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Point of Order

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 9 March 2010

I rise to make a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I gave your office notice yesterday, in connection with the shameful behaviour of the Department for Work and Pensions in failing to answer written parliamentary questions tabled by me and other Front-Bench colleagues—specifically,questions 316961 and 316962. What action are you able to take, to ensure that Government Ministers are indeed accountable to all Members? These questions were asked more than a calendar month ago, and I suspect that the Department wishes to bury bad news by not answering them. How can you help me, Sir?

I thank the hon. Gentleman both for his point of order and for giving me notice of it. Let me reiterate the position that is expected of Ministers in all Departments: timely replies should be provided to written parliamentary questions.

I was waiting for what I regarded as the crux of the hon. Gentleman’s inquiry, namely the length of time for which he had been waiting. For him to table a question and find a month later that he had not received any reply—or, at any rate, had received no substantive reply—was not satisfactory.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the new system that I have introduced, which gives better transparency to the record of Departments in answering questions. I had hoped that that would serve to shame Departments into superior performance. If it has not, we may have to look at the thing again, but it really will not do.