HC Deb 19 May 1893 vol 12 cc1371-2

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, having regard to the time of the House now taken up in answering questions, an arrangement could be made for the questions to be answered in a printed form, instead of orally, as at present?


I am very glad that my hon. Friend has just become alive to the fact that a great deal of time is spent in answering questions. I think it is an evil of which the House has long been conscious; but the remedy that my hon. Friend proposes has been often considered, and I am afraid it would only aggravate the evil, as it would add to waste of time, waste of paper, and waste of print. There is one remedy which I would suggest to the consideration of the House, and that is that if we had a strict rule against subsidiary questions we might save one-third of the time expended. The putting of these questions is a recent practice, and, as far as I know, there is no authority whatever for it in this House. The practice of hon. Members getting up and saying, "Sir, arising out of that answer," practically trebles the questions on the Paper. This is a matter well deserving the consideration of the House, and I am quite sure that if the House should express an opinion to the effect I have stated, you, Sir, would be glad to enforce it.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

Would the right hon. Gentleman also consider the advisability of Ministers abstaining from argumentative replies?

MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)

And of keeping close to the questions put?


I can only promise for myself.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

In connection with this matter, I venture to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will not again consider the advisability of revising the practice of going through the Question Paper a second time, in order to save the time of the House; and whether it cannot be ruled that any Member who is not in his place to ask his question when it is called shall forfeit his right for the day?


One result of that Rule might be that questions which were passed over one day would be put down on the next day, and so swell the number of questions again.

MR. SNAPE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)

May I ask whether a remedy would not be found if the questions were edited before they are put on the Paper, and if such as are suitable could be sent direct to the Departments, and answered from the Departments, instead of being brought before the House?


That would be a very responsible duty to undertake.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

Arising out of all these questions, I should like to ask whether it would not be possible to limit the number of questions asked by any one particular Member? Some Members only ask one or two questions during the Session, while others ask scores.


It is quite possible that a Member might have a legitimate curiosity which would necessitate the asking of many questions.