'No plan' to extend Defra questions

THE government says it has no plans to increase the amount of time ministers can be quizzed by MPs on rural issues.

The topic was raised in the House of Commons a year after the government reduced the amount of time allocated for oral questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Anne McIntosh, MP for Thirsk and Malton, asked Leader of the House George Young to explain the reason for reducing the allocation and to reconsider the decision.

Mr Young said the change had come about following an Opposition request to increase the time allocated for oral questions to the Deputy Prime Minister in April 2011.

"As a consequence of this change it was necessary for other changes to be made to the oral questions rota, including reducing the allocation of oral questions to Defra," he said.

"While the status of the oral questions rota is kept under review, I have no current plans to increase the amount of time allocated to Defra oral questions."

Defra question time – which allows MPs to quiz ministers in the House of Commons – was reduced from an hour to 45 minutes last April.

The reduction prompted a letter of protest from the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, which is chaired by Mrs McIntosh.

There was no lack of interest in Defra's work among MPs, said Mrs McIntosh at the time.

"Defra oral questions are always over-subscribed and the floor of the House of Commons is the right place to hold Ministers to account.

"Cutting down oral questions will only weaken scrutiny of the department."


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