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.