HC Deb 15 July 1998 vol 316 c426 4.26 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I should like to make a low-key point of order of which I think you have had notice from the Clerks. It concerns the debate on climate change that was initiated this morning by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). I am not getting at the Opposition spokesman in that debate, the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), but, in an hour and a half's debate, he spoke for longer than the Minister, who had only nine minutes to reply.

The Chair has been very good to me, and I feel a little coy about raising the matter. Nevertheless, are not the one-and-a-half-hour Adjournment debates the successor of debates on the Consolidated Fund? The tradition in debates on the Consolidated Fund was that matters were raised by Back-Bench Members of Parliament and replied to by the Minister, and were not subject to Opposition spokesmen, who had many other opportunities to speak.

Madam Speaker

I am delighted that the hon. Member has raised this matter. I regard Adjournment debates, particularly those on a Wednesday morning, to be the province of Back-Bench Members. Since we have had these debates, I have tried to restrict Government, official Opposition and Liberal Democrat spokesmen to 10 minutes, which I think is reasonable. I looked at the record of this morning's proceedings and found that the Liberal Democrat spokesman spoke for 13 minutes, which I think is unwarranted. As both Government and Opposition Whips know, I have always maintained that I will not allow spokespersons speaking for political parties during Adjournment debates to take more than their 10 minutes. Adjournment debates to my mind are for Back-Bench Members; I want to hear from them. It is the period during which they can express themselves. I hope that those responsible will take heed of what I have said in response to the point of order. I thank the hon. Member for raising it.