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Points of Order

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 23 June 2010

Order. The hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) is in danger of becoming over-excitable, and I know that he would not want to be. Let me respond to the point of order from the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas). What he has raised is not a point of order—

Order. I require no help from the hon. Gentleman. It is not a point of order; it is a matter of taste, and we will have to leave it there.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of your ruling, could we rename the session that we have just had, “Prime Minister’s Tantrums”? Is it not more accurate to describe the Liberal Democrats, rather than Opposition Back Benchers, as dupes?

There is nothing disorderly about the remark that the hon. Gentleman has just made, but unfortunately his attempted point of order suffered from the disadvantage of not being a point of order. However, he has made his point very clearly, and it is on the record. I have a hunch that he knew that before he got up to speak.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given your statement on the Backbench Business Committee, does that mean, therefore, that we in the smaller parties are excluded from it? In a Committee that is designed to increase accountability and democracy in the House, how can that be right?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I recognise that he and other Members will be dissatisfied with the situation. However, what I want simply to say to him is twofold: first, the Committee is being constituted in accordance with party strength in the House; and, secondly, we are operating in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House by doing it that way. Not to proceed in that way would require us to revisit Standing Orders. Now, whether we should do so or not is a matter for the House to decide, but I am stating the factual position to the hon. Gentleman and for the benefit of the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether I could have your guidance on how Back Benchers in the Opposition parties with only two Members on the Committee can get a fair hearing when there are five Members from the Government Benches.

The operation of the Committee is a matter for Members on the Committee and for its Chair. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has every confidence in the capacity of his colleagues to discharge their responsibilities on the Committee, and I am sure that he would not have wanted to suggest otherwise.

Further to the point of order asked by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), Mr Speaker. Referencing your previous admonition to the House about what the public think outside, as opposed to Members inside, is it not ridiculous, and will it not seem so to the public and to the people we represent in the smaller parties, that we are excluded, by whatever device, from the Backbench Business Committee, and from other Committees in this House as well? Would you, Sir, be open to a consideration of how we may meet to discuss how the smaller parties can be properly represented in such Committees in this House?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I understand his frustration, but I have already ruled on this. The House can always look at these matters. I would gently say to him that it would be unwise for the Chair to speculate on the ridiculous.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you tell me, and the House, why some Back-Bench Members are more equal than others in respect of membership of the Committee?

I am a little concerned that the hon. Gentleman is trying to continue the debate. I cannot believe, knowing his normal regard for order, that he would do that, but I have a worrying hunch that he might be making a first attempt. He has made his point, and I think that we will leave it there.