MPs challenge Sir George Young over decision to cut allocation of time for DEFRA parliamentary questions

27 April 2011

The Government is wrong to reduce the amount of time MPs have to question ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says Anne McIntosh, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

In a letter to Sir George Young (PDF PDF 31 KB), Leader of the House of Commons, the Committee expressed concern in early April that there will be less time available for MPs to scrutinise Caroline Spelman and other ministers at the department. 

Publishing the letter for the first time today, Anne McIntosh said:
"Defra must manage some of the country's biggest risks, not least flooding and animal disease outbreaks. We see no justification for reducing the time available for MPs to put questions on these important subjects and have asked Sir George to explain the rationale behind this decision.
"There is no lack of interest in Defra's work amongst MPs;  Defra oral questions are always over-subscribed and the floor of the House of Commons is the right place to hold Ministers to account. Cutting down oral questions will only weaken scrutiny of the department.
" Defra's recent change of policy on forestry was not only prompted by the public outcry but also the intense questioning by MPs of all parties on the floor of the House of Commons," says Anne McIntosh
The decision to cut the time allocated to DEFRA questions was announced by Written Ministerial Statement shortly before the start of the Easter recess.
The change was made to provide more time for questions to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney General.
DEFRA is the only department to have its allocation of time for MP's questions reduced.

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