instruction is permissive. It gives the Committee
“power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect”
to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, to which it disagreed. I think that the Committee can interpret that Instruction if it is given quite clearly. I cannot rule [column 442]it out of order on the ground that it is not sufficiently specific.
Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
On a point of order. I want to refer to a remark made by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). He maintained that members of the Government had been able to go to the Clerks for advice about the terms of the Motion, but that hon. Members on this side of the House had been denied like facilities. [Hon. Members: “He did not say that” ]. That was the implication of the hon. Member—[Hon. Members: “No.” ] That was clearly implied in the hon. Gentleman's remarks. [Hon. Members: “No.” ] As a gross aspersion has been cast on the Clerks, without any foundation—everybody knows that hon. Members on both sides of the House can obtain advice from the Clerks and that they are always ready to help us—I think that the hon. Gentleman should be instructed to withdraw his remarks.
I did not understand the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) to say that. Every right hon. and hon. Gentleman knows that the Clerks of the House are the faithful servants of every Member.
May I be allowed to make one point clear, Mr. Speaker?
On this specific matter.
I never said, nor did I in any way imply, that there was any restriction on the rights of Members to go to the Clerks for advice or on the willingness of the Clerks to give that advice. My attack was against the Government. I want to make it absolutely clear that, despite the wishful thinking of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), there was nothing in what I said which cast any reflection on the servants of the House.
Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)
Is it not a fact that the House as a whole took a decision on the Education Bill in favour of comprehensive education? Is it not also a fact that the Opposition, by cunning, conniving devices sought to defeat the Government——
That is not a point of order. It is a point which might be made in the debate when we get to it.[column 443]
Several Hon. Members
Order. I have specifically ruled on all the issues which were raised. I have not minimised their seriousness. I was asked by the hon. Lady, in a very careful submission, to rule on the two Motions on the Order Paper. The two Motions are in order. The debate on the first one is a procedural one and will contain two speeches. The debate on the second is much wider.
There is still one matter in your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, about which we on this side are in some doubt. We would like you to be kind enough to clear the matter up for us. It is a simple point on which there should be no doubt if the Instruction is to be clear. It is whether the phrase
“Clause 1 of the Education Bill”
means Clause 1 in the original Bill, or Clause 1 as amended. This is a very important point.
Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
On a point of order.
Order. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will be grateful if the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) goes out of order by interrupting him on a point of order.
Would you be kind enough, Sir, to clarify for us whether in this Instruction, which must be clear and subject to no doubt, as you rightly said, Clause 1 means Clause 1 as originally in the Bill, or Clause 1 as amended by the Standing Committee?
I have ruled on this. It is a matter which may be made clear by the Minister when we reach the debate.
Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
Mr. Speaker, may I, with the greatest respect, pursue that one more turn, because I was the hon. Member who successfully moved the Amendment to Clause 1 which is now in question? I submit to you that this Amendment had the effect of giving local authorities a wider scope than under the original Clause. It is for this reason that I strongly support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. [column 444]Maudling) has said and submit to you that the words
“provisions with a like effect”
are not absolutely clear and that at the very least we should be quite clear what the Instruction to the Committee is.
Is it to insert in the Bill a Clause on the lines of Clause 1 as amended, with that considerably greater freedom to local authorities, or Clause 1 as it left the House after Second Reading? I suggest that we are entitled to ask you, Sir, for a little more clarification on this point.
That is a matter which will emerge in the debate when we come to the Instruction. Sir David Renton.
Several Hon. Members
Order. No matter how important the occasion, only one hon. Member can address the Chair on a point of order at once.
Sir D. Renton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that I may be allowed—and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will forgive me—to add yet a third reason why this Instruction lacks clarity when we come to consider the meaning of “like effect” , because my right hon. Friend has already pointed out that it could mean the Clause as it originally stood or the Clause as amended.
The words “like effect” could mean another Clause moved by the Secretary of State in Committee to the same effect, but not in exactly the same form as the Clause which was originally in the Bill. It was for that reason that I somewhat rudely, for which I apologise, sought to interrupt my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet.
I think that this is a very important point for you to consider, Sir, when ruling that this Instruction is as clear an Instruction to the Committee as it might be. In effect, it comes to this—that the Instruction on this point alone could mean any one of three things. I suggest to you, Sir, that we as the House of Commons might not be doing our work well enough—we are creating a precedent and ought, therefore, as has been said, to do it well—if, on this vital point, we put in an Instruction which, [column 445]far from being clear, could mean three things.
