UK Treasury censured over failure to reveal details of ‘anti-independence’ post

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  By Bob Duncan
 
The Treasury has been censured by a senior Tory Committee chair and told to take “immediate steps” to answers questions about the creation of a new £50,600 a year anti-independence post.
 
Twelve separate questions tabled by SNP MP Mike Weir received an evasive two sentence response from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (pictured) about the new post which to be located in the Scotland Office in Edinburgh.

Alexander said: “The Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement role has been created to support UK Government Ministers in their objective of maintaining the UK, in the run up to the proposed referendum on Scottish independence.
 
“The post is being filled through a standard Treasury recruitment process for which normal civil service recruitment rules and subsequent terms and conditions apply.  Further detail on HM Treasury recruitment process can be found on the Department’s website.”

According to the job specification, the successful applicant will help produce: “analytical work on the benefits of the UK, in the run up to the proposed referendum on Scottish independence.”
 
The post holder will work closely with London officials, UK Ministers and members of the London controlled Scotland Office in order to help the UK Government with its pro-Union message on the Scottish economy.
 
The role will become redundant in December 2014, immediately after the independence referendum.

The evasive answer given by Mr Alexander is the latest of a series of steps taken by the Treasury to keep details of the new post from the Scottish public.

However, Mr Weir took up the matter with the Commons Procedure Committee, resulting in Chairman Charles Walker MP – who has been investigating ongoing concerns that the UK government is failing to answer parliamentary questions – to write to the Chancellor saying the “response does not provide all the information requested” and demanding that a full response is now given.

In his letter Mr Walker states:

“The procedures committee has received a submission from Mike Weir MP regarding a series of questions concerning the creation of a new treasury post to be created in Scotland.

“The Chief Secretary to the Treasury responded on 10 September. Mr Weir feels that the response does not provide all the information requested. The response directs Mr Weir to the Treasury website for information about the terms and conditions for the role, in answer to his question about pension benefits, but it does not provide a response to Me Weir’s other questions.

“The Procedure Committee has considered Mr Weir’s submission and concluded that your response does not provide a satisfactory answer to his questions. We therefore request that you take immediate steps to answer these questions. Answers should be sent to Mr Weir and also to us. You should also seek to publish them in Hansard.

“I would be grateful for a response to this letter, which I am copying to Mike Weir, by 21 November 2012.”

Mr Weir said:

“This is a welcome intervention by the Procedures Committee.

“The Treasury has been showing real contempt for taxpayers with their evasiveness on how public money is being spent. What does Westminster have to hide?

“This reprimand is clearly a humiliation for the Chancellor and his Chief Secretary – but the important thing is that we get honest answers over how public resources are being used.

“While the Bank of England cuts its growth forecast and says we could be stuck in a ‘low-growth’ economy, Mr Osborne is busy concentrating on the creation of an anti-independence spin-doctor in Scotland and keeping the details a secret.

“At a time when the UK Government should be investing to boost the the tragedy is that the only job the Treasury is creating in Scotland is that of spin doctor.

“When you combine how this money is being spent with the secrecy surrounding the new job it is clear that we need the full powers of an independent country to secure job-creating powers that would work in Scotland’s interests instead of the interests of a Tory-led UK government.”

The detail of all 12 of of Mike Weir’s questions can be seen here: http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-politics/5862-minister-refuses-to-reveal-details-of-anti-independence-treasury-post