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Gordon Brown's grumpy and inadequate answers to written questions

Gordon_brownIn the latest edition of Hansard, the Prime Minister gives some rather terse responses to written questions put down by Conservative members.

Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie asked about special advisers:

"To ask the Prime Minister how many expert advisers, excluding special advisers, have been commissioned by his Office since June 2007; and on which topics they have advised. [254741]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 12 January 2009, Official Report , column 53W."

Here is that answer:

"Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Prime Minister what expert advisers have been commissioned by his Office since 1997; on what topic each was commissioned; and whether the adviser so appointed made a declaration of political activity in each case. [246970]

The Prime Minister: Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the names and overall cost of special advisers and the number in each pay band. Updated information will be published in the usual way."

Shadow Environment minister Greg Barker wanted to know - perfectly reasonably - what the Prime Minister's team is doing about energy and climate issues:

"To ask the Prime Minister what work the No. 10 Policy Directorate (a) has undertaken and (b) plans to undertake on energy and climate-related matters. [255042]

The Prime Minister: The No. 10 Policy Unit covers all Government policy, including energy and climate-related matters."

That answer is absurdly brief, and pretty much tautologous.

Southend West MP David Amess also got what seems like a stroppy reply:

"To ask the Prime Minister to what events held in the United Kingdom to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel he has been invited; what such invitations he has (a) accepted and (b) declined; and if he will make a statement. [254992]

The Prime Minister: It is already a matter of public record. I attended the Embassy of Israel 60(th) Anniversary Reception on 12 May 2008 in London."

Perhaps brevity was understandable in the Prime Minister's answer to Shadow Treasury minister Mark Hoban:

"Mr. Hoban: To ask the Prime Minister whether he received representations from (a) Lord Moonie, (b) Lord Taylor of Blackburn, (c) Lord Snape and (d) Lord Truscott in the last seven months. [255236]

The Prime Minister: No."

Mr Hoban's Shadow Treasury team colleague Greg Hands didn't get a straight answer to his question:

"To ask the Prime Minister (1) when he last met Russian President Medvedev; [256563]

(2) when he last met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. [256564]

The Prime Minister: I have regular discussions with the Russian leadership, including at G8 and G20 summits.

I have invited President Medvedev to the G20 in London in April."

Finally David Amess was essentially told to go away and do his homework himself:

"To ask the Prime Minister how many parliamentary questions for written answer he has transferred to other Ministers since May 2007; and if he will make a statement. [254991]

The Prime Minister: Questions are answered by the responsible Minister. Details of transfers can be found in the daily “Questions Book”, copies of which are available in the Vote Office."

Of course the Prime Minister is a fiendishly busy man. But written questions are not just fishing expeditions for MPs to create news stories from. He has a duty to answer questions properly. This latest tranche of answers is wholly inadequate.

Tom Greeves


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