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The Hansard Trawl, featuring not seeing the woods for the trees, piles and the loneliness of the long distance lepidopterist

Some days I get the sense that MPs have a competition to see who can ask the most unreasonable question of some poor wretch of a minister. I think that this might be today's winner:

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average length of the growing season was in each county of England in (a) 1978, (b) 1988, (c) 1998 and (d) 2008.

However, Fitzpatrick came up with something:

"Meteorological Office information shows that the average length of growing season in central England was (a) 223 days in 1978 (249 days on average 1969 to 1978) (b) 258 days in 1988 (248 days on average 1979 to 1988) (c) 213 days in 1998 (270 days on average 1989 to 1998) and (d) 249 days in 2008 (279 days on average 1999 to 2008). It should be noted that there can be considerable variation from year to year. Data on the length of growing season at county level are not available".

(Puts me in mind of the French Republican calendar - Germinal, Brumaire, Prairial and all that - where months were named for the weather, the growing season and so forth. Typically, it was based on the Paris region, so while it might be Germinal in and around the Tuilleries in late March / April, they had already got there in the South. Likewise, the growing season in Devon, Yorkshire probably varies from north to south)

, or as our French friends call them, piles.

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of the percentage of batteries were recycled in each year since 1997.

Dan Norris:....We estimate that the annual UK market for. portable batteries is around 30,000 tonnes. Market reports suggest that more than 70 per cent. of retail sales are alkaline batteries. Only about 3 per cent. of waste portable batteries are thought to be recycled currently.

That high, huh? Has anyone ever seen a battery recycling point?

There's no stopping the member for Westmoreland today:

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of each county was covered by ancient woodland in (a) 1988, (b) 1998 and (c) 2008.

Huw Irranca-Davies: Figures for the years requested are not held

However, he rustled up some figures and the fortunate people of East Sussex have some 11.4% of the nation's ancient woodland, with Humberside bottom of the class for the non-urban counties at 0.2%. Merseyside has none, apparently.

Another thorny one

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many qualified (a) lepidopterists, (b) botanists, (c) lichenologists, (d) bryologists and (e) mycologists are employed by Natural England

Huw Irranca-Davies: With the exception of botany, there are no nationally-recognised qualifications in the fields covered by this question. Natural England employs the following numbers of nationally-recognised experts... Lepidopterists (1), Botanists (3), Lichenologists (1), Bryologists (1) (look it up - I had to), Mycologists (2).

Must make the careers office at some of our universities depressing places for those specialists.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) with reference to the round table meeting on 31 March 2009 with representatives from food retailers and trading organisations on food labelling, what steps his Department is taking in the preparation of voluntary guidance to supermarkets on country of origin labelling of produce from Israeli settlements.

Bring it on. Although I would be keen for a reason other than the one Starkey is keen on.

Looks like we are not going to the Moon anytime soon:

Linda Gilroy: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what funding his Department has allocated to the British National Space Centre for 2010-11; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lammy:
Provisional indicative planning assumptions are that in 2010-11 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will allocate to the British National Space Centre £1.5 million in programme budget, and £1.123 million in administration budget.

I suppose that might pay for a few seconds worth of fuel.

Office juniors at the DCMS are rejoicing at the less frequent opportunities to change the toner in the department's photcopiers, as it now has only two, compared to the 11 in 2007. Fascinating....

Lucky old Sean Woodward

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on what date he last met Mr. Damian McBride in the course of his official duties.

Mr. Woodward: I have not met with Mr. Damian McBride in the course of my official duties.

But what about other than in the course of official duties, eh?

An alarming proposition:

Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of returning all rail franchises to public ownership.

And a moderately reassuring response:

Chris Mole: It is not the policy of the Government to operate rail franchises permanently in the public sector. In situations where the Government is obliged to do so on a temporary basis in order to fulfil its Operator of Last Resort duties under section 30 of the Railways Act 1993 the costs are usually met from the franchise's performance bond.

And while Lazarus is up from his bed, what about BT, BA, British Leyland, pubs in Carlisle and all of those other businesses the state ran so well.

Anyone care to make head, tail, or any other extremity of this?:

Mr. Maude: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps 10 Downing Street is taking in respect of Cabinet Office Departmental Strategic Objective 4 to achieve a 50 per cent. reduction in avoidable contact with members of the public by 31 March 2011. [270135]

Angela E. Smith: All Government Departments seek to ensure that their dealings with the public are as helpful and productive as possible. Any contact members of the public may wish to have with 10 Downing street is not affected in any way by the requirements of departmental strategic objective 4.

Non-plussed doesn't come close.

Also curious:

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what support his Department is giving to the independent Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board to raise standards in mosques; what objectives have been set for such standards; and how much his Department has budgeted for such support activities.

Resisting the tempation to rant, would this mean nicer carpets, muezzins with better voices or something completely different?

Mind-boggling Hansard sub-heading of the decade:

I am NOT making this up, but felt evidence was necessary for doubting Thomases and Thomasinas.

And the Q&A:

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the theme park for women in Lashkar Gah; and how much it cost.

Mr. Michael Foster:
The Bolan Park was built in Bolan, Lashkar Gah, in 2007 at the request of the Governor of Helmand and in response to an identified local need: it functions as a symbol for security and development in the area. The park is providing much-needed recreational space and facilities for the people of Lashkar Gar and the surrounding area. It is open to men, women and children with one day each week being set aside for women's exclusive use.

Sounds more like a park than a theme park, and I am not going to make jokes involving either riding white swans, Telegram Sam or the Children of the Revolution. (Bewildered youngsters can find enlightenment here)


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Blogger JuliaM said... 4:27 pm

"That high, huh? Has anyone ever seen a battery recycling point?"

What, you don't have a stream or pond in your local park?

Look under the dumped shopping trolly...  

Blogger Croydonian said... 4:38 pm

(Chuckles quietly to himself).  

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