§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I draw your attention to early-day motion No. 692.[That this House expresses its surprise at the non-participation of the Right honourable Member for Chesterfield in the debate on the Second Reading of the Oil and Pipelines Bill on 14th May.]I have not contacted the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles), who tabled the motion, and I imply no criticism of any hon. Member who tables an early-day motion which is accepted by the Table Office.
My point of order turns on the acceptance of an early-day motion that seeks to criticise a right hon. Member for not seeking to take part in a debate. It is a dangerous precedent. It presupposes that if any right hon. or hon. Member seeks to participate in a debate the occupant of the Chair will automatically call him. There is a host of reasons why from time to time right hon. and hon. Members do not seek to take part in debates. If the Table Office is to accept such motions as early-day motion 692, I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the Order Paper will be littered with them day after day.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to a matter that is important for the entire House. The early-day motion was in order — there was nothing wrong. with it — and that is why the Table Office accepted it. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is not possible for every hon. Member to take part in every debate. If hon. Members sought to do so, my job would be impossible.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I, too, am slightly concerned about early-day motion 692. Any Member could find himself confronted with a motion on the Order Paper condemining him for not taking part in a debate even though he may have attempted to do so. The decision whether a Member takes part in a debate lies entirely within your discretion, Mr. Speaker, as it should do. I am wondering whether it was in order for the Table Office to accept the motion in the first instance.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have already said that it was. I think that the House has the sense of what I said to the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing). I do not think that the tabling of such motions is a very wise practice.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I can put my point in one sentence. Is not early-day motion 692 a challenge to the Chair?