As I have said before, I have ruled on this. The points that hon. Gentleman are making now are points they must make in the debate when we come to the Instruction.
Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Committee which terminated its proceedings and thanked its Chairman on 16th April, I seek your guidance, arising out of the words you used in making your Ruling on the final point of order.
You said that the Committee must understand the Ruling. You went on to say that the Instruction gives power to include provisions to a like effect to Clause 1 to which the Committee had disagreed.
As a member of the Committee, I know very well that there are at least two possibilities that could be applied to the words that you used. The first is that you meant Clause 1 as originally drawn, but that cannot be so, with respect, because it was not as disagreed to in the Committee.
The second alternative is Clause 1 as amended. That is substantially different, because of the banding Amendment referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). That cannot apply, because it is not referred to in the Instruction. I therefore do not know what will be included when we are again in Standing Committee.
As it follows that there is a substantial difference as to what a Clause of like effect would be, I submit that the Instruction is unclear. It is certainly unclear to me. As I understand, precedents have been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). The Instruction, to be valid, must be specific and clear. With respect, unless I can be told which of these two alternatives applies, I cannot understand what the consequence of the Ruling is.
The hon. Gentleman has merely repeated with equal clarity one of the submissions made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. I have ruled on this. I hope that we can proceed. We have much to debate.[column 446]
Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Mr. Speaker, you have made a Ruling which will in future, I assume, be accepted as a precedent. The House depends upon precedents. You are fully entitled to make a Ruling, if there is no obvious precedent, which will in itself become a precedent.
In the circumstances, is it not a pure waste of time on the part of those who oppose that Ruling—[Hon. Members: “Oh.” ] It is no good hon. Members pretending that they are not trying to waste time. What they are doing is wasting time. [Hon. Members: “Withdraw.” ] I shall not withdraw. Protests of that nature are useless. The country will understand——
Sir B. Janner
—that it is a pure waste of time, an attempt to impede.
I seek your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. You having given your view on the matter, clearly and categorically, is there any method by which this type of interruption can be stopped, so that we can proceed?
Order. As the hon. Gentleman says, we are on a point without precedent. [Interruption.] Order. It is also without precedent for hon. Members to interrupt Mr. Speaker. We are on a point which is without precedent. I had to rule very carefully and after much deliberation and much advice, and, after listening to the submissions, I would hope that we could now proceed with the debate before us.
Sir John Foster (Northwich)
On a point of order. I should like to ask for a clarification of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. You ruled—and I accept it for the purpose of this point of order—that the “Education Bill, as amended” was the whole Bill. Therefore, the definition of Clause 1 under that Ruling must be Clause 1 as amended. It cannot be Clause 1 before it was amended. Therefore, I would ask you whether the Instruction is wrongly worded. I quite see what the framer of the Instruction meant. He meant that the Committee had disagreed to the previous Clause 1, and, therefore, it ought to put in “provisions with a like effect” to the previous Clause 1. [column 447]
As this is an important procedural matter which may set an important precedent, in my submission it must be considered strictly. “Clause 1 of the Education Bill” , in the Instruction sanction, cannot mean the previous Clause 1. The Committee did not disagree to Clause 1, as amended. What it disagreed to was the previous Clause 1. But the Instruction does not say that, and it follows from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the whole Bill is the Bill as amended, that Clause 1 of the whole Bill is the Clause as amended.
We are back on the same topic. I have ruled on the matter. I think that we must proceed.
Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I should like a little clarification Mr. Speaker—and I do sympathise with you in a very difficult position. We are this afternoon creating a precedent. I think that you are well aware of the dangers of creating precedents. As I understand, all that you have ruled is that these two propositions are in order to be on the Order Paper and that it is for the House to reach a decision upon them.
I want to make a submission to you on the first Motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Education and Science. You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that this is in order, but is debateable only under Standing Order No. 52. Further, in your Ruling you have also said that it will be for the House to decide whether this course of action should be carried out or not.
I submit that we are dealing with a new precedent—that is, short-circuiting the Report stage of Bills, because that is what this precedent means—and I submit that this is a matter which ought to be fully debated by the House and that, therefore, it ought to be in order under another Standing Order, not Standing Order No. 52.
I have ruled that it comes under Standing Order No. 52 and when we come to it there will be a brief speech made for it and a brief speech against. I am not proposing to vary my Ruling.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I would hope that the House would get on to the issues which the House wishes to debate. We are at present discussing submissions on points of order on which Mr. Speaker has ruled. We should move on.
