Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1978 Jul 13 Th
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Business of the House]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [953/1728-44]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Around 1530-1600.
Importance ranking: Trivial
Word count: 5981
Themes: -
[column 1728]


Mrs. Thatcher

Will Michael Footthe Leader of the House please state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 17th July—Second Allotted Day for consideration of Lords amendments to the Scotland Bill.

Motion on the Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order.

Tuesday 18th July—Remaining allotted day for consideration of Lords amendments to the Scotland Bill.

Motion supplementing the order of the House of 16th November last relating to the Wales Bill.

Wednesday 19th July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Wales Bill.

Motion on the Rent (Northern Ireland) Order.

Thursday 20th July—Completion of consideration of Lords amendments to the Wales Bill.

Motion on the Education (Northern Ireland) Order.

Friday 21st July—Lords Messages on the Inner Urban Areas Bill, the Independent Broadcasting Authority Bill, and the Community Service by Offenders (Scotland) Bill.

Motions on the Cinematograph Films (Collection of Levy) Order, the Protection of Depositors (Accounts) (Amendment) Regulations, the European Space Agency [column 1729]Order and the Dominica Termination of Association Order.

Proceedings on the Employment Protection Bill [Lords] and on the Statute Law Repeals Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

Monday 24th July—Supply [29th Allotted Day]: The Question will be put on all outstanding Votes.

The subject for debate is to be announced later.

Motion on the dock labour scheme 1978.

Mrs. Thatcher

I put three questions to the right hon. Gentleman. First, on Tuesday's business, I cannot find any precedent for a Government introducing a guillotine motion after midnight, let alone having it apply immediately to business the following day. It is an extremely busy week, to put it mildly. Will the right hon. Gentleman not reconsider the business after midnight on Tuesday so that we may give it our consideration at a more reasonable hour and give it more worthy consideration?

Secondly, there are various indications in the press that there will be a White Paper on pay policy and various other economic matters. Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say when it will be published and when there will be a statement upon it and a debate?

Thirdly, my right hon. and hon. Friends have persistently asked the right hon. Gentleman for a debate on Rhodesia. It is urgent that we have one in Government time before the House rises for the Summer Recess. Will the right hon. Gentleman promise a full day?

Mr. Foot

I do not know whether there is any precedent for a guillotine motion after midnight. However, it is a supplementary motion. It is true that there is a quite extensive amount of business next week. The House has voted that we should carry through some extremely important measures, and we are putting these proposals to the House to ensure that the business is properly concluded.

The right hon. Lady asked about a White Paper on economic affairs. I cannot give her any date, but I expect that such a paper would be published. There would have to be some provision for a debate. [column 1730]

The right hon. Lady has made representations about a debate on Rhodesia. She did so a week ago, and we shall take that into account and seek to provide a day in Government time before the House moves to recess.

Mr. David Steel

In view of the Prime Minister's rather disappointing answer about a White Paper on the Official Secrets Act and a freedom of information Act, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the White Paper will be published and whether it will be accompanied by a ministerial statement setting out the Government's conclusions?

Mr. Foot

The White Paper will be a paper setting out the Government's views on the present situation. I do not think that it would be normal to have an accompanying statement to a White Paper of that character. What the right hon. Gentleman and others should do is await the White Paper, when they will know what comments they wish to make.

Mr. Kinnock

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Wales Bill needs not so much a guillotine but a karate chop? In view of the news of the business this afternoon, does he accept that the inadequacy of the Bill is exceeded only by the indecency of the haste with which it is being pushed through the House?

Mr. Foot

I never knew that my hon. Friend was such an enthusiast for the operations that are conducted in another place. I hope that when the Bill returns to the House we shall have his full support in implementing the views that have already been expressed by the elected House of Commons.

Mrs. Bain

Despite the machinations of the official Opposition and Labour Back Benchers who are opposed to the concept of devolution both to Scotland and to Wales, the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill are likely to complete their parliamentary stages next week. May we expect an early announcement from the Government on the date of the referendum, which is now the crucial feature of the whole legislation?

