§ 55. Sir I. Fraser
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the amalgamation of the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of National Insurance, he will increase the number of days on which Parliamentary Questions are answered by the Minister, so that honourable Members may have as full an opportunity as hitherto of asking questions affecting the welfare of ex-Service men and women and their dependants.
§ The Prime Minister
It is our wish to ensure that the opportunities for answering such Questions are not reduced. I cannot see, however, that the amalgamation of the Departments will have this effect. There will, as hitherto, be one occasion each week for these Questions and the order in which they are taken will still vary from week to week. The number of National Insurance Questions is never large and is unlikely to swamp Questions on Pensions matters. I will, however, have the matter watched with care.
§ Mr. Grimond
On a point of order. While we are extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for answering these Questions, which are in the public interest in many cases, may I ask, as a matter of information, if it is in the discretion of the Minister to decide if he will continue to answer Questions indefinitely, whether it lies with you, Mr. Speaker, or Whether it is within the power of this House; and if it is, by what means this House may express whether it desires to give the Minister permission or not?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is really a matter for my discretion whether I allow a Minister to answer Questions after time or not, and I have to make up my mind without knowing how long the previous Questions are going to take. In this case I anticipated there might be one or two Questions to the Prime Minister left over, and as some were of great interest I thought it in the interest of the House that I should give the right hon. Gentleman permission to answer them. On the other hand, I might perhaps by 784 experience have been warned by the fact that before the Prime Minister's Questions on this occasion there were Questions on Scotland. Perhaps I might have taken that more into consideration. But the number of Questions down to the Prime Minister today was unusually large, and I gave my permission, acting, as I thought, in the interests of the House.