On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Government is by consent in this country, and especially so when civil liberties have to be impinged upon, whether for good reasons or any other. I think that the vast majority of Members of this House think that 90 minutes to discuss the continuation of enormous changes in the way we do our business in this country is absolutely ludicrous and does no favours to the reputation of this House. I fully understand that Standing Order No. 16 says that a motion brought forward under an Act can only get 90 minutes; however, it has been the custom of the Government on many other occasions to table a motion to allow the House more time, so that we can debate things properly. There are 62 Members of the House who want to take part in the 90-minute debate; clearly, not half of them will have the opportunity to speak—[Interruption.] No, I am not taking time away from that debate, because it has not started yet.
What I am asking, Madam Deputy Speaker, is whether you can confirm that the Government, had they wanted to, could have allowed more time, so that more people could express their opinion on behalf of their constituents about the things that they do support and the things that they do not; and, furthermore, that the Government could have, had they wanted to, allowed an amendable motion, so that the views of the elected Members of Parliament, speaking on behalf of their constituents, could be heard fully.
On the first point that the hon. Gentleman makes, I can confirm that, not surprisingly, he is correct in his interpretation of Standing Order No. 16. It is normal that a motion under an Act has 90 minutes for debate on the Floor of the House. That is normal, but as Mr Speaker made clear in his statement to the House earlier, he very much regrets that many people who have applied to be called to speak in the debate this afternoon will not be called.
I can answer the hon. Gentleman’s question quite directly. He asks whether the Government could have tabled a motion that allowed for a longer debate. The simple answer is yes, the Government could have tabled a motion that would have allowed for a longer debate. Mr Speaker said quite clearly earlier that he would welcome other opportunities for the House to consider these important matters through amendable motions, distinct from the narrow statutory purpose of today’s motion. Today’s motion is very narrow and Mr Speaker’s interpretation of it is absolutely clear.
Not every Member was in the Chamber earlier when Mr Speaker made a statement in which he set out clearly his concerns. The hon. Gentleman has echoed those concerns, which I feel are indeed echoed from every part of this House and every party here in the Chamber. Mr Speaker’s statement has been circulated to all Members, so anyone who did not hear what he said just before Prime Minister’s questions will have a written version of it. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising such an important point of order.
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I shall now suspend the House for three minutes.