§ 15. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the President of the Board of Trade what consultations with the United States Government took place prior to the imposition of the 15 per cent. surcharge on imports.
§ Mr. Redhead
I would refer the hon. Member to the Answers given on 24th November by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys).
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
In view of that reply, can the hon. Gentleman explain the distinction that is drawn in paragraph 11 of the Government's White Paper on the economic situation, between the earnest consideration which the Government said they had given to the interests of E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth— [Interruption.]—countries and the continuous communication which they 1804 claimed to be engaged in with the United States Government? Can he further explain the reason for Sir Eric Roll's visit —[Interruption.]—to Washington over the weekend of 25th-26th October—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] Can he assure us that on the next occasion on which the Government find it desirable to renege on their international agreements—[HON. MEMBERS: "Special."]—they will not give the appearance of preferential treatment for the United States—[Interruption.]—over countries with which we have special contractual obligations?
§ Mr. Speaker
No, I intervened. The Chair has no remedy to the matter of over-long supplementary questions unless on a flagrant instance, or a serious instance, it declines to allow the question to be answered. My action was taken, in my belief, in the interests of the House.
§ Mr. Heath
Would it not be possible, Mr. Speaker, to ask supplementary questions in a rather shorter time if hon. Members on this side of the Chamber could be heard? [Interruption.] It was quite impossible to hear what my hon. Friend was saying because of the interruptions and rowdy behaviour on that side. In any case, should we not have a reply from the Minister of State?
§ Mr. Speaker
As to the latter part of what the right hon. Gentleman said, I have indicated my view already. With what he said before that I desire to express the most complete agreement. It is in the general interest of the House, if we are to make good progress with Questions, that there should not be so much noise as to interfere with proper hearing. I hope that we can all combine to get on with Questions. Mr. Loughlin.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
On a point of order. Is it not the case that the Minister had risen and was preparing to reply to my hon. Friend?
§ M. Hirst
On a point of order. While I am sure the House has the utmost sympathy with you, Mr. Speaker, and the difficulties you have mentioned, are those difficulties to deny the House opportunities for hearing—if the House wants to hear—answers to questions? I appreciate your difficulty, but would it not be better, whatever those difficulties—[Interruption.] I am speaking on a point of order to Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Time wasting."]
§ Mr. Hirst
On that point of order I was inquiring whether, while the House appreciates the difficulties you are in, those difficulties are to deny the House the opportunity of hearing an answer to a question. How can we as individual hon. Members pursue a matter if difficulties arising out of one hon. Member's supplementary question deny us answers from the Minister?
§ Mr. Speaker
The question will not have been answered. I do not stop to consider the effect of that on seeking to ask it again. One way of getting answers is not to put such long supplementary questions.
§ Mr. Ridley
On a point of order. Would progress be facilitated if you allowed my hon. Friend to ask his supplementary question again so that we might have the benefit of hearing the answer?
§ Mr. Speaker
What will facilitate progress is if I decline to hear further points of order on this. Mr. Loughlin.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
On a point of order. I thought I heard you say that you declined to allow the Minister to answer the supplementary question put by my hon. Friend. Did you therefore intend to rule that, if a supplementary question is put which is within the order of the House and the Minister decides to answer it, you might nevertheless decline to allow him to answer it as a rule of order?