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Procedure Committee publishes report on Written Parliamentary Questions in 2021–22 Session

27 July 2022

The House of Commons Procedure Committee publishes its report on Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) monitoring in the last Parliamentary Session (2021–22).

The new report provides comprehensive published data on departmental answering performance in the 2021–22 Session of Parliament, accompanied with comparable data since the 2015–16 Session.

The Committee identified a modest increase in the proportion of timely answers from Government departments up from 79% to 85%. The Committee’s report noted that these improvements must continue in the 2022–23 Session.

In the Committee’s previous report on the 2019–21 Session, it identified areas in which improvements could be established. These findings are based upon complaints previously made by Members in respect to the answers they had received.

On the back of this, the Committee stated its intention to make recommendations for revisions to the Cabinet Office’s Guide to Parliamentary Work and made recommendations to the former Leader in writing on 10 November 2021.

The Committee expressed disappointment that despite the former Leader accepting their proposals in December 2021, more than six months on no action has been taken by the Government.

Therefore, the Committee in its newly published report is calling on the Government to:

  • Publish a revised Guide to Parliamentary Work making the changes we have recommended to the section on parliamentary questions; and
  • Make a written statement with details of the calculation and revalorisation of the disproportionate cost threshold, in line with the recommendations of the Chair's letter of 10 November 2021.

The Committee has also extended an invitation to the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, to give oral evidence on how his department will reach an acceptable level of WPQ performance.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Chair of the Procedure Committee, said: 

“Effective scrutiny of Ministers, and the departments they run, is a cornerstone of our democracy. If the Government wants to uphold the high standards expected of it, it simply isn’t possible to achieve this until Parliamentary questions are treated with the respect they deserve.

We are concerned that our suggested revisions to the Cabinet Office's Guide to Parliamentary Work have not yet been made, and no new Guide has been issued, six months on from the Secretary of State accepting our proposals.

Our report therefore calls on the government to fulfil its obligations to the House and engage with the Committee’s proposals.

I look forward to continuing to work with Members across the House and to hear their views on the ways in which we can continue to improve the system of Written Parliamentary Questions.”

Further information

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