Brown won’t answer MPs questions

January 23, 2009

 

It seems it’s not just me who thinks Brown is incapable of answering questions. Speaking in parliament, Lib Dem transport spokesman Norman Baker MP said less than one in five of the questions he asked Brown were answered in a “meaningful way”. He accused the PM of using a variety of tactics to avoid answering relatively simple enquiries.

 

He told MPs: “The longer a government is in power, the more they are responsible for themselves and the more they feel the obligation to hide things.” “It is perhaps a human reaction but it is also a wrong reaction because once you hide one more thing, you then have to hide the fact you’ve hidden it.”

 

He claimed that Brown had answered just 4 of the 23 written questions he had submitted over the course of last year satisfactorily. Excuses included providing “irrelevant information – you ask him one thing and he tells you something entirely different,” and “information that is so vague it is useless.” He went on to say that “sometimes he answers a bit of the question he likes” and ignores the rest. On other occasions, Mr Baker alleged the PM refers MPs to previous answers or simply says “I have nothing further to add.”

 

In my view it’s about time someone highlighted Brown’s increasing avoidance of the questions put to him. It is not good enough for him just to answer planted questions or answer the ones he likes, as PM he is responsible for his government and when the peoples elected representatives demand answers they should not be ignored.

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Alan Duncan’s Transparency Crusade

January 23, 2009

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In my post yesterday I discussed how Alan Duncan was instrumental in stopping the nod and wink deal been organised by the backbenchers with Labour to keep expenses secret. Today he has gone head to head with Harriet Harman and had this to say about the matter of disclosure:

 

“May I thank the Leader of the House for generously taking so many interventions and for the thoroughness with which she has treated this topic? That is appreciated on both sides of the House. May I also express my gratitude for her earlier comments about my dress sense, my watch, my cufflinks and, not least, my interest in oil? They are especially appreciated coming from such a gentle flower of the aristocracy who has so aggressively embraced the working class.

 

Today will, I hope, represent a major step forward in everything that the House needs to do on the declaration of its expenses. The whole issue has given Parliament a wretchedly bad name for far too long, and there are deep wounds that need to be healed if we are to be seen as a sensible, honest, working institution by anyone in this country. We do not want to have a state of permanent war either across the Floor of the House or between this House and the press and public. Our reputation must be raised and we can achieve that only by being open and honest.

 

The other vexed issue accompanying the development of our allowances has been the implementation of freedom of information legislation. We have witnessed a long, slow train crash between what we do and what the Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires, which we have been unable so far to resolve. In the eyes of the public, that appears to be a requirement that we have always wanted to escape. The assumption of the Freedom of Information Act is that there should always be disclosure. However, the other side of the disclosure equation is that if such disclosure collides with data protection it may not be necessary. In the Freedom of Information Act, as it applies to this House or to anyone else, there is therefore always a permanent tension between openness and privacy. There are always exceptions in other fields on what is published. We can all accept that when there is a legitimate matter of security and the safety of the individual, and the revelation of certain details that could be taken wrongly and abused by other people, privacy is very important.

 

The other side of the equation, which affects us uniquely, is the fact that when it comes to the need to reveal information we are at the top of the scrutiny pyramid. We are elected. We choose that, and through election we become permanently in the public gaze. Even High Court judges are not quite in the same category, nor even permanent secretaries, and certainly not middle-ranking— [ Interruption. ] I shall set the BBC to one side for the moment. Middle-ranking civil servants are certainly never expected to be in the public gaze and they are just that—civil servants. We must accept that we are the people who are most expected to come clean about how we spend the allowances that are granted to us. I think that we have been very slow to accept that that scrutiny is legitimate and that we are in an almost unique category.

 

We need to move on and make this place work better, and to make people realise that this is an honest Parliament. It is probably more honest than any other that I know in the world, and it is here to serve people. People would benefit from respecting it—they may even want to be elected to it—and from appreciating what we all try to do for our constituents. That would enhance our democracy instead of causing it to decay.”

 

This is just the sort of approach the party should be taking in matters of transparency, if we are to make any headway in cleaning up parliament and rebuilding people’s confidence in politicians. Alan seemed to be really enjoying himself, he through himself into the role with gusto and seemed to relish sparing with Harman. You could hardly believe that he was effectively demoted to his new position this week, he seemed more like the cat that got the cream.


Cllr Ross Grant Launches New Blog

January 23, 2009

 

I would like to draw your attention to Cllr Ross Grant’s new blog: Leicester Council Finance. Please visit the site to find out more about the Labour councils waste, high taxation and what it spends your money on. Ross was elected in 2004 to the Knighton ward of the city and has been taking a leading role in uncovering Labour’s waste ever since. We at LUCF wish  him the best of luck with his new blog, I am sure it will be well received.


The Recession Bites

January 23, 2009

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Business leaders today revealed that two thousand people are likely to have lost their jobs in Leicestershire this month. This news comes after figures showed 1,200 people joined the dole queue in December – the biggest monthly rise for at least a decade.

 

The anticipated rise this month comes as struggling companies continue to make major job cuts. Martin Traynor, managing director of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We anticipate another 2,000 this month. It’s because of the loss of seasonal workers and job cuts such as those at Woolworths coming into the figures. It is very worrying.” Woolworths axed almost 200 jobs earlier this month after closing its six county stores.

 

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It was also revealed yesterday that the number of vacancies advertised by Jobcentre Plus in Leicester and Leicestershire had fallen by more than a third to 3,500 in the past two months. This has been blamed on a recruitment freeze as the recession hits companies hard. Jobcentre officials said the sharp rise in redundancies has forced them to open earlier to cope with demand.

 

To follow up this trend it was announced that Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants rose by 7% in December to 16,848 – with the county bearing the brunt after an 11% increase to 7,636. The anticipated rise this month equates to 12%. This is as I am sure you can appreciate very bad news for those of us who are about to graduate this summer, just imagine the figures once all the students leave.