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Named-day Written Questions

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 29 November 2012

6. What steps he is taking to ensure that written questions for named-day answer receive a substantive answer on the day named. (130617)

My office collates information on departmental performance in relation to ordinary and named-day parliamentary questions, which is then submitted sessionally to the Procedure Committee. I intend to continue to work with the Committee and with Departments both to report on and to improve performance.

My named-day question to the Home Office about the cost of the police commissioner in Wales after the mess-up over the ballot papers appeared not on the day named but more than 20 days late, conveniently after the election was over. I should not have been surprised, however, as the Home Office replies to only 37% of named-day questions on time. What more can be done to make Departments respect this process?

The hon. Lady will be aware that the Procedure Committee is following the matter up and that I am in contact with Departments about it, and she will be encouraged to know that the Home Office has improved its performance recently. I think that what we need to do is lead by example. In the last Session, the largest number of named-day questions—2,260—were submitted to the Department of Health, which achieved a 99.6% positive response rate.

8. I assume that you are calling me to ask a supplementary and not a main question, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) mentioned the Home Office. I pointed out recently that questions from my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State had still not been answered by the Secretary of State. Will the Leader of the House look into the matter? It appears to be something of a problem in the Home Office. How can the Opposition be expected to work properly if they cannot hold the Government to account? It is very difficult for us to do that if the Government do not give us answers. (130619)

I entirely understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. As I said to the hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), it is perfectly possible for Departments to achieve a positive response rate of virtually 100%, but not all Departments do so. The Procedure Committee is following that up, and I shall be working with Departments to try to improve their performance. I might point out that in the last Session a 100% positive response rate was achieved by the Office of the Leader of the House, and, as I said earlier, the Department of Health achieved a 99.6% rate.