§ Mr. Hastings
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of Questions. May I draw attention to Question No. 4 to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs? I greatly appreciated the presence of the Secretary of State on the Government Front Bench, but when we reached Question No. 4 the Minister of State asked your permission to take with it Questions Nos. 6 and 14. My own Question was framed in identical terms to Question No. 4 from my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton). I make no immediate complaint, because I was fortunate enough to catch your eye and was able to ask a supplementary question on another Question.
Would you not agree, Mr. Speaker, that in principle it is wrong for a Minister or a Department to seek to take together Questions that are similar or identical or virtually so and then to leave out one or more which, it could be argued, are exactly the same?
§ Mr. Speaker
This is not a question for the Chair. It is a long-standing custom in the House for Questions to be grouped. I will look into the matter to see whether there is any way in which I can help, but I doubt it very much.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. James Callaghan)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Speaking for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I would welcome advice from you on this matter. We understood from the Table Office—I hope I am allowed to say this—that it was the desire of the House and of Mr. Speaker that, when there were eight or nine Questions on the same subject, instead of grouping them together we should divide them. If there is to be a change in that practice I should like to be advised of it, because it would help us very much to know what practice commends itself to the House. At the moment I am in a bit of a fog.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope to put the right hon. Gentleman out of his fog. I was not blaming the Secretary of State. May I say that it has been for the convenience of the House that the grouping should take place and that the Chair has welcomed a reasonable grouping rather than have eight or nine Questions being answered at the same time, which leads to greater difficulty in balancing them.