§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order. May I first apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, for the fact that I have not been able to give you prior notice of my point of order. I have been away from the House on parliamentary business and 455 have not had an opportunity of approaching you. On Monday I tabled a Question which was accepted by the Table Office and which was placed on the Order Paper. I quote from page 2827 of the Votes and Proceedings of 5th February, Question No. 108, set down for expedited Written Reply, in which Iask the Prime Minister to what extent public money is being spent, and civil servants' time being occupied, in inquiring into the leak to the Press about his recent medical check-up.Late last evening I received a note from the Table Office saying that it had withdrawn the Question because it felt that it was not in order, and on that I made no adverse comment. I was surprised that it had been accepted and then withdrawn but of course I accepted the assurance of the Table Office that it had done it and that the Prime Minister's Office was not involved. When I received today's Votes and Proceedings I saw on page 2877 a list of Questions withdrawn but no notice was given that my Question had been withdrawn. I went to the Table Office and was told that the Question would not be shown as having been withdrawn, although it had been withdrawn, because the Table Office had made a mistake originally in accepting it.
My point of order relates to the general question and not to the particular. If a situation arose in which a Question was accepted as being in order, was placed upon the Order Paper, and was thereby accepted, would it be in order for the Table Office—of course without pressure from the Prime Minister's Office; that I accept—to withdraw it and to notify the hon. Member but for that Question not to be shown to have been withdrawn in the next issue of the Votes and Proceedings?
We all know that if a Question is withdrawn from the Order Paper it is usually withdrawn by an hon. Member who gives notice of the withdrawal. I am not concerned here with whether there was or was not a Press leak or whether civil servants' time was or was not expended. May I conclude—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—by saying that I do not expect you to give a reply on the spur of the moment, Mr. Speaker, but will you consider the matter and perhaps give a considered reply at your leisure?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some weeks ago I complained about the impossible position in which we were placed when questioning the Minister for the bureaucracy and as a result of your sympathy his position on the Order Paper was advanced from Question No. 40 to Question No. 30 as the commencing point. The situation today has demonstrated that starting at Question No. 30 is no good either, and we are—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. May I help the hon. Member? This matter has been taken into account and next time Questions to the Minister will commence at 3.10 p.m., thus meeting the point.
§ Mr. Lipton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have already ruled that Questions to the Attorney-General will be taken not later than 3.20 p.m. You have now also ruled that the same situation will apply to Questions to the Minister for the Civil Service. Can that same principle be extended to one or two other Ministers whom we find it very difficult to reach?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member said that I had so ruled. I have not ruled. This is a matter for arrangement between those who govern the affairs of the House much more than I do when considering the order of business of the House and Questions. It has nothing to do with me, but, in my view, the new arrangement is for the convenience of the House.