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Standing Order No 20 Applications

Volume 196: debated on Wednesday 16 October 1991

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4.32 pm

I wish to make a short statement about applications for debates under Standing Order No. 20.

It is well known that I take the view that this valued right to address me on an urgent topical matter for three minutes at an extremely busy time of day is too precious to be put at risk by abuse.

I am fully aware that the House some years ago declined to accept a Procedure Committee recommendation that the Speaker should be given a formal power to decline to hear applications that have no relation to the purpose of the Standing Order. Nevertheless, I do consider it my duty to protect this opportunity in the interests of Back Benchers. I have stated already this year on several occasions that it cannot be right that I should be obliged to listen to applications that do not —in the words that I used—even get to first base.

Applications must relate to specific, important and urgent matters that involve ministerial responsibility. If I receive applications that totally fail to meet those criteria, I shall continue to advise Members to seek other ways of raising such matters. I make this statement today because, since the House returned, I have received a spate of irrelevant applications, and I wish it to be known that I shall continue to apply this policy to Members in all quarters of the House, in the interests of the House.