78. Ministerial statements are an important opportunity
for Members of Parliament to be informed of the policies the Government
intends to pursue and for Members, especially backbenchers, to
question Ministers on those policies. Oral statements in particular
are highly valued by backbenchers. It is therefore in the interests
of the House for Ministers to be encouraged to make as many statements
as are necessary and for the rules of the House to facilitate
as far as possible the making of statements. We hope that the
changes we have proposed in this report will serve to encourage
Ministers to make important announcements to Parliament first.
79. Information about government policy has for many
years found its way into the public domain at times when the House
is sitting before it is announced to Parliament. We strongly deprecate
this practice. There must be consequences for Ministers who find
that information, by whatever means, has been "pre-released"
by their departments. We hope that the changes we have proposed
will act as a necessary deterrent to Ministers and officials who
are tempted to make announcements or leak information before a
statement has been made to Parliament.