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Parliamentary Questions

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

24. What recent steps he has taken to ensure that questions asked by hon. Members are properly answered by Ministers. (140287)

I have made clear to the House on many occasions the importance that I attach to the timeliness and quality of responses to parliamentary questions that are tabled in the House. I have raised the matter directly with ministerial colleagues on several occasions.

Perhaps I could refer the Leader of the House to my exchange with the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform in Work and Pensions questions earlier today, when the Minister failed to answer my question. What measures is the Leader of the House taking to get Ministers to give straight answers to straight questions? That is what the general public and hon. Members want. May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to do that before he moves on to bigger and better things, or is the culture of spin so embedded in new Labour that he cannot?

I am sorry that I missed the exchange in Work and Pensions questions. All my ministerial colleagues try hard to ensure that questions are answered accurately and in a timely fashion. I have been trying to deal with the significant increase in parliamentary questions. I made it clear in evidence—not least to the Procedure Committee—that none of us has an interest in a cap on written ministerial questions. However, that requires some self-restraint by some hon. Members of all parties. If we can achieve that, Ministers will be able to spend more time dealing with answers. I have made the point on several occasions that, although the number of officials who deal with parliamentary questions can vary to some extent according to the volume of questions, that is not the case with Ministers. If they get bogged down, that can lead to inaccurate and sometimes sloppy answers.