HC Deb 19 June 1995 vol 262 cc18-9
33. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Lord President of the Council what percentage of requests for debate at business questions resulted in parliamentary debates. [27632]

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

Representations at business questions are among a wide range of factors that influences the content and timing of the business of the House. In recent months, several debates have responded to such representations.

Mr. Flynn

Unfortunately, the Leader of the House has not answered the question. Does he agree that most right hon. and hon. Members regard business questions as a valuable opportunity to raise matters that are not otherwise on the Order Paper, with no real expectation of securing a debate? Does he agree that the system of business questions is now a meaningless ritual and that we should replace it with the system used in many Parliaments around the world, such as India and the United States, where, with the agreement of the Speaker, Members can speak for one minute during a period of about 10 minutes every day and raise any subject? Does he agree that the system of business questions and points of order is now archaic, meaningless, time-wasting and inefficient?

Mr. Newton

It is clear that, were any such opportunity to be created, the hon. Gentleman would almost immediately talk it out. Many of his suggestions are clearly for the Procedure Committee. It seems sensible that there should be a weekly business statement. How people choose to use it is a matter for them, under the rules laid down by you, Madam Speaker, but much ingenuity is undoubtedly used.

Mr. Dykes

Contrary to the previous churlish and over-lengthy question, will my right hon. Friend accept the thanks of the House for being a fair-minded Leader of the House and providing opportunities for debates on many subjects? In the same constructive spirit, will he give a little more thought to having slightly more debates on Europe on the Floor of the House, not just in Committee, so that we can debate the obvious merits of the single currency more often?

Mr. Newton

On the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, on one recent occasion many members of the Select Committee on European Legislation found it useful to be able to question a Minister in a way that would not be possible on the Floor of the House. I agree entirely with the first part of my hon. Friend's question.