HC Deb 09 December 1981 vol 14 c875
Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not know whether, among your various commitments, you have had the opportunity to read Hansard. May I refer you to your earlier remark that eight Front Bench speakers wish to take part in the debates today? Yesterday, when you were not in the Chair, I raised a point of order on two occasions. There was a continuous spate of Privy Councillors coming into the Chamber, making their speeches and walking out. They did not put in another appearance until the Front Bench speeches, and some did not return to the Chamber at all.

Some of my Back-Bench colleagues are not Privy Councillors. They have been trying to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. You said that questions would end at 4.5 pm, and I make no complaint. However, if there is to be a regular habit of Privy Councillors receiving preferential treatment, making their speeches and walking out, my hon. Friends on the Back Benches will not have an opportunity to speak.

Will you consider that matter, Mr. Speaker, to determine whether there could be a fairer sharing of time in our debates for all Members? Will you tell the Privy Councillors that only a limited number of them should speak? That would allow Back Benchers, who have very little time available to them, the opportunity to take part in debates.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, who is an experienced Member of the House. I shall certainly consider his constructive proposal for a limit on the number of Privy Councillors called in any debate. I realise the frustrations and difficulties that are caused.

The hon. Gentleman drew our attention to increasing evidence of the discourtesy—not limited to Privy Councillors—of Members speaking in the debates and then leaving. That is unworthy of the House. It has long been our tradition that if anyone participates in a debate he owes the House his attention for the remainder of the evening, at least until the debate concludes.