HC Deb 28 January 1971 vol 810 cc804-6
Q2. Mr. Ashton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct his Ministers to give reasons to hon. Members when they decide to transfer Questions.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, because the reason for transferring Questions is that they have been addressed to the wrong Minister.

Mr. Ashton

Is the Prime Minister aware that he is the worst offender? On his performance this afternoon he is not only transferring Questions but beginning to transfer supplementary answers as well? Does he not think that we should be able to ask Questions without their being transferred? Will he come clean with the House, and get to grips with the realities of the country's problems?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends ask such inadequate supplementaries they must expect to have Questions transferred. There has been a 57 per cent. increase in Questions to myself, and a 40 per cent. increase in the number of Questions answered, with no increase in my staff to deal with them. If there had been the same 40 per cent. increase in productivity throughout the nation, with the number of staff remaining unchanged, we should not have any problems.

Mr. Molloy

Is the Prime Minister aware that he is on record as telling the House that certain Ministers are designated to answer certain Questions on prices? We can understand why the Prime Minister and the Government are touchy about prices, but does he not agree that it is going too far, almost to the edge of political cowardice, when the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food refuses point blank to carry out the Prime Minister's instruction to answer my Questions and those of other hon. Members on prices? Will he put a stop to it?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends have not refused to answer, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

Mr. Maclennan

On a point of order. For the purpose of future statistics of Prime Ministerial Questions, may we have your Ruling that Questions begged by the Prime Minister will not be listed as Questions answered by him?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.