HC Deb 11 November 1977 vol 938 cc1015-6
Mr. Speaker

I have a brief statement to make. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) raised a complaint about a Question transferred by the Prime Minister to the Secretary of State for Industry. It had, the hon. Gentleman said, been robbed of its sense by being transferred to another Minister. The hon. Gentleman accepted that the Clerks at the Table had power to sub-edit Questions and that they exercised that power to make sense of transferred Questions. He asked that when the Clerks acted in that way the Member whose Question it was should be informed.

The hon. Gentleman stated correctly the practice about sub-editing. Several of my predecessors have upheld the full power of the Clerks at the Table to sub-edit Questions. "Erskine May ", in the nineteenth edition at page 326, has a citation to that effect.

I must remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that the point of giving the Clerks this power is to save the time taken in referring a Question back to the Member when the corrections are not of major importance. In the case of a transferred Question, I should expect the power of sub-editing to cover any amend. ments to the Question which were required as a consequence of its having been transferred. They take this action when the transferred Question is reprinted on the blue Notice Paper. It is open to any hon. Member, on receiving notice from a Minister that his Question has been transferred, to discuss with the Table Office any consequential alterations to his Question.

Mr Tebbit

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to you for what you say. This issue has arisen only because of the number of transfers, which perhaps has recently been larger than normal for reasons that we under- stand and need not go into. I think it is agreed that there could have been a little more judicious sub-editing at times to preserve the meaning rather than merely to transfer the Question. I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for drawing this matter to the attention of the House, and to the ever-helpful and most erudite Clerks in the Table Office.

Mr. Speaker

That will stand the hon. Gentleman in good stead.

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