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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 19:13 GMT
No rebuke for 'evasive' ministers
Michael Martin
Martin: 'MPs should persist with questions'
The speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, says he can not make ministers give straight answers to MPs questions.


One pointed question, in my experience, will achieve more than 20 vague ones

Michael Martin
If MPs have a problem with ministerial evasion they should pursue it through the proper channels, Mr Martin said in a statement to the Commons.

The speaker was responding to concerns that some ministers are treating parliament with contempt.

Backbenchers, including former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe, fear they are being prevented from carrying out their most important duty - that of holding ministers to account.

Persistance

Mr Martin said it would compromise his impartiality to rebuke ministers.

"It would be unwise for me to express a view on the adequacy of a particular ministerial answer," Mr Martin told MPs.

"There are bound to be two views on that and neither of them is a matter for me"

But the Speaker said MPs could improve matters themselves.

"They should persist. One pointed question, in my experience, will achieve more than 20 vague ones."

He also reminded ministers of their duty to "be as open as possible with parliament, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest."

See also:

29 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Speaker attacks lobbyists and spin
13 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Commons speaker re-elected
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Speaker defends debate remark
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