Questions guide needs 'complete reform'

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Indy Politics

Ministers were accused last night of reneging on a pledge to scrap controversial guidelines telling civil servants to investigate the background and motive of MPs who ask parliamentary questions.

Ministers were accused last night of reneging on a pledge to scrap controversial guidelines telling civil servants to investigate the background and motive of MPs who ask parliamentary questions.

The Government promised to act last month after The Independent revealed the guidelines for answering questions. But despite a review, the guidelines continue to advise civil servants to carry out checks on policies of opposition parties or backbenchers before answering questions. Officials are also told to check whether there has been any media interest in the issue at question. The instruction to investigate whether an MP was "friendly" before answering the question has now been abolished by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The department defended the review, approved by Andrew Smith, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, saying it "removed the ambiguities."

But the Liberal Democrats said the Government had just tinkered with the guide when it should have been completely reviewed. "All they have done is take a short backward shuffle when it needs complete reform," said Andrew Stunell, the party's chief whip.

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