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Question Time

Volume 205: debated on Monday 9 March 1992

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To ask the Lord President of the Council whether he has any further plans to propose changes to the order and method of Question Time; and if he will make a statement.

It is a question. Do not panic. Is the Lord President aware that the Prime Minister has not been doing very cleverly lately in Question Time? He had to apologise about that young girl Carly because he got it all wrong. Then he got the public sector borrowing requirement wrong. Will the right hon. Gentleman take on board the idea of giving the Prime Minister a mentor who could sit by his side for these last two days to help him out? Perhaps he might use the ex-Prime Minister to give him a chuck on. May I make the further suggestion that when it is all over on 9 April we get the right hon. Gentleman a new job—a walk-on part in a re-run of "Crossroads" or as a substitute for Ken Barlow.

I sometimes think that the hon. Gentleman is so busy thinking up his contorted questions that he does not observe what is going on in the House at other times. If he had been observing, he would have noticed that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been scoring heavily at Prime Minister's Question Time —winning hands down. Whenever the election comes, the hon. Gentleman will find that the electorate has also noticed that.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that very few people in the country will share any of the views of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? Question Time is unique to this Parliament. It is very much admired by foreign parliaments and enables the Prime Minister and others to answer questions in front of us all. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done extremely well and will continue to do so for many years to come.

As always, my hon. Friend talks great sense, and I agree with everything that he has said.

May we have a change in our procedure for questioning the Leader of the House who last week announced the business for the following week even though he apparently knows that the election is to be called for 9 April and that the business will therefore be changed? Why should the Leader of the House be in a position to give the wrong information to the House, given that he will almost certainly be making another business statement this week? As Leader of the House, does not he have a responsibility to the whole House?

My business statement every week is based on the position as I see it at the time and we have organised matters at the time. There are occasions—there have been occasions in this Parliament—when I have to make a supplementary business statement. I always make the statement at the time—as I did last Thursday—based on the information available to me and on the right process for the House for the following week.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many of us would like to ask how it is possible to contemplate spending an extra £38 billion without increasing taxes, increasing unemployment and increasing prices? Will he therefore amend Question Time to allow us to ask questions of the Leader of the Opposition?

My hon. Friend makes a point which my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will be making on many occasions in the weeks ahead. The reason why the Opposition do not like Question Time and try to drown my right hon. Friend out is that they know that we are right in everything that we say and that the country will not support them on their policies.

If the election were not to be held until May or June, would an announcement be made next time we have business questions?