HC Deb 12 February 1992 vol 203 cc977-8 3.30 pm
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My understanding is that Question Time is an opportunity for Back Benchers and others to ask questions of Ministers and for Ministers to give substantive answers. Today we have not had answers from the Ministers. All we have had is party political polemics. Do you, Mr. Speaker, have any power to instruct Ministers to earn their money—they are paid substantial amounts—and answer the questions on the Order Paper?

Mr. Speaker

I have no such power.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Those of us who have been here throughout Question Time and have questions on the Order Paper were satisfied with the answers given by my right hon. and hon. Friends. We recognise that it is impossible for everyone to be called, including myself, although I had hoped that my question would be reached.

Mr. Speaker

When we have a full hour, I try to reach at least Question 20. We managed to achieve that today.

I think that every hon. Member who wished to sign the book for the ballot has now done so, and I should like to draw it.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you find time to make it clear to Ministers that, if Opposition Front Bench Members were to rise to the taunts that we have heard often today to answer questions, give the Labour party's policy and so on, you would be forced to rule such interventions out of order? They are not here to answer questions. The Government are here to defend their policy, however inadequate they are at doing so.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Let me deal with one at a time. The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) and I have been in the House about the same length of time. Over the numerous elections in which he and I have taken part, I have noticed a tendency for this sort of thing to happen.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not in order for Opposition Front Bench Members to put their policies into the form of questions? If they had any faith in their policies, they would do so.

Mr. Speaker

I have already told the House that I am not responsible for the content of answers, as long as they are in order. I should now like to draw the ballot.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Happy birthday—all right.

Mr. Skinner

There have been occasions when there has been a waste of time during Question Time and you have allowed a little extra time. On this occasion, you were obviously not aware of what happened, but the baby-faced Minister—the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the one with the Pampers on—could not count beyond 20 and we lost two valuable minutes. I think that you should add those on.

Mr. Speaker

The trouble was that he did count beyond 20.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Having heard the Opposition constantly denigrating British industry, we were trying to get in to point out that we should help industry by encouraging the brightest and best, not by crying stinking fish as the Opposition do.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you could advise how the procedure might be reconsidered under which questions must be tabled two weeks in advance. We have seen the disadvantage of that today in that it is not possible directly to raise the 3,000 job losses at Gateway, the 2,000 redundancies at Rover and the 2,000 redundancies at British Aerospace. Events are moving so fast that 2,000 businesses have gone bust since these questions were tabled.

Mr. Speaker

This is a clear extension of Question Time. May I say to the hon. Gentleman that there are opportunities to put such questions to the Leader of the House during business questions on Thursday.