2 Principles |
The value of statements
8. Backbench Members were positive about the opportunity
offered by oral statements for backbenchers to hold the Government
to account. In written evidence, Nicky Morgan MP said that "[statements]
offer a real way to question ministers and to raise issues which
are of concern to constituents."
Duncan Hames MP, giving oral evidence, also felt that statements
were "very useful", and added:
I think it's pretty important for the prestige of
Parliament that on these major matters of the day there is an
opportunity for Parliament to be the focus of attention in debating
the merits or otherwise of what has happened.
9. Statements, especially oral statements, are valued
by backbenchers and we would deprecate any changes that made it
more difficult for Ministers to make them. Our main concern in
this report is therefore to encourage and facilitate the making
of statements by Ministers to the House and to discourage the
leaking of important announcements to the media. We are also keen
to ensure that Members, particularly backbenchers, have adequate
opportunities to question Ministers on statements that are made.
10. The Government must make important announcements
to Parliament before they are made elsewhere. Mr Philip Hollobone
MP, moving the motion in the debate on 20 July 2010, said:
The Chamber of the House of Commons should be the
centre of political public life in our country. It should not
be an inconvenience for Ministers to come here and tell the country
about important policy: it should be an honour and privilege to
keep the information to themselves until they have told Members
of this House.
11. We recognise that the Government has a duty to
inform the public as well as Members of Parliament about its policies,
and that it often chooses to do this by releasing information
to the press. We nevertheless maintain that Members and their
constituents are best served when announcements are made to elected
representatives before they are made to the media. Parliament
should be the centre of national debate and the place in which
the most important announcements of government policy are made.
Releasing information outside
12. There are a number of different ways in which
the principle that important announcements should be made to Parliament
first could be breached. Ministers have been known to make an
important announcement outside Parliament and not seek to make
a statement, either written or oral. Ministers sometimes release
information overtly (for example, during a broadcast interview)
before making a statement to the House. There have also been accusations
that Ministers have covertly leaked information directly or by
giving instructions to officialseither before a statement
is made or without making a statement at all. Finally, there have
been instances where it appears that information was leaked from
the Department without the Minister's knowledge.
13. It is our view that all of the actions described
above are grave discourtesies to Parliament. We are sympathetic
to Ministers where information is leaked without their knowledge.
We maintain, however, that Ministers are ultimately responsible
for the conduct of their Departments and that they should therefore
expect to be questioned on any inappropriate release of information,
whether or not it occurs at their instruction.
3 Ev 30 Back
HC Deb, 20 July 2010, c244 Back