I wish to make a statement about the raising of points of order which will, I believe, overcome a problem to which the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) drew my attention on Thursday of last week. He asked me to consider the practice whereby 1, like my immediate predecessor, have heard points of order arising out of questions immediately after questions and other points of order in their normal place after private notice questions, statements and Standing Order No. 20 applications.
The hon. Member expressed the view that what he described as the "change in the rule" had been tried for long enough and that it was clear that it was giving rise to abuse. He suggested that I should do one of two things: either resort to the normal rule, the doctrine of the first occasion, under which a point of order allegedly to do with an answer at Question Time would be raised immediately after the event to which it refers, or postpone all such points of order until after any private notice questions, statements or Standing Order No. 20 applications, when they would take their normal turn after any points of order of which notice had been given.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Tiverton for his suggestion. He asked me to reflect and I have done so.
Taking points of order immediately after questions has had the effect in practice of creating two slots for points of order—and indeed it could be said that it almost invites an extension of Question Time. It is an abuse to use the Chair—by means of a point of order—to extend questions to Ministers or to anyone else. One such point of order can easily lead to another and if they are wrongly directed they are a waste of the time of the whole House.
After due consideration, therefore, I propose to revert to the well-tried practice of earlier times and to take points of order, except on any matters needing my immediate intervention, such as breaches of the sub judice rule, or for short notifications by a dissatisfied Member that he intends to raise a certain matter on the Adjournment, in their proper place, which is after all proceedings on private notice questions, statements and Standing Order No. 20 applications.
I believe that this reversion to a former and well-tried practice will be in the best interests of the House.
Naturally, the House was interested in the Statement that you have just made, Mr. Speaker. Everybody, I am sure, will see the great—[Interruption.]
I am certainly illustrating it, Mr. Speaker. Everyone will see the force of your argument. I ask you to reflect on one further aspect—the circumstances in which an entirely appropriate point of order is made, referring to an hon. Member who might reasonably be expected to depart from the Chamber and, therefore, is not able to hear that point of order which may have a direct bearing on that hon. Member's honour, conduct or otherwise. If you would reflect on that matter, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the House will be grateful for your further view at an appropriate time.