§ Mr. English
Mr. Speaker: I should like you to clarify the statement you made on Friday with regard to the Consolidated Fund Bill debate, and the practice you then introduced of balloting for the Motions concerned.
With respect, would you consider the point that where the Standing Orders of the House are silent, you, Sir, have a discretion to determine what the practice of the House should be? Would you, perhaps, consider the point that it may well be that your discretion should not extend to depriving yourself and your successors of that discretion itself?
I take note, and this is the point upon which I require clarification, that a point was made by members of your staff, or other people, which was not clear, and that you endeavoured to clear it up. If that is the case, if this procedure is to be adopted upon this occasion only, I am sure hon. Members would agree with your decision. But if you are instituting a complete change of practice for the future may I ask that the House should have the opportunity to consider it?
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps I could answer the very broad first part of the point of order. It would certainly not be the wish of this Speaker, just as it would not be in his power, to bind the discretion of future Speakers right through the centuries. I had the problem to solve on Thursday because of the different interpretation placed on what the method was for getting one's name—on the principle of first come, first served—down for the Consolidated Fund Bill debate.
67 It was not an easy decision to have to make. I wanted to be fair to both groups. I consulted the three Chief Whips before I made the decision I did. I shall certainly take note of any representation anyone may care to make on how we shall proceed to allocate the order of topics in the debate on the next Consolidated Fund Bill and the form it will take.
It is not an easy matter. The House faces the problem that it is the keenest and most industrious House of Commons in history, and that almost every hon. Member is seeking, quite properly, to make the fullest use of every opportunity he has of raising matters. In olden days, on the Consolidated Fund Bill only a handful of hon. Members wanted to speak, but now very many hon. Members indeed want to speak. The decision I made on Friday was a decision for this year. I will be pleased to listen to any further representations. I hope that we can now move from this.
§ Mr. English
May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for stating that you will take this matter into consideration before the next Consolidated Fund Bill debate? I am sure that you will realise that balloting may increase the power of Front Benchers rather than of back benchers.
§ Mr. Speaker
I will not comment on the last observation. I do not quite appreciate it at the moment.