HC Deb 10 February 1977 vol 925 cc1671-3
Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise the point that I sought to raise at Question Time, It is the habit of Ministers to link together identical or near identical Questions. There were a number of Questions on the Order Paper today, on a particular subject, which were asked by hon. Members from Great Britain. There was one in my name, also, about the same subject. The Minister linked all the Questions by hon. Members from Great Britain but he did not include mine. As this House has agreed that Northern Ireland affairs do not get enough time, may I draw the attention of the Minister to this fact?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member knows that the grouping of Questions is not a matter for me, but I am quite sure that his words will have been noted.

Mr. Marten

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have listened to the business questions, and you will have noticed that about five or six were concerned with Oliver Cromwell. He has nothing to do with the business for next week or the following week. Would you allow another five or six replacement questions, because this is the only opportunity that Back Benchers have for influencing the business for the following weeks? Therefore, could we have a few more questions?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must realise the difficulty with which I am faced. If business questions are regarded as timeless, they will go on and on and on. There is other business to be dealt with today. It is my recollection—ever since I have been in the House—that it has not been the custom to go on quite as long as I allow for business questions.

The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.

Mr. Ashley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I appreciate the answer that you gave to the first point of order raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Paisley) that grouping of Questions is not your responsibility, and I accept your ruling, nevertheless I am concerned about this. I have tabled 50 Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Services on vaccine-damaged children, and in the grouping of these questions the secretary of state has evaded some of them. I submit that, despite your reply to the point of order, it is your job to protect hon. Members' rights in the House, and that if Ministers are allowed to evade Questions by grouping the Answers, hon. Members rights are not being protected. Does this not conflict with your rôle?

Mr. Speaker

Strictly speaking, I should not have allowed that point of order because I had called upon the Orders of the Day to be read. I allowed it because of the special circumstances of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) who may not have been able to follow the procedure at that moment. With regard to the grouping of Questions, I reiterate that this is a matter for Ministers and not for me.