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Questions To Ministers

Volume 309: debated on Monday 24 February 1936

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On a point of Procedure. May I ask you, with great respect, Mr. Speaker, whether you will give the House a Ruling as to the admissibility of certain questions which hon. Members may desire to put by Private Notice or otherwise. On Thursday the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) rose at the end of the time allotted to ordinary Questions and sought to ask the Prime Minister a question on a point of urgent public importance. You declined to accept that question on the ground that sufficient notice had not been given, but you went on to state that it did not appear to be the wish of the House that such notice should be waived. Speaking as one among many hon. Members on this side who occasionally, to our great regret, have to put Questions which do not win unanimous approval, we should view with concern any feeling by hon. Members that they could prevent questions from being put by indications of dissent. I should therefore like to ask you whether you can give the House your guidance as to the circumstances in which you will accept a Private Notice Question without the necessity for taking the feeling of the majority against any minority; and, further, whether you can state that hon. Members putting questions of any kind within the Rules of Procedure are entitled to dispense with the approval of the majority? I say that without regard to the present constitution of the House. I thank you for allowing me to put this point.

An incident which arose on Thursday last, immediately after Question Time, when the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) rose to put a Question to the Prime Minister of which he said he had given Private Notice, seems, owing to the Ruling which I gave at the time, to have given rise to some misunderstanding among Members as to the proper procedure on the putting of Private Notice Questions. Perhaps, to clear the matter up, it would be as well for me to give a Ruling as to what is the correct procedure.

Members who desire to put Private Notice Questions must give sufficient notice, both to the Minister to whom the Question is to be addressed and to myself, of the Question which they wish to ask. Before giving my consent there are the following points which I have to consider:

First, whether the Question is sufficiently urgent to justify it being put by Private Notice as opposed to it being handed in at the Table to be put on the Paper in the ordinary way. The question of urgency does not apply if the Questions on the Paper do not take up the full hour allotted to Questions.

Secondly, whether the Question complies with the rules which govern Questions which are put upon the Paper.

Thirdly, that there are not already on the Paper Questions dealing with the same subjects.

No question arises as to whether the Question itself meets with the approval of the majority of the House. Whether the Question is allowed is entirely a matter for the Speaker to decide. There are occasions when some unusual inci-

Division No. 53.]

AYES.

[3.54 p.m.

Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)Albery, I. J.Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)Anstruther-Gray, W. J.
Agnew, Lieut. -Comdr. P. G.Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.Aske, Sir R. W.

dent arises in the House, and it is obvious to the Speaker that the general feeling of the House is that in that particular instance the usual procedure should be waived. Unless some Standing Order would be violated, the Speaker is reluctant to stand in the way of the general wish of the House. My reference to the feeling of the House on Thursday last may have given rise to this misunderstanding to which the hon. Member refers. This has nothing to do with the putting of Private Notice Questions.