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Harriet Harman’s letter to Mitchell

8 February 2011

Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary, has written to Andrew Mitchell about topical questions at International Development Questions in Parliament. You can read her letter below and we all look forward to this change being implemented in time for the next International Development Questions on 16 February

Dear Andrew, 

I am writing to confirm your agreement that we should have topical questions at Oral PQs and to ask that we introduce the change soon – for Oral Questions next week if possible.

Of course oral answers to questions tabled up to three days ahead provide vital accountability to the House. But there are occasions, indeed there have been in the last two questions sessions, where there has been a sudden emergency situation overseas and where the House would like to hear of the government’s response from yourself and your ministerial team. We agreed when we met that topical questions can ensure that these questions can be asked without relying on the luck of the draw of tabled questions providing an opportunity to raise this. It is not desirable for the House not to be able to raise important emergencies or to have to do so obliquely to get the Question “in order”. Indeed doing it like this often leaves the rest of the House, and no doubt the public, baffled.

I am grateful for your agreement that we should have topical questions. I agree that proceeding by way of 10 minutes’ topicals at the top of the orals, followed by 20 minutes of tabled questions, is the best way of doing it. I understand that the Speaker and the Leader of the House have no objection to this.

I look forward to your support and action to make this change, if possible, in time for next orals on 16th February.

I am releasing this letter to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

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