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Public Confidence (House of Commons)

Volume 512: debated on Monday 21 June 2010

We will bring forward powers for public petitions to trigger debates in the House of Commons and to initiate legislation, and we will introduce a new public reading stage for Bills. The House has also voted for significant new powers to hold the Government to account through the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, and a good answer it was too. Does he agree that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been a bit of a shambles? We brought it in without thinking about it. Can we make sure that there is consultation with Members and staff, to ensure that the reputation of the House is upheld, rather than the way it is at present?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, and I know that a number of colleagues have had difficulties in accessing the system. The whole purpose of allowances is to facilitate and enable MPs to represent their constituents and hold the Government to account. I am considering whether we can have a proper channel of communication between the House and IPSA to get a sensible dialogue under way. I hope he welcomes the announcement a few days ago that there will be a review of the scheme later this year.

Since the start of this Parliament, the coalition Government have repeatedly ignored the House of Commons when making major policy announcements, thus avoiding scrutiny in the Chamber. There have also been some major leaks. Today we have the BBC announcing that the Chancellor will freeze council tax in the Budget, and the Department of Health announced major changes to the NHS operating framework to the media hours before a written ministerial statement on those changes. The Government’s discourtesy also means that copies of statements are delivered late to the Opposition Front Bench, often with only minutes to spare. Will the right hon. Gentleman, who I think believes that good scrutiny leads to good government, assure us that statements will be made first to the House and not to the media, and that the Opposition Front-Bench team will receive a copy of the statement at least an hour before it is delivered?

Of course, statements should be delivered to the Opposition on time, and during the last Parliament Opposition spokesmen did receive copies of statements later than they should have, but I wholeheartedly reject the hon. Lady’s allegation about statements. By the end of today, Ministers will have made no fewer than 10 statements since the Queen’s Speech, and I think that she will find that that is a higher strike rate than was achieved by the last Government. Of course, the House should be the first place to hear of any changes in Government policy.