HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc952-4
Mr. Speaker

I will deal now with the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), of which I am already seized.

It may be of benefit to new hon. Members and returned hon. Members if I just emphasise what the position is. The Chair is under the instruction of the House to try to get more productivity out of Question Time. This is not so much a question of cutting down the number of Questions as of getting right hon. and hon. Members to make their supplementary questions and answers brief.

In the case which the right hon. Member for Worcestershire, South—

Sir G. Nabarro

Honourable, not right honourable.

Hon. Members

Shame. Exhibitionist.

Mr. Speaker

Order. In the case which the hon. Gentleman raised, this was a matter affecting a human being and I can understand why the Secretary of State should answer in detail when dealing with a problem of life and liberty.

However, that is the kind of Question, I think, that a Minister, if he finds that he has to answer at length, might put at the end of Question Time. The only other thing I would say to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South is that he will find that the Chair treats every hon. Member alike and that he will get neither more nor less favour, mercy or justice than anybody else.

Sir G. Nabarro

I accept your rebuke, Sir, that I have been missing for 18 months. The point of order I raised with you, Sir, was not precisely the point to which you replied, with deep respect. You castigated me last week for a supplementary of far less than average length. In HANSARD it was 51 words. You exonerated the right hon. Gentleman for 251 words. Is that reasonable, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

This is what the hon. Gentleman must learn to understand. I answered exactly, in the Ruling which I gave just now, the point which the hon. Gentleman raised subsequent to my Ruling. When he reads what I said in HANSARD, perhaps he will understand the position of the Chair.

May I say that I did not rebuke the hon. Gentleman for being absent from the House, which I know was through illness. I simply referred to the fact that he had been absent from the House.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Further to that point of order. I find it interesting that the Chair suggested that the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) should be taken at the end of Questions. This seems to be a new procedure. What exactly is the basis for it, Sir? If a point of order is in relation to the length of an Answer, it will mean that the long reply will still have to go on and an hon. Member can do nothing by using the procedures of the House to draw Mr. Speaker's attention to it. Is this a new rule?

Mr. Speaker

There is no ruling about it. I suggest to the House that if a very serious point of order arises at Question Time, obviously it must be raised then. However, most of the points of order raised at Question Time, especially this one, could be dealt with at the end of Question Time without taking up valuable Question Time.