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Questions To The Prime Minister

Volume 958: debated on Thursday 16 November 1978

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order on the ruling that you gave involving me on the occasion of the answer to Question No. Q1 by the Prime Minister today. That Question asked the Prime Minister if he would include in his engagements for today a speech on devolution. Your rebuke to me implied that all subsequent supplementary questions ought to be concerned with devolution. My impression was that when Questions like this were put down, they were very wide-ranging and lent themselves to the making of very wide-ranging suggestions about what other things the Prime Minister might do today. That was what I sought to do. I was called to order and resumed my seat, but on reflection I think that I was probably right.

If your rulings on this kind of Question are to be narrow in this sense, Mr. Speaker, I suspect that hon. Members may put down Questions asking the Prime Minister whether, for example, on a particular day he will make a speech on ducks' eggs, and subsequent supplementary questions will be wholly on ducks' eggs. That is an important restriction of the rights of hon. Members in pursuing supplementary questions on Questions of such a broad character as this.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. My judgment is different from his. The Question in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) was limited to that part of the Prime Minister's activities today that might include a speech on devolution. There was an open Question later on the Order Paper, on which it was possible to ask wider supplementary questions, but the House might as well realise that if a Question goes down asking the Prime Minister whether he will make a speech on a given subject on this day, I shall limit supplementary questions to that matter.

May I pursue this matter, with great courtesy, Mr. Speaker? The Question did not ask that. It asked whether my right hon. Friend would "include" in his engagements. It did not ask whether he would today make a speech specifically on devolution and nothing else. It was whether he would include that speech in his official engagements today. My point—and I adhere to it—is that if the engagements of today are mentioned in toto, another hon. Member surely has the right to express alternative suggestions as to how the Prime Minister might use his time today.

May I say to the hon. Gentleman that we obviously disagree. I have given my ruling to the House.