Dame Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As Chairman of Standing Committee E, which is considering the National Health Service and Community Care Bill, I have to report to the House the circumstances in which the Committee adjourned this morning. After repeated requests from the Chair to resume his seat-- [Interruption.]
Dame Janet Fookes : The Chair made repeated requests to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) to resume his seat because he had persisted in pursuing a matter which I had ruled was not a matter for the Chairman of a Standing Committee. When it became crystal clear that the matter was not to be resolved in any other way, I accepted a motion for the adjournment of the Committee. That motion was passed without a Division.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe) rose--
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The House must take seriously the report made by the distinguished and experienced Chairman of Standing Committee E. From what she has told the House, it is quite clear that the conduct which she has reported made impossible the continued work of the Standing Committee. In the absence of a response to rulings made by the Chair, quite regardless of what was being talked about, I beg to move,
That the Chairman of Standing Committee E, during its sittings to consider the National Health Service and Community Care Bill, shall have power to direct that any Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or persistently and wilfully obstructs the business of the Committee do withdraw immediately from the Committee Room for the remainder of the sitting ; and that the Serjeant at Arms shall act on such orders as he may receive from the Chair in pursuance of this order.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : While it is obviously essential that the House at all times should uphold the authority of the Chair--I say that on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself without equivocation-- [Interruption.]
Dr. Cunningham : Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Was it really necessary to move the motion, in this way, immediately? Why cannot we have a cooling-off period and hold discussions through the usual channels before we take such an unprecedented step? The motion--although
Column 822it was difficult to hear because of the noise made by the hooligans behind the Leader of the House--gives unprecedented powers to the Chairman of just one Standing Committee-- something that the House has never done before--without even the opportunity to discuss what has happened and how we might resolve the matter through the usual channels.
We should pause before rushing into such a decision. I am sure that, with reasonable time, we can resolve the matter satisfactorily in a far better way and in a way more acceptable to hon. Members. After all, it was a decision of the whole House that originally established Standing Committees. If the motion is accepted, it would give to a member of a Standing Committee--albeit the person in the Chair--powers to overrule the decision of the whole House by excluding a Member from the Committee whom the whole House had decided should be a member. Before the House takes such a step, we should pause and consider more fully all the implications.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : I am a member of the Standing Committee who wants to debate the important National Health Service and Community Care Bill. This morning the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) delayed the Committee from 10.30 until just after 11 o'clock. The Committee suspended for 10 minutes and, after the suspension, continued for a few more minutes. It became clear that the hon. Member for Workington was insistent upon disrupting the work of the Committee. We have not yet debated even one word of the Bill.
If we are to support the Chairman in running the Committee, it is vital that the House agrees to the motion. It is not unprecedented as it has already happened once this Parliament on Scottish legislation. The quicker that the motion is passed, the quicker the Committee can continue to debate the National Health Service and Community Care Bill, which is of so much concern to all our constituents.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I understand that the motion is debatable, but I am advised that as it is a narrrow motion if I were to veer from it you would intervene, Mr. Speaker, and ask me to resume my place.
May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the debate that took place on 14 March 1989. On that occasion hon. Members representing the Scottish National party were in similar difficulties. I have read the Hansard report of the speeches made on that day. They show that every hon. Member who managed to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and to speak was allowed to speak on the motion that had been tabled, which was narrow, in a way that went wider than the terms of that motion. All the speeches made on that occasion went far wider than the motion moved by the Leader of the House. Therefore, on the basis of precedent, I ask you for a little latitude, Mr. Speaker.
