Government Policy Co-ordination

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th February 1997.

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Mr. William O'Brien:

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent review he has conducted of the coordination of Government policy; what conclusions were arrived at; and if he will make a statement. [15517]

Photo of Mr Michael Bates Mr Michael Bates , Langbaurgh

We keep the co-ordination of Government policy under constant review and take action as necessary to maintain effective co-ordination.

Mr. O'Brien:

Has the Cabinet committee on policy co-ordination deregulated access to information covered by the Data Protection Act 1984? Constituents of mine have received letters from the Prime Minister requesting support and assistance for the Conservative party. Many of my constituents who have shares in private companies feel that they have been betrayed by that breach of the Act. Was that done with the agreement of the committee? If so, I think that the whole Cabinet is in breach of the Act.

Photo of Mr Michael Bates Mr Michael Bates , Langbaurgh

That is straying close to the bounds of what is in order in respect of the question. However, the hon. Gentleman makes a serious point, which I shall try to answer. First, the matter is not covered by the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. Secondly, the mailing was a tremendous success, which bodes well for future similar mailings.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the most important policy to co-ordinate is the Government's economic policy? Does he agree that we have had unequalled success in western Europe in reducing unemployment and generating growth? That has made us the strongest economy of Europe and the envy of our colleagues in the European Union.

Photo of Mr Michael Bates Mr Michael Bates , Langbaurgh

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It sounds as though he spent the early hours of this morning reading the Prime Minister's excellent article in the Financial Times, which spelt out precisely our economic success, the fact that we are now in the sixth successive year of growth and that that record is the envy of Europe. All that success would be put at risk by the policies of the Labour party.

Photo of Mr Bruce Grocott Mr Bruce Grocott , The Wrekin

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent estimate he has made of the effectiveness of his Department's work on the co-ordination of Government policy. [15521]

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

We continue to note our success in co-ordinating policies that deliver economic prosperity, uphold decent, commonsense values in pursuit of law, order and justice and provide first-class public services.

Photo of Mr Bruce Grocott Mr Bruce Grocott , The Wrekin

As we now know that one of the Prime Minister's strategies with which he hopes to inspire us during the general election campaign is his passionate support for hereditary peers, can the Minister tell us whether the Government have any plans to create more hereditary peers? The Foreign Secretary is visiting his European counterparts in the European Union to promote the British way forward and I wonder whether he will recommend to those colleagues that the one thing that their democracies urgently need is an infusion of dukes, marquesses, earls and viscounts.

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

I am sure that we were entertained by that witty supplementary, but the truth is that, during the debate on Thursday, the Leader of the Opposition profoundly lost the argument because he and the Labour party were unable to answer all the questions put by the Prime Minister, particularly about the nonsense of creating a Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Mr John Sykes Mr John Sykes , Scarborough

In terms of co-ordinating Government policy, may I express the hope that the Government's mailing system is better run than that of the Labour party? I should inform my right hon. Friend that my niece received a letter inviting her to vote for the Labour party and she is just 11 years old.

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

Well, she is obviously not young enough to know.

Photo of Mr Derek Foster Mr Derek Foster Shadow Secretary of State

In his co-ordinating role, was the right hon. Gentleman one of the 20 desperadoes who this morning gathered around the Cabinet table as they contrived the most futile job salvage operation in political history? In that role, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why eight top quangos, which spend £13,000 million of taxpayers' money, have been packed with business men whose companies have bankrolled the Tory party to the tune of £4 million? Was not the Nolan committee established to deal with that abuse of the appointments system? Why can we not have the election now so that a Labour Government can begin to clean up the quango state?

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

The right hon. Gentleman will know of the recommendations of Lord Nolan, the appointment of a Commissioner for Public Appointments and the rules that have been applied for many, many years by this Administration, and which are now formalised, to guarantee that appointment is on merit. The right hon. Gentleman insinuates that anyone with any connection with the Conservative party is not, by definition, someone to be considered for an appointment on the basis of merit. That is a logical inconsistency.