In a report published today, the Procedure Committee reviews a recent trial period in which it acted as a point of complaint for MPs about unsatisfactory or late answers to Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs), and proposes to take on this role on a permanent basis.
Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) are critical in helping Parliament carry out its role of examining and challenging the work of Government, as they offer MPs a simple and effective way to seek information and to hold the Government to account.
The report notes a number of examples where following up a complaint has resulted in a better answer from a Government Department.
It also looks at the timeliness of WPQ responses in the Parliamentary Session 2010-12, and it finds a mixed picture. In most Departments, performance was satisfactory or better.
However, in a significant minority, responses were unsatisfactory. The Department for Education was a particular disappointment, and the Committee held two oral evidence sessions about the reasons for the poor performance and the steps the Department was taking to improve.
Committee Chair Charles Walker said:
“Ministers in poorly-performing departments have pledged to improve the quality and timeliness of their answers. We will make sure that we hold them to their word.”