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Points Of Order

Volume 118: debated on Monday 29 June 1987

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3.49 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recollect that for centuries we have indulged in prayers before starting our proceedings in the House. Those prayers have always been respected by all hon. Members in all parts of the House. In view of what happened today, may I suggest that new hon. Members should have those traditions drawn to their attention, that they should be told that notes on speeches should not be written during prayers, and that when hon. Members are indulging in prayers they turn about to face the wall? Unless we maintain those traditions—and I say this with the greatest respect, Mr. Speaker—the House will degenerate.

While I am on the subject, I wonder whether it would be a good idea to suggest to new hon. Members that it is normal to wear a jacket in the House.

I am aware that one hon. Member, a new Member, who may not know the traditions of the House, behaved in that way. Let me repeat, especially for new Members, that the whole House knows that we face the wall while at prayer. As to dress, now that the Chamber is air conditioned, hon. Members who come in to make contributions should wear a jacket, otherwise; like me, they may get a cold.

Order. Let us not nit-pick. I mean male Members. Lady Members will, of course, wear dresses.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, and in the same spirit, would you also remind hon. Members, especially new Members for their guidance, of the tradition of bowing to the Mace when entering and leaving the Chamber, and of any other events or traditions that you believe to be of value in adding to the dignity of the House?

These are early days in this Parliament, and these matters are best left to the Whips on both sides of the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, concerning today's private notice question. You may recall that in 1983 I introduced legislation on child abuse which perhaps would have prevented what has happened in Cleveland. I was a little surprised that I was not—

Order. With the best will in the world, I cannot call everyone. I know of the hon. Member's interest, but I have to balance both sides of the House and I—

Order. With the best will in the world, I cannot help the hon. Gentleman. These matters may be raised in the course of a debate, and if we can get on today the hon. Gentleman may be fortunate enough to be called.

Where are we going? On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that at the start of the last Parliament, after the 1983 election, you had strong representations from the alliance representatives about the allocation of time and, more to the point because it concerns your province, when and how speakers would be called from the Social Democratic and Liberal parties. You will recall that at that time I made the point that I was not altogether happy about the massive increase in the allocation of time to their representatives.

Here we are and it is a completely new ball game. I want to know, before the ink is dry, what your response will be now that it is pretty clear that they have blown a fuse. For instance, would it be better from all points of view if, instead of having the leader of the Liberal party ask questions of the Prime Minister on a Tuesday, and the leader of the SDP asking questions on a Thursday, you combined the two? Then, on the first opportunity, tomorrow, you would afford the leader of the Liberal party a question and the leader of the SDP would follow. They would then find it possible to ask questions of one another.

During the election and before, the leader of the SDP was always on television. Normally one would have expected him to be at Wimbledon, but he has not been there. It is incumbent on you, Mr. Speaker, to assist, and to try to get to the bottom of this row between these two Kilkenny cats.

Order. It is not one of my functions to get to the bottom of rows between different parties. I cannot help the hon. Gentleman, but, as ever, I am grateful for his advice.

Further to the point of order relating to prayers, Mr. Speaker. My understanding is that the reason why hon. Members turn round halfway through prayers is that they used to pull faces at each other. If that is truly the origin of this tradition, should it not be re-examined with a view to modernising prayers as well as some of our other institutions?

I think that the majority of Members feel that we should stick to our traditions.