HC Deb 07 November 1945 vol 415 cc1287-9
Captain Crowder

(by Private Notice) asked the Leader of the House if, in. view of the importance of foreign affairs at this critical time, he will arrange for Foreign Office Questions to be taken first on one day each week in accordance with past practice.

Mr. H. Morrison

We endeavoured to ascertain the wishes of the House through the usual channels on the proposed order of Questions. It was generally agreed to give the new order a fair trial as was suggested by Mr. Speaker on Tuesday, 9th October. The new order was based upon Mr. Speaker's ruling to the effect that hon. Members should have a reasonable chance of securing oral answers to Questions addressed to the principal Departments and the fact that these arrangements could only be achieved by a system of rotation. To take any Department's Questions first regularly on one day each week would defeat this pur- pose, and foreign affairs are not the only class of Questions for which priority on a particular day could be claimed.

We desire to meet the general wishes of the House and I will note the suggestions made by the hon. and gallant Member. We are watching the working of the list. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that it is not an easy matter to obtain a satisfactory arrangement in view of the large number of Questions which appear on the daily list. I hope that the House will be agreeable to giving the present order of Questions a further trial.

Mr. Eden

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider carefully this matter of Foreign Office Questions? For a great many years in Parliament, there has been a Foreign Office Question day. That has certain advantages, not only in this country, but abroad, for the rest of the world knows that next morning they will get the Parliamentary questions on foreign affairs. I suggest that Foreign Office Questions are in rather a different category from those of other Departments. I do not see why it should not be possible for a general rotation to allow, as it does, for the Prime Minister to have his Questions, commencing at No. 45, as is the case today—and also to allow the Foreign Office to have a regular day. I would ask him to consider that. I think that the implications go wider even than the limits of this House.

Mr. Morrison

We will consider the matter in the light of experience. I am advised that on one day a week, substantially all Foreign Office Questions have been reached, and many have been reached on another day. I am told that the system of the Foreign Office being No. 1 on one day in the week was a wartime expedient. [Hon. Members: "No."] That is what I am advised. We will make inquiries about that. There are, however, many Members interested in all kinds of other matters, including agriculture, and we must not exclude these enthusiasts from the agenda.

Mr. Eden

The right hon. Gentleman, I think, will find that for 20 years the Foreign Office have always been first on Wednesday and were also reached on Monday.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that some of us are particularly interested in problems affecting the home front, and feel equally strongly about these priorities?

Mr. Boothby

May I ask the Minister whether, in view of the fact that Private Members' time has been taken away, His Majesty's Government will give serious consideration to the possibility of allowing another quarter-of-an-hour for Questions each day?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think we can consider that. It was tried some years ago, and it really did not succeed. As regards Private Members' time, I think that they had a very good time last week on two long Adjournment Debates.

Mr. Stephen

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will consider restoring the priority of Scottish Questions?

Mr. Morrison

I would not like to classify those with Questions relating to foreign affairs, but I will keep that point in mind.