HC Deb 23 May 1978 vol 950 cc1334-5
Mr. Channon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You may have noticed that I had Question No. Q3 to the Prime Minister. I merely ask you, Mr. Speaker, when you are considering Questions to the Prime Minister, whether it is fair to those who had later questions on the Order Paper that discussion on Question No. Q2, asking the Prime Minister to list his official engagements, which appears time and time again on the Order Paper, should last for no fewer than 18 minutes with the result that even Question No. Q3 was not reached?

Mr. Speaker

First, I understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration because he had Question No. Q3. Secondly, he is not correct in saying that Question No. Q2 took 18 minutes. The Question occupied the House for longer than is usual, but the House itself has shown strongly that it goes for that sort of open Question. Even when we came to the end of supplementary questions on that Question, there were still a number of right hon. and hon. Members standing and waiting to be called.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I have other points of order that will follow the Prime Minister's statement.

Mr. Tebbit

My point of order, Mr. Speaker, concerns Prime Minister's Questions. I did not raise the point during Prime Minister's Questions, Mr. Speaker, knowing your preference for such points to be left until afterwards. You are rightly severe, Mr. Speaker, on hon. Members who ask supplementary questions that are not related to the Question on the Order Paper. I think that it would be in the interests of the House if you were as severe on Ministers, even Prime Ministers, who choose to read from their brief previously prepared answers to questions that have not been asked by any hon. Member. If that habit is allowed to continue, we may as well dispense with the questions and merely allow Ministers to read out whatever answers they want for 15 minutes.

Mr. Speaker

At the beginning of Prime Minister's Questions today the hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad), who asked the original Question, asked a supplementary question that in no way was linked with Tarporley. It was linked with many other things but not with Tarporley. That was why I felt that I could allow the Prime Minister to link an answer to Tarporley. Of course, Ministers are required—Prime Ministers and upwards—to answer questions, and usually they make an effort.