Business of the House
Angela Eagle (Wallasey, Labour)
I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and apologise for my slightly unfocused beginning; I was lost in admiration for the work that my hon. Friend Natascha Engel has done as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee and rather wondering whether, and hoping that, she would consider standing again.
Following the brief announcement yesterday of the Government’s legislative programme, the Deputy Prime Minister said in a letter to his party activists that it showed that
“Liberal Democrats are punching above their weight”.
At last, we have an acknowledgement from them—that they are in the political lightweight division. After all, this is a party that was beaten at the polls last week by a man dressed as a penguin.
The Deputy Prime Minister added in desperation that the Queen’s Speech
“has a firm Liberal Democrat stamp on it”—
and he was right. It had nothing to say on the economy; nothing to say on getting people back to work; nothing to help hard-pressed families. All that Liberal Democrats want to do is sit around and debate House of Lords
reform. The Leader of the House has announced six days of debate on the Government's packed legislative programme. Will he find time for a debate about how the Liberal Democrats are punching above their weight?
“We don’t know what we’re doing”
after 2011, and
“we’ve run out of ideas”.
Will the Leader of the House coax the right hon. Gentleman out of whatever cupboard they have put him in and get him to the Chamber so that we can congratulate him on being correct?
Before the Queen’s Speech the Conservative Chair of the Public Administration Committee said that the Government lacked a compelling vision. Today it is clear: the problem is not that they lack a compelling vision, but that they lack any vision at all. The Leader of the House was unable to find time for a debate on the Committee’s report before the Queen’s Speech. Will he now finally do so?
While his economic plan is failing, the part-time Chancellor is focused on his other job of managing the Conservatives’ election strategy. As Thursday’s local elections showed, that is going very well. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the new Chipping Norton set of Labour councillors elected in the Prime Minister’s constituency last Thursday? They join more than 800 other new Labour councillors elected up and down the country.
After last week’s polls, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to listen. Why does he not meet his new Labour councillors, who will be able to tell this out-of-touch Prime Minister what the electorate are really saying? He will not even have to ban photographs of that meeting. On that very point, we learned this week that the Prime Minister arranged to meet Rebekah Brooks at a point-to-point meeting so long as they were not seen together. Meanwhile, the Culture Secretary hides behind a tree so that members of the press do not spot him meeting James Murdoch. That sums up the Government—wrong choices, wrong priorities.
Can the Leader of the House confirm that prior to appearances before the Leveson inquiry, Ministers still have to account for their actions to the House and that the ministerial code still covers them? Following yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, the Institute of Directors said that the Government were beginning to lose the confidence of UK plc, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers complained that there was no industrial strategy, and the British Chambers of Commerce wanted more support for jobs and growth. Even today’s edition of The Daily T elegraph asks, “Why was there no plan for growth?”
Will the Leader of the House find time for a statement on the Government’s elusive plan for growth? Slashing employment rights is no substitute for a growth strategy. The Government’s disastrous economic policy has led to massive unemployment, growing inequality and a double-dip recession. The out-of-touch Chancellor thinks that the solution is a huge tax cut for millionaires. A Cabinet Minister says that the Government have no
ideas, while a senior Back Bencher says that they have no vision. It is little wonder that, abandoning the No. 10 rose garden, the Prime Minister and his deputy went this week to a factory to relaunch the Government. It was a factory where big blue tractors pulled small yellow trailers. What an apt metaphor for this Government.