Valerie raises Point of Order

I raised the following Point of Order on 13 June 2018. A Point of Order is a clarification on a matter of procedure in the House of Commons.

Valerie Vaz: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I seek your advice on clarification about this misinformation that seems to be circulating that the Opposition did not want to take part in the debate on devolution yesterday and on the amendments? You will know, Mr Speaker, that the Opposition voted against the Government’s programme motion. Initially, we were allocated only 12 hours, but then under pressure, it was extended to two days. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) made this point yesterday through a point of order and was shouted down. My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) mentioned in the debate that the only voice that would be heard was the Deputy Prime Minister’s. Could we seek your clarification on the fact that the Opposition did want the extra time to debate the devolution amendments?

Mr Speaker: I am not sure that it is for me to interpret proceedings, and to attempt to place my own construction on motivation not publicly declared, but what I would say to the shadow Leader—I think I can say this without fear of contradiction, because it has the advantage of being true, and demonstrably true—is that the Opposition opposed the programme motion. That is a matter of unarguable, incontrovertible fact. There was a Division on the matter, and I was notified by the Opposition Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown), courteously—he was not obliged to notify me, but he did notify me in advance—of an intention to oppose that motion, so it certainly should not be said that the motion was bought into by or was under the ownership of the Opposition. It was a Government programme motion.

I have tried throughout these difficult altercations of the last 24 hours to be scrupulously fair. As I said to Scottish National party Members last night in the presence of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Minister was not guilty of any procedural impropriety yesterday at all. He was entirely entitled to speak for the length of time that he did in setting out the Government’s position and indeed, characteristically, taking a very significant number of interventions, including from people who subsequently complained about the fact that they did not have the chance to speak. He was entirely in order and the Government were procedurally perfectly in order to operate as they did in the construction and submission to the vote of the programme motion. The Standing Order is written in that way presumably for a reason, and it has been written, in a sense, and approved with Government support. There was nothing disorderly about that, but it certainly was not the Opposition’s programme motion. It is abundantly clear to me that the Opposition were opposed to the programme motion. I do not think that I need to add anything more beyond that.