MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE THE PROCEDURE COMMITTEE
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
Mr Nicholas Winterton, in the Chair
|Ms Meg Munn
|Mr Eric Joyce
|Mr David Rendel
|Mr Iain Luke
Letter from Mr Graham Allen MP to the Chairman of the
It is a nonsense in this age of communication that 14 days
notice is required by Government. If it were reduced to, say,
two working days, questions could be far more topical and Parliament
a little more relevant.
The Committee may wish to consider allowing open questions
with two days notice or abolishing notice entirely. This would
make questions far more political. Colleagues with detailed or
specific questions could ask written questions or write to Ministers.
The valuable hour for questions would then focus on the vital
issues of the day, Ministers instead of pretending to know each
microscopic detail would be held to account for their policies.
Colleagues could draw a ballot as now and have two questions or
alternatively notify the Speaker that they wanted to ask a question.
If colleagues had a technical or detailed point, they could of
course give notice to a Minister that they intended to raise an
issue so that he or she could get briefed and give a full detailed
This is Parliament's Question Time (and not Government's)
and we need to make it more topical and timely otherwise we will
continue to abdicate our responsibilities to the Today Programme
10 September 2001
Letter from Mr Andrew Bennett MP to
the Chairman of the Committee
Why measure departmental questions by time? Why not go on
until number x is reached. Make Ministers speed up answers. Or,
best of both, 45 minutes or to question 25. Why not allow opposition
one question, with only one hour noticesometimes very contrived
to get topic of day attached to existing question. Instead of
Minister grouping questions, why not the Speaker? Why not allow
each MP one priority written question per weekthat is really
priorityie substantive answer within 12 hours. (Possibly
MP would have to convince Table Office it is really a priority
for that MPnot a disguised campaign).
Still too many written questions going down (to prove researchers
are doing something, or so-called all party group researchers
are doing things). The result is that the process gets slower
and slower, poorer and poorer answers and costs more and more.
Why not, like oral questions, limit each MP to so many written
questions. This is important if e-mail is to be allowed and tabling
during recesses. (Good idea but needs regulating). Table Office
ought to enforce campaigns rules vigorouslypossibly tighten
rules as well. Once every 4-6 weeks have extra departmental question
time in Westminster Hall30 minutessix topics, one
each chosen by opposition and government front benchesone
by minority parties and three by ballot. Allow more sustained
questioning on major issues.
Questions on Private Notice Questions and statementsGovernment
response or statement to go in lobby at least 1 hour before dealt
with on the floor of the house. Then real questions. Obviously
Opposition would be able to release counter statement. Neither
side would need so long for opening. Possibly give Minister maximum
2 minutes for opening sound-bite.
Very sad questions not really been reformed for over 30 yearsbut
essential experiments ought to be tried and evaluated before any
changes become permanent.
24 January 2002