Oral Answers to Questions — Questions to Ministers

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st December 1944.

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The following Question stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. LEACH: 40. To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he can make any statement regarding a further alleviation of the present black-out.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

In view of the importance of this Question, would the Home Secretary answer it at the end of Questions?

Later

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

On a point of Order. I think the House would be glad to have a reply from the Home Secretary to Question No. 40. He does not seem to be in his place. I was wondering whether you, Sir, could help us.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member cannot on a point of Order ask another Member's Question.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

If a Minister thinks in his wisdom that he would like to answer a Question which has not been asked, he has the right to do so. If the House desires to have a Question answered, can it not ask the Minister to answer it?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The matter rests with the Minister and not with me. I am sorry that I cannot help the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr Thomas Harvey Mr Thomas Harvey , Combined English Universities

May I ask you, Sir, if your attention has been called to the large number of Members who have not been in their place to ask their Questions; and does not that cause great inconvenience to Ministers, and to the House?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I am obliged to the hon. Member for mentioning the matter. I regard it as somewhat discourteous to the House if one does not trouble to attend when one has put a Question on the Paper.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

May I ask you, Sir, whether you will consider whether it is not possible to make some arrangements with Members that, if practicable, and if circumstances permit, when they have sufficient time, they should notify either yourself or the Minister responsible of their intention not to be present so that the Question may be taken off the Paper and other Members be able to put their Questions?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I will certainly consider whether there is any practicable way of doing that.

Photo of Captain Leonard Plugge Captain Leonard Plugge , Rochester Chatham

When a Minister replies to two Questions at the same time he always asks the permission of the two Members. If the first Member is not there to ask his Question, could not the Minister reply to the second?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

As you, Sir, are being asked to commit yourself to a new policy will you consider that circumstances sometimes arise which prevent Members from being present? They have other work to do, sometimes committee work which debars them from coming to the House.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I can assure the hon. Member that I will not act hastily nor willingly make reflections on hon. Members which are unjustifiable.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

Would it not be wise to keep in mind that the Minister of War Transport warned us about the difficulty of travelling in the holiday time and that many who represent distant constituencies have already left?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That should not have prevented hon. Members from withdrawing their Questions.

Miss Rathbone:

Would it not be possible to revive the pre-war practice of allowing a Member who cannot be present to transfer his Question to another Member? Would that not meet the difficulty?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I think this is a matter for the House and not for me.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore , Ayr District of Burghs

As we expect Ministers—and they invariably respect the convention—to be in their place to answer Questions, surely Members should obey the same convention and be in their places to ask Questions. It is not a matter that is solely concerned with to-day. It has been going on for a long time.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Might I ask you to bear in mind, Sir, that the hour for Questions is not the only time for Members to attend the House?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I do certainly bear that in mind.