HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc192-3W
Mr. Alton

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidelines exist for determining whether providing the answer to a parliamentary question would involve disproportionate cost; what steps are taken to ensure that officials do not avoid undertaking work on researching information for Ministers by wrongly claiming that the research would involve disproportionate cost; and what sanctions(a) have been and (b) could be imposed on officials in such circumstances. [15431]

Mrs. Angela Knight

Treasury Ministers aim to answer written parliamentary questions as fully as possible and in accordance with guidance on disproportionate cost. Ministers may decline to answer, in whole or in part, a written parliamentary question where the marginal cost of preparing the answer is likely to exceed the current advisory limit of £450. The decision to use this cost threshold rests with Ministers, who may decide that questions should be answered irrespective of cost.

I am not aware of any instances where officials have sought to make improper use of the threshold. If officials were to do so, this would be an internal matter for the Department concerned.