Point of Order

AN MP has accused the Ministry of Justice of refusing to answer his questions for fear of what it may reveal.

Shipley MP Philip Davies criticised the department for its “unacceptable” response to a question regarding prison sentences which provided no answer but told him to look on the Government’s gov.uk website.

Mr Davies raised a Point of Order in Parliament shaming the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for its “underhand tactics”.

Mr Davies said: “On 18 January I asked a question to the MoJ to ask how many and what proportion of sentences for each category of offences were suspended sentences. On the 16 February the Minister for Prisons replied saying the information requested can be found on gov.uk. It took a month for the MoJ to find this information on gov.uk before they could put it in an answer to me and there was no indication on where on gov.uk it could be found and this is not the first time this has happened.

“It is becoming an increasingly regular occurrence with the MoJ and it seems clear to me they are doing this deliberately to try and make sure this information never comes to light.”

Mr Davies is referring the matter to the Commons Procedure Committee but also called on Speaker John Bercow to ensure answers MPs are given are “open and transparent rather than this dishonourable tactic.”

Mr Bercow said the answer given to Mr Davies was not acceptable and MPs should be given timely and substantive responses.

He added: “It is one thing for a minister in answering a written parliamentary question to refer to a website on which further and more detailed information might be available which would be of interest to the MP but another matter to simply, blandly and without guidance or direction to refer to a website and say nothing about where on it the Member should look and imagine that is a satisfactory substitute for a straight answer to a straight question. It is not.”