§ Mr. HANNON
I want to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a point of Order, which, I think, will be of interest to the House, particularly with regard to economy of Parliamentary time. I should like to call your attention to the fact that during the present Session an abnormally large number of questions have been put on the Paper dealing with purely personal and local subjects. I have taken the trouble to find out the number, and I find that during the present Session, up to the 23rd April, 4,345 separate questions have been put down, and of these no fewer than 620 have dealt entirely with what may be described as purely personal and local 683 questions. I have taken out the questions themselves for the six days from 11th April to 19th April, and I find that of the 813 questions which were asked during that period of time, 116 were entirely of a personal and local character. This is particularly the case with questions addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. I have had considerable experience of the Minister of Pensions since I came into the House, and no Minister is more courteous and more anxious to deal with cases by correspondence than he is, and I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that a great number of these questions could be dealt with through the Departments themselves, outside this House, without wasting Parliamentary time. I have no desire to suggest any restriction of the liberties and rights and privileges of Members of this House, but I think it would be a great convenience and saving of time if hon. Members would address their questions to Ministers at their Departments rather than putting them on the Paper.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The point of Order which I understood the hon. Member wished to put to me was the question of putting starred or unstarred questions. It has been suggested to me more than once that I should attempt to sort out the questions, and decide whether they should be starred or unstarred, but that is a task which I could not possibly undertake. I can only ask hon. Members, as far as possible, to have consideration for one another.
It must be left to the good sense of hon. Members, asking them, as far as they reasonably can, to observe the intention of the Standing Order that questions involving statistics, for instance, or involving considerable detail, should be put as unstarred questions, and, if I might respectfully also say, that Ministers who have long answers to deliver should circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. If hon. Members will be good enough to accept the spirit of the Standing Order, I am sure it will be far better than any endeavour to impose restrictions on them.
§ Mr. HARDIE
When questions are put in at the Table, is there a system whereby a question gets its number? I have had several complaints from hon. Members that they have put in questions and have 684 found that, although they have given a question, say, to-day for next week, or sometimes for a fortnight in advance, that question is pushed away back beyond the possibility of an oral reply. Is the system that the question is numbered, and, if not, can a system of numbering each question according to when it is handed in be adopted?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The system is that the questions, after they are handed in, and the day before they are to come on, are grouped according to the Ministers to whom they are addressed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that, within the group, they take precedence according to the order in which they are handed in. That, at least, is my understanding.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I wish to submit to you another aspect of the matter as far as it affects hon. Members, and to put to you one reason why a large number of Members prefer to have an oral answer. There is a well-grounded belief on their part that the Departments, in answering questions, are economical in the information which they give, and hon. Members therefore desire to have the opportunity of putting supplementary questions.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
Is this not also one of the very few privileges left to an individual Member to bring the grievances of his constituents before this House?
§ Mr. STURROCK
Is it not desirable that we should have an opportunity of raising every Scottish question, in view of the fact that the Government at every point refuse facilities to discuss any aspect of Scottish questions?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As far as this Parliament is concerned, I think Scotland has had its full share of Parliamentary time.