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Secrets of the QCA boudoir

Not sure how much use the Qualification and Curriculum Authority makes of its bedroom - a feature of its Mayfair building required by obscure local planning regulations - but the answer would appear to be not much.

The QCA splashed out pound;326,530 from May to October on London hotel bills, according to an answer to a Parliamentary Question.

The cheeky MP asked for a breakdown of the purpose of these visits, but this information was not forthcoming.

"Information on the purpose of each booking could be collected only at disproportionate cost," he was told.

This response reminds me what a secretive country we are. It sank in the other day when I was watching a documentary about the making of the film Battle of Britain.

Retired Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, played in the film by Laurence Olivier, dropped in on the set when it was being made in 1968 - long after the threat from across the Channel had subsided, you would have thought. But no. When one of the production team had some questions for him, just to help polish the film's authenticity, Dowding was unable to oblige. Official Secrets Act, you see, old chap.

Of course, the normal way of ducking difficult questions is to announce an inquiry, then refuse to answer questions on the basis that it might prejudice the outcome. But clearly a hotel bill of pound;300,000-plus doesn't raise enough eyebrows for such a thing to be deemed necessary.

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