Friday, 3 September 2010

Mention in The Guardian Diary today re huge cost of Parliamentary Questions tabled by MPs

The Guardian's Diary column gives a mention today to my uncovering the amount of money MPs have cost the taxpayer in asking Written Parliamentary Questions since the General Election. 

POSTSCRIPT:  I'm a staunch defender of the right of MPs to hold the executive to account and one of the main ways they can do this in Parliament is by asking Parliamentary Questions.  All I can say is that there are two problems: 1) MPs who abuse the system to ask spurious questions of each department, such as 'how much does department X spend on pot plants; on trade union meetings, etc, etc'.  2) MPs are currently spending large amounts of time lecturing the rest of society and the public sector on the need for austerity and cuts.  In view of this, it's importnt that the public are aware of what taxpayer costs are associated with the operation of the Parliamentary system.  As my story in The Guardian shows, they seem oblivious to the huge costs to the taxpayer of funding all their Parliamentary Questions.  Many or most of these PQs are undoubtedly legitimate points of enquiry and our democracy is healthier for these MPs holding civil servants and the Government to account.  But at a time of austerity, perhaps even our MPs ought to show a little more economy before they walk off to the Table Office.

Some of my previous tips to The Guardian Diary show the huge amount of taxpayers' money which had to be spent as individual MPs tabled over a hundred PQs in a day (see re Priti Patel; Ian Austin and Francis Maude.)  Today's story shows just how much money they have notched up in PQs in little more than two months of this so-called 'austerity' Parliament.  Hugh Muir didn't mention in today's piece that I'd discovered the Top 10 of MPs tabling the largest number of written Parliamentary Questions, at £154 a pop), and the MP coming in number 1 (Tom Watson), generated costs for the taxpayer of £64,526 - just £1000 shy of the £65,738 an MP earns in a year.

Top 10 for number of Written Parliamentary Questions tabled since the General Election:

1) 419  Watson, Tom (Lab)

2) 347  Evans, Graham (Con)

3) 290  Austin, Ian (Lab)

4) 224  Nandy, Lisa (Lab)

5) 207  Wishart, Pete (SNP)

6) 201  Amess, David (Con)

7) 201  Anderson, David (Lab)

8) 187  Bain, William  (Lab)

9) 181  Wright, Iain (Lab)

10) 172  Davies, Philip  (Con)

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