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Arts Question Time

Volume 82: debated on Monday 8 July 1985

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3.36 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will accept that Question Time gives Members the opportunity to question a Minister who has specific responsibilities. You will also know that the subject of the arts is allocated 10 minutes every three weeks. I hope that you will make a ruling on this. As the Minister responsible is already far removed from us and has a junior Minister answering for him, what is the point in having questions answered by yet another Minister, even further removed from the relevant responsibility, as happened today?

It is not a matter for me which Minister answers questions. That is clearly not one of my responsibilities.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We all recognise that this is not your direct responsibility, but you are the guardian of the interests of the House and especially of Back Benchers. For nearly two years we have suffered the disadvantage of having to deal with the deputy of a deputy. As the distinguished hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) put it, it is not even the organ grinder's monkey but the monkey's monkey. The deputy has been absent from the House in connection with a totally different matter. If we cannot have more than 10 minutes in three weeks, there should be some guarantee that the questions are answered by a Minister with some direct involvement in and responsibility for the arts. I accept the comment of the deputy's deputy that his answers were at least devoid of Latin tags, but the Latin tag was usually the best part of the answer. I hope that something can be said through you, Mr. Speaker, to the effect that safeguarding the interests of the house should have some precedence in the mind of the First Lord of the Treasury.

So far as I am concerned, this House should always have priority. The Leader of the House is here. No doubt he has heard what has been said. I cannot pursue the matter further, as it is not my responsibility.