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Business Of The House

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for not giving you notice of this point of order, but the presence of the Leader of the House indicated to me that there might have been notice of an adjustment to tomorrow's business, which might be welcome. Have you had any such notice, Mr. Speaker, since tomorrow's business is of great topical interest and is important, particularly in relation to the nature of the motions and the questions to be put at particular times?

I am afraid that I have had no notice of any change. If I get it, I will convey the information to the House at once.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I put it to the Leader of the House—

Order. The right hon. Gentleman can only put it to me on a point of order.

Following the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), may I explain to you that there are discussions still continuing between the usual channels on this matter? Since the end of last week we have been concerned about the situation arising out of tomorrow's de- bate, whereby there seems to be a proposal that the debate on the agriculture motion should be taken at the same time as the debate on the budget resolutions.

We have been seeking to secure a better method of dealing with that debate. Discussions have been continuing and may still be continuing. Is it possible, Mr. Speaker, for the Leader of the House to be given an opportunity tomorrow, if we have reached a conclusion, to make a statement about business that will enable us to look at the matter afresh? The point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South causes concern to many hon. Members. I hope therefore, that a statement from the Leader of the House tomorrow will be considered in order, even though it deals with the business of that day.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. As the House will understand, I am not aware of private discussions taking place between the usual channels. I am simply informed of the result of the conversations.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

I was surprised to hear the intervention by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), because discussions have been taking place between the usual channels, and the convention of the House is that they are not referred to until a conclusion is reached.

I refer to the rules of the House. Whilst we must keep within the rules, we must never make them our prisoner. I am saying not that we should break the rules but that, in the interests of the House, from time to time there should be a little—

"Flexibility" is too strong a word. There should be a little understanding.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you advise ordinary Back Benchers about the procedure that is to be followed tomorrow?

I am afraid that I cannot. Like the hon. Member, I shall wait until tomorrow to see what is forthcoming.