HC Deb 11 March 1952 vol 497 cc1267-8
Mr. Sydney Silverman

Mr. Speaker, I desire to raise with you, for the guidance of the House, a question relating to Private Notice Questions. This morning I sought your leave to ask the President of the Board of Trade, by Private Notice, a Question in the following terms: To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make about the effect on trade and employment, particularly in Lancashire, of the Australian Government's announced cut of 80 per cent. in its trade with the United Kingdom.

Mr. Speaker

It is against the rule for the hon. Member to read his Question. Perhaps he will put a question to me about it.

Mr. Silverman

I am sorry if that was not the right thing to do, but it would be difficult to make my point clear, unless the House were in possession of the terms of the Question because, after querying the matter in the ordinary way with the Table, you indicated to me that there were four Questions on the Order Paper relating to the same subject matter and that, therefore, in your opinion the matter would be improperly raised by Private Notice.

The point that I have to ask relates directly to the terms of my Question and to the terms of the Questions on the Order Paper. There were indeed four such Questions. Three of them related exclusively to what one might call minor questions about motorcars. The only one that had any direct relation to my own was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) who, indeed, sought to ask a Question on Thursday, not by Private Notice, about what action the President proposes to take arising out of the drastic results of this announcement.

My Question had nothing to do with drastic results or any results. I thought that it would be proper for the Minister to have an opportunity at a very early stage of making a general statement on the whole matter without any such criticism or opinion implied as there was in those Questions. Nobody doubted that the matter was of public importance. Nobody doubted that it was urgent, and I beg to submit very respectfully that my Question was not in conflict with the rule as defined in Erskine May.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Further to that point of order and as I asked your leave, Mr. Speaker, 24 hours before the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S Silverman) to put a question by Private Notice of an even wider character than his but covering the same point, would you take into consideration the fact that the rule says that the Question has to be put down at the earliest possible moment. If, therefore, a Question was put down 24 hours before that put down by the hon. Member, surely it should take precedence.

Mr. Speaker

The rule is quite clear. It is that it is not proper to seek by a Private Notice Question to anticipate a Question on the Paper of which another hon. Member has given notice. Though it is true that none of the Questions on the Paper are in identical terms with that sought to be asked by the hon. Member, I came to the conclusion that these four Questions—and in particular the Question standing in the name of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke)—could not be answered without covering the points in the proposed Question of the hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I disallowed it.