Questions to Ministers

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th April 1964.

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

To ask the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the decision of the United States Maritime Commission which concerns the freight charge contracts between British shipping firms and British shippers.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

To ask the Minister of Transport whether he will seek to arrange a meeting of representatives from this country and the United States of America concerned with the encouragement of trade between Great Britain and the United States of America to discuss the adverse effects on such trade which may be caused by the demand by the Federal Maritime Commission that dual freight rates negotiated by British shippers should be abolished.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

To ask the Minister of Transport what representations Her Majesty's Government has made, or proposes to make to the Government of the United States of America on the subject of the adverse effects on British shipping and British export trade which may be caused by the demand by the Federal Maritime Commission that dual freight rates negotiated by British shippers should be abolished.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

To ask the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking following the recent demands by the United States Federal Maritime Corn-mission that British shipowners should cancel existing freight contracts.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Mr. Speaker, the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport referred to certain Questions on the Order Paper relating to the recent activities and decisions of the United States Maritime Commission. As this is the first opportunity I have had, and other hon. Members have had, of putting Questions on the Order Paper, and as yet no statement has been made by the Minister of Transport, would you permit the right hon. Gentleman, if he so desires, to answer the Questions?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth Vauxhall

On that point, Mr. Speaker, I think that you are aware that a number of hon. Members, including myself, sought to put down a Private Notice Question on this very important matter. In those circumstances, and as it very directly affects a large industry, surely it is right for Parliament to have a statement from the Minister in reply to the Questions that are on the Order Paper.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

The right hon. Gentleman's questions, he will understand, could not, with respect, rightly be directed to me. It is not for me to pronounce on these matters. Had I been asked to allow a Question to be asked at the end of Oral Questions I must confess that I doubt whether I have powers to have refused it. My powers in the matter are governed by that.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Further to my submission, it is precisely because there was a failure, so I understand, to have a Private Notice Question accepted that we have had to wait for this opportunity to put the Questions on the Order Paper, but in a matter of such importance, and one which is so urgent as I have submitted to you, if the Minister himself can be persuaded to answer Questions, or make a statement, would you be willing to allow him to do so?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

With respect, I have answered that, and said so. I cannot carry the matter further. I am sorry—it is not for me.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth Vauxhall

In view of all this, Mr. Speaker, would it be in order to put down a Private Notice Question for the Minister to answer tomorrow?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I will rule on a Private Notice Question when I get it, in the circumstances then existing. I have to preserve that position, for the reasons known to the House.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Being only a back bencher and not a Privy Councillor, may I have a word in this, Mr. Speaker?

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Yesterday, I had a Written Question down to the Prime Minister, and asked whether he would answer it after Questions yesterday—

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

That is a waste of time.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

The answer given to me was that the Prime Minister preferred it to be dealt with, quite properly, by the Minister of Transport, but now my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is refusing to deal with the matter on the Floor of the House so that we can take part in a discussion.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

All that may be perfectly true, but it does not raise a point of order for me; that is the point I must bear in mind.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I put it to you with great respect that we have present the Leader of the House and the Minister of Transport. It has been said that this matter is of real national importance. Surely it is a very small request to ask the Leader of the House, through you, if he will ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to reply to the Questions.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

There is some confusion about this. The duties of the Chair do not extend to causing Ministers to be asked Questions through the Chair. It does not raise a point of order. All the merits may be all right.

Photo of Mr David Webster Mr David Webster , Weston-Super-Mare

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I myself put down a Private Notice Question to my right hon. Friend on the subject, and I understand —although, of course, I could not quote anybody—that this was pre-empted because of Questions already on the Order Paper today. Is not this a sufficiently urgent matter—not only a shipping matter, but urgent for the whole of this country's exports—for my right hon. Friend to be prevailed upon to ask leave of the House to answer the Questions?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

All I am resisting is the proposition that these matters can be dealt with by addressing to the Chair points of order on things which do not raise points of order for the Chair, because they are an abuse. Perhaps I had better emphasise now—and then I can get out of the way and see what happens—that it has not been the practice of the Chair to give any reasons for declining to accept Private Notice Questions, and none was, in fact, given, so it is dangerous to presume what they were.

Photo of Mr Ernest Marples Mr Ernest Marples , Wallasey

Mr. Speaker, I have noted the views of the House and would very much wish at the earliest possible moment to make a statement that would really interest the House. I should, therefore, very much like to consider this matter, and then come before the House and ask your permission to make a statement as soon as I possibly can.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Ballot for Notices of Motions for Friday, 17th April.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the Minister has made that statement, are we not now allowed to ask him questions?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

No. I thought that the hon. Lady's point of order related to the Ballot, otherwise I would not have been able to entertain it.