I am sorry to intervene again, Mr. Speaker, but there is one aspect of your Ruling—which, of course, we accept—which is still not entirely clear to my right hon. and hon. Friends. As you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, Instructions must be clear to be in order. We suggested that the Instruction is not clear because no one knows whether Clause 1 means the original Clause 1 or Clause 1, as amended. You suggested, Mr. Speaker, that this might become apparent in the course of the debate. But the debate cannot take place if the Instruction is out of order and the Instruction is out of order if there is no clarity about what the phrase means.
Order. I have ruled that the Instruction is in order.
Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
You referred to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that we are discussing a new situation without precedent. Are we not now in danger of creating another precedent, because I cannot recall a case where, Mr. Speaker, having given a Ruling, the House could then indulge in a debate and criticise the Ruling of the Chair? Is this not a very dangerous precedent? Are we to take it that from now on hon. Members will have the right to discuss and debate Mr. Speaker's Rulings?
Order. I wish that I shared the same view of the history of the Speakership as the hon. Gentleman. There have been occasions, and this is one such. It is an important occasion, but, having said that, I think that now we should get on with the business.
Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Your Rulings, Mr. Speaker, have been very clear and authoritative on every point but one. It is quite true that the Rulings, which are clear and authoritative, are not completely acceptable to hon. Members on this side of the House, but that will have to be accepted because you have the power of the Chair. But [column 449]one Ruling, Mr. Speaker, upon which you have not been clear—or one point on which I submit you have not given a Ruling—is the question whether it is the Clause as amended or the Clause as it originally was.
If I may remind you of what you said on that point, you said that it will be made clear in the debate. With respect, Mr. Speaker, that is not a Ruling. I submit to you that whilst you have taken a lot of care—and the House will respect you very much for the care which you have taken—this is clearly a point which eluded you in the previous thought which you gave to it.
I should have thought, from the general demeanour of the Chair and the way in which you handled the very difficult questions, that this becomes clear. It is vital, if we are to accept the precedent, that the House should feel that the Chair itself is authoritative on every point and with respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit you have not been authoritative on this particular point. To get over it, may I suggest that you ask the Government to take this matter back—if need be until tomorrow—so that this particular point, which is not covered by an authoritative Ruling from the Chair, can be made authoritative and we can be clear?
The hon. Gentleman has put his point courteously. He has suggested that a point has eluded me, but it is a point on which I have so far ruled six or seven times.
Sir Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
May I try to help the House? I am sure that the whole House is always interested when a procedural question without precedent arises. A great many hon. Members on both sides of the House will not regret that there has been a fairly full discussion about a procedural question of some novelty.
Your Rulings, Mr. Speaker, have been criticised on the other side of the House chiefly on one ground—namely, that the proposed Instruction lacks clarity as to whether the Standing Committee should have power either to insert Clause 1 in its original form or Clause 1 as amended. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I should like to support your Ruling that the proposed Instruction is not lacking in clarity [An Hon. Member: “What does it mean, then?” ] I am proposing to explain [column 450]what I think it means. The Instruction gives the Committee permissive power. As I read it, it enables the Committee either to restore Clause 1 in its original form or to restore it in its amended form. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members opposite will have the courtesy to listen for a moment to arguments contrary to those which they have been expressing.
An Instruction to a Committee is not an Instruction to do something precise and specific; it is an Instruction, and called an Instruction, but it is coupled with permissive power. The words in the so-called Instruction give the Committee power to do various things. It would, therefore, be a mistake to suppose that, if it passed the Instruction, the House would be limiting or circumscribing particularly what the Committee is to do with Clause 1 when it comes back to it.
It does not seem to me to be contrary to common sense to say that what the House is being asked to do in this Instruction is to ask the Committee to reconsider Clause 1, and it gives the Committee power to reconsider it in its entirety. That means, does it not, that, notwithstanding any previous consideration or previous vote, it will be open to the Committee either to pass it in its original form, in its form as previously amended, or, indeed, in any other form?
That, it seems to me, is the obvious purpose of the proposed Instruction, to give the Committee the widest possible powers to deal with Clause 1, notwithstanding any previous votes which have occurred on it. If I am right in thinking that that is the obvious construction of the Instruction, it seems to follow that your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, cannot possibly be attacked on the ground that it lacks clarity.
The clear intention of the language of the Instruction is to give the Committee the fullest possible power to deal with Clause 1. Therefore, I personally would hope, now we have had this long and interesting discussion, that we could, as you have suggested, Sir, proceed to consider the Instruction.
