Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Committee report on written parliamentary questions reveals worrying pandemic impact on Government answering performance

A new report released by the Commons Procedure Committee lays bare the impact of the pandemic on ministerial accountability in the House of Commons, as a decade of steady improvement in answering written parliamentary questions went into reverse.

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The research found that in the 2019-21 session of Parliament, there was a decline of 15% in the rate of timeliness of answering named day questions, and a 13% decline in the timeliness of answering ordinary questions. The drop was primarily caused by a huge increase in the number of questions addressed to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Parliamentary interest in the work of Government soared during the session, with an average of 331 written parliamentary questions being tabled each day in the 2019-21 session, an increase of 18% on the previous full parliamentary session (2017-19).

The Committee supported a recommendation from the Leader of the House that establishing a ‘league table’ system of real-time reporting of answering performance across Government departments could be of merit.

The Committee also agreed to consider whether improved guidance to Government departments could improve the quality of answers and consistency in answering practice and committed to making recommendations later this year on revisions to the Guide to Parliamentary Work.

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