asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will ask the United Nations for information as to the total number of North Korean prisoners now in the hands of United Nations forces; and as to any evidence of strong Communist affiliation among such prisoners.
On a point of order. This Question was originally put down to the Minister of Defence, Sir. I have not received word that it was to be transferred to the Foreign Office. Moreover, the form which the Question on the Order Paper takes is not the form in which I originally put it down. Could we have some guidance on this matter, Mr. Speaker, because, obviously, the answer which the Foreign Minister has given is not the answer which I would have got if the Question had been presented in its original form?
It has nothing to do with me. The Table puts a Question down to the right Minister, if it is not addressed to the right Minister in the first place. This is done at the Table by the Clerks, and I cannot say anything about it.
May I draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the text of the Question is not as it was put down in its original form, but that it is somewhat different from the form in which I put it down?
I do not know the answer to that. I have had no notice, and cannot know the answer in advance, but I understand that, if a Question is not in order, the Clerks have instructions to word it so that it is in order. I assume that the hon. Member's Question was not in order.
Further to that point of order. There is one part of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which, I think, is a little difficult to understand. Did I understand you to say that, if a Question in the form in which it is submitted is out of order, the Clerks have authority to alter it so as to put it in order without referring it to the hon. Member concerned?
That is a previous Speaker's Ruling, for the convenience of hon. Members concerned.
is it not a little unfortunate for the hon. Member who put down the Question that it has been altered to include the expression "strong affiliation," which is, of course, quite meaningless?
Further to that point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that the Clerks at the Table render very great assistance to hon. Members in the extremely difficult matter of making any minor adjustments to their Questions, thereby saving delay which would otherwise be incurred by our receiving a white card, and, further, that the Clerks perform this difficult task extremely well?
May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that I made no reflection whatever on the Clerks at the Table? I simply said that the Question was originally put down to the Minister of Defence, that I was not informed that it was to be transferred, and, further, that the form of the Question was altered without notifying me.