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Points Of Order

Volume 403: debated on Monday 10 March 2003

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3.7 pm

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Before the war with Iraq, I raised on a point of order with Mr. Speaker the question of the basis on which Ministers can exercise their discretion to publish the legal advice that they have received. That question led to the Prime Minister issuing the legal advice, in summary form, that the Attorney-General had given on the legality of the war against Iraq. A similar situation seems to be developing in respect of some of the answers that we have received today about the post-reconstruction governmental situation in Iraq. On the basis of the precedent that has been established, would it be possible for the Secretary of State for International Development to supply the advice to the House as the Prime Minister did with regard to the legality of the war against Iraq?

That is entirely at the discretion of the Minister concerned.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As you know, we now have less than three hours for this debate, and I do not wish to detain the House with this point of order. It strikes me as surprising, however, that the Speaker has not used the powers that he could have used to restrict the time available for Back-Bench speeches, as I understand that more than a dozen people would like to participate in this debate. Can you give us an insight into why that decision was made, and at least recommend how long Back-Bench speeches should last?

The House, it seems, sometimes wants it both ways. It wants statements from Ministers during the present crisis, and it also wants the opportunity to have this important debate. I think that Members are probably mature enough to impose their own limit on speeches today.