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Oral Statements

Volume 462: debated on Monday 2 July 2007

20. If she will bring forward proposals to prevent Ministers briefing the media on the contents of oral statements before making those statements in the House. (146366)

The ministerial code makes it clear that

“when Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made, in the first instance, in Parliament.”

I strongly support that principle. As the Prime Minister said at the weekend, Parliament should hear the contents of statements before the media do.

I welcome the Leader of the House’s comments, but is she aware that two statements that are to be made this week—one tomorrow by the Prime Minister on the constitution, and another on Wednesday on health—have been leaked to the press in advance of Members of this House hearing them?

I do not think that the contents of the statements have been given to the press in advance—and I say to Members that it is important that they attend the Chamber to hear the contents of statements. In my view, whether it is announced outside the House that there will be a statement is of less importance than some other issues. The public should be made aware that there will be a statement, but the contents of the statement must be made to the House first, because the Executive is accountable to Members of this House and they should be the first people to ask questions of Ministers, rather than journalists and broadcasters.

I welcome the right hon. and learned Lady to her new post. Her predecessor was firm about Ministers abiding by the ministerial code of conduct, but is there not now a strong case for strengthening the code, for stopping it being under the sole jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, and for introducing in addition a code for Cabinet Government that respects the role of Cabinet Ministers within Cabinet?

The issues that I as Leader of the House must address include ensuring the following: that there is the right relationship between Ministers and this House; that Members have an opportunity generally to raise issues of concern to their constituents; and that Ministers with responsibility for matters come to this House and give an account of themselves. The other issues raised are, perhaps, not ones for me to address.