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Point of Order

Volume 693: debated on Thursday 29 April 2021

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As a further letter of complaint, I want to raise with you the problem of Government Departments not meeting the guidelines for named day questions. To put it in context, this Government spend more money on polling and focus groups than any Government in history. There may be good reason for that, but for the past year, they have adamantly resisted all freedom of information requests about that subject. I put in five named day questions on specific elements of it. Not one of them was answered on time; indeed, not one of them has been answered yet. This is not unusual: other Departments also resist answering named day questions, and this is an instrument that is critical for holding Governments to account. This was the Cabinet Office, but other Departments do the same. Mr Speaker, May I ask you to get the House authorities to speak to the Government about meeting these guidelines, so that our attempts to hold them to account are more effective?

I totally agree with everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is not acceptable. Unfortunately we do not have business questions today, because I know that the Leader of the House, like both of us, is also concerned that questions need to be answered. We have a procedure and a process that Secretaries of State and Ministers have to take seriously. It is totally unacceptable. We are elected by our constituents, our constituents expect a service, and that service is being denied by Minister’s Departments. It is not acceptable. We will continue to take it up, but I also say to Secretaries of State that I would not like to cross the right hon. Gentleman, because I know that this will not be the end of it. I am sure that he is already on to the Procedure Committee to let it know of his dissatisfaction. However, I am also dissatisfied. The message needs to go to the heart of Government: take MPs seriously from all sides. They deserve the service; so do their constituents. It is not acceptable; let us keep in touch on it.

I am suspending the sitting. Shortly before it resumes, I shall call for the Division bells to be sounded.

Sitting suspended.