A week ago on the last day of Parliament before they had a holiday Michael Gove was the Minister in the House of Commons having to deal with Topical Questions. So he got asked a number of questions and of course he may not have had the full in-depth answer for all of them. This one came from Rachael Maskell who is the shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport so perhaps Michael was surprised that she wanted to ask a question about how well his team is working to improve our relationship with the EU now that we have left. She asked about an element that is either a well established agency that already exists and is not the Governments own agency or perhaps there has been a suggestion that a similar one will be set out by the Government. Perhaps along with the need for Michael to answer her question we can also ask for Rachael to clarify what she meant by the phrase of Civil Society Forum? The existing aspect is available here in this website and it was clearly set up in 2011 long before there was any expectation of a departure from the EU. It is also important to be aware that the current Government back in 2013 began to set out to prevent charities from engaging with political groups. Whilst that was a bad mistake, nevertheless it is important for that to be reversed as soon as possible. A good friend of mine, Andy Winter wrote about that a couple of days ago here and it is well worth reading. So over to Rachel and Michael to demonstrate that at least one of the Government Ministers is clearly incapable or unwilling to bother to answer a question even though it takes place under public scrutiny.
RM: The institutional framework within the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement provides the UK with an opportunity to rebuild its relationship with the EU, including through a civil society forum. Can the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster say what progress has been made on establishing the civil society forum and when he expects it to meet? Will he commit today to a significant majority of participants coming from charities, social enterprises and trade unions, in the light of the central role they play in our society?
MG: The hon. Lady is right that the civil society forum is one of a number of ways in which the UK and the EU can work together in the interests of all. She makes a very important point about the importance of involving not just the third sector but trade union participants in that work, which gives me an opportunity to thank the millions of trade unionists across the country who have contributed so much to our response to the pandemic.
So whatever the intention behind the call for the civil society forum that both of them did refer to, the fact is that Michael is not able or not willing to answer the question. So how do we persuade him to do so?