Letter from Mr William Cash MP to the
Chairman of the Committee
As Shadow Attorney General, one of my responsibilities
is to face the Solicitor General and the Parliamentary Secretary
at the Lord Chancellor's Department three or four times a month
at the Despatch Box.
This therefore means that I have to table my
oral questions 14 days before my appearances.
In the last few months, I have had questions
refused by the table office (which cover my brief) and/or transferred
at the last minute, such as a recent question on trial by jury
which was transferred on the day of questions. Tony Baldry, who
was preparing to ask the question on jury trial has since written
to me to inform me of the transfer.
I have unearthed the First Report from the Select
Committee on Procedure which deals with PQs and in particular
Article 53 which deals with Blocks.
The Procedure Committee recommended that the
proposals should be approved but I feel that this should be reviewed.
By this I mean that it is not the needless repetition of questions
which is at issue.
I think that the basis upon which Ministers
decline to reply needs to be examined and tested.
Furthermore, I think that Ministers should not
be enabled to avoid questions except in extreme cases as matters
of national security or where their own department responsibilities
are clearly not involved.
However, far too many questions are transferred
apparently at the whim of the Government departments and I think
this whole subject needs to be examined and curtailed.
5 March 2002