HC Deb 14 June 1906 vol 158 cc1163-5

called attention to the alleged interference by the Clerks of the House with Questions handed in at the Table by hon. Members. He understood that the rule was that the power of editing Questions was vested in the Speaker; but in practice, when a Question was handed in at the Table, the Clerk at the Table could, if he so chose, show the Question to the Speaker and alter it under his supervision. Now, for the first time, the Clerks at the Table, without communicating with the hon. Members who handed in the Questions, had exercised the power of editing the Questions, although the Speaker was incapable of delegating that power to them. He submitted that the Clerks at the Table had no right to alter a single word in a Question without the consent of the hon. Member who handed it in. He objected strongly to their interference; it would be better to postpone the Question.


I regret very much the tone of the speech from the hon. Member and his attack upon the Clerks at the Table, who are not in a position to reply. I totally differ from the view of the hon. Member. I think the Clerks at the Table during the ten years in which I have been in close contact with them have done their very difficult work in a most admirable manner. There is often great difficulty with regard to Questions. The Clerks at the Table, acting under my directions, edit them according to well-established and well known regulations; and if any difference arises between them and the hon. Members who bring the Questions to the Table, the proper course is that the Questions should be submitted to me. As every Question has to appear upon the Paper one day before it is asked in the House, there can be no difficulty whatever, if an hon. Member has a complaint to make, in bringing the Question to me, and I should be very glad to consider it.


suggested that a Rule should be established that no Question should be altered until the Member who wished to ask it had been consulted by the Clerks at the Table.


That, no doubt, would be a good rule in some respects. But I think the obvious disadvantage of it is that the hon. Member would lose his place. The Clerks frequently consider the desirability of not putting a Question upon the Paper until the terms of it are settled. But, on the whole, it would be better to put it upon the Paper, otherwise the hon. Member who expected to ask his Question, say, on Thursday, might lose his place and would not be able to ask it until Monday.


asked whether the difficulty could not be over- come by hon. Members waiting at the Table until the Questions had been read over.


That would be impracticable. Very often a great number of Members come to the Table at the same time, and if they were all to be kept waiting it would cause great inconvenience.

Forward to