HC Deb 30 July 1964 vol 699 cc1789-91
Q7. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister if he will define the class of Parliamentary Question which he proposes as a matter of general practice to answer himself.

The Prime Minister

As I said on 16th July, I intend to continue the practice I have hitherto followed, which is the same as that of my predecessors.

Mr. Shinwell

But does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that he has occasionally varied the practice and that there have been fewer opportunities of getting replies from the right hon. Gentleman than was the case when his predecessors were in office? Statistics are of no value in this matter. It is a question of behaviour, and that is what we are concerned with. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my sole concern in pressing this matter is to protect the rights of back benchers, and indeed of the whole House? There is nothing personal in this matter at all. Because there is nothing personal in the matter, as we are about to go on vacation, I wish the right hon. Gentleman a very long holiday.

The Prime Minister

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind thought. I do not think that there has been any variation in my practice. The quarter of an hour has always been filled. Practically always I could have answered more Questions if hon. Members opposite had not been so long-winded.

Mr. Ridley

Does my right hon. Friend remember that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) complained that he had not transferred the Question on ships for Russia a few weeks ago, whereas today he has complained that he has not transferred enough? Would not my right hon. Friend think that he has got it about right?

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Prime Minister aware that the reason why I suggested that the Question to which the hon. Member refers might have been transferred was to save the time of the House, because, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall, there was a great deal of trouble because he had not transferred the Question?

The Prime Minister

All I am saying is that I am following exactly the same practice as has been followed before. I have no wish to shirk answering Questions. What I want to do is to get the Questions to the right Ministers. If they are right for me, I will take them.

Mr. Renton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is trying to turn him into a one-man band, that we understand his wish not to become a one-man band or to hog the Dispatch Box and we greatly look forward to the continued enjoyment of the Answers to Questions within his responsibility?

Mr. Driberg

Is the Prime Minister aware that his immediate predecessor had the courteous practice, if he had transferred a Question and if the hon. Member responsible for the Question asked for it to be answered by the Prime Minister, of re-transferring it to himself at the request of the hon. Member concerned? Although it is now a rather academic question, is the Prime Minister following the same practice?

The Prime Minister

I have been following that practice, but perhaps the hon. Member has not noticed it.