HC Deb 06 December 1979 vol 975 cc641-2
Mr. Well beloved

I wish to raise two points of order, Mr. Speaker.

The first arises out of the timing of points of order. With respect, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to give further consideration to the practice which is developing. The House accepts that Question Time should not be interrupted with points of order. During business questions an important matter arose as a result of a statement by the Leader of the House, who, fortunately, is still in the Chamber. However, an important point of order can arise out of a statement by a Minister who has left the Chamber by the time the point of order can be made. I respectfully suggest that further consideration of the timing of points of order would be of benefit to the House.

My second point of order relates to the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) during business questions about early-day motion 261 on privilege and the conduct of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Benyon). The Leader of the House said that that was not a matter for him, but for you, Mr. Speaker. That must be wrong. I understand that your duty, Mr. Speaker, under the new rules introduced in February 1978, is to decide not whether there is a prima facie case but merely whether in your judgement an issue should have precedence over the Orders of the Day. No ruling has been made on the prima facie nature of the complaint, and it is for the Leader of the House to decide whether he is prepared to give Government time to an important motion on privilege which is signed by a number of senior Members of the House. It is wrong for the Leader of the House to shuffle off that responsibility on to you, Mr. Speaker. I hope that you will confirm that.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Member for his submission on the timing of points of order. Obviously, I seek to serve the best interests of the House. This is not a new system. In the last Parliament, when the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) was engaged in the activities of his own Department and was rarely here after Question Time, points of order were raised after statements. However, I shall consider what he said.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the question of privilege. The new system is that an hon. Member writes to Mr. Speaker if he feels that he has a question of privilege to put before the House. He does not refer to it in the House and nor does Mr. Speaker, if he has ruled on it and is not giving it precedence. That does not stop the hon. Member from seeking a debate on the Floor of the House on a motion on the Order Paper. That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Foot

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray ford (Mr. Wellbeloved). I was also otherwise engaged in the last Parliament. My hon. Friend is making up for lost time. I urge the Leader of the House to consider this matter because my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has raised an important point. Perhaps the Leader of the House will make a statement to the House on another occasion.