HC Deb 19 October 1916 vol 86 cc769-71

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at its rising to-day, do adjourn until Tuesday next."—[The Prime Minister.]


I have already pointed out that now when we are sitting three days a week the number of questions crowded into those three days is so great that the whole purpose of Question Time is largely defeated During the present week there were 170 questions on Tuesday, 130 yesterday, and 160 to-day. On every one of those days there were between eighty and 100 questions which were not answered. That is due almost entirely to the fact that we are sitting only three days a week. In those circumstances, considering that the interrogation of Ministers is the only opportunity given to us of bringing before the Government a great number of matters of public interest, I do think that the House would require, while we are sitting only three days a week, that another quarter of an hour should be secured from the business of the day for questions. I am quite certain that Members of this House would consider this a great boon. The Prime Minister has never really given any decided opinion against this suggestion All he has said has been that the number of questions on the particular day on which I brought the matter forward was exceptional. But the present sittings which began a fortnight ago show that this is not exceptional, and that it goes on every day, and there is every prospect that throughout the autumn you will have this number of questions on the Order Paper every day; and that the go-by will necessarily be given to a number of them. In those circumstances I do very strongly ask my right hon. Friend—I do not say that he will be able to give a decision today—to put the matter before the Prime Minister and to use his influence in order that such an amendment of the Standing Orders may be made as will give us more latitude in this respect.


May I support the application which has been made by my hon. Friend. It is quite clear the only way in which private Members can bring matters of importance before the House is to interrogate the Ministers. We cannot bring in any Bill, and we cannot do any of the ordinary matters which are usual in peace time. While we acquiesce in that, it is quite plain that the House has shown that it requires a considerable additional time for these questions, and I am not at all sure that very often Question Time is not the most useful time. I hope that my right hon. Friend will communicate with the Prime Minister what I believe to be the general desire of the House, to have the Standing Order altered.

4.0 P.M.


Speaking for myself, I think there is a great deal of importance in what my hon. Friend has said, but the number of questions which can be discussed is naturally larger, because there are so many Votes of Credit. At the same time, a very large number of questions this week have remained unanswered in the House, and, without promising to do what my hon. Friend has suggested, I undertake to bring the matter before the Prime Minister.

Colonel YATE

As we are only to sit three days a week, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange that we shall not be obliged to sit after eleven o'clock at night?


Certainly it is the desire of every Member on this bench not to sit later than eleven o'clock.


May I suggest that if hon. Members would kindly bear in mind the old rule of the House, that no Member should ask a question affecting another Member's Constituency without first consulting that other Member, a good deal of time might be saved? May I also suggest that a good deal of public time might be saved if Members who desire information would take the trouble to go first to the Public Office, where every Member of Parliament is immediately attended to, and he would get the full information he requires both for himself and his constituents?


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to put before the Prime Minister the point which I have previously raised, that the number of questions to be put by each Member should be limited to two a day? We know that there has been a great deal of abuse of Question Time. In New Zealand the Government have found it was so abused that they abolished questions altogether, except written questions, and the Members have two hours on one day in the week when they are allowed to discuss questions. The reason of the action taken by the Government of New Zealand was told to me by a Member of the New Zealand Parliament the other day, and it was, as I have said, that Question Time in the New Zealand Parliament had been abused.

Question put, and agreed to.

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