Ministerial Statements - Procedure Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Naomi Long MP, Deputy Leader, Alliance Party (P 52, 2010-11)

As a new Member I have limited experience in this House; however, based on my previous experience in the Northern Ireland Assembly, I would wish to make two points.

In the development of a protocol to ensure that Ministers make important announcements to Parliament first, I would suggest that the critical issue for the Committee is the clear definition of what qualifies as important in this regard. Such definition would be necessary for any protocol to both enforceable and reasonable.

I suspect that only a limited number of sanctions are available to be taken against a Minister that breaches such a protocol and this could weaken the overall effectiveness of any such protocol. Potentially, one such sanction which may be appropriate is to require that a Minister come and answer questions on any significant statement made outside of the House within a short period. Doing so would ensure that scrutiny could not be avoided and this may be a significant disincentive to making such announcements elsewhere.

I share the concern expressed on this issue by Members, but I also recognise that it is not easily resolved.

December 2010

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