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St Albans' MP Anne Main, requests 'transparency' in rail freight answers
St Albans’ MP has spoken in Parliament about the quality of answers she has been given about the rail freight terminal in Park Street.
Anne Main raised a point of order with the speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, on Monday highlighting the varying answers she has received from different government departments.
The Conservative politician said: "I know that you champion back benchers and their role in holding the Government to account, but it is particularly difficult for back benchers such as me, whose constituency contains a proposed rail freight interchange, to find out what happened in the decision-making process.
"The Department for Transport has been fulsome in its answers, but the same questions to the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government are answered either by referring me to websites or by saying that it would involve disproportionate cost.
"Referring an hon. Member to a website does not always work and I have found out about private meetings that are not declared on websites.
"What more can be done to ensure that departments do not hide behind evasive answers when Back Benchers are trying to find out about the decision-making process that has gone on?"
In response to Mrs Main’s question, Mr Bercow said: "I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order, and for notice of it.
"The content of answers is not a matter of order for the chair, and neither is inconsistency in the way ministers reply to similar questions.
"If the hon. Lady is dissatisfied with the answers she has received, she should draw the matter to the attention of the Procedure Committee.
"Moreover, I add in passing that without regard to the particulars of the case, with which I cannot be expected to be familiar, I have considerable sympathy for the hon. Lady in so far as she is aggrieved by the tendency of some departments simply to refer right hon. or hon. Members to a website.
"That is often unavailing, and the intention of ministers should be to help members in pursuit of their parliamentary duties.
"In the best cases, that is what happens, but it ought to be the norm."
Following the debate Mrs Main said: "What we need is transparency in the decision making process, and so far through parliamentary questions all I have seen is smoke and mirrors.
"I hope that my freedom of information requests will force not only the decision making process, but also any outside influences, into the public eye.
"This about turn has come from somewhere and I want to find out where that is".