Yesterday Alex Salmond raised a point of order asking whether the changes to our Standing Orders that the Government propose to bring forward would, first, breach the principle that all Members of this House are equal before the Chair, and, secondly, would have to be considered by me or by the Procedure Committee. I undertook to reflect and take advice before responding substantively.
I must make it clear that I am not party to the detail of what the Government are proposing, beyond what is set out in Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech. That is now available to all Members to read in Hansard and in the Votes and Proceedings, and in copies available in the Vote Office. No doubt the Government will provide more information in due course.
In general terms, however, I can say that it is for the House to decide how and whether to change its Standing Orders. From time to time, the Government table motions to make changes to the Standing Orders, sometimes in response to a recommendation of the Procedure Committee, sometimes on their own initiative. I would not accept the motion if it breached the rules of the House, but it is not for the Chair to judge the merits of a proposal. It is for the House to decide whether to agree to the Government’s proposal.
While it is certainly an important responsibility of the Chair to ensure that Members are treated fairly and impartially, in accordance with the rules of the House, this does not limit the power of the House to determine its own rules and procedures.