Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The third round of Parliamentary Questions and Answers - part 1

8 January 2007

“I’ve got my mind made up so don’t confuse me with the facts!”

In December last year the Lib Dem MP for Romsey, Sandra Gidley, tabled another set of questions to Parliament. These were meant to shed some light on the vexed issues of the Gaul, which, after previous parliamentary enquiries, still remained unclear.
Sandra Gidley’s requests for information, received by the tabling office on 19 December 2006, subsequently morphed into a slightly different set of questions and were answered by the minister for transport on the 8th of January. (The document published HERE shows both versions as well as the ministerial answers.)
If we compare the last question on the Gaul, submitted to the tabling office in December, with its published version [113499], we cannot help noticing that the formerly closed, narrowly drawn question, meant to elicit an unambiguous 'yes or no' reply, turned into an open-ended inquiry, which allowed the minister enough “wriggle room” to answer as he pleased and keep control of the flow of information. The change of wording from “whether any evidence of design inadequacies, in the construction and arrangements of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul, relating to: a. The non-return flaps and their possibility of malfunction (i.e. to open under the action of the sea) b. The strength of the inner covers when subjected to direct sea loading, was made available to the Wreck Commissioner...” to “what evidence of design inadequacies in the construction and arrangements of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul was made available to the wreck commissioner” enabled the minister to get easily off the hook.
The WHAT questions, as any sales professional will be able to confirm, notoriously invite digression.
We must, however, admit that, although open-ended, the question was a lot better than the answer we got. In his reply, Dr Stephen Ladyman kept to the official line and offered nothing extra to what he had stated before. (see the Parliamentary Questions and Answers of 25 October 2006 and 1 November 2006)
And the answer, my friend, is still blowin’ in the wind.

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