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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr SPEAKER - Yesterday, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked whether I was aware that my predecessor had said that the Speaker of the House of Commons regarded it as his duty to ensure that there was no inordinate delay by the Ministry in answering questions on notice. He further asked whether I had investigated the matter and whether I regarded ensuring that such questions are answered speedily as one of the ways in which the Chair could defend the privileges of this House.

There is no record of any such statement by my predecessor. On the contrary, Mr. Speaker Cameron, on 28th November, 1951, in replying to a question relating to this matter by an honorable member, stated that he was being asked to do something that was completely outside his powers and responsibilities. He said that Ministers were not obliged to answer questions unless they chose to do so. It was for Ministers to decide when the answers would be given and that was their responsibility. Mr. Speaker went on to say that it was not his responsibility and he certainly did not seek any control in the matter.

The 16th edition of " May ", at page 357, states that an answer to a question cannot be insisted upon if the answer be refused by a Minister.

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