HOME OFFICE – QUESTIONS ABOUT SECURITY – 20 April 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: When the Home Secretary made her statement on 4 December about the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), I immediately tabled a question for written answer, asking her to list any security issues that might have been compromised. I accept that she might not have wanted to answer that question. I had a holding answer on 9 December, and I had to wait more than 15 weeks –

[Mr Speaker: Order. This has nothing to do with the statement.]

... POINTS OF ORDER ...

Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not having been skilful enough to have linked my earlier question sufficiently closely to the statement, but I say as a Point of Order that I know that you have many times expressed your concern about ministerial answers taking too long. I would like to hear your view on this one. I put down a question for a written answer on 9 December. I asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department

“if she will publish a list of the systematic leaks from her Department referred to in her statement of 4 December 2008, Official Report, columns 134–36, as having led to her to approve referring the matter to the police; and whether any of the leaks listed concerned issues of national security.”

I received a holding answer on 9 December, saying that I would get a reply as soon as possible. I received a reply more than 15 weeks later, on 26 March this year. This reply was from one of the Home Secretary's junior Ministers, referring me to the statement of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 4 December and giving the same column references that I had given in my question in the first place. Is not that a pretty contemptible way to treat hon. Members?

[Mr Speaker: I will not comment on the content, but questions should be as helpful as possible to right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr Crispin Blunt: Answers.

Mr Speaker: Pardon me. The hon. Gentleman is right – I mean answers. Forgive me; I have been out of practice, having had a bit of a holiday. The answers should be helpful, but the questions should be as well.]