The concept that the Government members of the House of Lords are entitled to ignore questions that they get asked has arisen in a number of examples over the last few months. At one point it appeared that Elizabeth Sugg was the individual best trained for such behaviour as I have written several blogs about her failure to answer questions, firstly by Steve Bassam and then by Alan West. However a few days ago another member of the House of Lords emerged following a question by the same Brighton based member of the House, Steve Bassam. His question was “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether officials have visited the Sweden–Norway border to discuss with the governments of Sweden and Norway the impact of border arrangements on the passage and monitoring of goods across that border; and what conclusions they have drawn from their enquiries.” and initially the question was answered or at least responded to by George Young who started off by stating “HM Revenue & Customs and HM Treasury officials visited the Sweden-Norway border in 2017, where border arrangements were discussed with Norwegian officials at a working level. The visit offered greater understanding of how the Norwegian facilitative regime operates outside of the customs union.” which was clearly a response to the first part of Steve’s question and then when it came to the second part of the question which just to clarify was “and what conclusions they have drawn from their enquiries” it appears that George Young absentmindedly ignored this aspect altogether.
Now to be fair to George Young who was 78 on 16th July, this question came a week ago which happened to be a week after his Birthday and perhaps he was still recovering from the excitement. Another possibility is that he is no longer fit for the role. This is not an age related comment from my point of view but merely a recall of an interview that he carried out in January 2015 in the Daily Telegraph in which he stated in response to the question Why are you leaving? “I decided shortly after 2010 that this would be my last Parliament. I would have done 41 years. As the Parliament evolved I couldn’t see what I would be doing in the next Parliament, either in opposition or in government but either way I’m going to be back on the back benches. And hey it’s time for someone else to have a go. I’ve had a fantastic run of luck and it really is time to move on.”
Of course it may be perfectly acceptable by some peoples standards for those who wanted to leave one part of Parliament like the House of Commons or in the case of Liz Sugg No 10 Downing Street to reappear in the House of Lords and simply to refuse to answer questions, or perhaps it is time for them to be held to account in some way that will improve the credibility of the House of Lords!