Column 823--I think the hon. Gentleman accepts this-- that he cannot rehearse in the Chamber this afternoon a matter that has already been ruled out of order in Committee.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I drew attention to the example only because the motion that the Leader of the House read at the Dispatch Box at that stage in 1989 is almost identical--I have it with me--to the motion tabled by the Leader of the House today. I believe that that is a precedent which allows me to go a little wider than the motion. This morning, as the House knows, I was involved in a little difficulty in Committee. I want to make it clear to the Chairman of the Committee that it is not my intention to disrupt the proceedings of the Committee in future. Therefore, the motion need not have been tabled if the Leader of the House had come to me to ask me my-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Campbell-Savours : One of the Government Whips was kind enough to do that and came to me in the Tea Room to ask me that. I presume that he revealed my intentions to the Leader of the House. The motion need never have been tabled. It has been tabled for other reasons--because some Conservative Members do not want the issue that I raised in Committee to be raised in public or to be given an airing before the British public
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Will my hon. Friend give way? [Hon. Members :-- "No."] This is a debatable motion. My hon. Friend has referred to incidents in Committee this morning. In view of the fact that the Committee took certain decisions and that the Chair took one--to suspend the Sitting--and as this matter is now before the House, those members of the Committee who were privy to the incidents and the statements made are fully aware of the facts, which we in the Chamber are not. As we are now debating the motion, it is important that the House should know, from my hon. Friend and others, exactly what took place and what statements were made. We cannot properly decide the issue unless my hon. Friend is able to reveal in full exactly what took place and what was said.
Mr. Speaker : That is fair enough. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) can certainly touch upon the matter. However, it would not be in order for him to outline at length a matter that the Chairman of Standing Committee E ruled out of order.
Mr. Campbell-Savours rose --
Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a specific point of order because the House is in some difficulty. By all means let us have accounts--I am sure that we would have a faithful and honourable account from both the Chairman of the Committee and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours)--but would it not be sensible for us to pause to read the Hansard report of the Committee proceedings before debating the motion?
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is impossible for the House thoroughly to understand what happened unless what my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) has just suggested is done. We
Column 824need to have the verbatim report of what happened in the Committee. Without seeing that, to continue with what is happening would be a violation of democracy.
Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a member of Standing Committee E, may I say that the issue is not about what was discussed, but about the behaviour of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and the discipline which the Chair must exercise from time to time. I sat through that Committee for two days, and the hon. Member for Workington--whose forensic skills I admire--disrupted it. That is what this matter is about, and nothing else.
Mr. Speaker : Order. We do not want points of order on this decision. I sense from the mood of the House that there is a feeling that we should reflect on the matter. [ Hon. Members :-- "No".] Order. The purpose of the motion is to give the Chairman of Standing Committee E the authority to suspend a Member from the Committee if her orders are disobeyed. The shadow Leader of the House has already said that we must uphold the tradition in this Chamber of obeying the Chair's rulings. I hope that the House will always do that.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : You, Mr. Speaker, said that you would let me proceed if I did not seek to touch on these matters at great length. It is not my intention to do so. I want to touch on the matter only briefly.
I raised the matter of a company called Michael Forsyth Limited--a lobbying, public relations company which trades on the name of a Minister of the Crown. The secretary to the Minister, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), is a lady called Griselda Hayes, who is not currently in the House. She has been, and is, acting as the Minister's secretary and is the wife of the man who bought half the company from the hon. Member for Stirling. Therefore, there is a direct link with the Minister's secretary in the House of Commons, who sees the mail of hon. Members when they write to him--if the correspondence goes via the Letter Board as opposed to going direct to the Department. I object to this lady's access to mail on the basis that she might see correspondence from hon. Members about issues relating to privatisation when her husband owns half the company, Michael Forsyth Limited, which is involved in public relations, and promoting privatisation.
I know, although the Minister denies this, that he has an informal agreement whereby if he is sacked and loses his job as Minister or-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to continue to bring to the attention of the House a personal matter that a Minister has already denied?
Mr. Speaker : This is the problem with such matters. The House has to make a decision about whether the motion should be passed, and it is difficult to make that decision until it knows the background to the matter.
The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I moved the adjournment of the Committee this morning after we had reached the stage when the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) would not resume his seat when
Column 825asked to do so, would not desist from making a speech when ruled out of order and barracked the rulings of the Chair. As a result of that misbehaviour, it seems that the hon. Gentleman is now being allowed to make a speech that was out of order this morning and is out of order now. [Interruption.]
Mr. Clarke : There is a difficulty here, which is why we have come from the Standing Committee to the Floor of the House. The hon. Member for Workington is a procedural expert to a greater extent than I am. Until this morning I did not know that a Chairman of a Standing Committee had no power to suspend a Member in circumstances in which you, Mr. Speaker, would suspend a Member. My belief is that the hon. Gentleman persisted this morning thinking that he would be suspended and then found that he could not be. That is the issue, and it is the only issue, that we have brought to the Floor of the House. Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. You were right to say that there are aspects of these proceedings which do not bring credit to the House, but these proceedings have been initiated because the Leader of the House brought a debatable motion before the House. Some hon. Members now realise that under that motion matters will be raised that they do not wish to have raised.
