§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that you are anxious to get on, but you may have noticed the rather undignified disturbances that tend to take place on the Front Bench below the Gangway, regrettably on this side of the House. To some extent at least they seem to arise because of the practice of placing Prayer Cards in the slots in the seats.
I know that this long-standing tradition is enshrined in the Standing Orders of the House, but I wonder whether Prayer Cards are necessary. You are here for Prayers every day, Mr. Speaker—occasionally I am here, too—and you will be well aware that one experiences no difficulty whatsoever in obtaining a seat in the Chamber at 2.30 pm. I have never felt it necessary to place a Prayer Card in the slot to secure a seat. I wonder whether it is necessary to have them, because they give rise to disturbances not during Prayers, but at other times and even in the evening when we are trying to listen to speeches.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. It is not for me to change a convention of the House. I believe that only the House can change a convention or custom that has endured for longer than any hon. Member in the Chamber.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I turn your attention to another convention of the House? Some hon. Members take it upon themselves to have the right to speak at prolonged length, thus excluding others from their right to speak. [Interruption.] I have raised this issue many times during the past few years. In the past week there have been innumerable instances in which Conservative Members—and on occasion my hon. Friends—have sought to make extended contributions.
We, as humble Back Benchers, look to you to defend our interests. As a result of my appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, you may be willing to put it to the House that this long-standing practice should be examined so that it can be terminated at least on Supply days and during debates such as that on the Gracious Speech. In that way, hon. Members can participate more fully in our debates.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is a good friend of mine in asking that an opportunity be given to hon. Members to contribute to a debate. However, it is for the Leader of the House, not for me, to decide whether the House wishes to discuss the subject of shorter speeches. We all have to exercise self-restraint.