Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Radio 4's Today programme yesterday morning included an interview with Bob Neill MP, who was defending the Government's recent decision to abolish the Audit Commission on the basis that the Commission had been wasteful. One of the Coalition Government claims had been about money wasted on pot plants.

When Mr Neill was asked: "Do you have pot plants in your department?" he replied after a slight pause: "No we don't. We've just cancelled the contract, for example, for having newspapers in all the ministers' offices, because we don't think that's necessary."

Much later in the day Newsnight carried a report by David Grossman, who had cleverly decided to check on the accuracy of Bob Neill's reply.

David Grossman: A short walk to the DCLG HQ in Victoria tells a very different story - three huge potted palms in the foyer. Busted!

A spokesman for the Department told Newsnight: To be clear, these are pot plants bought by Labour. We have not wasted taxpayers' cash on pot plants since we came to power.

Reminding Newsnight viewers of Bob Neill's answer on Radio 4's Today programme, David Grossman said "This may seem a petty insignificant point to be making - and in many ways it is."

Quite right, David, but seemingly petty insignificant points may be symptomatic of bigger problems. That's true of the BBC, where Newsround Blog has uncovered numerous errors and sometimes deliberate deception.

Yesterday's Newsnight went on to estimate Government spending on plants and flowers over a 4 year period. It turns out that DEFRA spent £79,871, the FCO spent £106,053 and the DCSF spent £174,600

Interestingly the DCMS wasn't one of the departments considered. Maybe that department hasn't got any pot plants, but it could also be that the BBC and the DCMS are just a bit too close for comfort.

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