Several Hon. Members
Order. The right hon. Gentleman has reinforced what Mr. Speaker has ruled several times now.[column 451]
Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
I wish to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order arising out of your Ruling. You ruled that “the Education Bill, so far as amended” , would be debated by the House this afternoon. I take it that the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members were not members of the Standing Committee. I was not on the Committee. The only Bill which we can obtain from the Vote Office is the Bill, not the Bill “so far as amended” . How can anyone debate this reasonably, how can we find out the Amendments, and is this not making a mockery of Parliament?
Order. That point, also, was put by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. We are not debating the Bill. We are to debate the first Order, the procedural Motion, whether the Bill be recommitted.
Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I put to you a point of order which has one intention and one intention only, that is, to safeguard the position of hon. Members who have the privilege of serving as members of the Panel of Chairmen which you choose? We have to recognise, do we not, that any member of that Panel may be called upon to take the Chair at any Standing Committee? I have not had the opportunity of discussing any matter concerning the Bill with my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis), who, I understand, is the member of the Panel of Chairmen who has been Chairman of the Committee on this Bill, but the point I wish to put to you, Sir, is this.
I am concerned about the position of any member of your Panel who may be called upon to take the Chair in Committee on this Bill. Certainly, if it were myself, I should not know, in the light of your Ruling on the question of the Instruction, whether I should be in order to call an Amendment designed to restore the original Clause 1 or to restore the amended Clause 1. In the interest of the Panel itself, I would ask you very seriously, Mr. Speaker, at least to make clear which you had in mind when you made the Ruling you did.
It is exceedingly difficult for Mr. Speaker to reply to one of his [column 452]Chairmen who seems to suggest that he is speaking on behalf of Mr. Speaker's Panel of Chairmen. I have ruled again and again on this matter this afternoon. If the hon. Gentleman is Chairman of a Standing Committee, he is responsible for the Committee, not Mr. Speaker.
Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Mr. Speaker, may I, please, clear up a misunderstanding which seems to be in your mind? I would not wish it in any way to be thought that I was speaking on behalf of the Panel as a whole. I said that my intention in raising the point of order was to protect the Panel. I have not the authority of the Panel of Chairmen to speak for them collectively, but I am a member of it, and it is conceivable that I might have to stand in for my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway or, indeed, for any other hon. Member who was the Chairman of a Standing Committee. It was for that reason that I asked my question.
I can only again repeat to you, Sir, that if I found myself in the Chair at that Committee, I would not know what your Ruling really meant.
I think that the hon. Gentleman, when he reads my Rulings, will find them quite clear.
Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
May I raise as a point of order, Mr. Speaker, a matter in this connection which concerns me greatly? At the beginning of this series of points of order, the Chair had no knowledge of what evidence or past precedents back benchers from either side would wish to adduce in offering the Chair counsel on this situation, which has no precedent. What concerns me very much, therefore, is that a Ruling should be given on this highly important point after only one Front Bench speaker had been heard, which accordingly puts all other hon. Members who have put a lot of work into tracing precedents into the position of either having to appear to challenge a Ruling which you have already given, Mr. Speaker, or having to accept that they have no means of drawing to your attention, as I respectfully submit it is their right and their duty to do, the result of their research upon this most important matter.
I respectfully submit that, if we are setting the precedent that a Ruling is given after one submission has been [column 453]made, though it is obvious that other hon. Members wish to make important submissions on the same subject, the vast majority of hon. and right hon. Members are effectively estopped from making their contribution on matters which are admittedly without precedent. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that, if the House is to keep control of its own proceedings, this is an important point of principle.
I have not noticed that any hon. Member has been effectively estopped from putting points of order to Mr. Speaker. What happened—I thought that the hon. Gentleman appreciated it—was that the Front Bench Member of his own party put in great detail and with great clarity all the points of order which could possibly have arisen. No new one has arisen since.
Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
With respect, I thought that the right hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher) rather gave the pot a stir by coming back to the possible meanings of the Instruction. I propose to resist that temptation, Mr. Speaker, and to limit myself to seeking your guidance by a question. I think that we all agree that this is an important occasion and the precedent set today will be important. It is important also, therefore, that both we and future generations have a clear understanding of the basis of your Ruling.
As I understand, Sir, you proceeded on the basis of accepting that an Instruction must be specific to be in order. It would seem to follow from that that the first question one has to decide in ruling whether an Instruction is in order is what it means, so that what it means is an essential part of the Ruling, or the Chair's decision as to what it means is an essential part of the Ruling. We should be far better able to understand the basis of the Ruling if we knew Mr. Speaker's decision on that.
