May I call attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that there are 43 questions addressed to the Ministry of Health to-day, not one of which has been reached, and that there is a proposal in future to put questions to another Minister in front of those to the Minister of Health? In view of the importance of the office of the Minister of Health and the many and varied questions that touch the interests of all parties in the House, may I ask whether it is not possible to reconsider the arrangements?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Before you reply, Mr. Speaker, may I ask you to consider whether, with the great difficulties in apportioning the questions between the parties on the four days of the week, it would not be possible for you, either on your own authority or in consultation with others, to come to some sort of arrangement by which supplementary questions might be reasonably curtailed?
§ Mr. SEXTON
On a question of Privilege, I want to ask for your guidance. As has been said, there are a number of questions on the Paper which will not be reached. Can you, Mr. Speaker, give the House any guidance as to what number of supplementary questions any individual Member is entitled to put? I want to know, because Members of the Front Opposition Bench have in some cases put no fewer than seven supplementary questions.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
If we are to be asked to curtail supplementary questions, may we in turn say to the Prime Minister that, since it is normally the right of the Opposition to put questions, the right hon. Gentleman should appeal to his own Back Benchers to put fewer questions on the Paper?
§ Sir W. BRASS
Would it be possible for the first 10 questions, or possibly the first 15, to each of the Departments to appear first on the Paper, and for the rest to come after them?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I cannot carry all these questions in my head at once. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain), I think I have told the House before that the arrangement of questions to Ministers is not one for me to settle. It is a matter to be arranged through the ordinary channels, as agreed between the two sides of the House. As regards supplementary questions, I think it was only yesterday that I called the attention of the House to the strict rules which apply to supplementary questions. The only way of administering it is to make an appeal to hon. Members to help me by not asking questions which are obviously not in order or are irrelevant either to the question on the Paper or to the answer which has been given. As regards the other point raised, it is not for me to say whether a question is important enough to be put on the Paper at all, but the remedy of hon. Members who wish to get answers from Ministers, is not to put so many question on the Paper.
May I call attention to the fact that to-day the supplementary questions have not really been excessive. We have actually dealt with fewer than 80 questions, and that is a very fair average.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
Might it not be possible to arrange that priority should be given to those Members who do not ask regularly three questions every day?
§ Major COLFOX
The suggestion which I would offer is that, instead of taking a week of four Parliamentary days as the unit of time in this matter, we should take a fortnight of eight days and give a Minister priority on one day in a fortnight instead of on one day in a week.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is it not possible to ask the Foreign Office, which now has two days, to drop one of those days in favour of the Ministry of Health?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
With reference to the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) as to supplementary questions, I make no complaint of an excessive number of them being asked today.