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Point Of Order

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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12.30 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House is in an absurd position today, as a long-awaited, oversubscribed and vital debate appears to have to finish at 7 o'clock. Is there any proper reason for that, Mr. Speaker? Is there any reason why, in another place, debate will continue for as long is necessary to hear all the speakers, whereas here we are apparently subject to an arbitrary and unnecessary 7 o'clock time limit? Is there anything that can be done even at this late stage, with your help, Mr. Speaker, and that of the Government, to extend the debate to allow more people to speak on a matter of the greatest importance to hon. Members and everybody in the country?

I am in the hands of the House, and the House has decided that 7 o'clock will be the moment of interruption. There is nothing that I can do about that. However, the right hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity to say that he is right—many hon. Members have applied to speak in the debate. Before we go onto the main business, we have the ten-minute rule Bill. It would not be appreciated if hon. Members approached the Chair to ask whether there will be an opportunity for them to be called. That would be out of order on a day like this.