Questions to Ministers

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 1976.

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Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Melton 12:00 am, 29th January 1976

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I revert to a matter, Mr. Speaker, which you have discussed with the House before—that of the grouping of Questions and the rights of hon. Members in this regard? On a previous occasion, you said that there needed to be some flexibility, but I think that the House would appreciate more guidance from you.

For example, today the Minister of Agriculture grouped Questions Nos. 10, 15, 38 and 46 together, which I believe many of us would regard as going a long way down the list, whereas the Prime Minister is not grouping at all. This raises considerable difficulties for hon. Members and it would be helpful if you could give us some guidance.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I do not think that this is a matter on which the Chair should give guidance. I think that it is a matter for Ministers.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been well recognised, by the Select Committee on Procedure and others, that this is one of the most difficult problems we have and that it is not possible to lay down an absolute rule as between individual Ministers. In the case of my own Questions, there were complaints when, like my predecessor, I grouped my Question No. Q23, for example, with Question No. Q1. I have tried to group Questions up to No. Q10, but, because of the development of syndicates, this meant—[Laughter.] Oh yes. It meant that my Question No. Q1 was grouped with Nos. Q2, Q4, Q6, Q8 and Q9 and no other hon. Members got a look-in. I therefore announced to the House—I am surprised that this was not referred to—that from now on and until further notice, until the House could lay down some rules itself, I would not group at all, so as to give all hon. Members, not just members of the Tory syndicate, a chance to have their Questions answered.

Photo of Mr Stephen Hastings Mr Stephen Hastings , Mid Bedfordshire

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. While we are on the subject of Prime Minister's Questions, Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether you have noticed that of the 25 down today, 13, I think—over half—ask that he should visit some place, almost any place, from Penzance to Peru, and that two or three ask him what he is up to today. Would you accept—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. We have a very important debate to come. About 60 right hon. and hon. Members want to catch my eye later. There will be a debate on procedure on Monday and I should have thought that that was the time to raise these matters.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Moray and Nairn

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a Member from the North-East of the United Kingdom—as long as it is united—may I ask for some clarification of the use of the phrase "in this House", including the use by the Prime Minister today of the phrase "the North-East"? As one of the North-East MPs, I resent the fact—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. That is not a matter for the Chair.