On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night we had a Business Statement from the Leader of the House announcing a guillotine on the Finance Bill and informing the House that the Norton Villiers Triumph Order was to be taken late on Wednesday night. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) asked why, since the order had been on the Notice Paper for four months, it was necessary to give such extraordinarily short notice of the decision to bring it forward to a debate. The Leader of the House replied to my right hon. Friend by saying that it was
I have this morning spoken to the Chairman of NVT, who tells me that he has had no conversations with Ministers since last Thursday—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—that no meeting took place with civil servants except for one last Friday with Treasury civil servants. The Chairman tells me that the position about redundancies in the company has been known, on an increasingly serious basis, to Ministers in the Department of Industry for the past two to three months. I understand, although I am not able to get this information in writing because the Chairman is not in London, that that is the gist of the information that has been made available to the national Press. There are two points on which I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. The first is whether you feel it would be appropriate, since we can no longer question the Business Statement made last night, for the Leader of the House now to add to the statement he made then. Second, if on reflection it turns out that the information given by the Leader of the House to justify bringing forward the NVT order at such short notice was based on false information given to the right hon. Gentleman then, what possible ground is there for proceeding with the order at such peremptory speed?"because the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph has informed us today that this money must be forthcoming this week, otherwise there will be redundancies. This is the first that the Government have heard of the urgency of the matter."
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to reply. [Hon. Members: "No. The Leader of the House."] As the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) quite properly said, the order in question has been upon the Notice Paper for some time. It followed from discussions with the company that there was a degree of urgency in the matter—
—which led me to communicate with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about this and to ask that the debate take place this week. There will be an opportunity during the debate, if it follows in accordance with the Business Statement made by my right hon. Friend last night, to explain the circumstances in which it was necessary to bring it forward. I believe that that will be for the convenience of the House.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, the Secretary of State for Industry was in Bristol yesterday. The Leader of the House came to the House at midnight last night with this extraordinary statement about the urgency of this matter. Could we please know from the Secretary of State when he informed his right hon. Friend of the sudden urgency of this business?
I spoke to my right hon. Friend on the telephone from Bristol yesterday, before he made the Business Statement. My right hon. Friend—
I spoke to my right hon. Friend from Bristol late yesterday morning. He was very anxious not to interfere with the pattern of business this week—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—unless it was necessary so to do. I underlined in my conversation with the Leader of the House the importance of getting the order this week for the reason I gave.
With respect, this is an important point. [An hon. Member: "It is not a point of order."] I am not certain. I think that the Secretary of State in replying to the point of order was using the same discretion as you mentioned has existed on previous occasions, Mr. Speaker. Therefore it is in order, that discretion having been exercised, to ask a question. Is the Seccretary of State aware that no one doubts for a moment that he spoke to his right hon. Friend along the lines he has indicated? Is he aware that what the House will be interested to know is at what stage in the past four months did the sudden urgency arise which was transmitted to the Leader of the House yesterday?
I would have hoped that the House would have taken the normal procedure of listening to the argument on the order and not seek to anticipate the debate by means of points of order.
Order. Mr. William Hamilton.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House will be at a loss to understand how a question to the Leader of the House can be answered by the Secretary of State for Industry.
Order. That is not a matter for the Chair. Mr. Hamilton.
Further to that point of order—
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—
I beg to—
Further to that point point of order, Mr. Speaker. In my original request to you, I sought guidance upon two points. The first point depended on whether—
Order. The content of an answer is not a matter for the Chair. It cannot be a matter of order. We will go on. Mr. Hamilton.
I beg to move—
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker—
Order. We cannot pursue this matter further. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It really is not fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and to the House. My hon. Friend asked two questions seeking guidance from you. We have not had an answer from the Leader of the House. We have not been told why the Leader of the House had to announce this business last night as a matter of urgency. That is what we are entitled to know, and it is what we are entitled to know from the Leader of the House.
Order. This is all coming out of the time to be devoted to the Finance Bill. The matters which have been raised are not matters for the Chair. I so rule.
I gave notice at the earliest possible moment that I wished to make an application under Standing Order No. 9. May I now please do so, Mr. Speaker?
Now is the appropriate time.
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,
My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has just told the House that, despite the assurance given to the House by the Lord President shortly after midnight this morning, no such information had been given to the Government. I submit that this is a specific matter. I also submit that it is an important matter. What could be more important than the assurance of the Leader of the House, one of the most senior members of the Government and himself the guardian and custodian of the rights of back benchers? I turn now to the third aspect, that of urgency. What could be more urgent than the honour, truthfulness and integrity of the Government—"The untrue statement by the Leader of the House in the early hours of this morning when he said, 'It is because the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph has informed us today'—I underline the word 'today'—'that this money must be forthcoming this week otherwise there will be redundancies.'"
The hon. Gentleman must not make the sort of speech he would make if I were to grant his application. He has to satisfy me that there should be a debate on this matter either today or tomorrow.
I hope that I have demonstrated that this matter is specific and important and that on the matter of urgency the whole credibility of the Government Front Bench is at stake.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has made an application under Standing Order No. 9 asking me to allow a debate either today or tomorrow on the matter which he raised.I am not prepared to grant that request.
Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), I believe that the House is entitled to an answer to one simple question: when the Leader of the House made that statement last night, was it or was it not true? If it was not true, the order should be withdrawn and taken later. If it was true, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House should get up and say so. Was it true or was it not?
Order. If the noise continues, I shall suspend the sitting.
The sitting is suspended until 4.15 p.m.Grave disorder having arisen, Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 26 (Power of Mr. Speaker to adjourn the House or suspend the sitting), suspended the Sitting of the House.Sitting suspended at five minutes to Four o'clock and resumed at a quarter, past Four o'clock.
During the adjournment I have made further inquiries into this matter.I made a short Business Statement last night. In reply to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), I gave an explanation in perfectly good faith believing that all that I said was absolutely accurate. I have now found that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry met Mr. Poore, the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph Ltd., on Thursday of last week. My right hon. Friend telephoned me yesterday from Bristol, and said that this matter must be dealt with this week, otherwise there would be great difficulties in the firm. I pointed out to him the great inconvenience to the House in debating the matter this week. However, he insisted that the matter must be dealt with this week, otherwise there was a danger of redundancies. Therefore, I announced the matter last night. There was no intention of misleading the House—none whatever—and my statement was made in perfectly good faith.
We are grateful to the Leader of the House for making that statement. Do we understand that the order is still to stay on the Order Paper?
I know that this is extremely inconvenient, but I am told that there would be great difficulties in the firm if the guarantees to the bank were not not made available by Thursday morning.I apologise to the House for this.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not understand how it was possible for the Government to guarantee £50 million to British Leyland, whereas they appear to be totally incapable of making this guarantee without—
That illustrates the difficulty of the Chair over points of order. That is a very relevant point for the debate, but it is not a point of order for me today.