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Parliamentary Questions

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

22. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the accuracy of responses to parliamentary questions. (312138)

My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House and I keep the quality and timeliness of Ministers’ answers to written parliamentary questions under continuous review. Following recommendations by the Procedure Committee and discussions with my right hon. and learned Friend, the Prime Minister has recently written to Cabinet colleagues reminding them of the importance of answering written and parliamentary questions in a timely way and to an acceptable quality. We are, of course, always happy to make representations to Ministers on behalf of Members.

The number of ministerial corrections in the column headed MC in Hansard seems to be growing. Does that mean that the accuracy of ministerial responses is improving or getting worse?

I have not reviewed that recently, but I am perfectly happy to look into it. Of course, both the Leader of the House and I, and the Procedure Committee, are aware that the number of written questions keeps climbing, and sometimes very large numbers of written parliamentary questions are tabled to Ministers and Departments on the same day. However, if there is interest in checking the accuracy figures, I am certainly happy to do that.

Obviously, I am sure that the deputy Leader of the House will agree that there seems to be a growing problem with Ministers taking the easy option and saying that they do not have the information available. That could be on the salary of chief executives in the north-west or ambulance times, or even a basic question on Monitor. MPs are being denied such information because Ministers are taking the easy line. Will she do something about this?

I am very happy to take up individual examples. The best response to such issues is to say that if Members give me examples of where they have had issues, I will be happy to write to Ministers and have meetings with them and officials, which I have done quite recently.