§ Mr. George Cunningham
On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker. I cannot be the only hon. Member who read with astonishment in Friday's Hansard that at the end of the day on Friday a motion was put—so far as I know without notice, except in Friday's Order Paper—concerning the Committee of Selection. It had not appeared in the remaining Orders in any previous Order Paper. The motion related to the criteria to be applied by the Committee of Selection in setting up Standing Committees.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that, just a week ago today, the House devoted two hours of time in a packed Chamber to discuss this matter. The motion before the House at that time was a technical motion of the Adjournment of the House. 37 But clearly a very large number of hon. Members were interested in the matter and would have voted one way or the other if a substantive motion had been put at a time that they knew that it was to be put. But, apparently by the limitless insolence of the Front Benches, this motion was put down without any Back Bench Member knowing that it would be coming along after it had been debated for two hours a week ago, and it was passed on the nod.
As far as I know there is no rule, either in Standing Orders or in "Erskine May", to prevent a motion of this kind being put down on a Friday with no one knowing that it is coming and then being passed on the nod. But it should not pass without notice that that is a quite intolerable breach of respect from the Front Benches to the Back Benches—
§ Mr. Cunningham
Am I right in thinking that this motion did not appear on the remaining Orders which were noticed in Order Papers previous to that of Friday and that, accordingly, any hon. Member who was not here on Friday and did not see the Order Paper for Friday had no means of knowing that this decision would be pre-empted without proper discussion and the motion passed on the nod in this fashion?
May we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that it will be the last time that this ever happens?
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am very sorry if my hon. Friend feels aggrieved about what happened. The responsibility is mine and not that of anyone else in the House. But if my hon. Friend and others had been present on Thursday, when questions were put on this matter, they would have been well aware that action would be taken on the matter. Anyone who is familiar with our procedures would have 38 realised that, I think. I am sure that that was the understanding of the vast majority of hon. Members. But if my hon. Friend had a different understanding and he feels that I should have made the position clearer, I apologise to him and to the House.
§ Mr. Burden
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that the Government Front Bench were a little punch drunk on Friday and not really responsible for their actions.
§ Mr. Foot
I am sure that that punch has missed the chin at which it was aimed. I was simply explaining my belief that, when questions are put from the Opposition Front Bench or elsewhere and the Government indicate generally the line that they intend to take, the House understands what is being done.