Below is the text of the Speaker’s statement made in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.
Before calling the Prime Minister to make a statement, I would like to make a statement of my own accord. I am aware of widespread concerns across the House about delays in Government Departments, and the Department of Health and Social Care in particular, responding to written questions and correspondence. I have received representations on this matter from the Procedure Committee and from Back Benchers across the House from Opposition parties.
Last Wednesday, the Leader of the House argued that a degree of latitude is allowable for the Department. However, the Secretary of State himself has referred repeatedly to the value of parliamentary scrutiny. Written questions and letters to Ministers are integral to such scrutiny. I accept that the Department of Health and Social Care faces many challenges, but I am sure that resources across Whitehall can be mobilised to support it in maintaining proper standards of accountability.
While I think it is right for me to call for improvements within the Government, I also make a plea to all hon. Members to be targeted and considered in the written questions that they table at this time, and to avoid swamping Departments with questions on a fast-moving situation that will be superseded before they can be answered.
I now call the Prime Minister, who should speak for no more than 10 minutes.