Ministerial Statements - Procedure Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Stewart Hosie MP, Chief Whip, Scottish National Party Westminster Group (P 50,

The Scottish National Party MPs feel that the system of ministerial statements broadly functions well. Since the General Election in May the party has received the text of Oral Ministerial Statements reasonably far in advance.

The party would support improvements to ensure that members were notified about oral statements and urgent questions even earlier than currently occurs. A problem that often affects SNP parliamentarians, who represent constituencies in Scotland and therefore travel significant distances, is that statements to be made in the House are almost always not confirmed until the day they are due to be made. This makes it very difficult for members to make travel arrangements if they expect an important statement to be made the next day. Members often find themselves relying on parliamentary or media rumours for information on statements. If all opposition parties were made aware of the statements to be made the next day in the House, the form which they would take and the order in which they would be made as far in advanced as possible, this would enable better scrutiny of the Government.

The SNP also feel that if a statement is to be made by the Government on a subject of interest to a constituency or a specific constituency matter, the Member representing the constituency should be notified well in advance to enable them to give a reasoned, well-thought out response. This is particularly important in the wake of the tragic death of Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan, and the subsequent ministerial statements made to the House. Ms Norgrove was a constituent of Angus MacNeil MP, however he was only made aware that a statement would be made about the circumstances surrounding her death through the media in the evening, and had to wait until the next day to find out for definite that a statement would be made, and which form it would take. Prior notice of a statement on such a sensitive matter would have been greatly appreciated by the Member.

A further improvement to be considered is the possibility of publishing detailed background documents with a statement, to be given to the lead opposition spokesperson from all parties, which would enable the Member to ask a sensible question and better hold the Government to account.

December 2010

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