§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise with you a point that occurred earlier when we ended quesions to the Member answering for the Church Commissioners. For a moment it seemed that you would continue with the following part of the Order Paper—arts questions—but you then recovered and returned to Welsh questions.
In fact, the Order Paper states that arts questionswill begin not later than 3.20 pmThat would have enabled arts questions to commence earlier. I do not object by any means to more time for Wales, nor do I ignore the major questions affecting Wales, but I believe that the time now allocated to arts questions — an increasingly important subject — is extremely limited. Given that there was only one Church Commissioners' question and that there were many anxious questions on the arts, perhaps with your help, Mr. Speaker, we can look at this through the usual channels to see whether sufficient time can be allocated to this increasingly important subject.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
Yes, Mr. Speaker. It may not have escaped your notice that on previous occasions we have had difficulty getting enough time for Welsh questions, which clash with arts questions. As today only six out of 20 Opposition Members from Wales were able to be here, would it not be helpful if Welsh questions were moved to a Wednesday so that those hon. Members could be present, in addition to which it might be possible to allocate more time to the arts?
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House will know that on Mondays, such as this, which hon. Members with an interest in the arts regard as precious, we already lose 10 minutes from the time devoted to questions on the major subject by Church Commissioners questions and questions to the hon. Member answering for the House of Commons Commission. The latter always seems to be the same question answered in the same way. Would you, Mr. Speaker, arrange to bring this matter to the attention of the Procedure Committee so that more than half the questions to the arts can be put?
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I point out that today we spent four times as long on Welsh questions as on arts questions, although fewer than twice as many Welsh questions were tabled?
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn, Hatfield)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I congratulate you on allowing arts questions to take place once every three weeks, whereas in the last Parliament they occurred only once every four weeks?
§ Mr. Speaker
All these matters are better discussed through the usual channels or the Procedure Committee. They are not matters for me. We did well with Welsh questions today, and with any luck we would have reached 20 questions to the arts earlier had not the one Church Commissioners' question lasted five minutes, which was a surprise to me.
§ Mr. Buchan
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We shall try to draw to the attention of the usual channels your helpful nod in our direction. May I have an answer on my specific question? As the Order Paper statesnot later than 3.20 pm",why should we not have moved directly to arts questions?
§ Mr. Speaker
For the very reason that I have just given. Had we reached the end of Welsh questions before 3.20 pm, we would have reached arts questions earlier. Indeed, that is what I had hoped might happen today.