Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:19 pm on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset 1:19 pm, 27th March 2019

I am particularly glad that my very distinguished hon. Friend has participated in this part of our proceedings. He has not, though he is an assiduous attender of debates, ever had the horror of having to listen to me on this subject because he has not been present when I have been speaking about it, but I have tried to say to those who have been present on each occasion that the proposition he has just advanced is manifestly false, and the reason is this: the Order Paper of the House of Commons—this is the most ancient principle of our constitution as a matter of fact—is governed by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and those are the property of the House of Commons and nobody else. They are the property not of the Executive but of the House of Commons. The courts recognise that in the principle of comity and never interfere in the proceedings of our House. That principle goes back not to 1906 when the Government—in my view, improperly—instituted Standing Order 14 in its current form, but way back into the origins of Parliament. From the very beginning, Parliament sought to establish its right, through the Speaker and otherwise, to control its own proceedings, which is a very proper thing for Parliament to do. We have been driven to this only in an extreme emergency—that is how some of us see it, though I know that he takes a rather different view—and we are doing it in a perfectly proper way through the amendment of Standing Orders, which it lies open to this House to do.