HC Deb 26 February 1958 vol 583 cc376-7
Mr. Paget

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I sought to put a Question on the Order Paper. It was to ask the Prime Minister whether he would provide a bodyguard for members of his Cabinet, as, nowadays, they seem to need one. That Question was refused as being ironic. I respectfully submit that things have come to a pretty pass when a suggestion that even Members of this Government ought not to be beaten up can only be regarded as ironic. I ask your Ruling, Sir, as to whether that is not a Question that I should be entitled to put to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Speaker

It is a Rule that Questions of an ironic character are not permitted on the Order Paper, for obvious reasons. The Order Paper is not a place for the interchange of witticisms and I should think, though I have not seen the text of the hon. and learned Member's Question, that from what he has told us about it, it fell within that category.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it make any difference to your Ruling, and would it not influence your opinion, if it were pointed out that there is not only the question of the safety of Ministers to be considered, but that at Glasgow there was a shocking and disgusting waste of flour?

Mr. Hale

Mr. Speaker, there is in the records only one direct Ruling on this matter, and that is to be found in HANSARD for 1860, 3rd series, Vol. 160, col. 1827. That was a case in which an hon. Member said something flattering about the House of Lords. The Speaker of the day was so astonished that he asked him whether it was said ironically. The hon. Member replied that it was said more in sorrow than in anger, and he was enabled to pursue his speech.

If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) had asked this Question more in sorrow than in anger, would it have been in order?

I myself ventured to submit a Question on the same point, suggesting that for reasons of economy at least, dogs might be trained for this purpose, and that it would be an advantage if they could distinguish between landlord and tenant. Such a Question, of course, would be put clown more in anger than in sorrow.

In the circumstances, it seems to me that we ought to have a Ruling, because the only other Rulings that I can find are on the use of adjectives. Here, there was a Ruling in 1917, and two in 1920, when Mr. Speaker himself repudiated the Questions as vile and dishonourable.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has covered a very wide area, to most of which I do not feel constrained to reply. But with regard to the precedent of 1860, I would point out that because our Ruling is of some ancientry it is none the less valid today. The fact that there are so few incidents of direct Rulings by Speakers on the question shows that the Ruling in 1860 was generally accepted by the good sense of the House and that no attempts to transgress it were made until quite recently.