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Point of Order

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to return to the matter of outstanding answers to Home Office questions, which I raised with you last Thursday. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I had tabled a parliamentary question asking how many questions tabled before the summer recess remained unanswered when we returned on 9 October. At that time, I had not received a response, but I have now done so. The answer was that 86 questions fell into that category. Given that you, Mr. Speaker, had intervened and raised your concerns with the Home Secretary, I have two further anxieties. First, 86 questions took at least two months to answer. Secondly, a question that would reveal the Home Office’s failure to comply with the Home Secretary’s commitment has taken the best part of month. The House was thus unaware of that failure until now, so I would be grateful for your continued involvement in this matter, Mr. Speaker, and your advice on how best to take it forward.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point of order. My first bit of good advice is that he should be the first Member in the new Session to visit the Table Office to put down a question or several questions if he wishes. I must also be fair to the Department and the Home Secretary. It has come to my attention that some hon. Members have tabled as many as, or even in excess of, 100 questions to be answered. That is unfair to any Department, because it puts a terrible pressure on officials who are already working hard to clear a backlog. I understand that that is not the hon. Gentleman’s problem, but I appeal to hon. Members who are tabling large and substantial amounts of questions to Departments to bear in mind the fact that dedicated staff have to sift through all those questions, which have to be answered and which add further to the backlog. I will continue to keep an eye on the matter.