Questions to Ministers.

– in the House of Commons on 26th February 1924.

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Photo of Mr James Falconer Mr James Falconer , Forfarshire

I should like to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that, despite the speeding-up of the answers to questions, we are left with half the Scottish question unanswered. These questions raise important matters with which the people of Scotland are concerned, and it is only fair that on one day of the week we should be entitled to have our questions put, and to obtain answers in the presence of the House, before the questions to the Prime Minister are called upon. Representations were made to the Government in accordance with suggestions, and we understood that arrangements would be made under which we should be able to get our questions answered to-day, but you have seen what the result has been. I think we have a grievance which the Government ought to meet, so as to enable the people of Scotland to get the attention to which they are entitled.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Morgan Lieut-Colonel David Morgan , Rhondda East

May I also draw attention to the mining questions? Mining is the second industry of importance in the country, and we have never had a question on mining put since the Session opened. Our questions began at number 99 on the Paper to-day, and it was hopeless to expect that they would be reached. Can nothing be done, either by an extension of Question Time, or by some other arrangement, so that mining questions on one day of the week can come first, or be placed somewhere early in the list?

Photo of Viscount  Ednam Viscount Ednam , Hornsey

May I point out that the Minister of Transport has not yet had a chance of answering an oral question? May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can make proper arrangements so that the Minister of Transport and the Secretary for Mines can have an opportunity of answering questions earlier in the list?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

These questions were asked last week, on Tuesday. I said then that this matter was not within my control, but I have learned since that certain attempts are being made to get a more favourable place for the Scottish questions, and I believe that it is the unfortunate indisposition of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Spoor) which has delayed those arrangements. I certainly hope it will be possible to make them.

As for the other question, if the curiosity of Members be maintained at its present level, it is clear that all the Ministers cannot be under the review of questions. In order to share Question Time more fairly, the House might, therefore, be willing to allot to each Member not more than two questions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Agreed!" and "One!"] I hear some Members ask for a limit of one. My only desire is that all hon. Members should get a fair share of the facilities of this House.

Some hon. Members, apparently, are unable to ask questions without following them up with Supplementary questions, and those are usually the hon. Members who have already three questions on the paper. I think that it might be for the convenience of the House if, at the beginning of next week, we were to limit the number of questions allowed to each hon. Member to two. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed" and "No!"] I would point out that that number would enable hon. Members to ask eight questions a week. The number of Members who avail themselves of the opportunity is such that it is only in this way that the time at present allotted can be made sufficient. [HON. MEMBERS: "More time!"]

Lieut.-Colonel WATTS-MORGAN:

Would it be possible to ration the Ministers with a certain number of questions each day? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is all very well for the Prime Minister to laugh at that. When we come to question No. 45 or No. 30, certain Ministers drop out, and give way to other Ministers. Something like what I suggest should be done to relieve the situation.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I have thought of that point, but I do not think that at present it would meet the views of the House.

Photo of Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck , Nottingham South

Is it suggested that private Members should surrender, in a fit of subserviency, their right to cross-question Ministers, which is the only right that private Members have left against an arbitrary and incompetent Government?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

On the contrary, I am endeavouring to have an additional number of Ministers for the Noble Lord to shoot at.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

Would hon. Members be good enough to let me have their views through the usual channel?