HC Deb 26 November 1970 vol 807 cc616-7
Mr. Barnett

On a point of order. I wish to raise a matter which I did not seek to raise during Question Hour, Mr. Speaker. We appreciate that you are not able to ask the Prime Minister to stop evading answering questions, but could you at any rate prevail upon him not to distort the questions that are asked?

In answer to me earlier, not only did the Prime Minister refuse to answer my question about conflicting statements by two Cabinet Ministers, but he went on to suggest quite clearly that I had suggested something about the Chancellor of West Germany which I had clearly not implied. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, will you call upon the Prime Minister to withdraw that imputation?

Mr. Speaker

It is not unknown in history for members of the Opposition not to be completely satisfied with the answers they receive from the Prime Minister. It is a point of unhappiness, not a point of order.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Further to that point of order. What we are complaining about, and what we seek your guidance on, Mr. Speaker, is not the Prime Minister's inability to answer questions. We accept that: it is inherent in his character. What we are complaining about is the damage that the Prime Minister may have caused this afternoon in suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) had implied that the Chancellor of the Federal Republic had in any way been associated with the Weimar Republic. This is a serious matter. Such deliberate misrepresentation and sneering by the Prime Minister affects Britain's standing and international relations.

I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. How can we on this side take action to redeem the situation which the Prime Minister has created this afternoon by his despicable action?

Mr. Speaker

I know that the hon. Gentleman is seeking my guidance. He has put a little more elaborately the same point that the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) put more succinctly. The answer is exactly the same.

Mr. Marks

On a point of order. Is the Prime Minister's refusal to answer supplementary questions and his statement on 17th November in reply to question that he would only answer Questions on the Order Paper in accordance with the customs and traditions of the House?

Mr. Speaker

There has been no refusal on the part of the Prime Minister to answer supplementaries. His answer may be unsatisfactory—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—that is a matter of opinion, and it always has been. Not only may any Minister answer questions in any way that he likes, but he may also in the last resort refuse to answer questions if he so desires. This is a point of politics, not of order.