POINT OF ORDER – MINISTERIAL ANSWERS – 13 October 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order on an entirely separate subject, Mr. Speaker. In a spirit of optimism, when the House rose in July, I put down an extremely short question for named day answer to the Secretary of State for Defence, simply asking

“what discussions he has held with his US counterpart on vulnerability to electromagnetic pulse attacks; and if he will make a statement.”

I am tempted to say that that is hardly rocket science, but maybe it is. Nevertheless, I tabled that question at the end of July, and yesterday I had my named day answer: “I will answer shortly.” Surely to put down a named day question in July and get a holding answer in October is utterly unacceptable, even for the Ministry of Defence?

[Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. As he will know, the content of answers is of course not a matter for me, and answers must be handled by the relevant Minister, but he makes his point with his customary force and alacrity. Who could disagree that the delay that he has experienced is frankly unacceptable? I hope that Members on the Treasury Bench will have heard the point. I did exhort Ministers to respond in a timely way to questions, and I do believe that I emphasised in exchanges just before the recess that simply to respond with a holding answer several weeks later, along the lines of “I will respond shortly,” does not meet with the spirit of what I have said and is frankly resented by Members in all parts of the House.]