HC Deb 27 November 1978 vol 959 cc33-4
Mr. Arthur Latham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not giving you or my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) notice of this matter, but it arose only at 3.25 this afternoon. You will have noted that when answering for the Church Commissioners at Question Time today my hon. Friend sat in an unaccustomed place on these Benches. The significance of that lies not in where he sits, but I believe that there is a convention that a member of the Government is not usually appointed by the House to act as the person responsible in the House for Questions concerning the business of the Church Commissioners.

I would not normally have sought to question this, but you, Mr. Speaker, and the House will be aware that in recent times certain actions and declarations by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have suggested that the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Minister is rather different from that which many of us had supposed. If my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood, by virtue of being a PPS, is now a member of the Government—[HON. MEMBERS:"No."]—it not inappropriate that he should continue to answer Questions for the Church Commissioners? I put that to you, Mr. Speaker, because you will know that I had considerable correspondence with yourself and with my right hon. Friend the Lord President and others seeking to establish that the Government are not responsible for the Church Commissioners and that this is entirely the responsibility of a Back-Bench Member.

I should be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you would look into this matter and advise the House.

Mr. Speaker

In theory, any hon. Member is allowed to sit where he likes in the Chamber, but there are customs which dictate where we sit. There was nothing at all by way of breach of order in the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) answering on behalf of the Church Commissioners where he did. Bearing in mind that there is High Church and Low Church, I think that he has come a little lower.