HC Deb 02 December 1997 vol 302 cc153-4
32. Mr. Robathan

What plans she has to review the arrangements for Prime Minister's questions. [17123]

Mrs. Ann Taylor

The new arrangements have been in use for barely six months, and I have no plans to review them.

Mr. Robathan

Does the right hon. Lady agree that, in a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament? Did she see yesterday's report in The Times revealing that the Prime Minister had not voted since the summer recess—which may have prompted him to vote once, yesterday? Is she aware that the Prime Minister failed to declare a registrable interest by going to Silverstone, in 1996, and not putting the visit in the Register of Members' Interests? Does she agree that that shows that the Prime Minister does not consider himself to be accountable to Parliament? Furthermore, does she agree that he is treating the voters—all those, of whatever party, who elected us to this place—with contempt and treating parliamentary democracy and the House with disdain and contempt?

Mrs. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman was, I think, asking about Prime Minister's Question Time and accountability. Before I came into the Chamber, I checked the number of questions asked of the Prime Minister in the last week of the previous Parliament, before the system changed—when a total of 16 questions were asked—and last week, when he was asked 25 questions. The figures mean that more hon. Members had an opportunity to ask a question of the Prime Minister and that, perhaps most important, more Back Benchers had an opportunity to ask him a question.

Sir Patrick Cormack

What attempt has the Leader of the House made to discover hon. Members' reaction to the change? Is she aware that many hon. Members who sat in the previous Parliament do not believe that an improvement has been made? Will she also give the House a total assurance that there will be no more arbitrary changes to our procedures without consultation?

Mrs. Taylor

Yes, I can give an assurance that, when we are considering changes to the rota—which may occasionally happen, depending on the pressures and the wishes of the House for more time for certain Departments—there will be consultations through the usual channels. We have had very few representations criticising the current format of Prime Minister's Question Time. As I said, many Back Benchers seem to approve of the fact that more Back Benchers now have an opportunity to question the Prime Minister.