Avoiding the Question – the results…

It’s Smashy and Nicey time, folks (na nah naah na-na-naah na na na-naaaaah) – yes it’s time for the ‘avoiding the question’ chart rundown…

. And surprisingly – if most of the answers are anything to go by – at number 10 its the Home Office, who’ve knocked back a total of 80 questions as being too expensive to answer over the last five years…

And at 9, its the DfES, who failed the test on a total of 97 occasions…

At 8, its the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with 105 questions left unanswered – few problems getting information there, but just you trying using any of it.

At 7, its the Department of Work and Pensions, who’ve topped the FCO by a single question with a total of 106 unanswered questions…

And at 6, its the Department of Constitutional Affairs who managed to avoid 114 questions in total – and they’re the department responsible for FOIA…

Moving swiftly in the top five we find Her Majesty’s Treasury hanging on in there with a 118 unanswered questions – I know one or two people thought they’d be higher but remember this is beancounter central we’re talking about here – most of these folks are paid to have the answers…

Topping the Treasury at number 4, by a mere two questions, its the little department that punches well above its weight, the Northern Ireland Office

While at number 3, and with a four question edge over the competition is DEFRA

Into the top two, and at number 2 and with a massive lead over it rivals its the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (plus DTLR and DCLG) which passed on a staggering 646 questions over the last five years, a lead of 522 over number 3 placed DEFRA… and that’s without checking for any answers from Prezza in the general form ‘How the fook would I know that?’

But when it comes to not answering the question, the absolute daddy of them all is…

the Ministry of Defence

And what a record the MOD has – 702 questions avoided and its junior ministers occupying five of the top ten slots in the chart for questions avoided by an individual minister… (ODPM get the other five)

..which should also tell you where everyone who fingered a senior minister as being the top dog in the individual chart went wrong – senior ministers rarely answer written question in any great quantity, that privilege is reserved for their underlings.

When it comes to the individual charts, the top ranked senior minister is Patricia Hewitt, ranked a lowly 20th with 31 questions unanswered, with Ruth Kelly four places lower with 28 unanswered questions – all while serving in the junior ranks.

When it comes to longstanding members of the senior ranks, its actually pretty rare to find them knocking back questions as being too expensive to answer – Blair managed that only 13 occasions in the last five years, as did John Reid. Jack Straw ducked only 24 times, Blunkett on a mere 12 occasions and, I’m sure to DK’s complete surprise, not once has Gordon Brown personally fallen back on the ‘too expensive’ gambit – although that may just be because no one asks him any questions for fear they’ll get an answer…

As for the actual top ten, every single one of them has spent some time as a junior minister either at ODPM or at the MOD, with four of them; Ivor Caplin, Yvette Cooper, Lewis Moonie and Adam Ingram having ducked more questions individually than the third-place department (DEFRA) did in it’s entirety…

So in answer to the bonus question, when the chips are down and you don’t want an answer to your £134 written question then the man you want to be writing to is Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, (nicely spotted, Paul) who, up to Tuesday 18 July 2006, had uttered the immortal phrase "could be provided only at disproportionate cost" on no less than 243 occasions

And he’s not finished yet, is our Adam, as checking back today (19 July), as I write this up, shows that Adam has added another two ‘too expensive’ responses overnight…

Way to go Adam – keep up the good work.

Footnote – Looking at the latest two questions that Adam failed to answer provides an interesting insight into how the MOD goes about it business.

Question 1 – from Tory MP Owen Patterson, asks basically how much its costing us to run the Warrior Armoured car in Iraq and drew this response…

The full capitation cost for the WARRIOR Armoured Fighting Vehicle (all variants) based on peacetime usage is calculated for financial year 2006-07 as £154.04 per kilometre. Specific operational track mile data is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

So the MOD know what it costs to run its armoured vehicles on training exercises on Salisbury plain, but not it seems, how they cost when operating in combat conditions – I guess they’ll just send Gordon the bill when its all over and expect him to cover it…

Question 2, from Lib Dem MP  is a bit more interesting as he asks…

…how many approved projects fell into each approval category in 2005-06; and what the aggregated approved expenditure was for each category.

And gets the answer…

The following table details the number of approved projects that fell into categories A to C in 2005-06 and the aggregated approved expenditure for each category.

Category

Number of projects

Aggregated approved expenditure (£ million)

A

43

20,247

B

29

954

C

32

456

Records on category D approvals are not held centrally and the information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Now that does make for interesting reading as, from the MOD’s website, it seems that a category D project is defined in the following terms…

Definition: a Category ‘D’ (Cat D) project is normally classed as a project with a procurement cost of under £20 million. Investment decisions are delegated to the ‘Cat D Approving Authority (AA) which includes the nominated Finance Officer, DEC, IPTL and D Tech representatives.

You get that – the MOD can blow up to £20million a time on these projects without keeping a central record of approved expenditure – I can sense Wat Tyler beginning to fume from here…

One thought on “Avoiding the Question – the results…

  1. If “the information could be provided only at disproportionate cost”, why doesn’t the questioner then ask for a breakdown of that cost? If it’s alleged to be disproportionate, then its cost must be known, and how it was arrived at. Make the lying bastards squirm.

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