HC Deb 02 December 1963 vol 685 cc777-8

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

42. Mr. PAVIIT

To ask the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take to alter the present distribution of remuneration between those general practitioners providing a high standard of service and those who do less.


To ask the Minister of Health if he will initiate discussions with representatives of the medical profession, with a view to amending the basis for reimbursing general practice expenses.

Mr. Pavitt

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some time ago I gave notice of a Question to the Minister of Health for oral answer. That Question—No. 42—appears on the Order Paper today. Last Friday, I read in the Evening News not only the Question, but the Answer I wish to receive today, which, in my view, constitutes a Written Answer to that Question.

May I ask you whether this is a breach of privilege and, if it is not, what protection hon. Members can have against this procedure of having Questions answered through the Press, and not on the Floor of the House? Thirdly, if the Chair cannot protect hon. Members, may I ask from whom should I seek protection—the Leader of the House or the Minister?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that I can help the hon. Member. I do not think that a matter of privilege is involved. I know nothing, of course, about the origin of this. I think that it is a matter between the hon. Gentleman and the Minister. It is not necessary for it to be explored now, though no doubt it could be. I do not know how it comes about. I have no knowledge.

Mr. K. Robinson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since I also had a Question down in similar terms to the Minister, I wonder whether you would give the right hon. Gentleman the Minister permission to tell the House how it came about that the Answer appeared in the Evening News last Friday.

Mr. Speaker

I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman has had notice. I would allow it if the Minister could assist us now. More than that it is not proper for me to say.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Anthony Barber)

I know nothing about any report in the Evening News, Mr. Speaker, but if it would assist the House—with your permission and that of the House, and without taking up undue time—I would willingly answer Questions Nos. 42 and 43 together.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that there is any need for that. It is not quite the same point. The Written Answer can be compared with the newspaper's prognostications before considering the matter further.