Really cross about news I’ve just had my the Table Office. I’d submitted a question for DCMS questions which is the first Thursday back after recess, asking about the Grand National (see my earlier post and the Indy article). The question was as follows:
“To ask the Secretary of State if he will meet with representatives of the horse-racing industry to discuss safety and welfare standards in the Grand National race.”
N.B. All questions are directed to the Sec of State, but I’d assumed it would be the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, who would actually answer.
The good news is, I actually got selected in the question shuffle. The bad news is, DCMS then decided that they don’t want to answer my question – they say because it’s about welfare standards, as opposed to betting, it’s an issue for DEFRA. It has therefore been transferred to Defra as a named-day written question. (They keep doing this; it’s been raised at points of order a number of times. Very convenient for the Government to find reasons not to answer a question in the Chamber but to sneak it out in writing instead…)
I don’t get to submit a replacement question. I’ve basically lost my chance to ask anything at all… I will raise this as a point of order in the Chamber, and will try to get in on topical questions, where we can ask things that aren’t on the Order Paper. But the point is – the Table Office, which vets all questions submitted, thought my question was in order, and now the DCMS are running scared of it.
I simply don’t see how this Government department can disclaim responsibility for such a big sporting event… Are they really saying that DCMs’s responsibility extends only to betting on the race? What if I’d asked a question about the welfare of jockeys taking part in the Grand National? Would that have been bundled off to a Health minister for an answer?! I await my written answer from Jim Paice with something rather less than eager anticipation….