HC Deb 05 November 1959 vol 612 cc1209-11
Mr. Swingler

On a point of order. I appreciate that we have had a very limited experience of Question Time in this Parliament so far, but no doubt you will have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that we have been getting through a small number of Questions. One of the things that this would mean if it continued would be that the opportunities of hon. Members to question the Prime Minister would be very restricted indeed. Twelve Questions addressed to the Prime Minister were on the Order Paper today and there has been no opportunity for him to answer any of them.

Therefore, I wonder whether you, Mr. Speaker, on the basis of this limited experience, would, on behalf of back benchers, consult the usual channels as to whether it would be possible in this Parliament to have Questions addressed to the Prime Minister beginning at an earlier number at least once a week so that we might ensure that at least once a week there would be a full opportunity for hon. Members to question the right non. Gentleman and for him to reply.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I am sure that the suggestion which he has made will be considered as may be appropriate. It provides me with the opportunity to make a plea to the House. Personally, I am distressed that I am so singularly unsuccessful in inducing the House to get through more Questions, and I should like to make a general plea, addressed both to Ministers and to hon. Members, that they should bear in mind that the length of their replies and supplementary questions has a definite bearing upon the fulfilment of the undoubted right of numbers of hon. Members to have their Questions answered orally.

Sir T. Moore

While it might be an advantage to bring the Questions to the Prime Minister nearer to the beginning of the Order Paper, would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, to take Questions to the Prime Minister at a definite time—say, 3.15 p.m.—and then return to other Questions if those to the Prime Minister do not occupy the whole of the Question period till 3.30 p.m.?

Mr. Speaker

I have no doubt that the Leader of the House will have heard the suggestion which has been made.

Mr. C. Pannell

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the time, 3.15 p.m., which has been suggested by the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) was a definite recommendation—it was that there should be a fixed time for taking Questions addressed to the Prime Minister—in the recent Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, as was also the suggestion that Questions should be limited to two per Member per day?

I am not asking you to rule on that now, but I should have thought that the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure might have been heeded in any consideration of this matter.

Mr. Speaker

These matters are, after all, for the consideration of the House, and no doubt the matter to which the hon. Member has referred will also be taken into account when consideration is given to what, if anything, should be done.

Mr. Ross

The Leader of the House and the House will recall that Scottish hon. Members have had considerable complaints to make about Scottish Questions, which are taken only on Tuesdays. If we make the suggested alteration about Questions to the Prime Minister, it will deprive Scottish hon. Members of a quarter of an hour of their now very limited time. We have come here from Scotland bursting with Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and we shall not get a single Question answered orally by him until December. It is bad enough having to wait with patience until then. Now to find that we are threatened with losing a quarter of an hour of our time on that day is a bit much.

Mr. Speaker

What would be worst of all would be that we should occupy time now discussing matters which can be discussed through the usual channels.