Is the Leader of the House aware that, on this side of the House at least, we are becoming increasingly irritated by the way in which major items of policy are planted in Hansard by means of written questions, such as, for example, the extension of the 6 per cent. pay policy for local authority employees? Will he tell his Cabinet colleagues that the House expects full statements on major items of policy, instead of information being sneaked into Hansard?
The hon. Gentleman may be irritated, but his irritation is not justified. In all the statements that have been made, oral or written, the appropriate precedents have been followed. Although we must follow those precedents, it is a positive advantage for Ministers to be able to come to the House to explain and defend Government policies. They are able to do that all the better when questions are put, not always totally aptly, by Opposition Members.
Merely because the Labour Government did so occasionally, is that an excuse for the Government sneaking written answers in at toe last minute? Can the right hon. Gentleman at least assure us that on Thursday 18 December, the next to last day of term before Christmas, he will not sneak in important answers in response to written questions, which would mean that the House could not scrutinise them until the middle of January?