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Government Running Costs

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 18th January 2000.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal 7:16 pm, 18th January 2000

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the increase in running costs of central Government and rising waste in public expenditure; regrets that this means resources are not reaching front-line public services; regrets that the Government seeks to deflect criticism of their failure to deliver improvements in public services onto public servants; notes the doubling in the number of paid political advisers; and deplores the Government's reliance on spin-doctoring and bureaucracy in place of support for public services. This debate, and the one that preceded it, are two sides of the same coin. Nearly 1,000 days into this Labour Government, the public's experience of the health service, schools, transport and crime tells them that Labour is failing to live up to its election promises. They know that Labour is putting up taxes by stealth —£40 billion of extra taxes —and they are told that billions are going into health and education. Yet they know also that money is not reaching front-line services.

In my constituency, Addenbrookes hospital—a world-class hospital—is budgeting this year for a £2.5 million deficit, its first-ever such deficit. In recent weeks, it has on four occasions had to transfer intensive care patients elsewhere—something it has had to do only once before.

Vital as it is to increase the resources for health and other key public services, the responsibility that goes with it, placed upon Government, is to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent effectively. The public want to know where the money is going.

One key part of the answer is that billions are going to meet the costs of Labour's failure to reform and reduce welfare spending. The Prime Minister said: I vow that we will have reduced the proportion— of national income— we spend on welfare bills of social failure. Yet the increase in social security spending will be more than £30 billion by the end of the Parliament. That, however, is not the whole story.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

The hon. Gentleman referred to the "reform" of welfare spending. Is he acknowledging, therefore, that welfare spending needed reforming?

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

Welfare spending needs to get away from the Government's approach of spending more while failing to reduce welfare budgets, and to get away from the means-testing proposals. We need a genuine reform of welfare spending that will enable more resources to be delivered to front-line public services. That is what the public are looking for.

However, as I said, that is not the whole story. Where else is the money going? It is going into the cost of running central Government itself. Whitehall saw Labour coming, and big government is back. The figures are startling. The Conservatives cut the number of civil servants by nearly a third. Since the election, that reduction has virtually stopped.

The last Conservative Government introduced management information systems, tough running cost limits and measures to relate activity and outputs to resources and their deployment. By comparison, under Labour, we have the much vaunted public service agreements, which are geared less to the value for money of spending and more to Treasury micro-management of public services according to Labour's political objectives—even extending to setting the priorities of local government.

The last Conservative Government had a grip on the cost of administering central Government itself. That is something that the public have a right to expect. At the last election, I met plenty of voters who wanted to see more resources for health, education and the police. However, I met none who wanted to see the Government spend more on administration.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Liberal Democrat, Gordon

If the Conservative Government had a grip on government costs, could the hon. Gentleman explain why, in the last two years of that Government, the national debt doubled?

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

The hon. Gentleman knows that that Conservative Administration were rapidly reducing Government debt—[Interruption.] In the last two years—that is what the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) is asking. In the last five years of that Conservative Administration, we saw a 10 per cent. reduction in real terms in Government running costs. In the five years before the 1997–98 financial year, that was the record of the Conservative Administration.

What has happened under Labour, by contrast with that 10 per cent. real terms reduction? The last published spending plans before May 1997 said that, compared with 1997–98, the running costs of Departments would be reduced by £223 million in the subsequent year and, in 1999–2000, would be £114 million lower than the base year. The Government's latest figures show that the cost of administration of Departments last year was £867 million higher than the preceding year and this year will be £1,104 million higher than the base year. Compared with previous plans, therefore, Labour has not delivered the planned savings, and it has also lost its grip and let spending on running the Government rise sharply.

The result is that in the space of two years £2,300 million more has been spent on administration than was set out in the plans this Government inherited. That is an enormous sum that could buy much front-line activity. Given the debate that we have just had, it is instructive to note that the sum is more than half the annual cost of general practitioners in the NHS; it is more than is spent in a year on children's personal social services; and it is one third more than this year's total capital spending in the NHS. I recall that Labour's so-called early pledge to cut waiting lists by 100,000 was to be achieved by cutting administration costs by £100 million, but if Labour has spent £2,300 million more on administration, that is a compelling reason why it is failing to deliver.

