HC Deb 27 January 2004 vol 417 cc281-3


That, on Wednesday 28th January, the sitting in Westminster Hall shall be suspended from half-past Eleven o'clock until Four o'clock, and may then continue for a further two and a half hours (exclusive of any period of suspension owing to a division being called in the House or a Committee of the whole House).[Gillian Merron.]

Mr. Forth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does not the fact that we have passed that motion show that Westminster Hall is indeed a triviality and an appendage to the House? We have casually swept aside its proceedings to suit some convenience—we know not what. As we were unable to debate the motion, we do not know why it appeared on the Order Paper; we can only guess. Does not this show very clearly—and set a precedent to the effect that—proceedings in Westminster Hall can now be casually set aside by the House to suit the convenience of who knows who?

Mr. Speaker

We have changed the time; the proceedings have not been put aside.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise a related matter? Will you protect the rights of those in the House who help to administer the House and make it work? I refer to those additional Deputy Speakers who serve in Westminster Hall, who are also senior members of your Chairmen's Panel. I have consulted the Chairman who would be in Westminster Hall tomorrow, and he was in no way consulted before the motion was tabled to enable this change to take place.

Do you think, Sir, that it is unreasonable that a Chairman, who might have other—

Mr. Speaker

Order. First, let me say that we have to be careful here. This is a nod-or-nothing motion. My clear understanding is that I have declared that the Ayes have it, so we are not going to debate a motion that the House has already agreed to. For the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, who is a Chairman in Westminster Hall, I say this: this is not a matter for the Chair, as this is a piece of Government business. If there was no consultation, that is no fault of the Chair. The motion was tabled to benefit the Member who has that Westminster Hall Adjournment debate and who clearly wants to show an interest in what might be happening in the Chamber at that time.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know that I had the half-hour Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall at 3.30 pm tomorrow. I understand that it will now take place at 5.30 pm. I simply want to thank everyone concerned.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Lady.

Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West) (Lab)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) is well rehearsed in such matters and if he genuinely wanted to make a point, he could have objected to the motion, which would have rendered it redundant. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) is an esteemed Chairman of proceedings in Westminster Hall. The proceedings have not been thrown aside; there is a debate in which I particularly want to speak, if I get the chance. I presented a petition on a similar matter on Monday evening. The business has simply been moved for the greater convenience of the House. We should all have regard to our primary purpose here.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the prime beneficiary of the motion that the House has just accepted, I express my gratitude because it will enable those who want to participate in the debate in my name on an important subject to attend the Prime Minister's statement on Hutton as well as debating important matters in Westminster Hall.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con)


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have laboured the point; we have really hammered it home. That is not bad for a nod or nothing—we have taken about five points of order on it.