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Questions To Ministers

Volume 415: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1945

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On a point of Order. I wish to raise a point of Order which I think affects practically every Member in every quarter of this House. Yesterday I received a letter from the War Office pointing out that Questions that I had put to that Department and which were down for an oral answer to-day could not be answered by that Department but would be answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State for India on this date. The Questions were not put down for oral answer, but for written answer. That was no doubt done by the gentlemen at the Tableto save me disappointment, and I am not complaining of that, indeed I thank them for it, but what I want to ask about is this: If a Department feels compelled to refer the answering of a Question to another Department, could they not either consult the Member concerned so as to suit his convenience, or else select a day on which the Minister for the Department will be likely to answer?

A Department always has the right to have a Question transferred to another, and very often there may not be time to inform the hon. Member that this has been done. Perhaps if the hon. Member had given me a little more notice of this question I could have given him a more considered answer. He sprang it on me at the last minute.

:May I rise to a further point of Order? You have no doubt noticed, Mr. Speaker, that to-day we have only reached Question 51. Can anything be done to enable the many important Questions which are put on the Order Paper to receive theirtreatment? The addition of another quarter of an hour to Question Time would be greatly welcomed by Parliament and, I think, would add to the liveliness of the proceedings.

On the point which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has raised, may I say I have been watching this very closely? Yesterday we reached a total of 80; to-day it is only 50. It seems to me that the War Office answers, as distinct from others, contain an excessive number of words. Will the Minister concerned see whether those assistants in his Department who are responsible for the final form of his answers can do a little compression?

Further to that point of Order, may I ask you, with respect, Mr. Speaker, if hon. Members will have an opportunity before the Christmas Recess of expressing an opinion about the working of the new rota for Question Time, or are you, Sir, going to consider it yourself, because in some respects it does not seem to work as satisfactorily as the old rota?

Did it not strike you, Mr. Speaker, that there were extra supplementary questions to-day which used up the time?

The question whether the House wants an extra quarter of an hour for Questions or not is a matter for the House. Even in thelast Parliament I often pointed out that we could have many Questions and few supplementaries, or few Questions and many supplementaries. We cannot have both. Many supplementaries are getting to be short speeches. They really should be asking for information and not putting arguments. In that way we should get in a great many more Questions.