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Questions To Ministers

Volume 113: debated on Wednesday 1 April 1987

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4.31 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall not complain unduly at the fact that today's was the second environment Question Time when, unfortunately, I failed to catch your eye—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Yes. Part of the reason for that is that questions tend to be rather long on both sides of the House. On the Labour Front Bench, we have seven shadow Ministers who all seem to want to intervene at least twice, which cuts the time for Back Benchers to ask questions.

Question No. 3, asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), was about Fulham football club. I wanted to ask a question about Chelsea football club, which is also very much under threat—

Order. With great respect, I anticipated that. That question was about Fulham. I did not think that Chelsea would be in order.

I think that I could have found a way of linking the two, but that is not the point.

The point is this. The Minister responsible for sport was present at that time. We do not have many opportunities to direct questions at him. I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you exercise some judgment when it is the turn of a Minister to answer questions, who is not often put at the Dispatch Box—given his performance, one can understand why. That should be an opportunity for us to ask direct questions of a Minister who is not often in the Chamber. In future, when such an opportunity arises, will you exercise some discretion, Mr. Speaker, and allow the questions to run on for a little while?

I sympathise with what the hon. Gentleman said, but, with the greatest respect, I cannot use my discretion to allow supplementaries to go wide of a question. The course that the hon. Gentleman should take is to table questions and hope that they come near the top of the list on the Order Paper.