Both I and the Leader of the House regularly remind ministerial colleagues of their obligation to give accurate, timely and truthful information to Parliament, as set out further in the ministerial code and included in the guidance issued by the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons.
Two weeks ago I raised with the Leader of the House a series of parliamentary questions on the important issue of passports to which I had not had answers. He helpfully wrote to the said Department, and I have had a nice letter back, but I have still not had answers to the parliamentary questions. The questions were tabled on 4 June, and they were on pertinent matters to do with passports. Can a timetable be set for when answers should be given to Members?
I was aware that the right hon. Gentleman had raised those questions with my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary. As I am sure the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) is aware, the Home Office, like other large Departments, receives a very large number of complex questions, and it takes time to produce a thorough response. Home Office Ministers take their responsibilities seriously, and indeed I had occasion yesterday to remind them of those responsibilities.
3. What recent guidance he has given to his ministerial colleagues about providing substantive answers to written questions. (904791)
The Office of the Leader of the House of Commons provides guidance to all Departments on the practice of answering parliamentary questions. The guidance advises Departments that Members should receive a substantive response to named day questions on the date specified and that Departments should endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of their being tabled.
What changes does the Deputy Leader of the House consider necessary to improve the quality of ministerial replies to written questions about the performance of agencies and non-departmental public bodies, because Ministers sometimes appear to be acting as no more than mailboxes?
On 6 December 2010, the Home Secretary replied to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), stating:
“We are also taking steps to ensure that the database will, for the first time, hold the profiles of all serving prisoners and all those previously convicted of serious crimes”—[Official Report, 6 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 99W.]
A few weeks ago I asked
“how many DNA profiles of current prisoners have not been added to the DNA database”
but was told:
“The information requested is not held.”—[Official Report, 2 July 2014; Vol. 583, c. 645W.]
How on earth can Ministers say that something will definitely happen and then, at a later date, say that they have no mechanism for judging whether or not it is taking place?
The failure to implement universal credit and personal independence payments has left the Department for Work and Pensions in complete chaos, so is the Deputy Leader of the House surprised that two out of every three of its answers to written questions are judged by the public not to have answered the question? What does he intend to do to get DWP to improve that sorry state of affairs?
I do not recognise what the hon. Lady says about universal credit, which I think will be a success. As I understand it, it is something that she and her party support. With regard to concerns about whether questions are accurate and satisfactory, I suspect that many of the respondents will have got a perfectly factual response, but perhaps not the one they wanted to hear.
In May I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a named day question about Treasury research on the number of jobs in the UK that are dependent on Europe. What I received back from one of the Ministers was complete waffle, and it was late. A couple of weeks ago the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was able to confirm that 3.3 million jobs in the UK are dependent on Europe. What can the Deputy Leader of the House do to correct that quality of answer?