HC Deb 23 March 1999 vol 328 c212W
Mr. Trend

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Donoughue, had in his possession the questions which he was going to be asked by the European Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday 10 February before the meeting took place. [75718]

Mr. Rooker

The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee sitting held on 10 February posed a wide range of questions. The Parliamentary Secretary was aware at a briefing session two days before the meeting what were the main policy areas which would attract questions from the Committee. However, he did not know many of the questions that were to be raised.

Having some knowledge in advance of the Committee's main questions helped the Parliamentary Secretary to reply promptly and in as informative a way as possible, for the benefit of the Committee. It is helpful to the Committee. It can avoid the need for copious follow up correspondence. It is not expected by, nor necessary to, Ministers.

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Secretary informs me he did not know at the time of the particular contacts between officials of the Scrutiny Committee and of MAFF: he did not ask for nor initiate them and played no part in the preparation of his brief. This contact was initiated by officials of the Scrutiny Committee. It is a common, though not universal, practice which also obtained under previous Administrations.