HC Deb 08 February 1989 vol 146 cc998-9 4.27 pm
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask for your indulgence. Perhaps you can guide me. If you look at Question No. 99 on the Order Paper for today, you will see that it stands in my name and begins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department". The question which I tabled was to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Foreign Office decided to transfer the question to the Home Office. I cannot understand how the Home Secretary, with all the wisdom he has, can answer a question about the activities of the Foreign Secretary. Surely that is the responsibility of the Foreign Secretary. There must be a mechanism which enables Back Benchers to ask a question about the activities of the Foreign Secretary without having it transferred.

I raise the matter with you, Mr. Speaker, because I intend to table the same question for the next cycle. I ask you to note Question No. 12, which relates to Israel, Question No. 88, which relates to Zambia and, more particularly, Question No. 56, which relates to Gibraltar. The Isle of Man, for which the Home Secretary answers in the House of Commons, is a Crown colony. I cannot see how the Home Secretary can answer when I asked when the Foreign Secretary last met members of the Manx Government.

Mr. Speaker

I understand the hon. Gentleman's perplexity. I cannot give him an answer. Perhaps he should wait for the answer to the question, when all may be revealed. I cannot go further than that.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order relates to Foreign Office questions. I am sure you will have observed, Mr. Speaker, that a total of no fewer than eight questions were not asked or were withdrawn today. Not only is this infuriating to those who are unsuccessful in the ballot for questions and who hope to catch your eye to ask a supplementary, but it is a discourtesy to the House and to you, Mr. Speaker.

Is there not a case for the House to look at this and perhaps debarring an offending Member from tabling any further questions for a period? If you tell me, Mr. Speaker, that that is not the matter for you, will you in any event express your displeasure at this growing practice?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to hon. Members who have not alerted the Chair to the fact that they cannot be present at Question Time. Some right hon. and hon. Members do, of course, have perfectly good reasons for not being present and three hon. Members told me of their inability to be present this afternoon. However, it is distressing for hon. Members who are not called on one question, but who hope to be called on another which is broadly similar, to miss their opportunity because another hon. Member is not present. I say again to the House that, if hon. Members cannot be present, they should always let the Chair know.

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