On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for clarification on the situation that has arisen over today's business? Last Thursday you granted to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) the opportunity to discuss the activities of the Crown Agents. As I have always understood it, Standing Order No. 9 is granted to give precedence over the other business of the House. However, this afternoon we should have been discussing the 10 reports of the Public Accounts Committee, and the Fifth Report of the Public Accounts Committee deals at length with the financial assistance for the Crown Agents and the liabilities to public funds of support for the Crown Agents.
I know that you, Mr. Speaker, having served for some time as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, recognise the work that that Committee does. However, it seems strange that a Standing Order No. 9 application should have been granted to take precedence over business which would, in fact, have included this subject for debate. We should be grateful if you could give us guidance as to how we might proceed in the future.
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for the way in which he has presented his point of order.
The House is deeply in debt to the Public Accounts Committee for the endless time that it spends on our behalf in looking into matters of public expenditure. Having listened to the exchanges on Thursday last, and bearing in mind the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which does not deal with the particular statement to which the Minister had drawn the attention of the House, I felt that there was a real difference on this occasion.
However, the hon. Member has done well to draw to my attention the fact that public accounts were to have been discussed today. I can only bear his point of order in mind and repeat the gratitude that we all feel to the Public Accounts Committee for the work that it does on our behalf.