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Standing Orders (Business Of The House)

Volume 978: debated on Monday 11 February 1980

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be most grateful if, at your leisurely convenience, you would be good enough to rule on the following matters. On Tuesday 5 February and Wednesday 6 February there appeared on the Order Paper as private business to be called before Prayers a series of motions the effect of which was to alter the Standing Orders of the House that affect private business. When the House is pleased to alter its Standing Orders this must necessarily be of the nature of an act of public business. That a motion affects private business does not and cannot transmute an act of public business into an act of private business. For instance, a timetable motion whose effect was confined to private business would not be taken with private business before Prayers but under Orders of the Day.

Apart from its technical error, the malpractice of taking that category of public business as private business means that, presumably, if it is opposed persistently it must be set down for debate in the rare time allocated for taking opposed private business rather than in the generality of time allocated to public business.

The effect of taking what is properly public business in time allocated for opposed private business is to prejudice the progress of Private Bills awaiting consideration by the House. It offers the opportunity of prolonging debate on that public business as a means of delaying consideration of the Private Bills which should receive the consideration of the House then instead. That a malpractice has continued for some time has not in the past interdicted Mr. Speaker from correcting it once that malpractice has been drawn to his attention.

Therefore, I respectfully ask you, Mr. Speaker, not to allow motions altering Standing Orders, whether for public or private business, to appear on the Order Paper so as to be taken before Prayers, and to decline to put the Question on any such motion so appearing, as undoubtedly it lies within the power of Mr. Speaker to decide Mr. Speaker: I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) who, this morning, was kind enough to send me in writing the statement that he has just made. I shall rule on it tomorrow.