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Oral Questions

Volume 540: debated on Thursday 9 February 2012

The Government have shown themselves willing to make changes to the order of oral questions for the convenience of the House. For example, they responded positively to a request from the official Opposition to extend the length of questions to the Deputy Prime Minister to 40 minutes. The status of the oral questions rota is kept under review.

The Deputy Leader of the House will recall that a couple of weeks ago the Chancellor was unable to make it to Treasury questions because he was at ECOFIN, That was a perfectly reasonable and acceptable excuse, but given what is happening in the eurozone and given that ECOFIN usually meets on a Tuesday, does it mean that the Chancellor will miss future Treasury questions and should we not consider changing the time of Treasury questions, perhaps back to Thursdays, which is when they used to be a couple of years ago?

The hon. Gentleman raises a perfectly proper question. From my experience, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer never knowingly loses an opportunity to debate matters in the House or to answer questions. He is no Macavity. He has attended 11 of the 13 Treasury oral sessions since he took office, which compares well to the previous Chancellor. The hon. Gentleman might have a point, though, and I will discuss the matter with Treasury colleagues, if there is a problem. I believe, however, that we will see the Chancellor the Exchequer regularly here answering questions on economic matters, as he would wish to do.

May I put in a plea for an extension to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Question Time, which is still limited, despite there being so many particularly interesting matters relating to rural affairs and food?

I hear what my hon. Friend says. The trouble is that we cannot extend one Question Time without reducing another or lengthening the interval between them. I know that the House wants to hold Ministers and Departments to account and to fulfil its scrutiny role, and we have to find a balance in order to ensure that that is done efficiently and effectively, but I hear what she says.