§ SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the questions addressed to Ministers of the Crown having at two recent sittings of the House reached 82 and 91 in number, a large majority of them being of merely local interest, and having regard to the importance of economising the time of the House, he will favour an arrangement for printing and circulating the answers to questions of an exclusively local character, leaving those of Imperial interest, or dealing with urgent affairs, to be answered by Ministers at the Table as hitherto.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
This is rather a delicate matter to deal with. I speak of it with great reserve, because I am aware of the jealousy with which Mem-of the House regard this privilege. I think it is one which the Government ought not to take an active part in interfering with; still I may, without offence, make a suggestion. There is no 289 doubt that the multiplication of questions occupies a great deal of time. Very often the questions are of a local and personal character, and they are sometimes not of very general interest. If hon. Members would be satisfied, where they are of this purely local and personal character, to communicate with the Departments concerned, and to receive the answer, it would be easy to circulate that answer and to publish it in the locality, so that the people of the locality would be satisfied. It would not be necessary in this case to occupy the time of the House, which is not specially interested in these matters. In that respect, no doubt, an economy of time might be effected; but the Government could not undertake the censorship which the hon. Member suggests of distinguishing between what is important and what is not. They would rather leave this duty to hon. Members, and to their own discretion and responsibility. There is one other matter which has been raised, in reference to which I would make a suggestion to the House. When my hon. Friend speaks of 82 and 91 questions, he is much within the mark, because the practice of putting supplementary questions multiplies those numbers very considerably? I was told the other night that there were no fewer than 270 questions put, taking into account the supplementary questions. I think we might save a good deal of time if the practice of putting supplementary questions were somewhat restricted; but altogether I feel it is a matter for the judgment of the House itself, and not for the interference of the Government.