Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 24th March 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 1:56 pm, 24th March 2005

Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that when we return after the Easter recess, the Prime Minister himself will make an oral statement, and respond to questions from hon. Members, to substantiate the Government's response to the recommendations of the Butler inquiry? All hon. Members will be staggered by the mind-boggling cheek of producing such a short written statement on the response to such an incredibly important report yesterday—the day before the House rises for the recess. There has been media questioning, but Members of the House have had no opportunity to question the Government on important matters, including the machinery of government. What could be more important in a parliamentary democracy than the accountability of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to Parliament?

The Butler report found sloppy decision making and inadequate lines of responsibility. It was a devastating attack on so-called "sofa politics". It defined precisely the corrosive tendencies to which that has led and highlighted yet another reason why the public are disillusioned with, and disengaged from, the political process. I shall quote a specific conclusion from the report:

"we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informed collective political judgement. Such risks are particularly significant in a field like the subject of our Review, where hard facts are inherently difficult to come by and the quality of judgement is accordingly all the more important."

Last night's statement was a totally inadequate reply to that conclusion, and the apposite and well-informed criticisms made about the way in which Ministers used their judgment on intelligence issues. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were in the Chamber today. Were they too scared to answer questions from parliamentarians about such vital issues at the very heart of our political system?