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Written Ministerial Statements

Volume 559: debated on Thursday 28 February 2013

3. If he will introduce a procedure to inform all hon. Members when written ministerial statements deemed to be too commercially sensitive to be listed in the Order Paper are published. (145141)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that all written ministerial statements issued to the House are listed on the Order Paper.

That is not quite true, is it? A few weeks ago, a written ministerial statement about the extension of the First Great Western rail franchise was not listed in the Order Paper because it was deemed to be too market sensitive. I had an exchange with the Leader of the House about that matter at business questions. Should not some sort of guidelines be brought in to ensure that, when that occurs, Departments inform Members directly as soon as that information becomes available rather than our having to learn about it through the press or through the superior knowledge of the Leader of the House?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is incorrect. I have in front of me the Order Paper for the day to which he refers and that written ministerial statement is listed.

The Government have form on not keeping the House fully informed and in an electronic age, surely it is not beyond the wit of even this Government to find a way of ensuring that Members’ rights and the rights of this House are fully recognised.

Clearly, the Government are keen to make use of technology and would be very open to the idea of using it to provide written ministerial statements as early as possible. We would be very interested in pursuing that.

This is an outrageous slur from the Opposition. This Government make everyone aware as soon as possible: we need only buy the newspapers or put on the television and we know in advance. Is this not an outrageous slur?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has regularly reminded Ministers, including members of the Cabinet, that it is important that they come to the House to make ministerial statements here first.