Mr. Foot

Let us complete the business that we have announced. As the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, the programme is crowded. Let us proceed to complete [column 1731]that business. When that has been done we may consider how we shall proceed to the next step. I am sure that the whole House is now beginning to recognise that the steps that the Government outlined originally are being carried through.

Mr. du Cann

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the attention that he has given in recent months and weeks to Members' remuneration, secretarial allowances and other such matters, in reply to representations made to him by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) and others and myself, is very much appreciated, not least the letter that I received from him within the last hour? For the convenience of the House, will he be good enough to say when he expects to be in a position to make an announcement about percentage increases? If we are to have a debate on these matters before the House rises for the Summer Recess, will he be willing within that short time to comment on the specific proposal made to him, which I believe has full support in the House—namely, that the Top Salaries Review Body should be reconstituted to consider these matters with a view to implementation of any recommendations after the next General Election? Is he able to comment on that matter?

Mr. Foot

I am most grateful for the representations that have been made to me by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). I believe that those representations are helping the House to approach the whole matter in a manner that will be beneficial in dealing with the whole subject properly. We are today tabling motions and resolutions on the Order Paper on these issues. I do not think that it is necessary for any announcement to be made about that in the House. We shall have a debate on the motions and resolutions before we depart for the recess. The House will be able to give its opinion. During the course of the debate, I shall make some response to the requests that have been made to comment on the possibility of the re-establishment of the Top Salaries Review Body and how we might proceed along those lines.

Mr. Spearing

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on 28th November he gave an undertaking to table a motion [column 1732]relating to the procedures of the House in controlling the response of Ministers to proposals for Brussels legislation? Is he able to tell the House whether that debate will take place before the Summer Recess? Will he give an indication when he expects to table such a motion on the remaining Orders of the Day?

Mr. Foot

I cannot give my hon. Friend an exact date, but I can assure him and the others who are concerned that I am fully aware of the commitments that I made in November, that arose from earlier commitments that had been made to the House. I am aware of what was said, and I hope that we shall deal with the matter before the House goes into recess.

Mr. Pym

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the arrangements that he has announced for next week? Why cannot he take the timetable motion on Wednesday and take the last day of the Wales Bill on the first day, or on one other day, of the following week? There is not such a degree of urgency in achieving the objective of completing the Bill in the manner that he has described. Why cannot we do it at a more reasonable speed?

Will he give the House some indication of the number and range of statements that he expects to be made between now and the time that we rise? It is a time of the year when there is apt to be many statements. When we contemplate a week such as next week, as the right hon. Gentleman now has arranged, that could be inconvenient to the House. Is he prepared to give some indication of the number and range of statements that are likely to be made?

Mr. Foot

No one has greater experience than the right hon. Gentleman on the difficulty that may arise towards the end of a Session about the numbers of statements that have to be made. Although we seek to ensure as best we can that the debating time of the House is protected, there are bound to be occasions when statements called for by either the Opposition or the rest of the House have to be made. We do our best to try to arrange such matters successfully.

As for rearranging the business for next week, if the Opposition wish to take their Supply Day earlier, we might be able to look at it in that sense. I should have [column 1733]thought that what we have proposed was the best way to proceed. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman would give us an absolute assurance that no other suggestions will be coming from another place—I know how powerful his influence is there—that might help us to arrange the business, too. If he cannot assist us in either of those directions, I think that we should proceed with the arrangements that we have already made.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will there be a debate on human rights before the House rises, as presaged by the Foreign Secretary in his statement to the House earlier this week?

Mr. Foot

I cannot promise a debate, although the importance of the matter is very great. There are other opportunities, as my hon. and learned Friend knows, for individual Members to raise important questions for debate before we depart for the Summer Recess.

Sir David Renton

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he welcomed my suggestion that, before we reached a conclusion on the timetable motion on the Scotland Bill, the Government should declare their intentions with regard to Lords amendments. That was not done in relation to the Scotland Bill. Will he ensure that it is done in relation to the Wales Bill?

