§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the near monopolising of the Question period that took place today by the Leader of the Opposition, who has since evaporated, aided and abetted by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), who has remained in his place? May we appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to protect the rights of back benchers on both sides of the House, remembering that one of our few opportunities to get at Ministers occurs at Question time?
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Further to that point of order. In giving your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, will you bear in mind the fact that it has always been laid down that the Leader of the Opposition is an exceptional person? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It was laid down, for example, in the case of Winston Churchill, though it caused a great deal of acrimony at the time when I had to raise a similar point of order with one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker Morrison, over the rights of back benchers. It should be borne in mind that the Leader of the Opposition speaks in a collective capacity for nearly half the House and that what he has to say is far more relevant and important than anything the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) might say.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
While not disputing the submission made to you, Mr. Speaker, by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that the Leader of the Opposition is an exceptional person—[Interruption.]—th e trouble this afternoon was that not only the Leader of the Opposition but the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) were conducting a duet, no doubt on the principle of healthy competition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."]
Mr. Bob Brown
Further to that point of order. Notwithstanding anything the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has already said about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend had to persist in pressing the Prime Minister because of the right hon. 952 Gentleman's wriggling and refusal to answer his questions?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful for the assistance which hon. and right hon. Members on both sides are giving the Chair. I believe that I would be unwise to agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) or the comments of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), but with the themes of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) I found myself in greater agreement, and I shall act accordingly.