Department by Department the story is the same. For the Department of Health, we achieved a £93 million reduction in total running costs for the four years before the election, but that has been followed in the subsequent two years by a £38 million increase. At the Department for Education and Employment, we achieved a £95 million reduction in the three years before the election, which has been followed by a £36 million increase in the past two years. For the Department of Trade and Industry, spending was down by £82 million in the two years before the election but has gone up by £55 million in the two years since.

The cost and waste does not stop at departmental running costs. Scattered through the Government's spending plans are their slush funds, the so-called unallocated provision, which adds up to £173 million. It adds insult to injury for the taxpayer to have to pay more in taxes only for the money to be wasted or squandered on Labour's machinery of spin and disinformation. The public want more doctors and fewer spin doctors, and that is what the Conservative party will offer.

To Labour, facts do not speak for themselves. Indeed, it believes that facts should not speak at all. Interpretation is all, and facts are secondary. Lack of accountability is the easy Labour way out of answering for the Government's lack of policy achievement. They spin their way out of problems, thanks to the growing phalanx of taxpayer-funded political advisers.

In the summer last year, we had the absurdity of Labour's annual report, in which dozens of manifesto pledges were counted as realised because the Government had published some document or announced some future target. For Labour, activity is a substitute for achievement. Its response to criticism is to blame public servants, as we saw last summer. Labour wants to make the civil service, not Ministers, accountable for the results of its policies.

I applaud the Neill committee's vigilance in following up the Government's evident desire to make political compliance the key to career advancement inside the civil service. The Neill committee last week recommended that the performance measurement of permanent heads of Departments should be structured to allow for some element of independent validation so as not to undermine political impartiality". That is right, but as a former civil servant myself, I find it profoundly depressing that the qualities and values of civil servants, who are often highly able and dedicated to public service, are at risk of being undermined by the pressure for political correctness and compliance demanded by Labour Ministers and their paid political advisers.

The growth of direct political interference in the provision of policy advice to Ministers is among the greatest dangers. On that, we can see clearly that big Government means worse Government.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

Is the hon. Gentleman apologising for the actions of the Tory Government in the early 1980s, post-Rayner, when political allegiance to monetarism was the key to promotion, not ability? Many people left rather than subscribe to that view.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

The hon. Gentleman was a civil servant himself at that time, as was I. His experience may have been different, but my experience at the Department of Trade and Industry was that there was no such basis for advancement in the civil service. I worked for Lord Tebbit of Chingford, who may have politicised me, but he did not politicise the civil servants with whom he worked. Indeed, many people from that Department will vouch for the fact that he took impartial policy advice and never confused his responsibility as a party politician with his responsibility as a Minister.

The Labour party has virtually doubled the number of special advisers. The pay bill has more than doubled. At 10 Downing street, there are now 25 politically appointed special advisers, but the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), had eight.

The Neill committee has made welcome proposals about the future scrutiny and numbers of advisers. Of immediate concern to us, however, is the malign influence that those advisers are having on Government and the body politic. They are not discreet advisers. They see themselves as extensions of their Ministers. They brief against each other as much as against us. They have briefed against civil servants, who cannot answer in kind. They speak at party meetings. They take key advisory posts, such as chief press spokesman or chief economic adviser, formerly held by permanent civil servants. They have made more than 170 overseas visits. They see themselves as plenipotentiaries for their Ministers and insert themselves into the chain of ministerial decision making, superior to, rather than complementary to, the impartial sources of advice on which Ministers should rely.

Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright Labour, Cannock Chase

The hon. Gentleman just said that special advisers have a malign influence on the system. The Neill committee has recently considered the point and it did not come to that conclusion. In fact, the Neill committee heard from the Cabinet Secretary and others that special advisers had a valuable role to play.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

I remember the point that the Neill committee made, but that did not stop the committee reviewing the compliance with the existing model contract and codes of conduct for special advisers and concluding that a new statutory code of conduct is required. The committee also recommended a limit on the number of special advisers. It is my view that the extent to which Labour has introduced political advisers and the extent to which they have overstepped their proper role is a malign influence.

Special advisers have a valuable role to play, but they should do so within the code of conduct. Their role should be modest and dedicated to party political advice, not to seeking to influence the role of the civil service. My view differs from that of the Neill committee. I accept that the committee does not endorse my view, but the fact that it examined the way that the Government have acted in the past two years, and felt it necessary to extend its remit, is an indication of widespread concerns that are not confined to the Conservative party.

Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright Labour, Cannock Chase

Could the difference be that the Neill committee took evidence for its views?

