HC Deb 25 October 1960 vol 627 cc2152-3
Mr. Speaker

This might be a convenient moment for the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) to raise his point of order with me.

Mr. P. Williams

Mr. Speaker, as I tried to do earlier, I should like to raise a point of order. It is the problem of the missing Question. It was a Question which I tabled roughly a month ago to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the subject of Lord Mountbatten's speech in Nairobi. I tabled the Question to the Secretary of State for the Colonies because I was under the impression that the speech had been sanctioned by him.

The Question was subsequently transferred to the Minister of Defence. In due course, it was transferred back to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I do not know whether this indicates any lack of decision as to who was responsible for Lord Mountbatten on that occasion.

The real point of substance is that at the end of the day not only has the Question gone backwards and forwards a number of times, but it has even fallen off the Order Paper altogether. It is not on the Order Paper today, the day for which it was originally tabled. In a case like this, is there any way in which a back bench Member has any redress or any way of getting his Question answered, or even on to the Order Paper?

Mr. Speaker

I am not sure that I have this quite straight in my mind. I thought that the hon. Member was saying that his Question had fallen off the Order Paper altogether. I do not think that that is quite right. It has fallen off today's Order Paper, but it is on tomorrow's Order Paper.

Mr. Williams

My point is that the Question was due to be transferred back to the Secretary of State for the Colonies today. In fact, it has not appeared on today's Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker

It is a rather complicated tale to tell the House and the hon. Member. I will try not to take too long.

I should make it clear that this is not a transfer in any ordinary sense, because the Chair always emphasises that transfer in the ordinary sense is not a matter for the Chair. When the hon. Member sent in his Question in the Recess it looked to those concerned to be out of order if addressed to the Minister to whom the hon. Member had then addressed it. They, therefore, addressed the Question to a different target—another Minister—and wrote to tell the hon. Member what they had done, and why.

It then transpired, the circumstances being unusual, that the hon. Member was right and the Table was wrong. The Table thereupon reapplied the hon. Member's Question to the target to which he had originally addressed it.

I am not sure that it is usually the task of the Table—indeed, I am sure that it is not—to put a date to a particular Question for it to be put down, but in these circumstances I accept that it would have been better, as they were putting it back to the original target, had they remembered to change the date. They did not. That is what has happened. I am not sure how the practical result works out for the hon. Member. In the circumstances, I am not sure that he would have been much better off if the Question had been down for to-day instead of in its present position for tomorrow.

Mr. Williams

Further to that point or order. When Questions are being transferred, is there any method by which consultation can take place not just with Ministries but with the Member concerned, so as to avoid such an error in the future?

Mr. Speaker

Certainly. I am sure that the Clerks at the Table will consult with the hon. Member any time he likes to approach them. I understood that the Table, in this instance, wrote to the hon. Member. I am sorry that the matter was not hammered out before so as to avoid having to trouble the House with it.

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