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Questions To Ministers

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 16 November 1950

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49.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is aware that on the last 24 Sitting days, ending on Thursday, 9th November, on which Questions were answered orally, the Ministry of Health was only reached once, the Admiralty, the Ministry of Education and Postmaster-General twice, the Air Ministry and Commonwealth Relations Office three times; whether he knows that of 44 Questions put to the Treasury for oral answer in the present Session up to and including 9th November not one was reached; and whether he will ask the House to increase the time allotted to Questions.

I am aware of the difficulty to which the hon. Member refers, but I do not think that an increase in the time allotted to Questions would be desirable. As you, Sir, have explained, right hon. and hon. Members can either put many Questions and few supplementaries or few Questions and many supplementaries. I think that this difficulty would be overcome if right hon. and hon. Members were to follow your advice and ask fewer supplementaries.

Is the Leader of the House aware that again on Tuesday of this week the Questions to the Treasury were not reached, so that altogether, during the present Session, out of 81 Questions which have been put to the Treasury for oral answer, not one has been reached? Is the right hon. Gentleman not under an obligation to seek a remedy for this enforced silence of hon. Members who wish to question one of the most important Departments?

I will keep that point in mind. It depends, of course, partly upon how many Questions are put down to the Minister who precedes the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider whether a 15-minute extension might be given when the Departments of State whose names are printed in black on the Order of Questions are not reached?

No, Sir. This is really within the control of the House and I am sure that if we extended the time and thereby curtailed debates, we should have trouble the other way. In my earlier years in the House, somehow we used to get through the Questions on the Order Paper and have a second calling.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that even if he accepted the suggestion of adding 15 or any other number of minutes to the time allotted to Questions, that would afford no guarantee that the Questions to any particular Minister would be reached?

As the co-operation of back benchers has been requested by Mr. Speaker, will the Lord President consider communicating with his Front Bench colleagues so that they, In turn, may curtail their answers, which in some cases are inordinately long?

I will keep that point in mind, remembering, also, the Question which I answered just now.