The House of Commons should have greater powers to hold the Government to account when information is released to the press before a statement is made in Parliament, say the Procedure Committee in a new report.
The House of Commons Procedure Committee today publishes a report recommending:
- That there should be a House protocol stating that Ministers must make important announcements to Parliament first
- That this protocol should be enforced by the Speaker, with more serious or complex cases being referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges for further investigation
- That MPs should have the chance to ask oral questions in Westminster Hall on one written statement made each week
- That MPs should have more chances to ask Urgent Questions when Ministers fail to make a statement to Parliament
- That the Government must try harder to give MPs notice of forthcoming statements
Committee Chair Greg Knight said: “Parliament must be the centre of national debate. The House of Commons must make it clear that it expects Ministers to make important announcements to Parliament first. We propose that MPs should be able to make complaints to the Speaker when they believe that information has been leaked. In the most serious cases, the Committee on Standards and Privileges should be asked to investigate and recommend appropriate sanctions. When Ministers fail to honour their duties to Parliament, they must be held to account.
We have rejected Government proposals to impose time limits on statements and to remove requirements to give notice that statements will be made. Instead, our proposals aim to strengthen scrutiny of the Executive – for example, by giving MPs the opportunity to question Ministers on written statements, so that the Government is no longer able to slip out important announcements without proper parliamentary scrutiny.”