Secondly, does he recollect a time when, even in July and even under this Government, we have been so overloaded with business that we have had to take a timetable motion after midnight?

Mr. Foot

On the first question raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I must say that his response is a little ungenerous because, partly as a result of the question that he put to me, we took steps to indicate to the House the general numbers of amendments or resolutions that the Government intended to accept. I believe that the House generally has been assisted by the way in which we have approached the matter. Certainly that has been the response that I have had from many Opposition Members. I believe that the same procedure can be adopted for dealing with the Wales Bill. In many respects we are going further than has normally been the case with [column 1734]any Government when dealing with such a measure.

As for the crowded programme, it is and often has been the case on previous occasions for there to be a great deal of business for the House to get through before the end of July. But the House of Commons decided that these major matters of constitutional importance should be proceeded with in the votes both on Second Reading and on establishing the timetable motions. Therefore, the House itself having urged that we should proceed, I believe that we must bring those great measures to a proper conclusion.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Leader of the House indicate whether there will be a debate before the recess—whether next week or some other time—regarding the Roy Jenkins model for European monetary union? Is he aware that, unlike the Prime Minister, many of us regard this not as an intellectual exercise but as another part of the political hand-over to Brussels? When combined with the Common Market elections next year—if they take place—it may be that before an election in this country we shall be placed in a similar position to that of 1970 when the two sides of the House were not quite clear on the details. The result was that that lot—the Tory Party—got in and we got embedded in Europe. We do not want that to happen again.

Mr. Foot

I agree with my hon. Friend that we must take every precaution to ensure that “that lot” do not get in again. I am sure that we shall all work together to ensure that that is the case.

The other matters raised by my hon. Friend will, of course, be debated in the country and in the House for a considerable number of months ahead—indeed, even longer.

Sir Raymond Gower

As the operation of the two guillotines hampered proper discussion of parts of the two devolution Bills and as the Lords have rightly thrown them back at us so that we may have a second chance to discuss those parts adequately, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that, at the conclusion of the discussions, we shall have given some attention to the parts that could not be discussed the first time?

[column 1735]

Mr. Foot

We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the House shall have the best opportunity in the time available to have the fullest possible discussion, particularly of those aspects of the Bills that were not fully discussed before. There are some aspects of those measures on which the House of Lords has taken a different view from the House of Commons, so clearly further provision must be made for those matters to be debated here. The debate on the Scotland Bill a few days ago showed the spirit in which the Government were approaching the matter, and I believe that every hon. Member present during the debate could see the spirit in which the Government were dealing with it.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the evidence of Sir Stanley Raymond and Lord Allen as successive chairmen of the Gaming Board to the Royal Commission on gambling to the effect that the devolution of betting and gaming would be “highly dangerous” and in view of the fact that it is unlikely that betting will be reached because of the slotting of the guillotine, is it not important that this subject should, be fully discussed before any decision is reached?

Mr. Foot

We may not need to have such a full discussion, because we might possibly agree with the suggestions that have come from those quarters. That might assist the debates on other matters as well. However, as my hon. Friend knows, we have not quite reached that point on the Bill.

Mr. Peter Mills

As British agriculture is totally in the dark as regards what is required in future production, when may we have a statement from the Minister of Agriculture on updating “Food from Our Own Resources” ? Surely the Leader of the House realises that that is in the interests of the consumer as well.

Mr. Foot

I think that it is well understood throughout the country—it is certainly understood by most hon. Members—that we have an excellent Minister of Agriculture. On every occasion that he has made a statement to the House, I think that has been acknowledged by everybody, except possibly the Opposition Front Bench. I am not sure whether there should be a further statement on these [column 1736]matters before the House goes into recess. I shall certainly take the representations into account. I have also to take into account the representations made by the Opposition Front Bench that we should not have too many statements.

