HC Deb 03 February 1966 vol 723 cc1300-1
Sir Frederic Bennett

On a point of order. I believe that you are aware, Mr. Speaker, that I intended to raise a point of order this afternoon on a procedural matter.

Two days ago, when some of my hon. Friends and I entered the House, in response to a number of cries of "Order" from certain parts of the House you reproved a number of hon. Members and myself, as reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 1st February: It is discourteous, and against the rules of the House, for Members to walk between a Minister and a questioner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1966; Vol. 723, c 869.] It had been my intention not to press this matter because, without any false feelings at all, you are aware, Mr. Speaker, how unbounded is our gratitude for the way in which you guide our counsels. But the following morning it was reported in the Press and it would seem to benefit all hon. Members that we should have an explanation of the rule about passing between a speaker and the Chair. It is for this reason alone that I ask you to clarify your Ruling.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot comment on the report which appeared in the Press, but I want to deal with the point which the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) has raised. I am grateful to him for raising it so courteously, both in the House and privately. He has raised the issue with me in his customary courteous way.

This gives me the opportunity of correcting a clumsy and inaccurate Ruling which I made at Question Time on Tuesday, when the House was calling some hon. Members to order, and for the purposes of greater accuracy—to quote a well-known phrase—I want to state the position quite clearly and correct the Ruling which I gave on Tuesday. The rule by the House is as follows: …Members are not to cross between the Chair and a Member who is speaking from either of the two lower benches, or between the Chair and the table, or between the Chair and the Mace, when the Mace is taken off the Table by the Serjeant. When they cross the House, or otherwise leave their places, they should make obeisance to the Chair. This is the full extent of the rule regarding crossing before Members who are speaking. I was not seeking and do not seek to extend the practice of the House any further in this matter. Hon. Members will find the appropriate reference in Erskine May on pages 459 and 460. Once again, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Torquay.

Sir F. Bennett

Further to that point of order. May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for a characteristically courteous and generous gesture to the House?