HC Deb 16 November 1987 vol 122 cc777-8

4.7 pm

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, question hour is a cherished, if limited, period in which Back Benchers can question Cabinet Ministers. The session on Welsh questions lasts only 35 minutes, so I should like to ask for your help with a problem, because, although it may not be immediately apparent, some Ministers try to pay attention during your judgments.

You will have noticed this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, that the Secretary of State for Wales was not present on what would have been only his third opportunity to be questioned by Welsh Members since his appointment. As 30 of the 38 hon. Members representing Wales are on the Opposition Benches, and as the Secretary of State does not represent a Welsh seat, it is particularly important that he should be here to be made aware of Welsh problems. We understand that he is in Japan, and we wish him well on his mission, but three weeks elapse between each session of Welsh questions. The right hon. Gentleman could have gone to Japan in the three weeks either before or after today. Therefore, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as custodian of Back-Bench interests, to say whether you would expect Cabinet Ministers to make every effort to be present, when their Department is due to answer questions.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not intolerable that the House should have to listen to the incompetent blatherings of the third choice for shadow Secretary of State—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that I can best deal with the matter. I received a letter from the Secretary of State saying that he could not be present at Question Time today. I note what the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) said, but it is not up to me to demand that anyone be present in the Chamber.