§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your advice? As Speaker of the House, you will not have been aware of the fact that lively interest has been expressed this weekend by our constituents in a debate that is to take place tomorrow night for an hour and a half on the subject of the Lord Chancellor's salary'. The cases that will be made by the two Front Benches will take at least 20 minutes each. This means that only about 45 minutes will be available to Back Benchers to make their points. Is there any way in which this debate can be changed from one that lasts for an hour and a half to a debate that lasts until any hour of the night so that hon. Members can express the opinions and feelings of their constituents?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am not unaware of this matter, because I am also a constituency Member of Parliament. However, the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is patently a matter for his right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and the usual channels.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As we shall be breaking up later this week and there will be no opportunity for nearly three months to discuss a matter which, as you have implied, is causing a great deal of concern in our constituencies, is there not a responsibility upon the Leader of the House, who is present on the Government Front Bench, at least to tell the House that the Cabinet will consider allowing a debate that lasts for more than one and a half hours? The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) is absolutely correct. If the Front Benches take up, and rightly so, the normal amount of time allotted to them, how many Back Benchers are likely to be called tomorrow—one, two, or three at the most? Is it not scandalous that, on top of what has happened, Back Benchers are to be deprived of the right to debate this matter for at least three months? The Leader of the House has a responsibility to ensure that we have sufficient time in which to debate this matter.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
I appreciate that announcing the business on Friday meant that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) did not have the chance to raise the matter with me, albeit indirectly, until now. However, the day and time were chosen in the belief that they would be for the general convenience of the House. However, I am happy to have these matters looked at again, as Mr. Speaker has indicated, through the usual channels, but I do not want to hold out too many hopes to my hon. Friend.