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Member For Belfast, West

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1950

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Before we come to the Orders of the Day, I have a statement to make about the notice which was given to me yesterday, and which I allowed, from the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing).

The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch gave notice yesterday to move a Motion for which he claims precedence as a matter of Privilege. Since this same matter has already been referred to a Select Committee, whose Report is now before the House, I cannot allow this Motion to have that precedence as the hon. and learned Member would, in fact, be bound to traverse the subject matter of the Committee's Report. The Report of this Committee, though not a Report from the Committee of Privileges, is so closely akin in subject matter that my Ruling of 10th July, 1947, can, I think, be held to apply to the Report of this Committee as to a Report from the Committee of Privileges. The relevant portion of this Ruling was:
"It is, moreover, the inherent right of every Member of this House, first, to bring matters of Privilege to its attention, and, consequently, to secure its decision upon them. There are, however, several difficult questions of a practical nature involved in treating reports of the Committee of Privileges as matters of Privilege. Such a report, together with its minutes of evidence and appendices may be a long and complicated document. It would not be reasonable to discuss such a report until Members generally have had time to acquaint themselves fully with its contents. On the other hand, it would not be right that such a report should be left unconsidered for a considerable time and then brought forward with the priority of a matter of Privilege.
I think that in this matter the general practice of the House should be followed whereby the choice of a day for debate is settled by agreement among the various parties interested. In the event of failure to agree, any Member would have the right to put down a Motion for consideration of such a report at the time at which matters of Privilege are taken, namely, before entering on the programme of public Business."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1947; Vol. 439, c. 2438–9.]

While, with the leave of the House, thanking you very much, Mr. Speaker, for your kindness in dealing with the point of order which I raised, might I raise with you the further rather difficult point that if the hon. Gentleman concerned is not a Member of the House, there is obviously some urgency in our reaching a decision because, otherwise, he might take part in Divisions and other matters which would result in the House coming to a decision which they would not otherwise have taken had only Members voted in the Division?

That, I think, is a matter for the hon. Gentleman concerned. Perhaps I might point out that supposing the Motion had been taken now—what the Motion said was:

"That the return from West Belfast be taken into consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1.].
—that would not have stopped the hon. Member from voting afterwards. If we only took it into consideration, it would not stop any vote. After all, I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hornchurch has lost his right in due course.