HC Deb 21 February 1957 vol 565 cc595-7
Mr. Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to ask for your guidance and assistance. Yesterday, I tabled a Question, to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action the Government have taken or intend to take to implement their declared policy of doubling the people's standard of living. That Question was ruled out by the Table on the ground that it would appear to be a matter for debate. Subsequently, there was a reference by the Table Office as follows: the reference is presumably to Mr. Butler's statement, when Chancellor, about doubling the standard of living in 25 years. If you look through the Order Paper today, or on any day, Mr. Speaker, I suggest, with respect, that you will find that nine out of ten Questions are on matters which may be matter for debate. Indeed, it is true to say that many hon. Members do, in fact, say that they will raise a matter in debate. I should like to ask upon what principle such a Question as I have upon the Order Paper today, Question No. 46, which certainly relates to a matter which is or may be matter for debate, is accepted, yet the other one, which is vital to the people, because it refers to doubling their standard of living, is not accepted? Surely it is a vital Question and ought to be allowed.

Finally, if the Table rules out a Question, what rights has an hon. Member who feels aggrieved to raise it—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry, but I must interrupt the hon. Member. I have had no notice of this. If the hon. Member will bring me his Question, I will have a look at it, and I will make inquiries into it. Otherwise, it is taking up the time of the House at this moment, and I really could not give a useful answer on the subject.

Mr. H. Wilson

Further to that point of order, Sir. Since this matter is to be looked into by you, Mr. Speaker, and as we now know that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer repudiated his predecessor on this question, and since the present Chancellor seems to have repudiated his predecessor, is it not—[Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. Perhaps the House will keep order. I am waiting to hear the point of order.

Mr. Wilson

In view of all that I have just mentioned, would it be right for the Table to preclude a Question on this subject? If it is right for the Table to preclude that Question, would it be in order for my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), instead of asking about doubling the standard of living in twenty-five years, to ask about the doubling of the cost of living in twenty-five years?

Mr. Speaker

All these matters are really hypothetical 4t the moment. I really must decline to give an answer on the matter until I have had a chance of studying it. Otherwise, I should not be using the time of the House to the best advantage.

Mr. H. Morrison rose

Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Herbert Morrison.

Mr. Morrison

Further to the point of order—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which?"]—raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), may I say that I appreciate very well, Mr. Speaker, that you wish for time to consider the matter, and that we all, including my hon. Friend, understand that? But may I ask you to take into account in formulating a Ruling that some of us are very surprised about this Ruling by the Table? Is it not the case that all Questions are, in a way, a form of restricted debate, and that supplementary questions, in particular, are a form of restricted debate?—and what we should do without them, I do not know.

Therefore, may I ask you to take into account that, by their very nature, Questions and supplementary questions, though not open to full debate in the ordinary sense, are, nevertheless, a form of clash between the two sides of the House and are, therefore, a form of debate?

Mr. Speaker

I shall, of course, endeavour to take all relevant considerations into account. I am aware that Question Time is perhaps too frequently perverted into a form of debate, but that is not a process which I should deem it my duty to encourage.