Mr. Molloy

In view of the terrible accident in Spain earlier in the week resulting in such tragic deaths, the primary cause being one lorry possibly on the wrong road, ought not the House now to debate all safety measures relating to lorries travelling on our roads so that we can be certain that lorries transporting hazardous consignments are properly managed and maintained and that the routes they take are supervised to ensure the minimum amount of danger in this island? We cannot wait for an accident to happen before having an inquiry. Is it not time that we had a full inquiry to ensure that the terrible tragedy that took place in Spain does not happen in this island?

Mr. Foot

I fully accept what my hon. Friend said about the great importance of this subject. I am not seeking to minimise it in any sense whatsoever. Whether the best thing is to have a debate in the House on the matter is another question. The time available for debates is severely restricted. However, that does not in any way minimise the importance of trying to draw every possible lesson that we can from the appalling tragedy that occurred.

Sir Bernard Braine

Bearing in mind that I wrote to the Prime Minister 17 days ago, after the Health and Safety Commission report had clearly established that Canvey Island was the most endangered community in this country, begging him to intervene, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to make a statement next week or, better still, will he agree to the reasonable plea made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) for this grave matter here on our own doorstep to be debated before something very serious occurs?

Mr. Foot

I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman said about the seriousness of the matter. I understand that the Secretary of State for Transport has already initiated inquiries and investigations into the matter. But it is not possible to arrange to have statements on [column 1737]all the subjects that hon. Members raise. If we did, we would not have any time for the other debates that hon. Members also demand. We have to take that matter into account as well. I repeat, I am not seeking in any sense to minimise the importance of the subject that has been raised.

Dr. M.S. Miller

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's interest in the medical surveillance of hon. Members. When will he be in a position to make a statement about this important matter?

Mr. Foot

I hope that there will be a statement soon. The Services Committee has considered the matter. We are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) and his associate from the Opposition for the evidence that they have given us on this matter. I hope that before we depart for the recess it will be possible for Mr. Speaker to make a statement.

Mr. Cormack

Shall we complete all the outstanding business before the recess? If so, when do we expect to rise for the recess?

Mr. Foot

I cannot give the date yet. It depends upon the degree of co-operation. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) in such a co-operative mood.

Mr. Loyden

Is the Leader of the House aware of the growing concern about the Health Service? Does he agree that the value of the Health Service and the benefit that it has brought to the community proves that the Service is well worth defending? In view of the erosion in certain areas of the Health Service will he arrange for a debate, if not next week, before the recess so that we can hear from the Secretary of State about the measures that he has taken to overcome the difficulties?

Mr. Foot

Once again I must say to my hon. Friend, as I have said to others, that although there is no possibility of a full day's debate on this subject, that does not mean that I think that the subject is not extremely important. There are other opportunities for hon. Members to raise matters before the House departs. A considerable amount of time is allocated to hon. Members and the [column 1738]Opposition to choose subjects for debate. I cannot promise a full day's debate in Government time, even though the subject is so important.

Mr. Fairbairn

In view of the obscene inquisitions in Russia in defiance of all the principles of our civilisation, and to challenge our defence of them, will the Leader of the House arrange a foreign affairs debate so that the genuine reaction of all sides of the House can be registered?

Mr. Foot

The views of the Foreign Secretary, the Government and the House have been expressed already in many statements in recent weeks and days. It is not necessary to have a debate for the House to express its views.

Mr. Litterick

Since we have a fair amount of time available to us between now and October, will the Leader of the House take note of the widespread distress now being felt by readers of women's magazines who have discovered that the laws governing the Royal succession are at odds with the Sex Discrimination Act since those laws deprive the female members of the Royal Family of their rightful place in the queue? Will the Government devote their mind to this serious subject?

Mr. Foot

I am prepared to devote my mind to the subject but I cannot promise any legislation.

Mr. Rees-Davies

May we have an assurance that before the House rises for the recess we shall have an opportunity to debate the Royal Commission on gambling, bearing in mind certain aspects of it? There are a number of extremely urgent recommendations for lotteries, competitions and racing. Is the Leader of the House aware that these matters greatly affect many citizens who are anxious that the report should not be put to bed and left to sleep but that we should have an opportunity now of expressing a view before we have a general election? If it were left it might be some time before an opportunity to discuss the matter arose.

