HC Deb 29 March 1976 vol 908 cc891-3
35. Mr. Steen

asked the Lord President of the Council if he is satisfied with the procedures for establishing the numerical order of oral Questions.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)


Mr. Steen

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that when oral Questions arrive at the printers, they are taken out of a pouch, divided into two or three piles, put together back into one package, and that there is no shuffling? Will he, therefore, purchase a revolving drum out of which oral Questions could be taken in order to ensure a true lottery?

Mr. Short

I believe that the hon. Gentleman has visited the printers and seen this process. I am assured that he saw the Questions being shuffled. An oral Question may be put down 10 sitting days in advance of the day on which it is due to be answered. The first batch of Questions must go to the printers by 4 o'clock on that day. They are shuffled. If the hon. Gentleman has an alternative method to suggest, I have no doubt that the Clerks would be prepared to look at it, but perhaps it would be more suitable to let a sessional Select Committee on Procedure look at it.

Mr. Lipton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is no procedure for establishing the numerical order of oral Questions, that the whole lot is mixed up, that the bundle then goes to the printers by 4 o'clock, and thereafter it is a matter of blind luck as to which Questions the printers take first out of the bundle?

Mr. Short

I have already explained that at 4 o'clock they are put out on the table, shuffled, and taken out in random order.

Mr. Marten

As one who occasionally managed to get top for Questions to the Prime Minister in the last Parliament, may I support the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Waver-tree (Mr. Steen) that the Leader of the House should buy a very large drum and give it a very big shuffle indeed?

Mr. Short

I think that there would not be room at the premises used by the Editorial Supervisor for a large drum. No doubt the Clerks will have listened to these Questions and will see what can be done to improve the procedure. But I have satisfied myself, as I think the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) has, that the present system does not give any advantage to any hon. Member.