§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Paymaster General and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym)
I do not consider that it would be appropriate to establish a new Procedure Committee specifically for this purpose.
§ Mr. Dubs
Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider what he has said? Without suggesting for a moment that this is a matter of major political significance, is it not rather bureaucratic that any questions put down for a day on which the House does not then sit should have to be resubmitted? As this causes a great deal of additional work, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter?
§ Mr. John Wells
Will my right hon. Friend look at the whole matter of questions, particularly written questions, and the costs thereof? Is he aware that some hon. colleagues table such prodigious quantities of written questions that the cost to the taxpayer, calculated at the traditional figure of £30 a time, is becoming excessive? Will my right hon. Friend refer the whole matter to the Procedure Committee?
§ Mr. Pym
I think that there is anxiety in the House about the cost of questions and the number of questions that some hon. Members table, but that is a matter for them. The House may well wish to reconsider this matter. If there were a general desire for a review of this kind, the use of the Procedure Committee would be an appropriate way to handle it. As things stand, however, one must emphasise that hon. Members are at liberty to table the questions that they choose.
§ Mr. Freud
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that no one benefits from the lunacy of having to 517 retable a question for which the written reply is already provided and in an envelope? If such a situation arises again, would not a word be enough rather than having to retable questions that have already been printed and for which answers have already been provided?
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman makes it sound very simple, but when one tampers with any piece of procedure in relation to a matter such as the loss of a whole day's business, one finds that there are implications which may well inconvenience other hon. Members. The business of one day does not often overrun the business of the next day. It therefore seems to me to be not very much trouble for hon. Members to retable their questions in the usual way.