§ Mr. Straw
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have given you and the Minister concerned notice of the point that I wish to raise. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that on Wednesday last week I referred to the fact that a question that I had tabled on the way in which the rebate on our EEC contributions was to be repaid was transferred from the Lord Privy Seal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer six days after it had been tabled.
When I raised the matter with you, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that that transfer was in breach of advice from the Select Committee on procedure that only two days should elapse before a question was transferred, and you said that it was discourteous and unfair to hon. Members for the Lord Privy Seal to have acted in the way that he did.
In the light of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I wrote on Thursday to the Lord Privy Seal asking him to take back the question, in order to restore me to the position that I would have been in had he not transferred the question. The right hon. Gentleman replied today, but has not dealt specifically with that point.
I am aware that you, Mr. Speaker, cannot determine which Minister should answer a question, but I submit that when a Minister transfers a question after the two days that the Procedure Committee recommended, and in clear breach of that Committee report, he should be under an obligation to restore the hon. Member concerned to the position in which he would have been had the Minister not acted in breach of the transfer rules.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With your agreement, I can inform the House and the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that his question will be answered at 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday.
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having, exceptionally, agreed to this procedure. I am also grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has responded so helpfully and rightly in this matter. I hope that in view of the action 1125 that has been taken, the hon. Member for Blackburn will feel that his rights have been respected.
§ Mr. Speaker
The point of order gives me the opportunity to tell the House that reports of the exchange last week indicated that I had hit the Lord Privy Seal on the head with a cleaver. I want to make clear that I hit him with a feather duster, and no more.