Ministers take seriously the requirement in the ministerial code that when Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance to Parliament. My hon. Friend and I do not hesitate to remind colleagues of that requirement.
I thank the Leader of the House for that, but he knows only too well that concern is all too often expressed in the House about Ministers speaking and leaking to the press. Can he assure the House—I think he can, from what he has said this morning—that he and the Deputy Leader of the House take this issue very seriously? Should he not, as a belt-and-braces exercise, issue written guidance to Ministers?
My view is that the problem has been less acute in this Parliament than in previous Parliaments, partly because the Government are making more statements to the House than previously: we are making 0.7 statements per day in this Parliament, as opposed to 0.4 statements per day in the previous Parliament. I take on board what the hon. Gentleman has said. There is already written guidance in the ministerial code, and I do not hesitate to remind my ministerial colleagues of the imperatives in the code on every appropriate occasion.
The Leader of the House will be aware that there are 18 written ministerial statements on the Order Paper today. Given that the House is now rising for recess, it will be impossible to debate them. Will he publish the policy criteria determining whether written, as opposed to oral, ministerial statements are made?
My hon. Friend asks a good question. There is a balance always to be struck between the imperative of making an oral statement and the need to preserve time for the House to debate the issues before it on that particular day. We try to strike the right balance. Today, we have an oral statement from the Foreign Secretary and an important debate thereafter on Somalia. It would have eroded the time for the statement and the debate if, on top of that, we had scheduled for oral statement some of the written ministerial statements to which my hon. Friend referred. We try to get the balance right, but we are always open to fresh suggestions.