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Questions posed over DWP delays

The Tories have tabled Parliamentary questions and a Freedom of Information request to investigate allegations the Department for Work and Pensions delays or ignores politically embarrassing Parliamentary questions.

Tory Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Philip Hammond told Parliament last week that an anonymous caller from the DWP had phoned his office, saying the department had a “traffic-light” system.

The caller claimed the DWP codes ministerial questions according to how much embarrassment it could cause the Government, with potentially embarrassing questions delayed or ignored.

Hammond asked Speaker of the House Michael Martin to investigate the allegations but Martin said it was not his responsibility.

In the previous week, Leader of the House Jack Straw told Parliament the traffic-light system was used to ensure sufficient time was spent on difficult questions rather than to duck out of embarrassing questions.

Hammond says around 20 questions tabled in July remain unanswered, most of which cannot be described as difficult to answer. He says he has tabled a series of Parliamentary questions on the issue although he acknowledged this would probably do little to throw any light on the allegations.

He has also submitted a Freedom of Information request to try to uncover if such practices are being used at the DWP.

Hammond said: “In view of the importance of the allegation that questions are being coded with a view to delaying, or even simply not answering, those that are most embarrassing to the Government, I wonder whether you could use your authority, Mr Speaker, to investigate what is happening, whether the system is operating in the interests of members or against them, and whether it extends beyond the DWP across Government.”

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