HC Deb 11 June 2002 vol 386 cc720-2
46. Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

If he will bring forward proposals to improve the effectiveness of the system of oral parliamentary questions. [57426]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

The Procedure Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into parliamentary questions. I am sure that the House looks forward with interest to its recommendations. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has already made it clear to that Committee that he would like to make oral questions more topical.

Mr. Lazarowicz

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the more the House does to make Question Time a more effective way of scrutinising Government, the better for democracy and the reputation of the House? Does he also agree that one of the problems with the system of oral questions is that the notice requirement makes it difficult to raise topical issues, and it is difficult to deal with issues in depth? May I invite him and our right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to make representations to that effect to the Modernisation Committee, so that it can make proposals for change as soon as possible?

Mr. Bradshaw

My hon. Friend is right; there is a widespread feeling in the House that we could make oral questions a lot more topical and relevant. A number of useful and interesting ideas are being discussed, as he said, including shortening the tabling period; electronic tabling, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said; adopting topical questions, as has been done in the House of Lords; and having fewer questions, so that those which we discuss can be discussed in much greater depth.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

As the Minister indicated, the Procedure Committee, which I have the honour of chairing, is likely to produce a report on parliamentary questions in the next fortnight, and some of its recommendations will be constructive, radical and almost revolutionary. Will the Minister, following discussion with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, assure the House and me that the report will be debated at an early date, perhaps with a report of the Modernisation Committee, which is also relatively imminent?

Mr. Bradshaw

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his excellent chairmanship of the Procedure Committee, to whose recommendations we very much look forward. I am glad to hear that they may be radical and revolutionary—not always labels with which the hon. Gentleman likes to be associated. I am sure that the whole House would like his Committee's recommendations to be debated as soon as possible.

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