HC Deb 09 July 1923 vol 166 cc932-3
Commander BELLAIRS

I should like your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a point of procedure in regard to questions addressed to His Majesty's Ministers. I apologise for not having had the opportunity of giving notice. It will be within your recollection that the Foreign Office refused to answer several questions in regard to the League of Nations. I have always understood that there is but one ground upon which a Minister can refuse to answer questions, and that is that it is not in the public interest. The League of Nations is paid for largely by this House, and I submit that it is a precedent of very great importance as to whether we are entitled to have answers in regard to the League of Nations. I ask you whether, when it cannot be pleaded by His Majesty's Ministers that it is against the public interest, we are not entitled to ask questions and receive answers in regard to events which have already taken place?


May I say, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. and gallant Friend has given no notice to me that he intended to raise this matter to-day? I will only say, speaking now on the spur of the moment, that I can recollect no occasion on which the Government have declined to give an answer to a question in regard to the League of Nations.

Commander BELLAIRS

May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to Question 60, in regard to which there was a specific refusal to answer?


I do not think it is a matter on which I can proceed on the instant to lay down a rule. There have been cases where a Minister representing this country has made a statement on his return. It is within the discretion of the Minister not to answer in regard to some matter which is then in progress, and where a responsible Minister of this country was present.


Is it not a fact, Mr. Speaker, that if any hon. Member is dissatisfied with a Minister or the Government he can put down a vote of censure?

Captain BENN

Are we to understand that the responsible act of a representative of this country on the League does not rest with the Government, and cannot be questioned?


It is hardly for me to lay down any such rule. I do not think I ought to be drawn into this matter.