PASC 03-04 PN.11

Session 2003-04

Press Notice No.11


In a report out today, PASC-the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee-sets out a range of concerns about the quality of Ministers' answers to MPs' written Parliamentary Questions.

The report says that Parliamentary Questions are "one of the most important instruments of Ministerial accountability to the House". Among the shortcomings raised in the report (HC 355) are:

• Standard ministerial replies which fail to answer the Question

• Variations in departments' guidance about how to answer Questions

• Delays of up to six months in providing replies

• Cases where Members' Parliamentary Questions are treated less favourably than public requests for information

Among other things, the Committee recommends that the Cabinet Office should regularly audit departments to make sure they are providing consistent guidance to ministers and officials on Questions.

Despite these difficulties, the Committee accepts that for government "in recent years the presumption has changed significantly in favour of openness", and it welcomes the Freedom of Information Act, which  should "further encourage a cultural shift towards greater openness and transparency for the benefit of both citizens and their elected representatives".

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For further information please telephone Philip Aylett, Clerk of the Committee on 020 7219 3498.  Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

Publications and evidence, including uncorrected evidence, is also available on the Internet at:

For information regarding forthcoming meetings including venues and times please call the House of Commons Committee Information Line on 020 7219 2033 (updated daily).