My question, therefore, is to ask you, Sir, if you would tell us what decision you formed as to its meaning in coming to the conclusion that it had so specific a meaning that it was in order.
I have dealt with that point again and again.[column 454]
Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
As one who, like my hon. Friend the member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), might have to take the Chair at some time in Committee on this Bill, I would have to interpret what this Instruction would mean. I make clear that in my mind the way I would interpret it, if I were asked to give a Ruling, would be as follows. To me, Clause 1 of the Bill means quite specifically the original Clause 1 of the original Bill. The Instruction says:
“to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.”
It follows quite naturally that the “like effect” means like effect to the original Clause. Therefore, I think that that is in line with your Ruling, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
A very important subject has been discussed this afternoon. Most hon. Members have listened with respect for, and appreciation of, the points of order made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). Most of us have appreciated the excellent Ruling which you, Mr. Speaker, have given in very difficult circumstances. I respectfully suggest that this matter has been ventilated sufficiently. There has been a great deal of repetition in points of order. I crave your permission to move—this is rather distasteful—that your Ruling be accepted by the House and that the Question be now put.
That is not the way to proceed.
Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
I have been seeking for some time to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. The effect of your Ruling on Standing Order No. 52 must be to prevent the House having the advice in debate of senior hon. Members as to how best to get the House, or indeed the Government, out of this particular fix. Therefore, we shall be precluded from consideration of other possibilities.
I ask you, as a member of the former Committee and a potential receiver of this rather dubious Instruction, whether there are not other methods which are much more consonant with our procedure and do not involve a tortuously created precedent. In the ordinary way is it not proper on a matter which the Government of the day wish to put right, [column 455]and which has been disagreed to in Standing Committee, to deal with on Report in the whole House?
The Bill cannot go any further without having some meaning brought into it. Would it not be possible to recommit Clause 1, or the whole Bill, as the Government might wish, not to revive the former Committee with Instructions in conflict with the established procedures of the House and of our rules of debate, but to send it back to a Committee of the whole House?
That might emerge in the debate.
Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I apologise for prolonging the discussion for a minute or two, but I feel that I must put a doubt which I genuinely feel as a potential member of the revised Committee, purely over the Instruction. I ask you, Sir, to consider what I believe a fresh aspect which has not been touched on.
If we have power, as the Committee, in accordance with your Ruling, to reinsert
“provisions with a like effect,”
whether or not we interpret that as being Clause 1 in the original form or Clause 1 as amended, there still seems to be a difficulty. My doubt was heightened by what was said by the right hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher). Clause 1 consists of the principle of non-selection, plus several exceptions. I ask whether we shall be empowered as a Committee to add to the list of those exceptions over and above those in the original wording of Clause 1 to add, for example, exceptions about gifted children, boarding education, or various other matters.
If I may link my question to what was said by the right hon. Member for Islington, East, with which you seemed to be associating yourself, may we take it that we shall be resuming consideration of the original Clause 1 with the entitlement to a full discussion of all those issues raised either by the original wording of Clause 1 or possible Amendments to add to the exceptions?
That can be raised in the debate on the Instruction. We come now to the Motion.[column 456]
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I beg to move,
That the Education Bill, so far as amended, be recommitted to the former Committee.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on the way in which she raised her points of order. She did it with eloquence and had obviously done her homework well. It is not for me to get involved in argument with the Chair on points of order.
To come to the Motion, I believe the House is well aware of the circumstances which led to it appearing on the Order Paper. On Tuesday last week the Government lost by one vote an important Division in the Committee stage on the Education Bill. That is not unusual; other Governments have done so. Although, as other hon. Members have pointed out, this precise situation has not arisen before, and because the Clause itself was fundamental to the Bill this is in a sense a new situation, it is the sort of mishap which has happened occasionally to Governments of all parties. I can recall a number of occasions when Governments have temporarily lost some or all of a piece of legislation.
Last week I mentioned one such occasion. Sometimes these defeats are relatively minor—the sort of Amendments in Committee which are reversed on Report. Sometimes they are serious.
Hon. Members opposite will recall that they lost the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill in 1952—a Measure to which they claimed to attach considerable importance—when the House was counted out and the Order for Second Reading had to be reinstated.
