§ Mr. Speaker
I have a brief statement to make about Questions.
I see from the OFFICIAL REPORT that, in replying yesterday to a point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), I may inadvertently have given the impression that the order in which Questions are printed on the Order Paper is determined by chance, and chance alone. This is not the case.
As hon. Members who have visited the Table Office will know, as soon as a Question has been agreed to be in order it is placed in the lowest-numbered of a series of blue pouches, which are sent to the printer at regular intervals, the lowest number going first. The sequence in which the Questions in each pouch are printed depends to some extent on the order in which they are removed from the pouch at the printing works, and it is in this respect only that chance prevails.
Nevertheless, hon. Members may be assured that a Question contained in a later pouch is never printed above one for answer on the same date which was sent over in an earlier pouch. Questions for the Prime Minister are treated in exactly the same way as other Questions.
The system is described in detail in paragraph 3 of the Fifth Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, of last Session, and in the answers to questions 81 to 83 of the evidence upon which that 434 Report was based. In a later paragraph the Committee recommended that, on balance, the system should not be altered. The House took note of that Report in the debate on Procedure on 14th November last year. I am informed by the Table Office that the practice has not since then been changed in any respect, nor would any such change be permitted without the House having been apprised of the proposal to change it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of order. I am grateful for your interest in the matter, Mr. Speaker. May I inform you, Sir, and the House, that my Question was placed on the Order Paper some time before another Question, which was called before mine. How this happened I do not know. I do not know whether it is chance, whether it is a gamble. In any event, it does not matter, because the Written Answer I received from the Prime Minister was thoroughly unsatisfactory.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Further to that point of order. Would it not be fair to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to observe that Privy Councillors are always in a position of precedence in the fashion in which they are called on the Floor of the House? Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has nothing whatever to complain about.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will you, Mr. Speaker, correct the hon. Gentleman? Is it not the case that hon. Members are called, 435 whether they are Privy Councillors or would-be Privy Councillors, at your discretion, and that we accept your discretion?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I was about to correct the hon. Gentleman if the right hon. Gentleman had allowed me to correct him. There is no precedence for Privy Councillors at Question Time.