Questions to Ministers

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th January 1976.

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Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Melton 12:00 am, 15th January 1976

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be grateful for your ruling, either today or whenever it is convenient, on the question of blocking answers by Ministers, in particular with reference to the answer given to Question No. Q1 today by the Prime Minister, when he gave the impression that there had been an indication by you that you were prepared to allow him to restrict his answer to the specific engagements he intended to carry out on the day in question. That prevents Back Benchers from making alternative suggestions of engagements which they think it might be worth his while to carry out Will you give a ruling on this matter, Mr. Speaker? It is of great importance to Back Benchers if Ministers are allowed to give blocking answers.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not correct to suggest that within the last 15 or 20 years it has become far more customary to put down meaningless Questions to the Prime Minister about engagements covering a multitude of sins instead of concentrating on one specific issue, fact or policy, as was the case in earlier years? Would it not be better to discourage this widening of the process and to return to a better tradition?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I agree with the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) as to the importance of this point of order. I also agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). My views on this "peg" system are well known. It is completely unsatisfactory, and I only wish that the Procedure Committee could find another way. However, I shall consider the matter. I shall examine what the Prime Minister said today and what I may have said on previous occasions. If I can give guidance I shall do so, but this is really a matter for the Procedure Committee.