BUSINESS QUESTION – WRITTEN ANSWERS – 13 December 2007
Dr Julian Lewis: My question relates to column 611W of yesterday's Hansard and a written answer that I received. I thank the Leader of the House and her deputy [Helen Goodman] most warmly for the support that they have been giving to my mini-campaign. When a Minister's written answer refers to a written answer given to another hon. Member, I would like a hard copy of that answer to be supplied. I also thank them both for the following written answer:
“It is standard practice to provide Members with a copy of any previous response which is referred to in an answer to a question.” – [Official Report, 26 November 2007; Vol. 468, c. 133W.]
May I therefore ask the Leader of the House to have a word with the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg)? He provided a written answer that stated:
“The MOD has never provided this information and has no plans to change its policy.” – [Official Report, 12 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 611W.]
I know that they are overstretched and part-time, but should they not at least listen to the Leader of the House?
[The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): When Ministers answer questions it is important that they recognise that this is about accountability. They should answer questions in a spirit of accountability to this House. They should not provide research pointers or clues so that the Member then has to do some more finding out. A complete answer ought to be given. Referring to other questions, to departmental or agency websites or to previous things is not being as helpful as I would like Ministers to be to Members of this House. Being helpful to Members and carrying on with the business of Government are both responsibilities. One of the responsibilities of Government is to be accountable to this House. I totally dispute what the hon. Gentleman said about the part-time something or other – I cannot remember what it was, but I totally disagree with it – but I strongly agree with him about ministerial accountability.]