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

Much of the evidence was persuasive. My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the shadow Leader of the House, gave good evidence on those points. It is not for me to anticipate the Neill committee's future judgments, but if there is no change in the way in which special advisers operate within the present Administration, the committee would be right to revisit the issue and take further serious steps to limit their number and their role in Government.

The impact of special advisers on the civil service is evident in the way in which information officers have responded. Some 15 out of 17 of the most senior information officers in the Government have been removed, in one way or another. In place of information, we get disinformation. I talked today to one of those former chief information officers. He said, with understandable feeling, that to wave away the malign influence of unelected unaccountable political advisers was wrong. As he said, special advisers in those numbers, and with that attitude, will ultimately lead to a corruption of the system.

The Prime Minister at least has made no bones about the party political nature of his information system. He described the job of his chief press spokesman as being to attack the Conservative party. No. 10 has now set up the knowledge network—1984-speak for a group that I am told is referred to as the Ministry of Truth in Whitehall—which is to be staffed by Millbank tower émigrés and headed by a Mr. Joe McCrea.

The rules governing special advisers state that advisers must "express comment with moderation". I am sure that that was always Mr. McCrea's approach, and I can tell people unfamiliar with that soul of moderation that he was spin doctor in chief to the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) throughout the period when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Health. Therefore, even as a new set of spin doctors try to spin their way out of the mess that he left behind, the architect of disinformation on health is to be embraced once again at the centre of Government.

The Government appear to have learned nothing. When will they understand that false promises, double and triple counting and layers of gloss placed on unpalatable truths only make matters worse in the long run? I warn the Government that, in opposition, they may have been able to avoid the truth but, in government, truth will out. I fear that they will not heed that warning but will persist in believing that the relationship of perception to reality is a one-way street. They believe that, if they can control perceptions, reality does not matter.

The Government are wrong. Reality influences perception, and it is no part of the civil service task to substitute Labour perceptions for reality. It is symptomatic of the threat that Labour represents to civil service impartiality that a senior official is reported to have said of the knowledge network being established in No. 10: It is highly questionable whether some aspects of the system are justified in policy terms. Much of the information is only useful for political campaigning and there is huge concern that civil servants will be drawn into using it to provide party political information. We see the result. We have reached the sorry pass that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food can announce an aid package of £530 million, only for us to find—with the help of a Select Committee and others—that it turns out to be worth only £1 million extra to farmers.

Labour remains what it has always been—the party of higher taxes and bigger government. The reality of that is more bureaucracy, and more politicians, reviews, quangos, tiers of government, incompetence and waste. There is now a mountain of extra government. An extra £2.3 billion has been added to the cost of administering central Government. It costs £35 million to run the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly costs an extra£15 million. There are 359 extra paid politicians.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what price the Conservative party places on democracy? Is he in favour of consulting people, drawing in other views and creating policies based on real-life experience? Does he agree that a mature Government bases policies on real evidence, or does he prefer the politics displayed by previous Administrations? Those arrogant and complacent Governments merely dictated from the centre and were completely out of touch with people.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

We believe in the reality of democracy, which is about holding Executives to account as well as about representing people. Labour wants to wield power and aggrandise government, but we want to give power to people by giving local government the power to determine matters according to local circumstances and needs. Real democracy is not about giving power to tiers of regional government, or about making Britain the most governed country in Europe through the addition of more tiers of government. It is about making government and democracy effective.

I said earlier that the Government believe activity can substitute for achievement, and that increasing the size of government automatically makes government more effective. I have news for the hon. Member for Salford (Ms Blears): more government generally means less effective government.

I noted that there are now 359 extra paid politicians. I invite the hon. Member for Salford to ask people whether they think that this country would benefit from more paid politicians, or fewer. The Government have also set up 500 reviews. The Government appeared to take office on a democratic mandate, but their actions since have amounted only to government by review.

The Government have also established 318 task forces. The Nolan rules were intended to ensure an open system of appointment of those outside government who give Ministers advice. Yet most of the 318 task forces are treated as temporary, whether they are or not. They are therefore considered to be outside the Nolan rules and an extension of ministerial patronage.

The previous Government introduced the system known as the Nolan rules. Those rules were intended to ensure that there existed open and impartial sources of advice inside government, and that those sources included civil servants and people brought in to staff advisory bodies and executive bodies of all kinds. However, the Government have already set out to evade the rules and to extend Ministers' patronage. They call it bringing people into the tent—I suspect that they would not want to say that they were bringing people into the dome.

