Thursday, January 11, 2007

Government 's contempt for Parliament laid bare in written "answer"

As readers know, I have had a little bee in my bonnet for some time about how the Government uses the argument of "disproportionate cost" to avoid answering even the most basic of questions in Parliament. In recent weeks, Theresa May appears to have picked the subject up and has started asking questions about it.

She has submitted a number of questions to departments asking how many questions they failed to answer, wholly or partly, on the grounds of disproportionate costs, in the last Parliamentary session, and I have to say I am stunned at one of the answers. I imagine some people will guess what is coming now, but just in case you don't, the Department for Communities and Local Government (formerly ODPM) said
Angela E. Smith: Information on how many questions were not answered wholly or in part on the grounds of disproportionate cost is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Yes that's right. It will cost us too much to tell you how many times we said it will cost us too much to tell you something.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Now then Dizzy - I was the man responsible for drafting answers to PQs asked about a certain company. Some questions were absolutely stupid, and you wouldn't have wanted you taxpayers money spent on my salary trying to format statistics in one format then another then another to please an MPs.

Hence the phrase - the answer isnt available in the format requested.

What I find appalling is answers which will say the answer has been placed in the Commons Library - which the public can never see! Tut Tut!

Anonymous said...

I know I shouldn't be, but I just can't not-laugh at that.

It makes you wonder.

dizzy said...

Jonathan, I agree some questions are stupidly complex and I've said so in the past. I also agree fully on the point about the library too.

On the point about this question, given that all questions are in electornic form, it would take a matter of minutes to write a script that searched for how many time the phrase "disproportionate cost" was used. There's no way it would take up £700 of time to do.

dizzy said...

Admittedly I am assuming a level of competence and engineer style thought processes on a civil servant.

Anonymous said...

that's very funny. I like that. informs me that the phrase 'disproportionate cost' has appeared in Hansard 1,618 times since July 2001.

The top 5 users are all current or ex ministers:
Adam Ingram (MoD) - 414 times
Patricia Hewitt (Health) - 289
Lewis Moonie (Ex-MoD) - 263
Yvette Cooper (DCLG) - 262
Bev Hughes (DfES) - 253

Anonymous said...

surely the money wasted working out it would cost to much to answer could be
used to answer the question.