Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting question and I suppose you would have to rule whether or not it is a question of personal privilege, but certainly it is a question regarding the privileges of members of the House of Commons who keep the government accountable to the people of Canada.
Having said that, the rules of this Chamber, as all members should realize, and the hon. member who just spoke should realize, are rules that have come to us by custom, that have come to us by precedent.
Those very precedents on question period evolved over a long period of time and changed, Mr. Speaker, as you well know, very drastically in the past 10 years to the point where the major political parties do have assigned periods during question period. The role of the Speaker also has evolved to the point where the Speaker must follow those precedents and those customs as have evolved here in this Chamber, not in any other chamber under the so-called British parliamentary system, because each system is
different and each system has its own system of changing the rules of procedure for question period, as the Speaker so well knows.
I am very surprised that the hon. member would rise in the Chamber and bring this up as a point of personal privilege. It was approximately seven years ago that we adopted as a custom in this Chamber the point of respecting designated questioners by the major political parties in this House. It was so left up to the Speaker that if the person designated for that political party did not stand, the Speaker was free to choose, as is stated in the rules, the person who catches the Speaker's eye who rises first. The Speaker has to follow those customs.
The hon. member is perfectly correct. Perhaps we should take it under advisement and appoint a committee of people from outside the Chamber to examine the rules and to bring in some of the changes that are necessary to bring back the power of the individuals in the House of Commons. However, it is very surprising that the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party should be objecting to the very rules that were brought in while the Tories were the administration in power in this House.