HC Deb 19 February 1924 vol 169 cc1534-7

May I ask a question with regard to the order of the questions on the Paper? During last Parliament it was arranged, I think through your courtesy, Sir, and through the courtesy of the Patronage Secretary to the Prime Minister, that Scottish questions should be put down one day in the week early on the Paper to give them a chance of being reached. The first Scottish question on the Paper to-day is No. 79, in the name of the hon. Member for West Perthshire (the Duchess of Atholl), and I put it to you that the same arrangement should now exist, so that Members from Scotland should have their legitimate right of having questions answered earlier in the day.


Might I also raise the same question? Scottish Members having been insulted by having their representation on the Front Bench cut down by two—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I am aware that some hon. Members who cheer would cut it down altogether, if they could—may I ask if you, Sir, will consider giving at least one day per week, so that Scottish Members may put down their questions, and have them answered orally?

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

May I put another question in connection with this? It is almost impossible to reach certain Ministers by questions, for instance, the Office of Works and the Postmaster-General, and certain occupants of the Front Bench, who are never likely to be heard, unless some arrangement is made at Question Time. May I suggest it would be very much fairer that there should be a ration of questions to each Minister, and then, when we have worked through the Ministers, we could start again on the others who are more favoured?


Might not a new arrangement be considered whereby Ministers might meet the Members who are putting their questions in one of the Committee rooms in the presence, if necessary, of Press representatives, and so enable some time to be given by the Members, in company with the Minister, in threshing out the questions raised?


The House, I am sure, will appreciate my anxiety always to hear the Scottish Members, but, in fact, I do not control or order the arrangement of questions upon the Order Paper. That is a matter which is done through the usual channels for the general convenience of the House, and I am sure if hon. Members will make representations through those channels, every endeavour will be made to bring each Department before the House at least one day in the week. But there is one remedy I can suggest, which is, that if the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.- Commander Kenworthy) and all Members of the House will exercise a little more discretion, restraint and unselfishness in supplementary questions, we shall deal with a much larger number. I think in a few days' time—after all, we are only at the beginning of the Session—we shall be able to meet the general convenience in these matters.


I desire to put it to the Leader of the House, whether he will not take into consideration that the functions of the Government have enormously increased since the time when the present period for Scottish questions was fixed; and in view of the great increase in the interest of the proceedings of the House and the Government, may I ask whether the Government itself would not put down a Motion for extending the time of questions?


In this matter the Government rest very much in the hands of the House itself. I may say I fully appreciate, Mr. Speaker, what you have said in regard to the future, and it does occur to me that the matter is one which the Government might fairly well consider, though I can at the moment make no promise as to what we shall do.


May I ask you, Sir, whether it is not the case that during the last Parliament arrangements were entered into whereby questions relating to Scottish affairs came on early on the Tuesday, and has not that arrangement now been 'broken through? By whose authority has that arrangement broken down, for it seems impossible for us who are here responsible for Scottish constituencies to raise questions concerning the places we represent?


All I can say is that it is no order of mine.


On a point of Order. May I put this question—and I desire to do so fairly—because it was really a sore point previously with Scottish Members. It was only after a great deal of representation that we had the arrangement made in the last Parliament. I quite accept what you say, and I know that you, Mr. Speaker, had nothing to do in the matter, for you like to hear Scottish speakers, but I want to know why this arrangement has been broken down? I shall put my question to the Leader of the House, and ask if he can state why the arrangement has been broken through, and a new arrangement entered into that prohibits, as it seems likely to do, Scottish questions and answers?


I am informed at the Table there has been no change in regard to the order of Scottish questions. Anyhow, it is a matter which can best be discussed through the usual channels.


In consequence of the statement made by the Leader of the House that the Government might consider the advisability of giving more time to the answering of questions, will my right hon. Friend bring before the Cabinet the question as to whether the Government are prepared to recommend to the House to meet earlier so as to give more time? [An HON. MEMBER: "Ten o'clock!"]


I beg to give notice that to night on the Adjournment I will raise the matter of the Government statement on Scottish questions.


Might I make the suggestion hat, with the leave of the House, the first hour op Friday should be devoted to extra questions far Scotland?


I would suggest that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken should devote an hour to a little reading of Scottish history, and then he would not come here and make such foolish suggestions.

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