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Standing Order No 143

Volume 264: debated on Monday 23 October 1995

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To ask the Lord President of the Council what representations he has received about the operation of Standing Order No. 143 (Withdrawal of Strangers from House). [36492]

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Tony Newton)

None, but my hon. Friend may wish to draw any concerns that he may have to the attention of the Procedure Committee.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the mechanism of "I spy Strangers" either does not or should not have any useful purpose in this day and age? Does not this archaic procedure, which is inexplicable to the general public, lower the reputation of the House and should it not be abolished without further ado?

Leaving aside any views that I might have on that matter, one view that I strongly hold is that changes to the procedures of the House are best made after proper consideration by the Procedure Committee and consultation through the usual channels. I know when I am getting into dangerous water, so I will refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), the Chairman of the Procedure Committee.

As the procedure in question is a way for Opposition Back Benchers from time to time to cause difficulties for the Government, does the Leader of the House agree that in the next Parliament it is far more likely to be used by Tory Back Benchers than by Labour ones?

It has already been used, I believe, once in the current Session, by a Tory Back Bencher sitting not. very far from me in a new capacity. However, I do not want to take any party position on the matter, which is for all of us to consider as good Members of the House of Commons.