Stephen Doughty the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth – now free of Opposition front-bench chores – has been busying himself submitting a number of written questions to Government ministers.
However the replies he’s getting back may not be what quite he had hoped for. In one case he’s been reminded that he’s already asked the same question before – and that an answer can only be provided at “disproportionate cost” – [the parliamentary equivalent of telling him to get lost].
Doughty had asked the Secretary of State for Defence, “What the country of manufacture is of each type and item of military uniforms in each branch of the armed services?” .
In response, Doughty received a somewhat curt reply from Defence Minister Phillip Dunne reminding him that this was pretty much the same question that he’d already submitted 15 months ago – back in November 2014 – when he had asked ” in which country uniforms for the (a) British Army, (b) Royal Air Force and (c) Royal Navy, including the Royal Marines, are manufactured?”
Dunne penned back a brusque reply to Doughty saying ” I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 27 November 2014.” … Westminster code for “go and look up the answer that we sent you then”.
On that occasion, the 2014 answer sent to Doughty had been no more enlightening :- “The Ministry of Defence has a large number of contracts for clothing with UK and international suppliers. However, the detailed information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.” In referring back to the 2014 answer, the MoD was – in effect – dismissing Doughty’s question as a money-wasting gimmick.
Doughty has also written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May asking “which were the top 10 countries of origin of asylum seekers accommodated in (a) Wales and (b) the UK in each of the last six years?” (Home Office Minister James Brokenshire has written back telling Doughty “The Home Office has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”)
- Doughty has also asked the Home Secretary “how many asylum seekers who are (a) men, (b) women and (c) under 18 were accommodated by her Department in each constituency in Wales in each of the last six years?” Minister James Brokenshire has repeated his earlier reply – telling Doughty yet again ” It will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”
- In like vein Doughty has also asked the Home Secretary: “How many individual unique addresses asylum seekers were accommodated in by her Department in each constituency in the UK in each of the last six years.”
Doughty has also asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer:-
- “how many complaints from members of the public were received by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) relating to the closure of the HMRC enquiry centre in Cardiff in the last 18 months?” and
- “how many enquiries regarding self-assessment originating from each constituency were handled by HM Revenue and Customs call centres in each of the last three tax years?”
On average every written question costs the taxpayer £164 to answer.