Its getting harder for backbenchers to get their oar in at oral question time. There are four questions in the half hour allotted, making 7 1/2 minutes each, and naturally the Member who tables the question has first bite after the Minister's initial answer. Then the opposition front bench and the Bishops take priority over anyone else - and why should they, considering that we're the only legislature in the world that provided for ex officio representatives of clerics, as the Leader of the House Lord Strathclyde told me in a written answer this week. My impression is that some ministers, particularly David Howell, are taking far too long with their answers, though no doubt they are trying to be helpful.
This week I managed to get in on a question about diplomatic missions' unpaid parking fines, which have reached the staggering total of £52 million. My suggestion was that where a vehicle had incurred two fines that remained unpaid, on the third occasion the car should be towed away. But the minister, John Attlee, said that diplomatic immunity would prevent that too.
Then on Wednesday I asked, following a question on the drought and famine in East Africa by my LibDem colleague Jenny Tonge, what the Government could do to promote better coordination between voluntary agencies, and how the principle of cooperation could be extended to Irish as well as UK agencies.