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Eric Pickles asks the most written questions in 2007-08


Update: Some more examples of Mr Pickles's written questions have been added, to give a fuller flavour.

Eric Pickles, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary and MP for Brentwood & Ongar, has come top of a league table. He was followed closely by Mark Hoban, MP for Fareham and a Shadow Treasury Minister. In 2007-08 Mr Pickles asked 2,190 written questions. Mr Hoban asked 2,097.

This story comes courtesy of the Yeovil Express, as local Lib Dem MP David Laws came a distant third.

Written questions certainly tie up civil servants and cost money. But these MPs are assiduous, and should therefore be congratulated for their efforts. Admittedly this is just one measure, but they are clearly working very hard.

The following written question represents one of Mr Pickles's greatest hits. When John Prescott left his grace and favour Whitehall pad, he left a hell of a mess:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1158-9W, on Admiralty House, (1) what minor works were undertaken; [189572]

(2) what the cost was to the public purse of the minor works. [189588]

Meg Munn: In line with normal procedure a one-off deep clean of the property was undertaken at change over of tenants. This included cleaning of lights, curtains, nets and windows, at a cost of £3,319.67, including value added tax (VAT).

A pelmet, tracking and curtains for one window was supplied and installed at a cost of £1,030.16, including VAT.

Two bedrooms, an adjacent corridor and one bathroom were repainted and a washer dryer, a tumble dryer, fridge freezer and mixer taps were supplied and installed. The cost of these works and equipment was £9,322.92, including VAT."

Mr Pickles exposed the fact that flytippers - who dump rubbish and run - are not being held to account.

"To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many prosecutions were (a) undertaken and (b) successful in relation to fly-tipping incidents in 2006-07 in (i) absolute terms and (ii) as a percentage of the total number of fly-tipping incidents. [176541]

Joan Ruddock: Prosecution data are taken from Flycapture, the national fly-tipping database. In 2006-07, local authorities and the Environment Agency submitted the data in the following table.

Prosecutions figures are only cases taken through the court system and do not include wider enforcement action.

In 2006-07, local authorities recorded an additional 378,974 enforcement actions, consisting of warning letters, statutory notices, fixed penalty notices, duty of care inspections, vehicle seizures and formal cautions. Excluding Liverpool city council, this figure was 172,042.



Local authorities Environment Agency

Total incidents



Total incidents (excluding Liverpool city council)



Total prosecutions undertaken



Successful prosecutions



Total prosecutions as percentage of total incidents



Total prosecutions as percentage of total (excluding Liverpool city council)



Successful prosecutions as percentage of total incidents



Successful prosecutions as percentage of total incidents (excluding Liverpool city council)



Mr Pickles also received confirmation that the new charge for collecting household rubbish is a tax:

"To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the proposed new charge for the collection of household rubbish will be classed as a tax, for statistical purposes by (a) HM Treasury and (b) the Office for National Statistics. [177151]

Angela Eagle: The income collected under the waste reduction and recycling schemes proposed in the Climate Change Bill will be classified as taxation, in accordance with national accounts guidelines. Local authorities will, however, retain the income and will be required to use it to fund rebates to local residents."

Meanwhile fines for incorrect use of bins are soaring:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many fixed penalties were issued for (a) putting domestic rubbish in the wrong container, (b) leaving domestic rubbish out on the wrong day and (c) overfilling a wheelie bin with domestic rubbish in the last year for which figures are available. [176567]

Joan Ruddock: DEFRA does not hold the information requested. Data provided by each local authority in England includes details of the number of fixed penalty notices issued in respect of waste receptacle-related offences generally. These figures are not broken down further into specific types of offence.

Data for 2006-07 (the most recent available) are available from DEFRA's website."

The DEFRA site shows that in 2006-07 54,015 fixed penalty notices for waste offences were issued by local authorities - raising £2million as only three-quarters of fines were paid.

Mr Pickles got hold of a copy of the enforcement manual the Government gives to council bin inspectors.

"To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the Flycapture Enforcement training package, including the module on the Regulation and Investigatory Power Act 2000. [176766]

Joan Ruddock: I am arranging for copies of this training package to be placed in the Library of the House."

The manual has had an invidious effect. According to the Daily Mail, more than half of councils have been inspired to use anti-terror laws to spy on families suspected of putting rubbish out on the wrong day.

Mr Pickles also exposed the fact that the Government covered up the inaccurate council tax banding of a number of homes:

"To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library a copy of the minutes of the meeting of the Valuation Office Agency's Council Tax Revaluation Programme Board (England) of 22 November 2005. [176399]

John Healey: I have been asked to reply.

A copy of the minutes will be placed in the Library of the House."

Sections of the minutes were blacked out. But the electronic version revealed the redacted points. The note has been published on the Conservatives' website. (The key word is "consequentials", which refers to the cost to council taxpayers of wrongly banded homes.)

Mr Pickles has done some excellent work.


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