HC Deb 02 November 1966 vol 735 cc456-7
38. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will seek to initiate, for a trial period, a twice-weekly fifteen-minute session of questioning of Ministers, without prior notice of questions, similar to the practice in Australia.

Mr. Crossman

No, Sir. If we adopted the Australian practice, Questions on matters of detail and constituency matters could not be satisfactorily answered.

Mr. Hamilton

That may be true, but other questions could. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this would be a very salutary exercise for both back benchers and Ministers, for Ministers would be unable to come to the House prepared with carefully worded nonsense from civil servants? Will he look at this again with a view to giving us a little more excitement at Question Time instead of the fuddy-duddy work we get from the Opposition?

Mr. Crossman

Naturally, since this proposal came from my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), I have given it careful attention. I was greatly attracted by the unpredictable "catch-as-catch-can" possibilities. Nevertheless, Question Time is a serious time and I do not think that this is really a serious proposal to introduce into the House.

Mr. Blackburn

As one who has seen the Australian system in operation, may I ask my right hon. Friend to resist this suggestion?

Mr. Crossman

I had hoped that I had given that impression in my replies.

Mr. Noble

While agreeing with the Leader of the House in his desire to resist this suggestion, may I ask whether it would not help the House if he persuaded Ministers from top to bottom—[Interruption.]—from the highest ranking to the lowest ranking, to answer Questions of which they have had plenty of warning on the Order Paper or which they an; asked in debate?

Mr. Crossman

That is a suggestion better put to Mr. Speaker than to me.