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Questions To Ministers

Volume 984: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice, arising out of your statement on Thursday, reported in col. 1641 of Hansard. As one who has been plaguing Prime Ministers since 15 December 1970 on questions about the Diego Garcia base, may I ask for your protection in relation to the ruling by the Prime Minister? It seems to many of us that Downing Street has ruled out these questions because they are inconvenient to the Prime Minister.

May I ask a direct question, even if it be a bit hypothetical? If we are not to be allowed to put questions on movements through allied bases, does it mean that, for example, we cannot ask questions about movements of food aid to Kampuchea? Indeed, would you rule on the whole issue of questions that are blocked suddenly and rather uncharacteristically by the Prime Minister in this way?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice this morning that he would raise this matter this afternoon. It gave me an opportunity to prepare a considered statement in reply to his point of order.

There is a long-standing rule of the House that a question may not be tabled if it is already fully covered by an answer or by a refusal to answer. In 1972 the House relaxed the rule, which previously applied for a whole Session, so that information refused in answer to a question may now be asked for again in three months' time.

The Prime Minister has refused to confirm or deny movements through allied bases. Any question on this subject must therefore, be tested against that refusal by the Table Office and, if the question is referred to me, by myself. Obviously I cannot rule on particular questions until I have considered them, and I am sure that the House would not expect me to comment on any hypothetical questions that hon. Members might have in mind.