HC Deb 25 October 1916 vol 86 cc1155-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, for the remainder of the Session the time during which Questions may be taken be extended till four of the clock."—[Mr. Bonar Law.]


As I asked for this change which the Government propose to make, may I take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law) for having conveyed my request last week to the Prime Minister, and also to thank the Prime Minister for having been good enough to accede to the request and to propose the change, which I think will be very generally welcomed by hon. Members.


I am sure that the general feeling is one of gratitude to the Government, but at the same time I should like to make an appeal to Government Departments to help Members by the form of the answers which they give. We have repeated supplemental questions in order to get some little bit of information, which one must necessarily drag out. I have always taken it that the Chair allows those because they are necessary. I am hitting at no particular Department, but the answers sometimes are clever evasions. I recollect cases where the facts were well known and where the answer could easily be given by the Government Departments. The Departments do not like to reveal it until you put a question on the Paper, and, when you do, with a little care you could devise the answer you get and which is purposely evasive. I do appeal to the Government not to encourage that sort of answer. It was all right in party times, but surely that is all done. No one objects to a smart answer on one point, or even a smart question as between parties, but that should not occur at all now. I think it is quite evident from the Notice Paper that there are very few questions put down with any but a genuine desire to bring the point out, and either to elicit information or call the attention of the House to a particular matter. I think it is time we had a change in Government Departments in this respect. I do not like to use language used outside, namely, that in each Government Department there are a few white Babus, who spend their time inventing clever English to deceive Members.


That does not really arise on this Motion. It is not a question of altering the system by which answers are given, but of giving more time to hon. Members to ask their questions.


With all deference, I believe that if Government Departments had adopted the suggestion which I am now making this Motion would not have been necessary. Unless there is some little more co-operation between the Government and hon. Members, even this quarter of an hour will not be sufficient, and there will be a further claim for more time. I would appeal to the Government to try and give the information promptly, and, if they like, even bluntly, rather than the long evasions which we get.

Question put, and agreed to.