Most days in the House of Commons begin with departmental questions for an hour.

MPs have to table their questions about a week in advance, the minister reads out a pre-prepared answer and the MP then gets to ask a supplementary, which must be on the same subject as the original question. Other MPs can also try to ask a supplementary on each question.

The session usually ends with a brief period of ‘Topical Questions’ where MPs can ask about anything in that department without giving advance notice. It’s a bit like a quick-fire round in a quiz, with the relevant minister jumping up to respond.

And so it was that last week I was drawn out of the hat to ask a topical in transport questions. Now this can be used for several reasons: to point out a government failing; to highlight a success in the constituency; to try to catch the minister out.

But I wanted to raise an issue and get support from ministers.  I may be an Opposition MP and want this government replaced, but my first job is to represent Chester. I have been working with constituents from Saughall to Kinnerton who need better bus services. Cheshire West & Chester Council has submitted an excellent bid for funding to the ‘Bus Back Better’ scheme. But press reports say the money available has been halved.

Wanting a decent reply, I saw one of the Transport Ministers the night before and told them I would ask about buses. It showed I want to work with them for my constituents and am being helpful.

It’s the last time I will be helpful for this team of ministers. The answer was appalling: a list of times our council had failed to bid for government funds for buses, and blaming the council for all current failures.

I suspect the minister was given a prepared answer by their special advisor (a party- political civil servant) and she did not have the wherewithal to think on her feet and respond in the same tone the question was asked.

Worse still, the list of alleged council failures was wrong. For example blaming the council when in fact the government had turned down one bid despite rating it as excellent.

It seems that the culture of dishonesty, set from the top of government, is infectious.

The minister’s answer will not impress the many constituents who just want a better bus service. They deserve more respect than she gave them.

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search