§ Mr. Speaker
I have an announcement to make about Questions. I have made arrangements for the immediate implementation of those recommendations of the Report of the Select Committee on Parliamentary Questions to which the House agreed on Monday, with one exception. That exception is the recommendation, in paragraph 19 of the report, for limiting the number of Oral Questions that may be tabled. For administrative reasons I would not propose to begin to apply this limitation until after the rising of the House on Friday.
Details of the manner in which the recommendations will be implemented will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Following are the details of the arrangements.
A. Limitation of numbers of Oral Questions
1. There will be no change in the existing arrangements in respect of Oral Questions handed in up to the rising of the House on Friday. All Oral Questions handed in thereafter will be checked with those already on the Order Book and, if found to exceed the permitted limit, will be unstarred in accordance with the practice laid down in the Appendix to the Select Committee's Report. The new system will thus become fully operative in the Order Paper appearing on 5th February. At this date, the separate publication of Part I of the
§ make it absolutely clear that I am certain there has been no breach of confidentiality.
§ The following are the terms of reference:
daily White Order Book, which has been a direct consequence of the present arrangements, will be discontinued.
2. I would invite Members who, after Friday, submit several Oral Questions together, if they are in any doubt as to whether their personal limit is likely to be exceeded thereby, in their own interest to indicate on the Questions the relative priority of importance which they attach to them.
3. In accordance with the terms of the Committee's recommendation, to which the House has agreed, the new arrangements are experimental and will lapse at the end of the Session, unless the House should otherwise resolve.
B. Written Questions
4. All ordinary unstarred Questions (unless dated for the next sitting day) will now be set down on the Notice Paper for written answer on the next sitting day but one. From the rising of the House on Friday, this will apply also to starred Questions (however dated) found to be in excess of the permitted individual limit.
5. The new provision for "priority written" Questions also comes into effect forthwith. Its implementation requires that any such question should bear both the letter "W" and a date in accordance with the period of notice laid down in the amendment to S.O. No. 8 to which the House has agreed. I have instructed the Table Office to treat questions marked with a "W" but not given a specific date, or dated too early to satisfy the requirement of notice, as if they were ordinary unstarred Questions.
C. The form and contents of Questions
6. I have instructed the Table Office to begin immediately to act in accordance with
the recommendations contained in paragraphs 7, 8 and 24 of the Select Committee's Report.
7. I have for myself carefully noted the Recommendations and opinions expressed in paragraphs 10, 25 and 29 of the Report. In respect of the recommendation in paragraph 10, while I shall continue to have regard to the basic rules concerning the form and contents of Questions which are set forth in pages 323–9 of Erskine May, I shall not consider myself bound, when interpreting these rules, by the restrictiveness of any previous individual rulings.