Deputy Speaker faces Maastricht challenge: Commons ruling on amendment to treaty legislation is criticised

A RARE Commons challenge was tabled last night to a ruling by Michael Morris, the Deputy Speaker, who has refused MPs a vote on a critical amendment to the Maastricht treaty legislation.

Commons motions criticising the Speaker, or Deputy Speaker, are unusual; there have only been about half a dozen criticising the conduct of a Deputy Speaker, known more formally as Chairman of Ways and Means, in the past 40 years - and only one was pressed to a vote.

But Tony Benn, the former Labour cabinet minister, last night tabled a motion 'regretting' the decision of Mr Morris to stand by his March ruling that there would be no vote on Amendment 27 to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill.

Mr Morris had said initially that he would allow a vote on Amendment 27; a proposal that might force the Government to choose between its Social Chapter opt-out and the treaty.

But in a ruling that prompted Labour accusations of political bias, he said yesterday he had taken several factors into account in reaching his decision, 'including the committee's debates, the clarity and effect of the amendment, and its impact on the Bill, which, if brought into effect, must be workable and understandable'. The effect of the amendment is currently a matter of dispute between the Attorney-General, who argues that it would not block ratification, and government critics who say that it would - and would argue that case in the High Court if necessary.

Mr Benn told MPs it was open to them to appeal against the judgement. 'It has never been my understanding that the chairman had any responsibility whatever for considering either the intelligibility of an amendment, or for that matter its effect, if introduced into the legislation.'

That point was reinforced by Jack Cunningham, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, who said: 'I cannot myself accept that it is the responsibility of the chair to take into account political judgements about the effects of amendments on legislation. Surely the rule of the chair is to determine whether or not an amendment is procedurally in order, and not to make political judgements?'

But he indicated that Labour would not support Mr Benn's motion - because it would in effect throw out the baby, the possibility of getting a vote on Amendment 27, along with the bathwater, or Mr Morris.

Mr Benn's motion, which is expected to be debated tomorrow, argues that the decision of Mr Morris to allow a debate, and then rule out a vote, denied the House 'an opportunity to reach a decision on an issue relating to the applicability of the Protocol on Social Policy contained in the Maastricht treaty, which the Government held to be so important that it sought, and obtained, a special opt-out for the United Kingdom'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk