Ministers' game of hide and seek

Minister answers MP's question honestly. Shock, horror! Tory knives were out last week when new boy Stephen Twigg told a Labour MP that latest figures showed 130 assaults on teachers. Graham Brady, Tory education spokesman, was incensed. "This is a remarkable abuse of the House of Commons," he told the Diary. His outrage arose from the fact that last April, Mr Brady asked the same question and Stephen Timms, the then minister, told him the department didn't collect the information. Strictly speaking, he was correct: Mr Twigg's figures were from the Health and Safety Executive.

Suspicions that an elaborate game is being played appear to be confirmed this week by internal emails, acquired by the Lib Dems, from civil servants. For example: "Fortunately, Phil Willis (education spokesman) has asked his questions wrongly. We should be able to avoid answering them on that basis." This is dangerous information for Mr Brady - terrier-like in his questioning about the cost of a non-existent official trip to Brazil - to acquire.

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