HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc591-2
39. Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

If she will assess the consequences of allowing written questions to be answered and early-day motions tabled and published during parliamentary adjournments; and if she will make a statement. [66800]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Paddy Tipping)

The Government have not yet been persuaded that there is a case for separating those parliamentary activities from the times when the House normally sits, but would be prepared to give it further consideration.

Mr. Barnes

May I try to persuade the Government to act as suggested in my question? We have a number of recesses, including a lengthy one in the summer, and the only means that Members of Parliament have to contact Departments during that period is by telephone, fax or letter. Occasionally, they manage to take a deputation to see a Minister. It is important that we have parliamentary questions answered and early-day motions published if we are to raise important issues on behalf of our constituents. Why is it that, during the 13 weeks of the summer recess, we are no longer Members of Parliament, but Members without a Parliament? Do we not need some of the avenues that a Parliament should have?

Hon. Members


Mr. Tipping

I shall agree with this: my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) is not noted for his quietness during the summer recess. He campaigns vigorously, as do many other hon. Members. Avenues are available if hon. Members wish to pursue certain issues, but as I said in my opening remarks, if a strong case can be made, we are prepared to look again and consult others on a way forward.

Mr. Fabricant

Is not one of the Minister's fears that other Ministers may not be available to answer such parliamentary questions? Is he aware that technology now exists to contact helicopters, Concorde and luxury villas in the Seychelles, so that Ministers can be available at all times to answer hon. Members' questions?

Mr. Tipping

The hon. Gentleman well knows that each Department has Ministers working throughout the year, every day and every week. We intend to modernise this country; we shall modernise it throughout the long break and way through into the millennium.