HL Deb 03 May 1972 vol 330 cc740-1

LORD MORRIS had given notice of his intention to ask the following Question:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to protect the taxpayer from the machinations of the contractors for the building of the M.4 which, opened as recently as December 22, now reveals cracks in the slow lane and hard shoulder necessitating the reduction of the motorway so far to two lanes.


My Lords, before the Question on the Order Paper in the name of Lord Morris is answered, I wish to call attention to the offensive phraseology in the second line of the Question. For the information of the House, may I briefly refer to the paragraph under which I wish to call attention to the matter? It is on page 78 of the Companion and reads: The decision whether or not a Question 'is in order' and may properly be asked is in the last resort one for the House itself. It goes on to say: Although the House allows considerably more latitude than does the House of Commons, there are certain categories of Question which are generally regarded as not being in accordance with the traditions of the House, i.e., are considered inadmissible. Such questions are … those phrased offensively. The phrase in the Question, "the machinations of the contractors" is offensive and ought not to appear on the Order Paper.


My Lords, may I support what the noble Lord has said? The House has the power to deny the right of a noble Lord to ask a Question, and in my opinion it is a gross breach of the customs of the House that this language should be used in a Question.


My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford and the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition have said. This is a matter which lies entirely within the discretion of your Lordships' House. "Machination", so far as I understand it from a quick glance at the dictionary, refers to laying plots or intrigues. This does not seem to me appropriate or Parliamentary wording. My own suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is that it would be better if he were not to ask this Question and were to re-phrase it.