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Access to Ministers

Volume 534: debated on Thursday 3 November 2011

6. What steps he is taking to improve access for hon. Members to Government Ministers and officials. (78166)

The Government are committed to hon. Members having access to Ministers and, where appropriate, Government officials. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has recently taken up a number of cases with his ministerial colleagues where it was felt that meetings with Ministers were not forthcoming. If the hon. Gentleman has any specific concerns, my right hon. Friend and I will be happy to take them up on his behalf.

I am grateful for that reply. I have never been admitted to a Government Department—at least, not since I was a Minister—without having a prior appointment, showing my parliamentary pass, and being accompanied by a pass-holding civil servant. How was Adam Werritty able to avoid those restrictions? Will the Government regularly publish details of all official meetings between Ministers and other people to reassure Parliament that access to Ministers is transparent and not partisan, and based on need and Government policy?

The report from the Cabinet Secretary has been published, and changes in the ministerial code have been put in place. Clearly things happened in this instance that have been regretted and have resulted in changes, but I do not think we should have free access to Departments. It is very clear that that is also the Prime Minister’s view.

The Leader of the House is aware of my interest in having access to Ministers taking decisions in Europe, and particularly in Back Benchers having the power to amend draft regulations. Rather than being able to amend a motion to hold Ministers to account, may we please have the power to amend the actual implementing regulations?

I think we have strayed a little far from the original question, which was on access to Ministers, but—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) says more from a sedentary position than he does standing up, and that is saying a lot. [Interruption.] He is carrying on doing it now. [Interruption.]

I am so glad somebody does.

The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) raises an important point. She may like to approach the Procedure Committee, because it is really a question of procedure, rather than one of access to Ministers, on which I might reasonably be expected to have some impact.