Mr. Foot

The Government set up the Royal Commission because they believed that certain matters should be investigated. I cannot promise a debate before the recess, for the reasons that I gave to other questioners. I am afraid that both [column 1739]the hon. Member and other hon. Members must recognise that a limited amount of time is available.

Mr. Ron Thomas

I hope that the Health and Safety Commission will issue an urgent report but may I put a different question to the Leader of the House? Does the Leader of the Opposition have some kind of constitutional prerogative which allows her to put as many questions as she likes to the Prime Minister? If that is so——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Was the hon. Member seeking to criticise a ruling that I have made?—[Hon. Members: “Yes.” ] He knows well enough that that is not the way to do it. There is an established way for him to do that. I shall not sit in this Chair whilst he stands up and makes any charge that he likes.

Mr. Costain

Has the Leader of the House read the letter that I sent to him yesterday pointing out that 64 hon. Members attended the south-east study Committee for a two-and-a-half hour debate? Will he allow an extra day for that debate?

Mr. Foot

I shall look at the matter. I should be prepared to recommend that fresh time be given for that debate.

Mr. Burden

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Early-Day Motion No. 445 which is supported by hon. Members of all parties and which is now signed by 223 hon. Members? Is the Leader of the House aware that the motion calls for a debate on the report on the export of live animals for slaughter and further fattening? Is he aware that new regulations are being issued in Europe in August? Does he agree that there should be a debate so that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food can come to the House and explain what those regulations are and so that the House can have an opportunity of expressing its view?

[That this House considers that the contents of the report by agriculture departments of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that was issued in March 1978 under the title, ‘The Export Trade in Live Animals for Slaughter or Further Fattening’ are of great interest and concern to honourable Members of this House, to animal welfare organisations, the farming industry and [column 1740]the general public; and asks Her Majesty's Government to set aside time for an early debate.]

Mr. Foot

The Government recognise the strength of feeling in all parts of the House about this trade. That is why my right hon. Friend set up the recent inquiry and decided to publish the report. Discussions have been taking place between representatives of the welfare interests and the producers and exporters. It would be best to await the outcome of those discussions before having a debate.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I propose to call those hon. Members who have been standing so far.

Mr. Bowden

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is considerable anger on both sides of the House about the lack of discussion on the Floor of the House about the problems of London and the south-east? Will the Leader of the House please make time so that we can discuss this region in the House because my constituents are sick and tired of the time that we have wasted on Wales and Scotland?

Mr. Skinner

That is a good reason for voting for the guillotine.

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend says that that is a good reason for voting for the guillotine. I am pleased to have made such a rapid convert. I understand the desire to discuss these matters in the House. Some of these matters were discussed during the passage of the Inner Urban Areas Bill. Some time has been spent discussing that measure and many of the problems of the south-east were raised during the passage of that Bill.

Mr. Faulds

Does my right hon. Friend think that it might help the House with the problem of the Leader of the Opposition and her three bites at the cherry if, by special dispensation, the fellow who prepares the Questions for her were allowed to sit beside her so that he can explain not only the Answers but the original Question?

Mr. Adley

Does the Lord President recall that on a number of occasions I have made representations to him and his colleagues about the lack of opportunity to discuss the fundamental changes which [column 1741]the Scotland Bill makes to the constitution of the British Tourist Authority? Is he aware that the Government's proposal will put political placemen in a position of supremacy in dictating policy?

Is he further aware that the recent appointment as the new chairman of the Wales Tourist Board of a thrice-failed Labour candidate—however nice a chap he might be—has not allayed any of the fears? The Leader of the House told us a few weeks ago that he wished to abolish the House of Lords. Is he now saying that he is satisfied that this important matter, which affects the whole of the United Kingdom, should be discussed only in the other place?

Mr. Foot

There could have been a discussion in the House of Commons on the matter if the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends had wished and had arranged their contributions in a somewhat different manner. I do not think, therefore, that that criticism comes so well from him. I gather that some discussion has taken place on this matter in another place, and that, too, affects the situation.

