BUSINESS QUESTION – WRITTEN QUESTIONS – 25 October 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Leader of the House look into the operation of the named day questions system? I understood that when the maximum number of questions allowed was reduced to five per day, the other half of the contract was that the Ministries concerned would make serious efforts to answer them on the named day. Nevertheless, I usually add a bit of extra time.

When Parliament resumed on 8 October, I was astonished to receive a holding answer to three fairly straightforward questions about the Royal Navy that I had tabled on 26 July. When I tabled another question asking why that had happened, the Minister for the Armed Forces replied:

“The answers were delayed as my weekend ministerial box was not delivered to the office until 9 October as a result of the postal strike.” – [Official Report, 15 October 2007; Vol. 464, c. 766W.]

Does that mean that questions do not get anywhere near Ministers until the last day or two of a 10-week recess? And what are ministerial boxes doing in the postal system?

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I will look into the important points raised by the hon. Gentleman, write to him and place a copy of my letter in the Library. We all want questions to be answered promptly and clearly, and not after a delay of months.]