To ask the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, how many of the staff in the Members' Dining Room have been given dismissal notices; how many more dismissals are contemplated; and what alternative staff are to be engaged.
On a point of order. In view of the fact that the House rises tomorrow for the Recess and the action which is being taken by the Kitchen Committee on behalf of all hon. Members of the House, may I ask whether it would be possible for the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Steward) as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, to answer Question No. 106, Sir?
Further to that point of order. As it would be impossible for the House to do justice to this case because of the time factor involved, is it not possible for you to extend your indulgence, Sir, to a matter which is of prime importance because of the violation of very important trade union rules in this connection?
I have just looked at the Question. I am afraid I cannot relax the rule. Otherwise, there would be no end to it; every hon. Member whose Question was not reached would think he had a similar right. This seems, from the glance I have had at the Question, to concern the action of the Kitchen Committee, which is an all-party Committee. Surely there are other ways of dealing with this domestic matter, through the usual channels.
Further to that point of order. You said, quite rightly of course, that you must maintain the rules of the House, but the rules of the House have enabled you in previous months to allow a Question to be asked if the Minister has asked for permission, even at this hour of Question time. If the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Steward) asked your permission to answer the Question, would you allow the Question to be asked and answered, Sir?
If the hon. Member reflects, he will see that that procedure would land the House into numerous repetitions of the difficulty. The rule is quite clear; if a Minister, in the public interest, asks my permission to reply to a Question that has not been reached, and I approve, that can be done but I could not have such a breach in the rules as is suggested.
I was going to ask your guidance. You were good enough to say a minute ago that there were other methods by which this matter could be raised. I wonder if you would be good enough to say how, before tomorrow and before the dismissals take effect, it will be possible for us to raise the matter?
I did not mean that it could be raised necessarily in the House, but I gather that this is about the Kitchen Committee. The Kitchen Committee is an executive body elected by this House and contains, I understand, hon. Members of all parties. I suggest that hon. Members should get in touch with those hon. Members on the Committee to see if anything could be done.
Order. Quite apart from the other considerations in this matter, we have passed that now. The hon. and gallant Member should have done it at the end of Questions. We have had a statement since.