HC Deb 08 March 1898 vol 54 cc972-3
CAPTAIN C. W. NORTON (Newington, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether it has been brought to his notice that, in connection with the reports of Debates usually furnished to Members, the custom of supplying the replies given by Ministers to Members' Questions has been discontinued this Session owing to the fact that the cost to the contractor for postage amounts to about £2 per week, and that, according to the conditions of his contract, he is not bound to supply answers to Questions; and whether he will take steps to have the practice formerly in vogue reverted to, as Members are thereby saved considerable labour and inconvenience when replying to communications from their constituents?

MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

I also beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether, in view of the new instructions by which Members of Parliament are denied the facility accorded to them hitherto of receiving two proofs of each Question and answer put to Ministers at Question time, he will make arrangements by which Members would receive a printed or written authentic reply, as answers are often imperfectly heard, and are often not reported in the newspapers, and are often of much importance to the persons concerned?


If the late contractors sent the reply along with the Question to the Member who asked the Question it was outside the condition of the contract, and as the Questioner cannot correct the answer, and the purpose of sending the proofs is, of course, only for the correction of any error in the report, I do not know why the practice arose. There has been no change in the present contract in this respect. It may, no doubt, be a convenience to Members to receive a correct copy of the replies given, especially replies on local subjects which could not ordinarily be reported in the daily Press; and so far as my own replies go, I shall be glad to make a rule of forwarding a copy at once, after the Question has been answered.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether for the convenience of Members he will make arrangements to carry on the practice which heretofore prevailed of sending the answers to all Questions?


No; I do not think it a convenient way of doing that through the official report. These proofs are sent only for correction. The practice I have suggested will be sufficient, I think.


Yes, if carried out.


Will all Ministers undertake to forward copies of their answers as well as the right hon. Gentleman?

[No Reply.]