On Tuesday George Osborne skilfully presented a motion known as an 'SO24' calling for an emergency debate on the Pre Budget Report (PBR).
George rightly said that the PBR had in effect been a budget, which under normal circumstances would have warranted days of debate.
No one in the House can remember the last time the Speaker granted an SO24, however, he did. It would have been difficult to do otherwise, as the case was so glaringly obvious; however by the expressions on the other side of the Chamber, it would appear that Hubris has permeated the Government at all levels. They were not happy.
The Speaker granted three hours. Not enough obviously, but better than nothing.
During the three hours the Conservative Chief Whip called a point of order to have the three hours extended, he was refused.
Three hours was all the Speaker was going to allow.
At precisely 2hrs and 59mins into the debate the Liberal Democrats called a vote, to end the debate which was about to end anyway.
It gets worse. At the end of the vote Simon Hughes called a point of order and during his point of order spoke of how he had wanter further debate.. at lenght..obviously to rectify the confusion just created ..Given his verbosity, he is the man to do it for the Liberals; however, he hadn’t reckoned on Iain Duncan Smith who also called a point of order and said as plain as a Pikestaff:
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope, if possible, that when you answer that point of order you might correct something that the hon. Gentleman said. He said that that he and his colleagues voted to get more time on the motion, but in fact what they voted on was closing the debate ahead of time.
Well said Iain. Also a perfect demonstration of how Parliament needs the experience and gravitas that only those who have seen it all before can bring.
As one very senior MP said to me the other day when I was trying to make sense of a procedure which after three years I hadn’t even heard of, "Never try and make sense of this place, it is indeed a grave mistake to even try."
Yesterday, sat listening to Simon Hughes, I felt like Alice must have when she fell down the very long hole and landed in the Mad Hatter's tea party. Mad being the word.