HC Deb 04 December 1919 vol 122 cc554-7
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

Before asking the next question, I wish to raise point of Order. I originally put the question down to the Prime Minister, and he notified me that he had transferred it to the foreign Secretary. I wish to ask whether that is by your order and what are the general principles which govern the transfer of the Prime Minister's questions to the Foreign Office. Another question on very much the same lines stands in the name of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and remains among the Prime Minister's questions.


On the same point of Order, I wish to call your attention, Sir, to the fact that I handed in notice of a question with regard to Father O'Donnell's case addressed to the Prime Minister. Without consultation with me and without any authority whatever, direct or indirect, that was transferred from the list of the Prime Minister's questions to the list of questions addressed to the Secretary of State for War, with the result that the question, instead of being reached at an early stage, stands No. 177 on the Paper. I suggest that no Minister, whether Prime Minister or otherwise, has a right to give an order to the clerks at the Table to transfer a question from the Minister to whom it is addressed.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

May I also draw attention to the fact that the very same thing has happened to one of my questions?


May I draw attention to the fact that a great many questions are now put clown to the right hon. Gentleman which ought to be put to other Ministers?

Captain W. BENN

May I suggest that the difficulty would be overcome if the Prime Minister resumed the immemorial practice of attending the Debates in this House every day?


With regard to my question, one part of it dealt with representations made to the Prime Minister of this country by the Prime Minister of Australia, and no one but the Prime Minister could answer it.


I put three questions on the Paper to the Prime Minister, only one of which appears.


The questions which have been transferred are properly transferable I understand. Even if they were reached during the time the Prime minister was answering questions all he could do would be to transfer them for reply to the respective Ministers. Therefore the better course would seem to be to transfer them at once.

Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS

May I ask what questions are properly transferable to other Departments, seeing that the Prime Minister is responsible for all Departments as the head of the Government, and that every single question put down to him might as an alternative have been put to some other Department?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman proves my case. If he and all other Members put all their questions down to the. Prime Minister we should be in an impasse. It is obvious that those questions which are Departmental have to be answered by the heads of Departments. The Prime Minister is- not omniscient and cannot answer all questions.


By whose authority were these questions transferred?


They were transferred I understand by the Prime Minister to the particular Departments concerned, which in the ordinary course have to supply the Minister in charge with the reply.


Has the Prime Minister authority to transfer questions which are addressed to him to other Members of the Government? Is it not contrary to the usages and practice of this House?


No, it is in accordance with the practice of the House. The hon. Member must have heard over and over again questions transferred to the appropriate Department.


Should not Members whose questions are thus transferred receive some notice of the transfer?

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

Is it competent for the Prime Minister or any other Minister to go to the clerk at the Table, take off the question of an hon. Member put down to a particular Minister and transfer it to the name of another Minister, which is what has happened?


My complaint is that of three questions which I put down to the Prime Minister only one appears on the Order Paper at all.


If the hon. Member will bring that to my notice or the notice of the clerk at the Table investigation shall be made as to how that occurred. I cannot say without more knowledge.

75. Major HILLS

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that his questions occupied the early part of the Order Paper on Thursdays, he would arrange for the questions addressed to the, Minister of Health to be taken early on the Paper on some other day?


They were taken early yesterday.

Forward to