On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before you move to the Orders of the Day, I wish to raise a point of order concerning procedure. When the Orders of the Day have been read you will be leaving the Chair and the Chairman of Ways and Means will be taking over. Therefore I want to raise this point of order with you because it is vital that it should be raised with you and not raised later. As every hon. Member knows, you have the honour and privilege of looking after and protecting the rights of back benchers, and we know that you do that for the benefit of all back benchers.
You will recollect that last Thursday, no doubt in all good faith, the Leader of the House gave a promise when we were discussing the business for the week and a question was raised concerning the possibility of hon. Members taking part in the proceedings which are to follow. I have given notice to one of my right hon. Friends that I shall be attacking him in the House because of things which have happened. The usual custom is that he should be present to defend himself. Since this question was raised a number of my hon. and right hon. Friends will not have the opportunity of being present, but the Leader of the House promised that he would try to arrange for those engaged on Committees to be here. That situation has been altered because Committee sittings have been put down for extra days. My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) told me that he would be here to answer the charges and allegations I shall level against him if he could get away from the sitting of the Committee considering the Local Government Bill, of which he is in charge for the Opposition. [Laughter.] This is not a laughing matter.
I think it only fair to myself, and possibly to the House, to remind the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), since he was courteous enough to give me notice that he would raise this point, of what I said in answer to questions about Committee sittings. I said:
Certainly I have borne in mind what has been said on this matter. The House will notice that one of the two days is a Wednesday, when, I understand, these Committees will not be sitting. I realise that some Committees will be sitting on Tuesday. That has happened before. I shall seek to avoid it whenever possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1972; Vol. 831, c. 1498.]
The Committees will not be sitting on Wednesday and my pledge in that regard I have fulfilled completely. I hope the hon. Member will recognise that what I have said is being carried out.