§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise three related matters, which arise from events that have occurred since yesterday afternoon.
This morning at 10 o'clock, an application was available for leave to introduce a Bill under the ten minutes rule, which, if introduced, would take place on Budget day. When I went to the place where queueing takes place outside the Public Bill Office yesterday afternooon, a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Treasury Minister was queueing in that office — the hon. Member for Fyfe, North-East (Mr. Henderson). Slightly later in the day, another Treasury Parliamentary Private Secretary was in the room and subsequently two more Treasury Private Parliamentary Secretaries. At ten o'clock this morning one of those Parliamentary Private Secretaries secured the right to introduce a ten-minute Bill on behalf of the lion. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley), who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor.
First, as I understand that the right to seek leave to introduce a ten-minute Bill is a Back-Bench right in Back-Bench time, is it in order that that right should be used by Government Parliamentary Private Secretaries to secure the right for themselves? Secondly, is it acceptable that they should do so in a way that has been arranged as a matter of departmental policy between the relevant Ministers? If that happens and a Bill is secured by that device, is it acceptable to the House or is it an abuse if the hon. Member who secures the right seeks leave to withdraw the Bill or withdraws it in the final days before it would be introduced, thus preventing anyone else from introducing a Bill?
Thirdly, if an hon. Member appears at a certain time to queue to introduce a Bill and is replaced, effectively handing over to another hon. Member, should the latest in the relay team secure the right for the Bill to be introduced? Alternatively, if there is an hon. Member who happens to arrive second, but is willing to queue continuously throughout the following hours during the day or night, should not that person, who has queued all the time, have the prior right to seek the leave of the House to introduce the Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Member for having given me notice of his point of order, because it has enabled me to make inquiries. I find that nothing untoward has occurred. Parliamentary Private Secretaries are Back Benchers and the parliamentary tactics to which the hon. Member has drawn my attention have been going on for many years, since before I came here.