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Parliamentary Questions

Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

To ask the Leader of the House what steps he is taking to ensure that ministerial answers to parliamentary questions address the terms of the questions being asked. (87753)

In answering parliamentary questions, as in other areas, Ministers are subject to the obligations set out in the Ministerial Code, which states that:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament… Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest”.

Ministerial answers should reflect the terms of the questions asked.

As I have already indicated to the House, I have raised the answering of parliamentary questions directly with ministerial colleagues. This covered the issue of content as well as the issue of timeliness.

To ask the Leader of the House if he will ask the Modernisation Committee to examine the degree to which the quality of replies to parliamentary questions enables Ministers to be held accountable by hon. Members. (88280)

I have no plans to do so. I understand that the Procedure Committee may be considering an inquiry into parliamentary questions later this year. The Public Administration Select Committee (and its predecessor the Public Service Committee) has conducted regular inquiries since 1995-96 into aspects of the answers to parliamentary questions.

I also refer the hon. Member to the adjournment debate on written parliamentary questions of 28 June 2006, Official Report, columns 344-60, in which the role of parliamentary questions in contributing to ministerial accountability was discussed, including the pressure being placed on the system by the quantity of questions being tabled.