HC Deb 16 July 1929 vol 230 cc224-6

Yon will notice, Mr. Speaker, that the questions relating to Scotland have been altered in position on the Order Paper for Tuesday. Four or five years ago, all Members of the House agreed that on one day in the week, in any case, questions relating to Scotland should have an early place and a certain place upon the Order Paper. This arrangement has been altered without any consultation, I understand, with the party to which I have the honour to belong. Therefore, I raise it as a matter of public interest, and I would like you to use your good offices with the Government to reinstate Scottish questions in the position to which they are entitled, and which they have occupied for the last four years. It is quit? obvious that Tuesday's Order Paper will always be full. The questions to the Lord Privy Seal come first, and then there are questions to the Board of Trade, which always evoke a very long series of interrogatories, and there are also the questions to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Secretary of State for War. To-day, by the merest chance, we got a few Scottish questions asked and answered, but generally there is no guarantee that they will be reached. I ask on behalf of my Scottish colleagues in all parts of the House that our questions should be reinstated in the position which they formerly held.


I should like to endorse what my right hon. Friend has said.


May I draw attention to the fact that of the nineteen questions addressed to the Lord Privy Seal 11 have been answered by the Minister of Transport, who has a separate day, and an early position on the Order Paper, in order to reply to questions addressed to him. Only three or four questions have been answered relating to Scotland, and we have not had an opportunity of taking up any questions referring to the Ministry of Labour.


I am very sorry that no approach has been made in regard to this matter. Until it was mentioned by my right hon. Friend, I had no warning that it was his intention to raise it.


I hope that I made it perfectly plain that our grievance was that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury had not attempted to approach us, or probably, my right hon. Friend above they Gangway, on this matter. It is the duty of the Parliamentary Secretary to approach us if he intends to have the position of questions altered.


I am making no complaint. I was only making that statement in my own self-defence, because, having heard nothing about it, I am very sorry that I cannot give a reply. It is within the knowledge of the House that various complaints have been made in the last two or three days that certain important Ministries had bad places on the Order Paper. We have over 20 Departments, and we have only four Parliamentary days a week. It is a very difficult problem, something like fitting up a jig-saw puzzle, to give everyone a prominent place on the Paper. We will do our best to give every Department of importance a chance; but in reference to the observation made by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) I must warn hon. Members that they should be a little more careful as to the Minister to whom they put their question. In my own case, I am constantly getting questions which do not belong to mo at all. Quite obviously, they are departmental questions, and, if hon. Members address their questions to the wrong Minister, then the fault must lie with hon. Members themselves. However, we will see if anything can be done in the matter.


Although it is quite clear that we cannot press the Prime Minister to give us an answer as to the particular day and the particular place he will assign to Scottish questions, I think he should give us an assurance that questions affecting the whole administration of his country and ours shall receive some prominent place on the Order Paper.


May I ask, as a new Member of the House, whether the Prime Minister can tell us if there is any special time devoted to purely English questions?


May I ask the Prime Minister if the arrangement in the last Parliament was not perfectly satisfactory to everybody, and whether it would not be advisable, once more, to follow the policy of the late Government?


I would remind the right hon. and gallant Member that there have been changes in respect of Departments as well as in respect of Governments. The most important Department at the moment is the Department presided over by the Lord Privy Seal, and that has upset the arrangement which held in the last Parliament. I suggest that the three parties co-operate through the usual channels and bring forward a scheme for the time being. So far as I am concerned, I shall be perfectly willing to accept a scheme winch is satisfactory to all sections of the House.


There is a good deal to be said for the suggestion of the Prime Minister that there should be consultation between those who advise the different parties in regard to the arrangement of business, and the sooner it takes place the better, because there is a good deal of dissatisfaction. May I ask a question in regard to the position of the Lord Privy Seal? The right hon. Gentleman has charge of what is practically a new Department dealing with unemployment. Everyone assumes that any question concerning the expenditure of public money on roads, canals, or any other subject which bears upon unemployment is to be addressed to the Lord Privy Seal. To-day, most of these questions were answered by the Minister of Transport. I am making no complaint, but I think the House should be informed. if it is understood that questions bearing upon canals and roads and transport and communications are to be addressed to the Minister of Transport, we shall know to whom to put our- questions, but at the moment it is understood that all these questions should be addressed to the Lord Privy Seal.