§ Mr. DEVLIN
At an early stage of the Session the question was raised as to whether it would not be possible or convenient to give another fifteen minutes to questions. You then stated, Mr. Speaker, that the tremendous number of questions on the Paper was largely due to the newfound zeal and interrogatory enthusiasm of new Members and that it was possible, after a short experience, that the activities of new Members would decrease as the Session proceeded. I do not think our experience has borne out that prognostication upon your part, Mr. SPEAKER, and therefore I ask you whether it would be possible now to take the opinion of the House as to whether it would not meet the universal convenience of hon. Members as well as the public interest by giving another fifteen minutes to questions and answers? I may say that, in my judgment, Question Time is the most fruitful time in the business of this House. It is a great advantage to the Members of the House to have this information given in a succient way by Ministers. I know myself that when unsatisfactory answers are given sometimes, good results have come from the question. I think the judgment of the House ought to be taken as to whether these additional fifteen minutes ought to be given.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Before you answer that question, may I put to you another question? I suggest, instead of complying with the hon. Gentleman's request, that you should consider the advisability of making it more publicly known that there are certain regulations governing the putting of questions in Parliament. There is, especially, the rule that every Member must or should be answerable for any statement which he makes in putting a question. If the Regulations were more generally known, I think fewer questions would be put.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The matter does not rest with me. It is laid down by Standing Order No. 9 that no questions shall be taken after a quarter to four o'clock. If the House chooses to alter the Standing Order, of course it will be my duty to comply with it, but I have no power to override it.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
May I respectfully point out that an opportunity might be given, either by you or by the Leader of the House, for the Members of the House to express their opinion as to whether it would not be possible to change that Standing Order?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is always possible for the House to change it; all that I am saying is that it does not rest with me. I cannot issue an edict. With regard to whether my prognostication has turned out correct or not, I think, if the hon. Member will look at the questions, he will find that every day we should easily have got through the questions on the Paper if it had not been for supplementary questions, and those I could not foresee.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I regard the supplementary questions as more important even than the questions themselves. I would like now to address myself to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I know that in all these matters he is perfectly agreeable to meet the convenience and the general desire of the House, and he can easily see that in all parts of the House there is a strong desire that there should be a longer period given to questions and answers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I would like to have his view upon the matter.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member is quite right. I think it is a question which the Government ought to deal with in accordance with the wishes of the House, but I am not sure that he has correctly interpreted the wishes of the House. I recognise the value of questions, even when they are not always agreeable, but, so far as I can judge, we have in the last month or two got through a larger number of questions than almost ever before. I do not think it would be worth while suggesting a change this Session, and, if hon. Members would be content to have a fewer number of questions, I do not think that there would be much inconvenience.