HC Deb 25 April 1972 vol 835 cc1274-7
Mr. Kaufman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to draw your attention to the situation created earlier today by the answers of the Minister of State to the Treasury to Questions 5, 11 and 12. In doing so, I assure you, Sir, that no deliberate discourtesy was intended to yourself by me during that interchange in what was an intolerable situation created for you and the House by the deception carried out upon the House by the Minister.

I raise this matter not because I regard you as in any sense responsible for the content of answers, Mr. Speaker, since you are not responsible for that aspect, but because you are the guardian of the rights of back benchers at Question Time. When the right of back benchers to question Ministers is placed in jeopardy by the way in which Ministers answer Questions, it is surely correct that we should appeal to you to protect back benchers——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The content of the Minister's answer is not a matter for a point of order. I thought the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) was about to ask whether he should have been called for a supplementary question. I am prepared to deal with that matter because I have now in my hands the draft of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The impression I gained as far as my hearing was concerned was that the hon. Member did not get up on a point of order. He asked a question. He said: I think the Minister has given a wrong answer. Before we get on, should he not reconsider his answer and give the correct statistic? Therefore, I maintain I was entirely within my rights in the course I took.

Mr. Kaufman

I wish in no way, Mr. Speaker, to dispute your ruling, and I do not seek in any way to suggest that you should have called me for a supplementary question if by inadvertence or in some other way I failed to rise on a point of order. What I wish to do is not to ask you to rule on the contents of answers to a Question but to ask you about the rights of back benchers. For the past year and nine months, whenever the question of the purchasing power of the pound has been raised, I have attempted to put this matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Question Time, and the Minister concerned has given an answer—as can be seen from column 211, of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 28th March—based on the general index of retail prices. Surely hon. Members in seeking to deal with a Question would be justified in expecting the Minister to continue to deal with that series of Questions, but for the first time today the new Minister of State gave an answer based on a completely different series, which was——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That may be a very good point of argument and a sound matter for debate, but it is not something which can be brought within the rules of a point of order.

Mr. Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A few moments ago, in dealing with a point of order which had been disposed of you quoted to the House the text of the OFFICIAL REPORT which had come into your hands. Might I seek your guidance on this point, because it has been commonly understood that it is not in order for other hon. Members to obtain or quote during a current sitting the official record made for the OFFICIAL REPORT of anything any hon. Member has said? It may be that there is, and perhaps should be, a distinction in this respect between the Chair and any other hon. Member, but I wonder whether you would think it right to clarify this point either now or subsequently.

Mr. Speaker

I will clarify the matter now, so far as I can. I have always understood that Mr. Speaker was the exception to that rule. The OFFICIAL REPORT is published under Mr. Speaker's control, and he is the one person who is entitled to send for it. Since the right hon. Gentleman has raised the matter, and, going on the basis that the Chair can always be wrong, I shall look at this matter again to see whether I am right.

Mr. Dempsey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will notice that my Question No. 22 was not reached. When an hon. Member goes to the trouble of tabling a Question 14 days earlier it is a shame that the Question is not reached because of the regrettable incident which took place when my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) was asked to leave the Chamber. During that period altercations ensued between you, Mr. Speaker, and some hon. Members on my side of the House, and a considerable time was lost in the process. When an incident of this type occurs and leads to so much of Question Time being lost, is it not possible to allow time for those Questions to be answered after the Prime Minister has answered his Questions?

Mr. Speaker

In this as in many other contexts the prospect of "injury time" is very attractive, and I have often thought in regard to interruptions that the idea of "injury time" is a good one. But, as always happens whenever the Chair tries to hurry things up, it usually takes more time. I am under constant pressure to try to get through more Questions more quickly, and whenever I try to do so it seems to cause trouble. I believe that what I did today was right, and I do not apologise for it.

Mr. Clinton Davis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Reverting to the question put to you by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), I must point out that I was sitting next to him when he raised his point——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick was kind enough to say that any criticism by him of the Chair was not a matter which he was seeking to pursue. We must pass on to the next business.

Mr. Davis

I was seeking to refer not to the conduct of the Chair in any shape or form, Mr. Speaker, but to the reporting in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for a point of order today. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) was right to say what he did as the general rule.

Back to