HC Deb 29 July 1975 vol 896 cc1514-6
Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you whether you will look, at your leisure—if you ever get any—at the procedure in regard to Question No. 01, which I cite as an illustration of something that is happening quite frequently now? Question No. 01 to the Prime Minister asks for a copy of a speech made by the Prime Minister to be placed in the Library. It refers to a speech made in London on 14th July. In his reply, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said "Yes, Sir, that was done on that day". That question could not have been tabled until 15th July.

I have always understood that as a rule Members cannot ask Questions of Ministers on matters in relation to which the information required is freely and readily available. It only needed the hon. Member concerned or any hon. Member to go to the Library and request a copy of the statement the Prime Minister had made on the previous day. The officials in the Library would have said "Yes, here it is". If the hon. Member did not go to do that, that, with great respect, is his fault. I do not mean this offensively in respect of the hon. Member concerned, because this happens on both sides of the House. However, it is becoming an abuse of the House to ask Ministers to do what they have already done, when the Member could check on that. I could now ask the Prime Minister whether he was going to Helsinki on 1st August. I know that he is going to do that. By doing that, I would, therefore, prevent some Questions tabled by other Members from being reached, when those Members are genuinely seeking information.

Will you please look at this matter. Mr. Speaker, and perhaps discuss it through the usual channels to try to get this practice dealt with and to prevent this sort of thing happening?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) for raising this matter and for the way in which he has raised it. My personal view is that the present system of Prime Minister's Questions is un- satisfactory. However, the only trouble is that when last a Select Committee looked at the matter, it could not find a better way of doing things. I still think that this system of having pegs on which supplementary questions can be hung is not really satisfactory. But constructive suggestions as to ways of solving the problem are rather deficient in their appearance. However, I shall consider the matter.