Select Committee on Procedure Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Mr Graham Allen MP to the Chairman of the Committee

  Would you ask the Procedure Committee to look at the question of the notice period for oral questions? It is a nonsense in this age of communication that 14 days' notice is required by Government. If it were reduced to, say, two working days, questions could be far more topical and Parliament a little more relevant.

  The Committee may wish to consider allowing open questions with two days' notice or abolishing notice entirely. This would make questions far more political. Colleagues with detailed or specific questions could ask written questions or write to Ministers. The valuable hour for questions would then focus on the vital issues of the day; Ministers instead of pretending to know each microscopic detail would be held to account for their policies. Colleagues could draw a ballot as now and have two questions or alternatively notify the Speaker that they wanted to ask a question. If colleagues had a technical or detailed point, they could of course give notice to a Minister that they intended to raise an issue so that he or she could get briefed and give a full detailed answer.

  This is Parliament's Question Time (and not Government's) and we need to make it more topical and timely otherwise we will continue to abdicate our responsibilities to the Today Programme or Newsnight.

10 September 2001

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