HC Deb 02 April 1969 vol 781 cc482-3
37. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will consider arranging for Questions to the Treasury to be answered on a Wednesday rather than a Tuesday.

Mr. Peart

The Question roster is arranged after consultation through the usual channels, but I am, of course, ready to consider any representations made to me, and account will be taken of the hon. Member's request.

Mr. Baker

I welcome that reply. However, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Treasury, as a leading Department of State, should answer Questions for 55 minutes, which it would do if its Questions were answered on Wednesday, rather than for 40 minutes when Questions to it are answered on Tuesday? While the keenness of Members to ask Questions of the Treasury is probably matched only by the keenness of Treasury Ministers not to reply, this would be a very welcome reform.

Mr. Peart

I said that I would consider the hon. Gentleman's request. I hope that he will not make a partisan point. I have had no request on this matter through the usual channels.

Mr. Brooks

But would not my right hon. Friend agree that this proposal is not the answer because Departments which answered Questions on Mondays and Wednesdays would be subjected to substantially more public exposure than those which answered Questions on other days? Is not the solution to consider asking the Prime Minister to answer Questions from 3.30 p.m. to 3.45 p.m.?

Mr. Peart

I will examine whatever suggestions are made, but I do not think that that would be satisfactory.

Mr. C. Pannell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is possibly still true, as it was in 1959, that 80 per cent. of the Questions are asked by 30 per cent. of the Members and that, generally speaking, this is an overrated Parliamentary exercise?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept my right hon. Friend's strictures. I believe that Question Time is a very important part of the Parliamentary scene.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, prior to 1964, the heavy demand to put Questions to the Treasury was met by a maximum of three Questions being put to it on Tuesday and three on Thursday, making a maximum of six a week, whereas today Questions to the Treasury can be reached only infrequently, with a maximum of two Questions? Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter in that context?

Mr. Peart

I said that I will consider it.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it might make the House much more attractive and interesting and might attract larger attendances if we had more time for Questions and less time for dealing, for example, with the Parliament (No. 2) Bill?

Mr. Peart

I note what my right hon. Friend said. I will examine it.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider another point, namely, that frequently, owing to the phasing, Questions to the Treasury and the Department of Economic Affairs come top in the same week? Would he try to arrange a different phasing, even if the day is not altered?

Mr. Peart

I will look into that point. These matters are decided by discussions through the usual channels, and I have had no request for such a change. However, as the right hon. Gentleman is an influential member of the Opposition Front Bench, I will carefully examine what he said.