HC Deb 13 June 1979 vol 968 cc435-7
Mr. Newens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it possible to raise at this juncture the subject of the new arrangement made for the answering of foreign affairs questions? We now have foreign affairs questions, overseas aid questions and EEC questions all taken together, with the result that the House has only half an hour to deal with the rest of the world outside Europe.

Will you give the House guidance on one point? We completed our questions on Europe before 3.20 p.m. and many of us expected you to revert to questions on the rest of the world. However, you went straight on to questions dealing with overseas aid. This means once again that there are not the opportunities for hon. Members to question Ministers adequately on many important issues. Will you kindly explain your rulings on these matters, and say whether you will consider reverting to an arrangement that will provide more opportunities for hon. Members to question Ministers on the important issues that arise in the rest of the world?

Mr. Speaker

May I explain to the hon. Gentleman that I do not decide the order in which questions are arranged on the Order Paper or the allocation of time on the differing subjects. However, those responsible will have heard the hon. Gentleman's comments.

On the subject of my reverting to foreign affairs questions, the hon. Gentleman is right to make that point. But there were two minutes to run and, in my judgment, I thought that we would get through matters relating to overseas development and that we could then revert to the wider issue of foreign affairs. In fact, there would have been time for only one question. However, I take the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Hooley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The position is somewhat worse than my hon. Friend suggests. We are limited to 25 minutes to ask questions dealing with our relations with the whole of Asia, Africa, North America, South America and the Pacific. Would it be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to draw to the attention of those concerned the idea of returning to the former practice of having overseas development questions attached to a short period on a different day?

Mr. Speaker

The House will know that tomorrow we shall be dealing with business questions. It will be possible for the matter mentioned by the hon. Gentleman to be raised then.

Dr. Owen

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the Leader of the House is now in the Chamber, is he open to the suggestion that there should be discussions through the usual channels on this issue to try to resolve the genuine dissatisfaction that exists on both sides of the House?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

If arrangements are not in accordance with the general wishes of the House, we must re-examine them. I shall be willing to have discussions on this matter to see whether a solution satisfactory to everybody can be arrived at.