§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I have not had an opportunity to give you prior notice of my point of order. I spoke to your private secretary, but obviously he has not had the opportunity to inform you.
All hon. Members are bound by Standing Orders. There are Standing Orders that refer to parliamentary questions. You, Mr. Speaker, keep us in order on those questions. We all know that 1496 there are time limits on questions and replies. In the past few weeks hon. Members, including myself, have preriodically received letters from Ministers stating that they regret that they cannot answer this or that question, and apologising most profusely. However, they give no reason why they cannot answer the questions. They are breaking the Standing Orders of the House.
The replies to our questions are being held up. I have a strong suspicion that this is because there is an industrial dispute that is affecting civil servants. If that is the case, things look like becoming worse and not better. If today's news is correct, we may have to wait weeks for answers to questions when they should be received within days.
Therefore, with great respect to you, Mr. Speaker, because questions are matters for your guidance and control, I suggest that someone should tell the Government that they must see that our questions are answered, if answers are available. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to look into this matter. The Government are deliberately preventing us from receiving replies, because they will not negotiate with the Civil Service about civil servants' salaries. I ask you to look into the matter at your leisure.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I shall look into the matter to see whether there is anything upon which I am able to rule.