HC Deb 26 June 1956 vol 555 cc263-5
53. Sir I. Fraser

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange to answer Questions at an earlier point than No. 45.

55. Mrs. L. Jeger

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the increasing number of occasions on which Question No. 45 and subsequent Questions to him are reached very late, or not at all, he will arrange for his Questions to begin at No. 35 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Prime Minister

Questions to the Prime Minister have begun at No. 45 for a very long time, and I would not wish lightly to alter a practice that has served the House well for so long. This is a matter for the House as a whole, and I am prepared for it to be discussed through the usual channels in order to see if any change is desirable in the next session.

Sir I. Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend consider the curious paradox that whoever holds his office is the only Minister who does not know whether he will be called on to answer all of the Questions addressed to him? Yet a great deal of trouble, including the sending of cables all over the world and inquiries over the United Kingdom, as well as his own preparation, has to proceed and the time when he comes to the House may possibly prove a fruitless journey?

The Prime Minister

I am the servant of the House in this matter. I think it is something like 40 years since this arrangement was originally made, and I do not think that we should lightly depart from it. But I will meet the wishes of the House.

Mrs. Jeger

Although the Prime Minister rose at 3.15 p.m. today, would not he agree that that was rather exceptional and that recently, with increasing frequency, the House has been deprived of the opportunity of putting Questions to him? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind when he is examining the suggestions put forward?

Captain Pilkington

Is it not the fact that it would be possible to reach Questions addresed to the Prime Minister much earlier, and also to ask many more Questions, if some supplementary questions were shorter, especially those asked by some hon. Members?

Mr. Edward Evans

Would it meet the case if Questions to the Prime Minister were asked at a specific time, say three o'clock every afternoon?

The Prime Minister

This goes deep into the practices of the House and I would rather not commit myself without consultation, and without your guidance, Mr. Speaker.