John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Friday, July 07, 2006
  Failure to Answer Questions
The link is to "points of order" from about 12.30 Yesterday lunchtime. The text is:

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am glad the Secretary of State for Defence is present while I raise the point of order. I know that you have previously advised disgruntled Members on a number of occasions that the Chair is not responsible for the adequacy or otherwise of ministerial replies. Nevertheless, I draw your attention to the reply that I received yesterday to a question to the Secretary of State for Defence, asking

"whether he was informed of the proposed content relating to retention of the nuclear deterrent in the long-term of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Mansion House speech, prior to its delivery."

The reply that I received states simply:

"I have regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a range of issues."—[ Official Report, 5 July 2006; Vol. 448, c. 1107W.]

Do you agree that that does not even attempt to answer the question? In asking the question, I was well aware of the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence has those discussions. If he does not wish to answer the question, it would perhaps be more courteous to state that he refuses to do so.

Michael Martin (Speaker)I will not be drawn into an argument about the quality of ministerial replies. The hon. Gentleman knows that he can always ask the Secretary of State for Defence another question.

Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove, Conservative)On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I want to raise the issue of answers to parliamentary questions. On Wednesday29 March, I tabled a question asking the Secretary of State for Health

"how many and what percentage of people were registered with an NHS dentist on 31 March 2006 in each constituency in England."

I received the following response:

"The number of people registered with a national health service dentist by constituency as at 31 December 2005 has been placed in the Library."—[ Official Report, 18 April 2006; Vol. 445, c. 209W.]

I have that information here. On Wednesday 28 June, I tabled precisely the same question, to which I received the reply:

"This information is not collected in the form requested."

I believe that the information is not collected in the form requested because new contracts came into force on 1 April. Ministers are trying to avoid responsibility for the fact that many people are not registered with NHS dentists. How can I get the Minister to respond to the same question that I tabled six months earlier, even if the response is embarrassing?

Michael Martin (Speaker)It is not for me to tell the hon. Lady how to frame the next question. Perhaps she will obtain a response if she asks the Minister why she has been so inconsistent.
 
Comments:
John, it is not about your post, other than about answering questions, but I wondered if you were able to answer one of mine. It was announced last night at Bearwood Jazz that Andy Hamilton will not be appearing at this year's Birmingham Jazz Festival... and it is the 22nd consecutive year he has not been invited to perform there. I know it is not a City Council organised event, but it does seem a very shabby and churlish way to treat a man who has been a tremendous ambassador for Birmingham's jazz community over the years. I didn't want to ask Andy because I didn't want to embarrass him, but do you have any idea why?
 
Last year I arranged for him to be paid as part of the Jazz Festival. I am not totally up to speed with this year although I remain on the Jazz Advisory Panel.

I know some of the background, but don't really want to go into it here.
 
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