The House is fully aware that if we were to provide endless time for discussion on the changes made to the Bill in another place, the Bill would never get on to the statute book. I understand that some Conservative right hon. and hon. Members. including the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) want that, but that is not what we want and it is not what the House of Commons, let alone the House of Lords, has voted for.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

May I appeal to hon. Members to help me by putting short questions?

Mr. MacKay

Is it not time that we had a statement from the Edmund-Davies report on police pay, particularly since the Home Secretary, sitting on the Treasury Bench last week, was waving the report over his head with some panache?

Mr. Foot

I hope that there will be a statement on that important subject in the House next week.

Dr. Hampson

Is the Lord President aware of the serious accusation made by [column 1742]some of the press against the Secretary of State for Education that she ordered the destruction of and engaged in a cover up about the existence of a report by her inspectors of 10 bad schools at a time when she was publishing a report on 10 good schools? Does the right hon. Lady not owe it to the House and to herself to give a clear, open explanation, which we have certainly not had from her Department so far?

Mr. Foot

I do not know in which section of the press that absurd charge was made against my right hon. Friend. I am sure, however, that it will be dismissed by all hon. Members in the proper way.

Mr. David Atkinson

Is the Lord President aware of the continued non-publication of the Official Report for 12th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 18th and 19th April? Is he aware that this includes the record of the first few days of the Budget debate? Can he assure the House that it will be published before the recess?

Mr. Foot

I am hoping to overcome those difficulties. I am extremely sorry that such a trouble should have arisen.

Mr. Budgen

Will the Lord President confirm that there is now no opportunity before October for what might have been only the third general debate on the vital subject of immigration?

Mr. Foot

There is one Supply Day left.

Mr. Gow

Is it possible for the Government to publish, even though they might not be able to find time to debate, the Bill to give effect to the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference for increased representation in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Foot

I have answered hon. Members and others on that subject before. I have nothing to add today to what I have said earlier.

Mr. Arthur Latham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be most grateful for some guidance. With a number of my hon. Friends I am a little worried about what happened toward the end of questions on the Business Statement. You will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. [column 1743]Faulds) who is both louder and bigger than my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas)——

Mr. Faulds

And nicer.

Mr. Latham

—referred to a particular matter concerning three bites of the cherry. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West intended you no discourtesy. Perhaps his language should have been more felicitous. We have been discussing among ourselves which ruling you felt my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West was in breach of. We were wondering, too, whether there is any way in which we may subsequently address questions to you or to the Lord President when it seems that the Leader of the Opposition is taking a quite disproportionate share of Question Time and is excluding many Back Benchers.

Mr. Speaker

I asked the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) whether he was challenging the ruling I had made. He did not answer. I then called the next hon. Member to speak. On the question of the Leader of the Opposition being called three times at Question Time, I have had research done. It shows that this is by no means the first Parliament in which the Leader of the Opposition has been treated in that way. If hon. Members look into the records they will see that when both parties have been in Opposition their leaders have exercised, and have been given, the same discretion.

Mr. Adley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last week during Prime Minister's Questions you indicated to Labour Members that it was not the responsibility of the Prime Minister to answer questions about the activities of the Leader of the Opposition or Conservative Members. Will you reconvey those views to the Prime Minister, who seems to utilise the occasion to answer questions from his own Back Benchers if it suits him but to refuse to answer questions put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I fear that that is an old custom of this House. No intervention from me can have anything to do with that. It is not for me to direct the content of replies.

Mr. Faulds

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept that you [column 1744]have done research in this matter and have found that under previous Administrations the Leader of the Opposition has been allowed three bites of the cherry. There seem, however, to be two new factors in this situation. The first concerns the unfortunate continuation of the broadcast time. The second factor—and perhaps you can confirm this, Mr. Speaker—is that under previous Administrations the Leader of the Opposition added supplementary questions that extended the argument. The current Leader of the Opposition merely reiterates the old porridge time and again.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that we can leave this matter now and turn to the Standing Order No. 9 application.