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Ministerial Statements

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 28 April 2011

1. If he will bring forward proposals to implement the recommendations of the Procedure Committee relating to ministerial statements. (52651)

I have sent the Government’s response on its report to the Procedure Committee, which will be published in due course. It would be for the Backbench Business Committee to find time to debate proposals to reform ministerial statements.

Under the last Government, it was routine for ministerial statements to be leaked to the press. There was a media grid and they were leaked, before a statement was made, in a routine manner. Unfortunately, that has continued under this Government. Until we have sanctions against Ministers for leaking, we will never get the problem under control. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether he thinks the proposals of the Procedure Committee go far enough?

I recall the sanctions that my hon. Friend mentioned in his speech of 20 July: one was to string Ministers up from the roof and the other was to put them in stocks in Parliament square. I think even the Whips would agree that that was going slightly over the top. The Government’s view is that there are enough sanctions at the moment. A Minister can be summoned to the House in response to an urgent question; he can be grilled by a departmental Select Committee; and, under the arrangements we have just introduced, the Backbench Business Committee can table a motion for debate, including a motion deploring a Minister’s behaviour. Our view is that enough sanctions are already available.

May I remind my right hon. Friend that the circumstances surrounding the preparation of this report were rather unusual in that it was, in effect, commissioned by the House, following a debate and a motion before the Chamber, which he supported? One does expect the Government to be accommodating on this matter. In an attempt to move this issue forward, may I invite him to return to the Procedure Committee for further discussions—hopefully sooner rather than later?

I would be delighted to respond to my right hon. Friend’s invitation and attend his Committee at the earliest possible convenience.