HC Deb 20 February 1956 vol 549 cc30-1
45. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the growing practice of various Departments of issuing official and semi-official statements confirming or denying matters which are the subject of Parliamentary Questions and debates; and whether he will instruct Departments that these should not be issued pending being dealt with in the House.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

It is an accepted principle that while Parliament is in session important matters are announced by Ministers to Parliament. I am not aware of any growing practice that derogates from this principle. I could not accept the proposition that the presence of a Motion or Question on the Order Paper automatically makes it impossible for anything to be said outside on the same subject.

Mr. Lewis

While thanking the Prime Minister for the general tone of his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that last Tuesday Questions were placed on the Order Paper by hon. Members on both sides of the House; on Wednesday evening the Treasury, to whom the Questions were addressed issued a public statement which was, in effect, an answer to the Questions; and yet on Thursday the Leader of the House stated that the Treasury was thinking of making a statement, which, in fact, it did make on the Friday; and by adopting that method the rights of hon. Members were abrogated as a result of the action of the Treasury? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into this matter if I give the actual details?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I will look into it. I thought the hon. Gentleman was on another hare, about something said by Foreign Office spokesmen, but since it is this one perhaps he will let me have the details.

Mr. H. Wilson

While we all understand the Prime Minister's unwillingness to make a general rule on this point, was it not a rather strange occurrence that there should be the statement of the Treasury spokesman about building licensing and import licensing, not only because these Questions were on the Order Paper, but because the Chancellor was about to make a statement to the House? Was not this an unusual procedure?

The Prime Minister

I will look into it. I was not conscious of what was behind the Question.