January 30, 2014

As the British government faces a growing number of questions about Burma in the British Parliament, including relating to controversial policy decisions, the government is increasingly resorting to avoiding giving a straight and clear answer to questions, probably in order to avoid proper scrutiny of its policies.

Burma Campaign UK is today publishing a new briefing paper: ‘Parliamentary Questions – Avoiding Embarrassing Answers’, to highlight the British government’s increasing use of this tactic.

Analysis of the 62 Written Parliamentary Questions answered between October and December 2013 reveals that the British government did not actually answer 25 of them – forty-one percent – instead providing general information or otherwise avoiding giving a clear answer.

Subjects on which the British government avoided giving a straight answer include on military training of the Burmese Army, ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, Burmese government spending on the military and health, torture, political prisoners and child soldiers.

On some occasions the answers given blatantly ignore the actual question, on other occasions the avoidance is more subtle.  For the government to try avoid giving answers to difficult questions is nothing new, but it does appear that the practice of avoiding clear answers in Parliament is growing, and this practice wastes public money and breaks the government’s own guidelines.

Burma Campaign UK is publishing this briefing paper in the hope that highlighting just how many questions are not being properly answered will encourage the government to start giving clearer and specific answers to the questions it is asked in Parliament.

“It appears that government departments are increasingly avoiding answering Parliamentary Questions if an honest answer will reveal embarrassing facts about what the government is, or is not, doing about the situation in Burma”, said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK.

You can read the briefing here.

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