HC Deb 22 March 1917 vol 91 cc2083-5

Will the right hon. Gentleman Bay what business it is proposed to take next week?


On Monday we propose to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule till Easter, and take the War Pensions Bill (Committee), the Coal Mines Regulations (Amendment) Bill (Committee), the Army (Annual) Bill (Second Reading), and, if possible, some other Bills.

On Tuesday, the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill (Third Reading), and, we hope, the Agricultural Bill (Second Reading).

On Wednesday, Mr. Speaker's Electoral Reform Conference; and

On Thursday, Irish Estimates.

I Will give the business for Friday at the beginning of the week.


Will the Memorandum by Lord Selborne, which the right hon. Gentleman promised yesterday, be in the hands of Members shortly?


I hope so. Instructions were given to circulate it yesterday.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Easter Adjournment will take place and how long it will be?


No. Business is not far enough advanced to enable me to answer that question now. I hope to do so some time next week.


When will the Courts Emergency Powers Bill be taken?


As soon as possible. I hope on Monday.


On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to call attention to the ordinary relations between Ministers and Members in the asking and answering of questions, and to what should be the courtesy observed towards this House and the respect due to it. If you will look at Questions 28 to 33 you will find that they are put down as addressed to the right hon. Member for Barnard Castle, as representing the National Service Ministry. Those questions were not answered by that Minister, who is only representing a Department to which he does not belong. They were answered by the Controller of the Household, who, with great candour, said that he knew nothing about them, and that he was a mere machine repeating the answers put into his hands. I wish to know whether it is not usual when a Department is not represented directly in this House, and a certain Gentleman is stated to represent that Department, that he himself should answer the questions, and not someone who represents him? The right hon. Member for Barnard Castle has nothing to do with this Department, although he is put down as representing it, and these questions are answered for him by a Gentleman who only represents the Member who represents the Department, and this representative of the representative of that Department tells us he knows nothing whatever about the questions. Would it not be better, inasmuch as vast sums of money are given out of the public purse to this Department, to remove all the drapery and to have no questions asked about it at all? Parliament has no control over it. May I give one instance in which Parliament vindicated its right to have authoritative answers to direct questions. About ten years ago the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who was at least in the House of Lords— whereas the National Service Director is neither in the House of Lords nor in the House of Commons—told the Under-Secretary who represented him here not to answer supplementary questions. This was considered an abuse of this House, and the Adjournment was accordingly moved. Now we have got a step further, and we find that one important Department is not represented in this House, and that even questions addressed to the Minister who is stated to represent that Department, are not answered by him because he is not here, but they are answered casually by a Gentleman who cannot answer supplementary questions for the simple reason that he knows nothing about the subject, because he is only in the same position as an agent who is the representative of the representative of a representative. This is not treating the House of Commons with proper respect.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Motion relative to Russia (Congratulations to Duma), on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, and on the Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Grand Juries (Suspension) Bill have precedence this day of the Business of Supply.—[Mr. Bonar Law.]

Resolved, "That this House do sit tomorrow (Friday)."—[Mr. Bonar Law.]

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