HC Deb 27 February 1924 vol 170 cc471-3

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Canterbury desires to ask a question of the Prime Minister about the answering of questions in this House.


I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question with regard to procedure. I understood, when he made his statement the other day—and I think that many hon. Members understood the same thing—that it was his intention to be here on Mondays and Wednesdays in order to reply as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary says that we were mistaken in that, and that the right hon. Gentleman intended to be here only on Mondays to answer these questions. I would like to ask him whether that is so, and, if so, whether he could not arrange that he should answer Foreign Office questions on the day when those questions come first on the Paper, which is Wednesday, as it always has been, and would it be possible for him to answer questions here on Wednesday as Foreign Secretary or have the Foreign Office questions put first on the Paper on Monday?


I should be very glad to meet the convenience of the House in this respect. What I did say was that I should answer questions on Monday as Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, as Foreign Office questions which, if they do not come first, come second, are always taken on Monday, and that then on Wednesday I could answer questions as Prime Minister. If the House thinks it desirable that I should also take Foreign Office questions on Wednesday, I will consider it, but I do not think it necessary. I would be very glad to have a conversation with my right hon. Friend if he feels any difficulty on the point.


Speaking for myself, and I believe also for the House, I have no wish to impose any additional burden on the right hon. Gentleman. If, as he says, these questions on Monday come second, and though they may be numerous, they can be all reached on Monday, I do not know that it matters very much, but the greater number of questions to the Foreign Office has usually been put down for Wednesday, and we have been continuing to put them down for Wednesday in the belief that the right hon. Gentleman will answer them.


Great inconvenience arises if I take up practically the whole of Question Time on Monday. Hitherto I think the Foreign Office questions have been taken one day a week—on Monday. Therefore, if I take Foreign Office questions on Monday, I assume that I am not breaking in on the time of Members who are interested in other Departments. I think that it would be unfair to them to take up an extraordinary amount of Question Time on two days of the week. I have to apologise for the amount of time which I have taken up this morning as it is.

Viscount WOLMER

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Monday is the only day at present on which we get oral replies from the Minister of Agriculture, so that if there is a very large number of questions addressed to the Prime Minister as Foreign Secretary on Monday, questions addressed to the Minister of Agriculture can hardly be reached.


That is so, and I think that it is a subject for arrangement. It might be possible that I should not take the Foreign Office questions on Monday, but take questions as Prime Minister, and then take Foreign Office questions on Wednesday. I will do everything possible to meet the convenience of the House.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

May I suggest that that is contrary to the convenience of those of us who are interested in matters of public health. It is only to-day that we have been so fortunate as to get three questions answered by the Minister of Health. Wednesday is the only day on which we get questions addressed to the Minister of Health, and this is the first day this Session on which the Minister of Health has reached them.


If the under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was good enough to answer questions in the last Parliament, why cannot the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs answer such questions now?