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Nuclear Missiles (Nato Meeting)

Volume 975: debated on Monday 10 December 1979

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9—

Order. The hon. Member has probably not had the message that I sent to him. He gave me notice at 12.50 pm, which was after the time when he should have given notice, since this matter was known last week and he could have given notice that he wished to move the Adjournment of the House. Therefore, he cannot do it today.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since last Thursday, the Prime Minister of Holland has been to see the British Prime Minister and the American President—something that introduces, if I may say so, a new factor in the question of the 12 December meeting of NATO to discuss the siting of new nuclear missiles on British territory. Therefore, I ask that I be permitted to make my request for the Adjournment of the House—not to argue the case but to give reasons why it is a matter of urgent importance and one of precision. I should like to do that.

I should very much like to help the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun). I prefer to help hon. Members, but the House has given me instructions that where the facts are known before 12 o'clock applications for Adjournment debates must reach me before that time. To reveal circumstances that I do not normally reveal—last week I had privately to indicate to another hon. Member that he could not raise a matter that he wished to raise because he had not notified me by the proper time. If I start playing with the rules of the House in this way it will be difficult to know where to draw the line. The House has given me the rules, which it expects me to observe.

Further to the point of order Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State for Defence failed to come to the House on Thursday, the day after the meeting that has been widely canvassed on television, and that meeting has not been subject to democratic debate in this House, an omission that is unique among the European Powers concerned. I therefore give you notice, Mr. Speaker, that, if there is no statement I intend to raise the matter next Monday under the Standing Order No. 9 procedure.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we have guidance on how to raise the issue, in view of what you said to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun)? If a Standing Order No. 9 application were made to you before the prescribed time, would that be in order? There are important issues at stake on the possible deployment of theatre nuclear weapons. May we have guidance on how we can raise the issue under the rules of procedure?

I in no way underestimate the strength of feeling on the part of the hon. Member for Salford, East and hon. Members who support him in the matter. I am merely indicating that I have to observe the rules of the House. Had the notice come to me before 12 o'clock the hon. Member would certainly have been called to seek the leave of the House under Standing Order No. 9.

Further to my point of order, Mr. Speaker. If before 12 o'clock tomorrow morning I seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House, and particularly if there is a new development in the matter, will I be in order?

I am not being unsympathetic when I say that I shall let the hon. Member know tomorrow, when we know whether there is a new factor in the issue.