HC Deb 13 February 1967 vol 741 cc97-8
39. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will move to refer to the Select Committee on Procedure the order in which Questions to any Minister appear on the Order Paper, so that this order may bear some relation to the time at which hon. Members hand such Questions to the Table Office and is not, as at present, decided by the unfettered choice of the printer.

Mr. Crossman

The Select Committee on Procedure reported on Question Time in April, 1965. It may consider the point raised by the hon. Gentleman if it wishes, but I am hoping that it will take an overall look at our whole procedure.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Surely some scheme of "First come, first served" could be arranged? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at present one may endlessly try to get a Question answered by the Prime Minister orally and endlessly the printer says, "No"?

Mr. Crossman

I can see the hon. Member's point. He will also be aware that "First come, first served" in this case might be "First at hand, first served". I was thinking of the advantages of those who were on the spot at the time. I would rather not put it to the Committee all over again now. It considered this matter a relatively short time ago. I want it to concentrate on its main job of dealing with all our procedure.

Mr. Fisher

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this? The present method of the printer selecting Questions haphazardly is really unbelievable, and could it not be referred to the Committee?

Mr. Crossman

It certainly could be referred to the Committee but the Committee has a number of points referred to it and has been delayed in the job of giving an overall report. Although this matter could be referred to it, I would be reluctant to refer it. However, any hon. Member can, of course, put the point to the Committee.

Mr. Marten

May I suggest to the Leader of the House that one of the problems is that Questions go to the printer at 4 o'clock in the afternoon in a great block, and that if they went, say, three times, at 10.30, 2.30 and 4.30, then there would be an element of first come, first served?

Mr. Crossman

I accept that point, but again I say that hon. Members who wish to are perfectly entitled to put these points to the Select Committee.