You have already said, Mr. Speaker, that some degree of reflection might be preferable, and I wonder why the Leader of the House did not realise that before he moved the motion. As the Committee need not sit again until Thursday, the matter may be deferred to allow for a more careful debate and for hon. Members to have the motion before them. We are all being asked to consider a motion that has not been printed, to which it has not been possible to devise any amendments, and whose implications we cannot consider. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to give the Leader of the House the opportunity to withdraw the motion and to deal with the matter in a more sensitive way.
The shadow Leader of the House made the point that the matter was entitled to be considered clearly and in silence. The position quite simply is that, having suspended the proceedings of Standing Committee E this morning in the light of the adjournment motion that was moved and accepted--the Committee has achieved no useful work this morning, having made no headway on the substance of the matter--the Chairman of the Committee reported to the House that that had happened as a result of the repeated failure of the hon. Member for
Column 826Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) to respond to her rulings. Therefore, the matter comes before the House on the simple point of the need, as a matter of order, to uphold the rulings of the Chairman.
The shadow Leader of the House is entirely right to say that this is not a matter that arises frequently. Fortunately, it has not been necessary to raise it frequently. Without the Chairmen of Standing Committees being armed with the authority that you, Mr. Speaker, have, their rulings have been accepted without question. It is because that has not happened in this case, and having attempted to find a solution through the usual channels, that I have moved the motion. It would have been preferable if a comprehensive undertaking could have been given through the usual channels, but in the absence of such an undertaking, and in the face of the fact that the Standing Committee is due to resume its work at 4.30 this afternoon, it seemed to me right beyond question that I should move the motion to uphold the authority of the Chairman of the Committee.
Dr. Cunningham : Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that the Secretary of State for Health finds it difficult to accept arbitration. Perhaps he will reflect on the fact that that is exactly what he, together with the Leader of the House, is being offered in this case. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has already made it clear that he has no intention of continuing to disrupt the Committee, and that the Government Chief Whip had that information some considerable time ago, so I wonder why the Leader of the House has rushed the motion before us. As he has done so, and as the motion is debatable, I hope that Conservative Members will, like me, respect the authority of the Chair and will allow my hon. Friend the Member for Workington to continue his speech.
Mr. Speaker : Before the hon. Member for Workington does so, I remind the House that, although the motion is debatable, there is other important business to consider. When the authority of the Chair must be upheld, that matter must be dealt with responsibly. The hon. Member for Workington has outlined the reasons why he refused to obey the Chair earlier today, and he must not go further in stating on the Floor of the House what was said upstairs and then ruled out of order.
This morning, I made it clear to the lady Chairman of the Committee, and to the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight), in the Tea Room, prior to the House sitting this afternoon, that I had no intention of disrupting the proceedings of the Committee in the future. I understand that that reassurance has been conveyed to the Government Chief Whip, and it should have reached also the Leader of the House. Therefore, there was no need for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to move his motion.
I said that Michael Forsyth Limited is trading in the name of a Minister of the Crown. I also have to say that the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has made an agreement with the new director--
Column 827interests outside the House, the Select Committee on Members' Interests, of which the hon. Member for Workington is himself a member, should consider it.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I have already checked, Mr. Speaker, that it is not a matter of privilege, and nor is it a matter for the Select Committee on Members' Interests. The rules governing such matters are instead set down by the Prime Minister. They cover the conduct of Ministers' private affairs, and they are not matters over which the Committee of which I am a member has any jurisdiction. This morning, I simply asked the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland a question, which was whether he would give the Committee an undertaking that he would not--
Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking) rose--
Mr. Onslow : Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely we are debating whether the Chairman of a Committee should be given further powers to deal with a disorderly situation when it arises in his or her Committee. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that we are not here to challenge the ruling that was made this morning. However, judging from the expression on the face of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), let alone from his words, it is his intention to achieve precisely that objective. It would not be inconsistent with the wishes of the House that the authority of the Chair should take priority over the preferences of the hon. Member for Workington.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) attempted to make a point of order in a Committee this morning. It was obviously inconvenient for the Government, but hon. Members have the right to free speech. The problem for the Chairs of Committees is that they do not have power to suspend a Member but have to work, or have done since I have been in the House, by persuasion, and it is often extremely difficult.
