§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It would be widely agreed in the House, now that the measure taken by a previous Speaker in departing from the rule for many decades that a point of order is either raised at the moment when the matter occurs with which it is concerned or not at all, that the departure by which points of order allegedly on matters arising in Question Time were postponed until after Question Time but ahead of the normal time for raising points of order with the Chair has not been a successful experiment, for this reason.
It is, in practice, very difficult for Mr. Speaker to say, as Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys did during the bloody assizes,I can smell a lie before it is uttered.It is very difficult for Mr. Speaker to say that a point of order is an abuse, that it is not a point of order at all or, alternatively, that it should not claim priority of time by claiming to be concerned with matters directly arising at Question Time when that claim is wholly spurious, before he has heard the point of order concerned. That is the difficulty and, moreover, it places the Chair in a position that is overtly humiliating and ridiculous. That is good neither for the Chair nor for the House.
I think that the House has tried that change in the rule for long enough and that the time has now come to do one of two things: either to revert to the normal rule, the doctrine of the first occasion in which a point of order allegedly to do with an answer at Question Time is raised immediately when the event to which it is alleged to refer occurs, or it has to take its turn in the queue of any points of order for which notice may have been given in the appropriate time after any ministerial statement.
I am not asking you to respond immediately to this suggestion, but to give it serious thought and then make a statement to the House. I believe that the present abuse has become widely regarded as an intolerable abuse that cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely without redress.
§ Mr. Speaker
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter. In the light of the exchanges today on the points of order, I shall certainly reflect on what he has said and I shall come back to the House and make a statement in due time.