HC Deb 13 July 1970 vol 803 cc1147-8
Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order. I wish to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a matter which concerns the rights of backbenchers in relation to Questions to Ministers. On Question No. 18, the Minister of Power was asked about contingency plans for being tough with electricity supply workers in the event of difficulty concerning an autumn pay rise. The Minister of Power said that this did not arise on the Question. On reflection, he will, I think, agree that it definitely arises on it. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you might give him an opportunity to give the answer which, I know, he would want to give.

Mr. Speaker

Order. All that Mr. Speaker can do is to rule whether something is in order. It is in order for a Minister to reply to a Question in any way he chooses to do so.

Mr. Alan Williams

Further to the point of order. Surely, the sort of non-answers which we have been getting from the Government in recent days is an abuse of Parliament. As we are soon to go into recess, it is an added absurdity that the Minister is allowed to say that supplementary questions do not arise when, in all logic, anyone reading the Question and hearing the supplementary question can see that it manifestly arises.

Mr. Speaker

Ministers are bound not to please the Opposition with their answers.

Mr. Sheldon

Further to the point of order. Since the information given by Ministers is the sole source of much of the important knowledge that back benchers can acquire, it is important that any attempts to restrict that source should be stopped as soon as they arise. We have been seeing a great deal of evasion from the Government Front Bench during recent days and what we are now seeing is an extension of this and a denial of the ordinary supplementary question which arises from the Question that is asked.

Mr. Speaker

There is no denial of supplementary questions. They are answered as Ministers choose to answer them.

Mr. Maclennan

On a point of order. In view of the statement which appeared in this morning's Guardian that the United States Secretary of State had been presented by the Foreign Secretary with a fait accompli with regard to the supply of arms to South Africa, may I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you have had a request from the Foreign Secretary to answer Question No. 63 on this point?

Mr. Speaker

I have had no such request.