Since May, Jeremy Hunt has answered only two of the 1,887 written questions asked of his department by fellow MPs. This works out at 0.1%; the remaining 99.9% have been answered by his junior ministers.
He is only kept of the bottom of the ministerial league table by Michael Gove (Justice Secretary) and John Whittingdale (Culture Secretary) who have not answered a single question put to their department. George Eustice, Minister for Food, Farming and the Marine Environment, tops the table by answering a staggering 65% of the questions put to his department.
According to Daniel Marten, an ex-parliamentary researcher, questions are supposed to be answered by “the minister with responsibility for that area.” More accurately, the answers are drafted by a civil servant and the minister signs them off.
With this in mind, apparently the only questions under Mr Hunt’s remit are:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what progress has been made in achieving safety in hospitals in special measures?”
“To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what additional financial support he is making available to the NHS to help it deal with winter pressures?”
The question on special measures is particularly interesting as Mr Hunt left it to Ben Gummer to answer a question on the same topic yesterday.
To be clear, Jeremy Hunt is not that unusual compared to the other Secretaries of State. Only two, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Prime Minister David Cameron, did not answer the least amount of questions in their departments. Whether senior ministers not answering questions that often is a good or bad things is a matter of individual perspective
In all likelihood, this is a fuss over nothing. The Government despite its myriad and never-ending faults still has the country functioning. Perhaps it is by virtue of being freed from often technical and detailed questions that the Secretaries of State get to focus on running the country. Though it would nice to see them answering more than two, one or even zero questions put to them!