HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc890-2

The following Written Question stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what response the Burnham Committee has made to his request that it should try to devise alternative arrangements for the recognition of schools of exceptional difficulty at which salary additions are to be paid to the teachers; and if he will now proceed with the recognition of such schools.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to answer Written Question No. 55.

At its meeting on 18th October the Committee could not reach agreement as to whether or not the problem should be further examined, but the chairman has assured me that both sides accept responsibility for the difficulties and anomalies inherent in the present scheme.

In the light of this assurance I have told him that I will now proceed with the recognition of individual schools selected according to the priority recommended to me by the local education authorities, within the total sum the Committee has set aside.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. McNamara.

Hon. Members

Where is he?

Sir E. Boyle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the decision he has announced to the House will be recognised as a right one, bearing in mind especially the need to do justice to the special needs of British children, of all races, in the most difficult areas of our big cities? While recognising the rightness of the course he is taking, will be also bear in mind the special needs of local authorities with responsibilities for these difficult areas?

Mr. Short

I hope that this will make some contribution towards helping the schools in exceptional difficulty to build up their staffs. I am very grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman has said and I shall bear his remarks in mind.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of Order. Can you tell us, Mr. Speaker, for general future guidance, how a Question which was put in, obviously sponsored by the Department, on Friday, for written reply, is brought forward and answered orally? Will any hon. Member have the right to do this, because, if so, it is abrogating the rights of other Members.

Mr. Speaker

First, Mr. Speaker has not the knowledge that the hon. Gentleman seems to have about sponsoring Questions. Questions appear on the Order Paper. It is for a Minister, if he elects to answer a Question at the end of Question time, to do so. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman must resist his impatience. It is not, however, a frequent practice for Ministers to take this opportunity of answering Written Questions.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I appreciate that it is not a frequent practice, because I do not remember it happening during the last 23 years. That is why I am asking: is it a practice that one can adopt for the future? If one can persuade a Department to accept a Written Question on a Friday, can one put it down and get it answered orally on the Monday?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must try his noted powers of persuasion. I cannot interfere between an hon. Gentleman and his attempt to get a Minister to take a Question out of turn.

Sir Charles Taylor

Further to that point of order. I merely want to ask whether there is any precedent for Written Questions being answered verbally without Members of the House being given notice of it?

Mr. Speaker

There is precedent—within the last 23 years in spite of what the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) says.

Sir G. Nabarro

Further to that point of order. The curious part about today's business is that the Member who had the Question down was not here to ask it. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is here. "] He was not here to ask it when the Minister rose. Is it still in order for a Question to be answered when the Member is not here to ask the Question?

Mr. Speaker

I appreciate the curiosity of the situation. It is like the Sherlock Holmes story—the dog did not bark. That was the curious part of it. What has happened, however, is in order.

Dame Irene Ward

Further to that point of Order. Since a lot of curious happenings, all sorts of things, have suddenly cropped up which have not cropped up for years, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to be kind enough to issue a list of the new things and the old new things that are happening, so that the House can be informed of what is going on?

Mr. Speaker

I have recently issued a list of what the hon. Lady calls the old things. I do not propose to issue a list of the new things.

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