Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You are absolutely scrupulous and fair in trying to balance the speakers called from both sides of the House during Question Time, and the House greatly values that. I wonder whether you have noticed that the Government Whips and Front Benchers are using your very fairness to try to suppress debate, discussion and questioning on the issues that are most contentious, by dissuading their own Back Benchers from rising and by getting them to withdraw questions. Thus today, having grouped three questions, one of which was withdrawn, on the key issue of the shortage of nurses and doctors, so few Labour Members rose–perhaps because they are not interested in the shortage of nurses and doctors–that only two questions from the Opposition could be asked on that key issue. Could you have words with the Whips, Mr. Speaker, about the way that this is handled?

    Mr. Speaker: I can take the blame for many things, but not for the activities of the Whips.

    13 Nov 2001 : Column 713