Nor will it have escaped the memory of hon. Members who have been longer in this House that there was a still more weighty instance. We have not acted with the same precipitation as did that distinguished parliamentarian the then right hon. Member for Epping in 1944. His Government were defeated in Committee of the whole House—not in Standing Committee—on an Education Bill. By coincidence it was again by one vote, and appropriately it was on a matter which is still of importance in these days, equal pay. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) spoke about understatement. I thought the [column 457]way in which he addressed his remarks to me were characteristically arrogant. [Hon. Members: “Oh!” ]
Here in 1944 was an example in which the right hon. Gentleman asked as a matter of confidence that the House should take steps to reverse its decision. As representing the Government and as Leader of the House, I am not being arrogant towards the Opposition. I believe hon. Members opposite, quite rightly, oppose the Bill, for they take a contrary view to the Government. No doubt they will continue their opposition in Committee. I make no complaint of the way in which proceedings have been conducted in Standing Committee. One has only to read carefully the Hansard Reports of those debates to see that the various issues have so far been argued in great detail—strongly, but fairly.
I could give many instances where mistakes have been made. This happens on both sides of the House and is a hazard of parliamentary procedure. The Opposition, rightly, have the opportunity to criticise. I am sure that the result of the Division which negatived the Clause was as great a surprise to hon. Members opposite as it was to my hon. and right hon. Friends in this Committee. But, inasmuch as the outcome of the Division turned upon the temporary absence of certain hon. Members from the Committee, there is no reason to believe that the views expressed by hon. Members opposite had in any way swayed opinion against the Bill.
Our parliamentary procedures also permit in those circumstances opportunity for the matter to be looked at again. Both sides of the House recognise that the Clause deleted was fundamental to the principle of the Bill, which was fully debated, as I have been reminded today by one of my hon. Friends, a couple of months ago and approved by a considerable majority.
I notice that there is an interesting point in Erskine May, page 534, which says:
“A Committee is bound by the decision of the House, given on second reading, in favour of the principle of the bill, and should not, therefore, amend the bill in a manner destructive of this principle.”
However, it is also stated at page 535 that a Committee can negative an essential Clause of the Bill whose omission [column 458]may nullify the Bill. There was, therefore, nothing out of order in the proceedings in Committee. Nevertheless it may be thought that these two rules are somewhat self-contradictory.
As I have said, the procedure of the House gives a chance for further consideration in such a situation. The Government were faced with several choices. The first, despite the defeat of this Clause, was that the Committee should continue with the Bill upstairs. Amendments could have been made to the succeeding Clauses, making them self-contained. This would have made the proceedings in Committee more meaningful and in order. I discussed this with my right hon. Friend and took advice. I believed that it would be more appropriate to report the situation to the House and give it a chance to recommit the Bill as a whole.
We felt that this alternative of continuing with the Committee Stage would not be satisfactory; it would not be in the general interests of the House nor of the Bill itself. As I told the House on Thursday, when I announced business and was cross-examined by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleages, I was anxious that if possible there should be adequate debate. I was pressed on this matter and some hon. Members took a contrary view. I have of course been in consultation with the authorities of the House and through the usual channels.
The result is the Motion on the Order Paper which will enable us to have a debate. Although, as you have explained Mr. Speaker, both parts of the Motion are confined to procedural matters, hon. Members will be able to speak more widely than if they had been confined to two brief explanatory statements by Standing Order No. 52. This is why the Motion is split into two parts.
I am sure that the House will recognise that although this means taking up valuable time on the Floor of the House it was in the circumstances the most straightforward and proper course for the Government to follow.
The Motion proposes that the Bill be recommitted to the former Committee, Standing Committee A. That is common form for these Motions. The Committee had already had eight sittings on Clause 1 and had discussed the Clause thoroughly, [column 459]with considerable understanding. It will obviously be to the advantage of the House if the same Committee is asked to continue consideration of the Bill.
Another alternative, urged upon us by the Front Bench opposite, was that the Bill should be dropped. In circumstances like this such suggestions are traditional. It is a natural line for those who oppose the Bill. There can be no question of this Bill being dropped. This legislation was promised in the Gracious Speech, and it is a most important measure affecting the future of our children.
I have been deeply interested in educational matters, throughout my time in this House and long before. I would very much like to argue in detail the merits of this Bill and of Clause 1, but you would quite rightly rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I regret that I am not able to deploy these arguments at any length. But I can understand why the rules of the House are as they are. The principles of the Bill and the Clause have on a previous occasion been fully debated in the House, the merits argued to and fro and the principle has been accepted by a large majority. Without further ado I put forward this Motion so that the Committee can resume without delay the job of examining this Bill which is so important to the future development of our educational system.