Asking the right question; Westminster style


You mean to tell me there is a book about this???

The enterprising Puffles recently posted on twitter a long list of questions asked by our distinguished parliamentarians to the good Ministers of the Department for Criticising Local Government.

These questions included:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many letters his Department received from hon. Members in June 2011.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the cost to the public purse was of (a) cars leased by his Department to staff and (b) ministerial chauffeurs between June 2007 and May 2010.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much his Department has spent on entertaining in each financial year since 2007-08.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the estimated saving to the public purse was from lower staff wage costs arising from industrial action by staff of his Department on 30 June 2011.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much his Department has spent on photo shoots and videos involving Ministers since May 2010.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the cost to the public purse was of stationery purchased by his Department between June 2007 and May 2010.

Now, obviously the above questions tell their own story about the quality of parliamentary scrutiny of Mr Pickles’ Department (and I didn’t have to try too hard to pick them) but there were some questions about actual policy.

These included:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what consideration he has given to the funding of (a) fire and police services and (b) other risk-based services within his proposed changes to local government funding
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have granted hardship relief to local businesses in the last four years; and for how long a period in each case.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he has any plans to revise the definition of overcrowding for the purposes of the Housing Act 1985.

I won’t provide the answers as for this exercise they’re not really that interesting.

I also will save the rant about the inadequacy of Parliamentary oversight for two reasons. One, this is a snapshot and I don’t know if it is reflective and two, one of my colleagues is going to write a post about local government council questions and the words ‘greenhouse’, ‘stones’ and ‘throw’ spring to mind.

Despite this, my trip through the parliamentary questions did get me thinking. If I was an MP what would I ask? I took the above talent as my template and here are some starters:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what is his definition of back office and front office?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the impact of the cuts he has proposed on frontline public services?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how he defines a non-job for analysis purposes?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has he done any analysis of how many non-jobs there are in his department?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many press releases he has a) approved and b) vetoed that have a criticism of local government in general or a local authority specifically as part of them
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what calculation of inflation he included as part of the grant reductions for local government as part of the recent comprehensive spending review?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many visits he has made to local councils?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he reads the welovelocalgovernment blog.

If you’d like to add any to the list please do so just below. Oh, and if you happen to be an MP please do feel free to use any of the above; I’m not sure if they meet parliamentary protocol but we’d like to know the answers.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

Explore posts in the same categories: Big P Politics, The future of Local Govt

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3 Comments on “Asking the right question; Westminster style”

  1. cyberdoyle Says:

    I would like my MP Eric Ollerenshaw to ask Ed Vaizey why the digital switchover money earmarked for rural broadband is being used for ‘superfast’ broadband for folk who already have a connection instead of for the rural people on dial up and expensive satellites.

  2. Jon Says:

    The first question on definition of front office and back office has come up quite often in Parliament – sometimes in Home Office questions and debates because it’s also an issue much discussed in relation to the police service.

    I also recall a report giving the answer to the question about how many official visits to councils has the SoS made. (It wasn’t very many.)

  3. Tony H Says:

    Even if the PQ route isn’t succeeding, what about FoI?


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