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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 27th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney 4:40 pm, 27th February 1986

Procedural questions are, as the Leader of the House said, of immense importance, because procedure governs the conduct of our affairs and sets the rules by which we all abide. The right hon. Gentleman has made a far-sighted and a generous speech, on which I congratulate him.

We have before us four reports, three from the last Session and one from this and, in response to them, no fewer than 12 motions on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the House. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I shall try to be brief, and I intend to say something first about what I believe to be more generally accepted recommendations, and then to confront, as the right hon. Gentleman did, more contentious questions concerning timetabling of Government Bills, which is the subject of the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir. P. Emery), who is Chairman of the Procedure Committee. That amendment is supported by many other hon. Members.

I start with a warm welcome for the first report, on the operation of Standing Order No.10. The opening up of the possibilities of debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration is one of the monuments to the work of Richard Crossman as Leader of the House 20 years ago. It is an immensely important facility for Back Benchers and, on occasions, it has been used by the Opposition Front Bench as well. It makes the House much more responsive than it would otherwise be to very important events, when the business managers either have not anticipated them, or when they concern matters that the business managers would prefer to play down or ignore.

Requests for debates are not always granted, but to be able to ask for one under Standing Order No. 10 in prime time on the Floor of the House is a welcome, important and valuable opportunity for Back Bench Members. Given all that, we should not cavil at the Committee's recommendations that such speeches should be limited to three minutes. That is long enough for the essential points to be made and I assume, Mr. Speaker, that your response to a wider request under Standing Order No. 10 is considered to be injury time and does not count within the three minutes limit.