On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have we not now heard a complete abuse on two occasions of Standing Order No. 20? I submit that the last application was purely politics.The first application was a smear against a former Member of the House whose crest is over the entrance to this Chamber. Would it not be in the interests of the House if some procedure were devised under which applications under Standing Order No. 20 were submitted to you in advance so that you could sift out what was bogus and what was not, before, in my submission, the rules of the House are completely and utterly abused, as has happened on these two occasions?
The Standing Order No. 20 procedure is a prized time for Back Benchers and it must not be abused. However, those applications were submitted to me in advance and if they are in order I am bound to hear them.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. While fully accepting your ruling on the Standing Order No. 20 application by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), in view of the serious implications for many families in the inner cities of England and Wales, would it be possible for you to use your good offices to influence the Leader of the House to make a statement some time this week?
The Leader of the House will have heard that. It is not a matter for me.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As may well be known, on a number of occasions I have had reason to cross swords with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) about points of order. However, I have never before heard him behave in such a disgraceful manner as he has done today. Would it not be proper, Mr. Speaker, for a reprimand to be given to him for behaving like a bounder and a cad?
The hon. Gentleman's application was in order and it is up to him how he puts it. I shall take Mr. Marlow.
On a brief point of order, Mr. Speaker, and a disturbing one. If there is to be a rat hunt in this House, I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that vermin will not be found on this side of the Chamber.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would not raise this point of order except that we are at the stage of Dissolution and it is a matter of some importance to the House. As you will appreciate, tomorrow is the last Prime Minister's Question Time before the election. A week ago today, after the right hon. Lady's statement, I wrote to her on behalf of Opposition Members asking why, for four months, she told the House that no inquiry was necessary into the treason allegations when in fact an inquiry was taking place at the same time. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is usually meticulous in replying promptly to correspondence. I have received an acknowledgement, but not a reply from the Prime Minister —[Interruption.]— in the intervening week. Is there any way, Mr. Speaker, in which you can help us to ensure that, before Question Time tomorrow, we have information from the Prime Minister to explain why, for four months, she told the House far less than the truth?
The right hon. Gentleman has not raised a matter of order, but it will doubtless have been heard by the Leader of the House and by other right hon. Members on the Government Front Bench.
On another point of order altogether, Sir.
A real point of order, unlike most that appear from the Benches opposite and these Benches sometimes. Could you explain to us, Sir: those of us who are eager to pay the normal courtesies to you — not eager to see you go, but eager to pay the normal courtesies in bidding you farewell and a very successful campaign for your return— when are we by this rearrangement of the old traditional procedures allowed to do so? Will it be late on Friday? Will it be early on Monday? Could the House and those hon. Members who are eager to pay their proper respects to you be allowed some sort of information as to when this is allowed to happen?
This matter was raised yesterday and I propose to make a statement about it tomorrow. I can tell the hon. Gentleman now that on Friday I propose to remain in the Chair after the proceedings are at an end to greet and say farewell to hon. Members who may wish to do so. Furthermore, hon. Members who are retiring from Parliament and may happen to be here on Monday will be welcome to come to my house between 12 noon and 1pm for a glass of sherry.
Those of us who will he returning to this place——
What about those with no chance?
Those of us who will be returning to this place who will, unfortunately, by other commitment be unable to bid you farewell on Friday, will we be welcome to your house, Sir, on Monday?
I shall have to see whether I can afford it.