Thursday, February 28, 2008

Taking answering a different question to a new level

If you;ve ever bothered to read any of the written questions submitted by MPs to Parliament you will be well aware of the stock and standard responses that are, with amazing regularity, received. A standard one, as I have moaned about many times already, is how often it would simply cost too much for the Government to answer. However, another common tactic is to refer to a previous answer. Take yesterday for example, Grant Shapps asked the Department for Communities and Local Government
whether moving from a weekly rubbish collection of household waste to a fortnightly rubbish collection is deemed to be a cut in service provision, according to the methodology used by her Department for the purposes of meeting Gershon targets.
The answer from the junior minister of no consequence (trust me, you won;t have heard of him), was to "refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) on 29 March 2007, Official Report, column 1736W. What was Michael Gove's question?
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2007, Official Report, column 1641W to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), on waste management, whether a local authority can unilaterally leave a joint waste authority of its own accord once it has voluntarily decided to join one.
And the answer from Ben Bradshaw?
No. As stated in my previous answer of 5 March 2007, Official Report, column 1641W to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) the Secretary of State will only be able to dissolve a joint waste authority in two situations: (i) if he/she receives a request to do so from all the appropriate local authorities; (ii) if he/she considers it necessary. Other models of partnership working are available for those authorities that do not wish their partnership to be placed on a statutory footing.
The phrase "I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer to a completely different question that was given almost a year ago" springs to mind. I think it;s fair to say that the desire to avoid answering the first question suggests that they no the answer is "yes" it's a cut to service provision.


Anonymous said...

So the Conservative councils who have brought this in are cutting services?

Alex said...

Sounds like a purely defensive gambit. Referring to a previous answer (albeit not necessarily to exactly the same question) avoids giving the questioner the chance to differentiate between two slightly answers and say "but on [date] you sald .....".

Anonymous said...

This demonstates the governments utter contempt for parliament.

Andrew said...

So that leaves the written questions about as well answered as the ones during PMQs. Nice to see some consistancy within Government.