HC Deb 27 April 1961 vol 639 cc626-7
Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? Would you be good enough to inform the House, myself included, by what test you determine the importance of a Question which enables hon. Members to put a whole series of supplementary questions and prevents other hon. Members from putting their Questions?

Mr. Speaker

It is extremely difficult. I try to exercise my judgment and I find it shown apparently to be wrong by a large number of hon. Members desiring to ask supplementary questions about one topic. I regret that the House did not get further with Questions today and I accept my part of the blame. I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman or the House a better answer than that I try to exercise my judgment as best may be in the interests of the House.

Mr. S. Silverman

Further to that point of order. May I draw your attention to the fact that nearly seven minutes have been devoted to this Question so far and that in the course of those seven minutes we have had supplementary questions from three occupants of the Opposition Front Bench as well as supplementary questions from a variety of other people? With the greatest of respect, it looks to some of us as though this is nothing but an organised attempt to prevent other hon. Members from asking Questions.

Mr. Callaghan


Mr. Speaker

If I thought that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) included the Chair in the organisation, I should have to rule his observations out of order. May I ask Mr. Macleod to answer Question No. 25.

Mr. Silverman

Further to that point of order. Is it not the case that the old tradition of the House, though there was never a rule about it, was that Members on the Front Bench did not compete with one another for supplementary questions on the same Question? It has mostly been regarded as sufficient for the hon. Member who is charged with the responsibility for a Department or set of circumstances to ask the supplementary questions. He may conceivably be supported by the Leader of the Opposition. But to have a competition among Members on the Front Bench, competing with one another for supplementary questions on a not very important matter, is against all the traditions of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that I have sufficient experience in the way in which these matters are organised by the Opposition to make this into a question of Order for the Chair. I ask Mr. Macleod to answer Question No. 25.