I remember a Committee which was considering a social security Bill in which a Member kept talking while the Chair was putting the Question and taking the votes. The Chair used all the available powers to keep the proceedings in order. It would be an unfortunate precedent if, in an attempt to gag hon. Members, we changed the balance of power between the Chair and the Committee. They have the power to achieve things by persuasion whereas you, Mr. Speaker, have the power to exclude Members, but that is based on the fact that it is in the best interests of the House, and you are normally supported in that. For the Chair of a Standing Committee to exercise similar powers, without the whole House having the opportunity of access to all the information, would be unfortunate.
I think that the whole House will accept that we must uphold the authority of Chairmen of Standing Committees. If we fail to do that, anarchy will prevail, and
Column 828we cannot have that. Let us now come to a decision on the matter--[ Hon. Members :-- "No."] I call the hon. Member for Workington, but please be brief.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : We could curtail the debate quickly if I were to be allowed to finish my brief remarks. I simply asked the Minister to tell the Committee that he would not reacquire his interest in Michael Forsyth Limited in the future, or that his wife would not acquire that interest. People in the industry believe, and I have been told reliably, that he has an agreement to reacquire those shares if he loses his job as a Minister or if he loses his seat in Parliament. That is the issue.
Mr. Foot : As the House is now aware, this is a debatable motion, although that was not immediately evident, I thought, to the Leader of the House when he moved it. If he had known that when he moved the motion, he might have made at the beginning the speech that he later delivered on a point of order. If he had explained the situation at the beginning of our proceedings, it might have been somewhat different, although I think that it would have been unsatisfactory from the point of view of the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members.
Of course, it is right to emphasise that the authority of the Chair here and in Committees must be upheld, as my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), other hon. Members and you, Mr. Speakers, have said. However, that authority cannot be upheld by motions moved in this form when the House has not had the chance to consider what they are about. The Leader of the House had a second opportunity--he is shaking his head before he even knows what I am going to say. That may be the safest way in the Cabinet : if they shake their heads later, they will be lopped off.
This is a serious matter. Let me say again to the Leader of the House that if he wishes our proceedings to be conducted properly--and I understand the motives that persuaded him to move the motion--he must withdraw the motion. He will then have a chance to give not only my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, but hon. Members on both sides of the House the opportunity to consider it. If he really wishes to uphold the authority of the Chair, that is the best way for him to go about it. But if he tries to rush through the motion as he did at the beginning--without knowing or considering the consequences--far from upholding the authority of the Chair, he will be creating still more confusion.
For the third time, I invite the right hon. and learned Gentleman to take the obvious course. If he does not, however, the motion will still be debatable, and I believe that all hon. Members will exercise their right to debate it. Even on the lowest ground, that of assisting Government business --and hon. Members cannot sink any lower than that--much the most sensible course is for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw his ill- considered motion and to move it again tomorrow after consultation.
Column 829Mr. Kenneth Clarke : Mr. Speaker--[ Hon. Members :-- "Is this a point of order?"] No, it is a contribution to the debate. I propose to make three brief points. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will doubtless agree with the first two, although he will probably not agree with the third.
First, let me respond to what was said by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett)--
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the Secretary of State is allowed to make a speech, why was my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) not allowed to do so?
Mr. Clarke rose --
Mr. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? When my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) rose earlier, may I take it that you regarded that as an intervention in my speech?
Mr. Speaker : I had said to the hon. Member for Workington that I thought that he had made his case in sufficient detail for a judgment to be made on whether the motion should be passed, and I therefore called his right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot).
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. To avoid any confusion that may arise later, will you please explain to the House whether, there being no written motion before the House, a manuscript amendment can be submitted? Will you also tell us whether there is any fixed time limit that would force the debate to end before 10 pm?
Several Hon. Members rose--
Hon. Members will find the precedent on page 323 of "Erskine May". Such motions may be moved without notice and are debatable. The debate could continue until 10 pm, although I hope that it will not.
Mr. Clarke : The first point that I wish to make, in response to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), is that there is no question of criticism of the hon. Member for-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put ; but Mr. Speaker-- withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
Several Hon. Members rose--