On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you protect me, as a Back-Bench Member, against the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I received a note from the Chancellor's parliamentary clerk saying that he was asked
to let you know that your Question for Oral answer on 24 March about the cost of the Falkland Islands war is one for the Secretary of State for Defence.
I do not normally complain about the transfer of questions, but on this occasion the question to be transferred was No. 2 on the Order Paper for 24 March, formerly No. 17, which would have been reached. It read:
Pursuant to the reply to the hon. Member for West Lothian, Official Report, 6th December, c. 346, whether he is now able to add to the reply to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire on 11th November, Official Report, c. 247, on the cost of the Falkland Islands war.
The original questions—the first from my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), followed quite properly by mine—were accepted by the Treasury as bona fide questions. When, lo and behold, there is a chance of an oral answer at prime time, then and only then does the Chancellor ask his parliamentary clerk to transfer the question. When I telephoned the Treasury, the good parliamentary clerk had no idea why it had been done and said that he had to consult other divisions. This raises a rather more substantial point than the simple transfer of a question.