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Questions To Ministers

Volume 12: debated on Monday 9 November 1981

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I draw the attention of the House to the fact that one question occurs six times in identical language on the Order Paper today, and it is one of my responsibilities to do my best to guard the Order Paper. If that custom were to continue, there would be nothing to stop hon. Members from putting down 50 similar questions on the Order Paper. As, in my mind, the open question has seriously affected Prime Minister's Question Time, I look with disfavour at the same question being repeated.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on the practice of transferring questions to other Ministers, with particular reference to the transfer of a question that I tabled to the Attorney-General to the Secretary of State for Social Services, and which is now numbered 54.

On 8 December 1980, the Lord Chancellor announced a feasibility study to consider making available microfilms of registers of births, deaths and marriages in the custody of the Registrar-General for research purposes. The Solicitor-General answered written questions that I tabled on the subject on 26 and 30 January. The Attorney-General answered an oral question from me on the same issue on 6 April. My question today on the same matter was transferred to the Secretary of State for Social Services. I understand that the registers in question are not, legally speaking, public records and therefore come under the Secretary of State for Social Services. However, if the question of their transfer is being considered by a feasibility study that has been set up by the Lord Chancellor, for whom the Attorney-General answers in this House, should there not be a practice whereby one Minister takes responsibility for the matter here and should not we stand by it? Would that not make sense and also be for the convenience of hon. Members who wish to table questions, not only on this matter but on all others?

I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman said will be borne in mind by those who have heard it. However, he must realise it is not a matter on which I can rule.