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Points Of Order

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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The hon. Gentleman has given me notice of a point of order. I feel that he should raise it at the appropriate moment, when we come to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. What opportunity will be provided for hon. Members who are not seeking re-election to bid their farewells to you—as has been the custom over a number of Parliaments—given the arrangements for Dissolution and Prorogation? There should be such an opportunity?

I understand that there is to be no Dissolution ceremony. I hope to have a private opportunity of saying farewell to hon. Members who are my friends on both sides of the House, who will not have that formal opportunity to bid me farewell in the Chair.

I do not think that I can take the hon. Gentleman's point of order. It concerns the selection of amendments, does it not?

It is with a view to asking for your assistance over the selection of amendments, Sir. You are aware that we are to debate the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill. The following Act will make provision in Scotland for the recovery of proceeds. The long title of the Bill reads:

"An Act to make provision for Scotland as regards the recovery of the proceeds of drug trafficking; to make further provision as regards criminal justice in Scotland; and for connected purposes."
New clauses 1 and 2 that stand in my name are designed to create an offence, the offence being to acquire control of another company on the basis of an undertaking in an offer document that is not subsequently fulfilled. If the offence is confirmed, either by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission or by inspectors appointed to investigate the affairs of the company, the penalty would be the divestment of the company that had been thus acquired.

You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, of my interest in what is commonly called the Guinness affair—that promises were made that Arthur Bell and Company would remain an autonomous company within the combined group, after Distillers had been acquired—

Order. I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's interest, but what is his point of order for me?

Because I know that you are aware of the seriousness of this matter, Sir, I am asking you to reconsider your decision so that this important and vital matter, its related circumstances and the possible offences and penalties may be properly debated in a Bill that relates to Scottish affairs.

This morning, I went very carefully into the selection of the amendments. I undertake to look again at the matter and at the appropriate time my decision will be announced. However, because I went into the matter with great care, I cannot hold out much hope to the hon. Gentleman.

I shall take first the point of order of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours).

When you reconsider these matters. Mr. Speaker, will you take on board the view of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who has made it quite clear that it never was his intention to apply penalties to the new clause that he tabled, but that has been rejected? I am informed that the rejection of the new clause was because of an absence of reference—

Order. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can know what was going on in my mind.

May I say, then, that, apart from being in your mind, it may equally have been in the minds of the Clerks with whom you discussed these matters, who may well have informed the hon. Gentleman? It is on that basis that, with knowledge of these matters, I rise to make my case.

The new clause was referred to yesterday in questions to the Leader of the House. It provides hon. Members with the only opportunity to debate the Guinness affair on the Floor of the House of Commons prior to the general election. In so far as advice had been taken that this new clause was in order, we believed that it would have been selected. However, because of the selection process, Parliament has been denied the right to debate this highly important matter.

I have said that I will look again at the matter; the hon. Gentleman must not bring further pressure to bear on me. Further to the earlier point of order, I call Mr. Faulds. Mr. Faulds. Mr. Faulds.

Some of us, Sir, who have been in this place for quite a long time are profoundly concerned at the suspension of the proper Prorogation procedures. We find this unsatisfactory, because it means, among a host of other implications that this ghastly Government, who are running in funk a year early, have suspended the proper way of closing the House, or a Parliament. In addition, it is a very discourteous introduction of a change. It means that most of us who would wish to bid you farewell, in the happy expectation of seeing you again, are prevented from doing so. There have been previous Speakers, notably your predecessor, to whom we were happy not to bid farewell—

I was merely saying, that it would be more healthy for the whole happy tradition of the way in which the proceedings of the House are conducted if this very bad introduction of the suspension of the ordinary Prorogation procedures was not repeated on future occasions. Most of us—and I speak for the youngsters who will disappear and for the old men who will he back—would like a reintroduction of the proper conduct of the House's abrogation at the end of a Parliament.

I am well aware that 87 right hon. and hon. Members will not be standing again. Normally, we would have had a Dissolution ceremony and that would have given them and me the opportunity to bid each other farewell. I understand that that is not be the case on this occasion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]. Order. But I share the hon. Gentleman's hope that this will not become a precedent.

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), Mr. Speaker. I am most grateful to you for saying that you will look at the matter again. If, as my hon. Friend suggested, a conflict of emphasis is involved, and the divestment is not the penalty that it was interpreted as being by the Table Office, it might help if your could indicate to us why it has been turned down so far, so that we can advise our hon. Friends on the further representations that they might make.

Never in all our long history has the Chair given reasons for the selection or non-selection of amendments.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. First, I apologise for not giving you notice of this point of order. The reason was that I had to see the Table Office before raising the matter with you. You will recall that I submitted an application for an Adjournment debate which was ruled out on the ground that there was no Minister directly responsible. The case concerned one of my constituents, Mr. Noel Frank Smith and had to do with the National Health Service. My point of order is that that case was directly connected with a Minister, and I saw no reason whatever why my Adjournment debate could not be accepted in the formal way. I wonder whether it would be possible for you to look at the matter further to ascertain whether that Minister has direct responsbility so that my constituent can have his case heard in the House as is the tradition.

I am not aware of the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman. I shall look into it. Was the hon. Gentleman asking for a second or third Adjournment? The daily Adjournment debates for the week have already been announced.

I do not think that you should worry too much, Mr. Speaker, about not having a funny little procession at the end of this Parliament. As we have got rid of it this time, it would not be a bad idea to get it into "Erskine May" so that we do not have to repeat it in the future. I say that to counterbalance what some of my hon. Friends have said.

On the more important question about the new clause and Distillers, you said that you would have a fresh look at the matter on the basis of the representations from both sides of the House. I think that you ought to look at it in the knowledge that, notwithstanding all the advice that you get from the Clerks, there are occasions on which they get it wrong. I think that the matter of the new clause should be studied carefully, with a view not to going over the old ground but to trying to fathom out whether a piece of mistaken advice has been given so that we can debate this slimy takeover bid.

I often receive, and am grateful for, the helpful advice of the hon. Gentleman. I certainly accept the advice that he has given me today. I will look at the matter again.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) and by my Member of Parliament my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Did the hon. Gentleman vote for the hon. Member for Bolsover?

Yes, and I shall do so again.

Will you reconsider your decision, Mr. Speaker? You said that more than 80 hon. Members from both sides of the House were retiring. Your reply was no consolation to those of us who are retiring. I suggest that you give us an opportunity to thank you by bringing back this function.

I share the hon. Member's concern. Unhappily the decision is not mine. If it had been mine, it would have been in accordance with what I think is the general feeling in the House and not with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Business Of The House


That, in respect of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Bill, if the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, further proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed and that as soon as the proceedings on any Money Resolution come to by the House in relation to the Bill have been concluded, this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.—[Mr. Maude.]


That, at this day's sitting, the requirements of paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 53 (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.) shall be dispensed with in respect of the Motion in the name of Mr. Norman Lamont relating to Estimates.—[Mr. Maude.]