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Mr. Kaufman: I would love to come to a conclusion, Mr. Speaker, but this is a point of order and, that being so, I regard it as my duty to provide the information appropriate for you to be able to give a measured reply. There has
There was no further business statement today, Mr. Speaker. Now, I do not ask you, sir, to try to bring some order to the rabble on the Opposition Benchesthat would be beyond both the United Nations and the SASbut I ask you to tell us what is the position of Back-Bench Members of the House who come to take part in a debate that has already been announced, when the Opposition are in such a state of ungovernable confusion that the business is changed with no notification.
I will certainly want to reflect, along with my colleagues, on the point that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) makes because there is some substance in what he says, but I know that you will be generous enough, Mr. SpeakerI hope that House will be, tooto accept that it is not necessarily a bad thing if we err on the side of spontaneity at the cost of predictability every now and then.
Mr. Tyler: You will have noted, Mr. Speaker, that the Conservative party's replacement motion refers to events on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) claims spontaneity and topicality, but there is clearly a very curious use of the word "spontaneity" if it took from the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday or Wednesday until six minutes before 3 o'clock on Friday to decide on the motion. If Conservative Members really wanted a topical motion, they should have chosen one on the crisis in the middle east.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I believe that it is for the general convenience of Members and assists in the orderly dispatch of our business if, in normal circumstances, Members who wish to table motions to which amendments may be expected do so, to use a familiar Scottish expression, timeously. I believe that that should be the general practice of the House, applicable to Government and Opposition alike. As hon. Members will know, I have selected a manuscript amendment to the second Opposition motion today.
Miss Widdecombe: Very loosely. Mr. Speaker, will you confirm that it is not without precedent for Government and Opposition occasionally to change the business at the last moment, that you and I can recall an occasion when an amendment was withdrawn just minutes before a debate under the last Government and that, therefore, such things are not unprecedented?
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Notwithstanding your good advice to the House on this matter, will you confirm that no rule of the House has been broken by the official Opposition?
Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a serious discourtesy to you and other hon. Members, who spend many hours preparing for such debates, for Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to chop and change their minds like a butterfly with a frontal lobotomy?
Michael Fabricant: Would it be of benefit to the House, Mr. Speakerto older right hon. Members as well as to young whippersnappersto note that page 918 of the Order Paper shows that the speeches that they have prepared can be used on Tuesday 11 December?
Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to refer to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions as being in contempt of this Parliament?
Mr. Collins: I am grateful, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) may have assumed that his intervention would find favour with the Government Whips Office and with No. 10 Downing street. I am sorry to say that he has further shattered what little political career he had.
We learned today on "The World at One" from the BBC's much respected political editor, Andrew Marr, that the Secretary of State's behaviour on this matter has once again produced a lot of irritation in Downing street.
Mr. Pond: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Certain others of us in the House listened to "The World at One". Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to read into the record what was actually said by the BBC's political correspondent, which did not match what he has just told the House?