HC Deb 22 January 1970 vol 794 cc698-700
Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

On a point of order. May I, Mr. Speaker, repeat a point of order which has several times been made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), who is also my M.P.?

You will be aware that we reached only Question Q4 in the Questions down to the Prime Minister. It has been pointed out in the past that my hon. Friends and I feel most deeply about this matter. The reason why only four Questions were answered rests with—

Hon. Members

Your Leader.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Shut up.

The reason for this state of affairs is the long-winded, flannel replies that are given by the Prime Minister. [Interruption.]

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman may answer in any way he likes, but not only does he not answer Questions properly; he also replies at such length because he slips in a lot of Socialist party propaganda and brings in personalities to a degree that I have not witnessed during my 25 years in this House by any other Prime Minister.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot satisfy the hon. and gallant Gentleman. If he objects to hon. Members of either party slipping in Socialist propaganda if they are Socialists and Tory propaganda if they are Tories, then I can only tell him that that is one of the habits of the parliamentary animal.

To answer the general point that he has raised, there are long Answers, but there are also long questions during the interlude of Prime Minister's Question Time. This is, of course, quite an important quarter-of-an-hour in the week. During it there take place from time to time battles between the Leaders of the two parties. Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman saying that that has not been usual in his 25 years' parliamentary experience?

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Further to my point of order. We all accept, Sir, that in the cut and thrust of debate we try to hit at each other across the Floor of the House in question and answer. The point is that the Prime Minister gets more than his fair share of the time.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot distribute blame between the two Front Benches in this matter.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Mr. Speaker, we all accept the fairness with which you have decided the point of order raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport). However, on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, during the absence of the Prime Minister, will you take note of the time taken to answer Questions and note how many are reached?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member does not need my assurance that I take note of the length of every Question every day.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, my point of order arises out of the Prime Minister's Answer to Question No. Q2, when he told the House, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), that, if he wanted information about what was said by Ministers at the meeting of Western European Union, he had only to table a Question.

This seems to be in direct conflict with the Answer which I received from a Foreign Office Minister on Monday last, which was a refusal to place in the Library of the House a transcript of the speech made at W.E.U. by the Chancellor of the Duchy.

Would you, Sir, either now or at such time as may be convenient to yourself, after an opportunity for such consideration as you deem appropriate, be good enough to give a ruling on this matter?

Mr. Speaker

The Prime Minister has obviously heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman's observation and will take note of it. It is not a matter for me. I interrupted the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point of order during Question Time, because I thought that he intended to give notice that he would seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment, which would have prevented his Leader from putting a question.