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Industry Bill (Standing Committee)

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 20 February 1975

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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 membership of Standing Committee E in respect of the Industry Bill."
I submit—

Order. I am afraid that this is not possible. If a Standing Order No. 9 application were granted, the debate would be on the Adjournment. If there is to be a debate on this matter, it must be on a motion. I have said that I will consider this matter and discuss it and give a ruling tomorrow. On the whole, I would prefer that the House should wait to hear what I have to say. But the one thing that I am satisfied is not in order is a Standing Order No. 9 application.

I wish, if you would allow me, Mr. Speaker, to suggest to you why it is both urgent and important—

Order. With respect, the hon. Gentleman cannot do it. As I have said, this matter can be discussed only on a motion. All that I am certain of is that a Standing Order No. 9 debate would be on the Adjournment of the House, which is not a substantive motion. It can be discussed only on a motion in which the allegations are set out. Therefore, the one thing which cannot achieve a debate on this subject is a Standing Order No. 9 application.

On a point of order. I apologise for taking up the time of the House but I submit that the House is in a difficulty. From my own experience as Leader of the House, I should like to suggest something which I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will be able to take into account.

It is clear that there has been some misunderstanding or mistake in the arrangements for setting up this Committee. It is not for me to judge, but, having listened to the exchanges, I am clear that there is considerable dissatisfaction, which appears to be well founded, about the way in which minorities have been treated. When you make your statement tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will be able to take this into account. I understand that you would like to consider this matter and it seems to me that, when you do so, it might be possible to say that the Committee should not meet until this matter has been properly resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned. Otherwise, it would be very unfair to minorities, and I know that you would not wish that to happen.

I shall certainly be very conscious of my duty to protect minorities, but I do not yet even know what the Committee of Selection proposes. I have to consider what my powers are. I will do my best to carry out my duties when I have discovered what the situation is—which I have not yet done.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. When looking into this situation, should we not be thinking of making representations about the representation of minorities? Will you ensure that all minorities are represented? That may mean that the official Opposition may lose some representation but that the Ulster Unionists, who take the money from United Kingdom intervention in Northern Ireland and who do not want similar measures in this country, will be represented in their true colours.

I shall consider the matter as sympathetically as I can. However, I suspect that my sympathy will be diminished if we proceed with these points of order. I want to try to find out what the situation is and what my powers are. I do not want to listen to suggestions which may not be relevant, from either side of the House.

May I put it to you, Mr. Speaker—and I wish that the Leader of the House were present to give his assistance—

Order. The Leader of the House has another engagement, and he has explained to me why he could not stay for this matter.

I fully understand, Mr. Speaker, as will the House. But if you make a ruling tomorrow which has the effect of throwing the matter into reconsideration, if the House is to have an opportunity to consider the matter and the Committee, presumably, also to reconsider it, it would be extremely difficult for the Committee to proceed with its original intention of meeting on Tuesday. Will you advise us tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, in your statement, of your conclusions upon the equity of the Committee proceeding to meet as originally planned?