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Ministerial Announcements (Guidance)

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 4 December 2014

3. What guidance he has given to his ministerial colleagues on making announcements to the House before the media. (906420)

The ministerial code is clear. When Parliament is in Session the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance to Parliament, and I regularly remind my colleagues of this.

I thank the Leader of the House for his answer. He said the ministerial code is clear. That seems strange to me, because the statement we heard from the Chancellor yesterday had a familiar ring to it—I had read most of it in the Sunday papers. Will he clarify again whether the ministerial code should be observed rather than ignored?

Well of course it should be observed, but I think the hon. Gentleman chooses a rather poor example for his argument. There was a great deal in the Chancellor’s statement yesterday that came as a complete surprise to this House and to the wider world, both in the economic forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility and in the many specific measures. The autumn statement truly showed that announcements are being made in Parliament.

Will my right hon. Friend seek to build on his already fearsome reputation for parliamentary innovation by considering the use of Westminster Hall for oral ministerial statements?

I am not sure how much that would add to my fearsome reputation, although I am always happy to attempt to add to such a thing. We have not had any shortage of capacity to make oral statements here on the Floor of the House. I think there have been 38 statements in this Session so far and we have always been able to accommodate them. If we ever get to the point where they could not be accommodated, we should look at the point my hon. Friend makes.

May I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin)? Has the situation not gone so far now that everything in the autumn statement should be announced through the press? At least then we would have a chance to debate it all in advance, rather than it being used by the Chancellor to pull a rabbit out of the hat in a political sense by announcing it in the House in that very unfair way?

Opposition Members cannot have it both ways. Well, they can try to have it both ways—we have heard both arguments from those on the Opposition Back Benches. That perhaps shows that everything relating to the autumn statement was presented in the correct way. As someone who served as Leader of the Opposition when Alastair Campbell was advising the Government of Tony Blair, I do not need any lectures from anybody about announcements being made in the press rather than elsewhere.