Select Committee on Procedure Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Mr William Cash MP to the Chairman of the Committee

  As Shadow Attorney General, one of my responsibilities is to face the Solicitor General and the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department three or four times a month at the Despatch Box.

  This therefore means that I have to table my oral questions 14 days before my appearances.

  In the last few months, I have had questions refused by the table office (which cover my brief) and/or transferred at the last minute, such as a recent question on trial by jury which was transferred on the day of questions. Tony Baldry, who was preparing to ask the question on jury trial has since written to me to inform me of the transfer.

  I have unearthed the First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure which deals with PQs and in particular Article 53 which deals with Blocks.

  The Procedure Committee recommended that the proposals should be approved but I feel that this should be reviewed. By this I mean that it is not the needless repetition of questions which is at issue.

  I think that the basis upon which Ministers decline to reply needs to be examined and tested.

  Furthermore, I think that Ministers should not be enabled to avoid questions except in extreme cases as matters of national security or where their own department responsibilities are clearly not involved.

  However, far too many questions are transferred apparently at the whim of the Government departments and I think this whole subject needs to be examined and curtailed.

5 March 2002

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