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Point of Order

Volume 746: debated on Monday 26 February 2024

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Members from across the Chamber probably do not need reminding of events last week. On SNP Opposition day, we brought forward a motion seeking to ensure that this House spoke with one voice in favour of ensuring the release of the hostages currently under the control of Hamas, and to ensure that an immediate ceasefire took place to protect civilian life in Gaza. That SNP Opposition day turned into a Labour Opposition day. In that regard, Mr Speaker, you apologised to the SNP and this House. You said:

“I made a mistake: we do make mistakes and I own up to mine. We can have an SO24 to get an immediate debate because the debate is so important to the House.”—[Official Report, 22 February 2024; Vol. 745, c. 872.]

Those were your words, Mr Speaker.

In good faith, my colleagues and I sought to bring forward an SO24 debate, which, among other things, would have sought to end the sale of arms to Israel and call on the Government to use their voice at the United Nations to exercise our view in favour of an immediate ceasefire. It is my understanding that that SO24 application has not been accepted. Can you please advise me on when it will be accepted?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. The Standing Order says that I should not give the reasons for any decision regarding a Standing Order No. 24 application. Indeed, properly, we should not be discussing what is a private application to the Speaker. However, given the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in today, my view is that I ought none the less to explain my reasoning.

In determining whether a matter is proper to be discussed under the Standing Order, I must have regard to two criteria. The first is the extent to which it concerns the administrative responsibilities of Ministers of the Crown or could come within the scope of ministerial action. I am satisfied that the matter does relate to areas of ministerial responsibility and falls within the scope of ministerial action. Secondly, in determining whether a matter is urgent, I must have regard to the probability of the matter being brought before the House in time by other means. The House came to a resolution on this matter on Wednesday last week. Further, I understand that the Government are ready to make a relevant statement tomorrow, so there is a very imminent opportunity for this important matter to come before the House.

That is why I decided that the application for an emergency debate should not proceed. That decision of course does not mean that Members cannot apply for a debate at a later stage, when circumstances might have changed. While the decision is mine to take, I have consulted my Deputies and the Clerks on this matter and we have agreed on this approach.