HC Deb 12 December 1961 vol 651 cc210-1
Q2. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange for the Lord Privy Seal to have first priority in answering Oral Questions on at least one day each week.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am not aware of any widespread desire for this change.

Mr. Warbey

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Lord Privy Seal has answered Oral Questions on only one occasion since this Session began, and then only half of the number put down because of the accumulated backlog? Is he further aware that the Lord Privy Seal will not answer orally again—unless we are lucky enough to get a few next Monday—until 29th January? In view of the enormous range of very often urgent matters now covered by foreign affairs, will the Prime Minister try to do something to give a reality to our pretended democratic control of foreign affairs?

The Prime Minister

The order of Questions is examined, I am told, in consultation with the Opposition at each holiday Adjournment. If there is a general feeling that Foreign Office Questions should have greater preference, no doubt that can be considered in the normal way. As far as the wider question is concerned, I am bound to observe that, among the Questions which I answer twice a week, a number of Questions about foreign affairs in their broadest aspects are put down.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall, from his own knowledge and experience, that before the last War the Foreign Secretary answered Questions at least once a week? As the Lord Privy Seal is understudy to the Foreign Secretary, will the Prime Minister consider arranging matters accordingly?

The Prime Minister

These arrangements are made by general consultation between Government and Opposition, and if somebody is given preference somebody else is put down. That is the problem, but I am perfectly prepared that it should be examined again in the usual way.

Mr. Rankin

May we take it, then, that if this rearrangement were suggested, it would have the right hon. Gentleman's favourable support?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I prefer that it should be discussed in the normal way through the usual channels.