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Questions To Ministers

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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May I raise a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the course of Questions? This is, I think, the third occasion in the last fortnight on which the Prime Minister's Questions have not been reached, and on only one occasion have we got as far as Question 50. I do not think that is due to the length of Ministerial replies, but to the number and length of supplementary questions, and in the interest of those Members who have taken pains to put down their Questions some weeks in advance in order to get an oral reply, could not Questions be speeded up?

The remedy for that matter is really in the hands of the House itself. I do my best to expedite the course of Questions, but the number and length of supplementary questions prevents us from making progress. I will admit that occasionally some of the answers are long, too, but as to that, it is only fair to point out that a long supplementary question very frequently requires a long answer. I shall assist all I can in trying to give a fair ration of Questions to everyone, but it really lies with the House, and if I have the cooperation of hon. Members and a certain amount of self-denying ordinance in the matter of the length and number of supplementary questions, I am sure we can do much better than we are doing now.

Further to that point of order. May I also ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you remember that ever since the new Parliament has assembled the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Questions have been reached only twice? May I respectfully ask through you, Sir, that the Leader of the House might consider putting the Chancellor's Questions to No. 30 so that those interested in them could get their Questions answered.

Further to that point of order. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister is a very busy man and that he has come here specially to answer only two Questions, would it be possible for him to give an oral answer to them, as I personally have delayed my Question for that?

Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for Ministers, particularly the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education, to filibuster when making their replies to the House?

I am not quite sure of the meaning of the word "filibuster," but if the hon. Gentleman is implying that the right hon. Lady was intentionally slow, I think he should withdraw that.

May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker? It will be within your recollection that last Thursday afternoon the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) specifically referred to the fact that hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies find it quite impossible to get answers from the Minister of Agriculture because he does not take his turn in the rotation of Ministers, and therefore his Questions are never reached. May we ask your help in this matter, Sir?

As I said, I will help all I can, but it is really a matter which ought to be arranged through the usual channels.

Is not this another indication that the Leader of the House ought to resign his position as Minister of Health as soon as possible so as to give his attention to the House?

Would it not be helpful and speed up Questions, and would there not be fewer supplementary questions, if the answers received from the Government Front Bench were far more satisfactory?

The question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) was a partial anticipation of my own. My question to you, Mr. Speaker, is whether you do not agree that if Ministerial replies were less evasive and more satisfactory, less time would be wasted, or, rather, more time would be utilised on supplementary questions?

Is it not a custom, Mr. Speaker, when a Minister's Questions are not reached, and if the Minister himself, even after Question time, feels disposed to give an oral answer, that he can do so?

The true position is that if a Minister's Question is not reached, but he feels that in the public interest he ought to make an early statement, he can ask my permission, and if I agree that is done.