There is also a layer of regional government, in the form of development agencies, that costs £69 million a year to run. I searched, without success, in departmental annual reports for evidence of a reduction in the running costs of central Government to compensate for the establishment of the regional development agencies.

An extra £70 million is to be spent on Government advertising this year. There has been a series of costly IT and administrative blunders. The Public Accounts Committee reported waste in parts of the benefits system and in the public-partnership for the London Underground. The cost of the national handover plan for the euro is, as yet, undisclosed.

If the British people knew the half of the problem, they would rebel against the forces of big government. It is the Opposition's job to see that they do know the size of the problem and to offer the commonsense alternative—smaller government, with more power for people and their communities.

The alternative also includes free schools, the patients guarantee and the tax guarantee. We would have fewer politicians, and more doctors but fewer spin doctors. We would demonstrate a renewed commitment to reducing the administrative cost of central Government. More money would be available for vital public services as a result. We would respect the impartiality and values of the civil service.

Our alternative system would be accountable to a strengthened Parliament that was more able to hold the Executive to account. Genuinely devolved responsibility to communities and local government would mean that accountable decisions would be made locally.

The contrast is clear. Those who talk of convergence in politics are not looking at this issue. The direction of Labour is to bigger government, diminished accountability and a weaker citizenry. The Conservative way is to go for smaller government that works better, which is more accountable and which strengthens the powers and responsibilities of citizens.

The arrogance of this Government is never more brazen than when they are exploiting the power of government for their own political ends. They spend taxpayers' money on the machinery of government and on their pet schemes as if there were an inexhaustible supply of other people's hard-earned income. At the same time, they manipulate the press and the media to prevent the public from knowing what is really going on, and to undermine the effectiveness of the House or the media in holding the Government to account.

This debate charges the Government with favouring big government, high running costs, waste and excess. The evidence condemns them, and I urge the House to support the motion.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office 7:39 pm, 18th January 2000

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: notes that, compared to the previous administration, the costs of central Government have not risen in real terms, and have indeed fallen; supports the progress made by this Government in cleaning up politics and rebuilding the bond of trust with the British people, broken through the failures of the previous administration; welcomes the Government's actions to improve democratic accountability; endorses the inclusive approach to policymaking of the Modernising Government agenda, which involves more people from all walks of life; welcomes the improvement in standards in public life; and agrees, with the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that 'special advisers have a valuable role to play.'. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) has painted an extraordinary picture. Few hon. Members would recognise it as an accurate or fair account of the way in which the Government have started to reduce costs and improve accountability in political life. It is a sham and a farce to peddle the notion that this Government are less accountable and less open than the previous Administration.

The hon. Gentleman referred in a cavalier fashion to perceptions; I shall deal in reality now, and answer some of the arguments that he has attempted to make.

The hon. Gentleman argued that costs have risen. I have just listened to figures produced by the Opposition that could exist only in a fantasy land—just like last Sunday's claim by the Leader of the Opposition that the total cost of running Whitehall has risen by £1,000 million in the past two years and that he would cut that to fund his health spending plans. That is not the real world. Those figures are ludicrous: they take no account of inflation—of the running costs of wages and of materials that people use in their work every day.

The real figures show that administration costs have fallen in real terms compared with those of the previous Government. We are spending less than the last Government on Whitehall bureaucracy. Spending was higher when the Conservatives were in power, yet they now say that they would make cuts in public services. We all know where those cuts would fall. The Conservatives would scrap the working families tax credit, the new deal and the national minimum wage; they would undermine child benefit and cut help for pensioners. Those are the first real cuts that they would make.

The hon. Gentleman argued that the Conservative party would make a difference in the health service. Would they make as big a difference as we did in the first year, with £21 billion announced for NHS spending? [Interruption.] In the first year, we announced a spending figure of £21 billion. I shall go on to give the figures for the second and third years, if Conservative Members will give me a break.

Spending on NHS bureaucracy has been reduced, and spending on front-line patient care has increased. We have done away with the two-tier system and, under the primary care system, patients' voices will be heard. We have started the building that will continue in the second year with the money that was announced in the first year. It will go on 37 new hospitals, the £100 payments towards winter fuel bills, free eye tests and increases in child benefit. Those changes have been made: they, and not the Opposition's perceptions, are the reality.

The hon. Gentleman's second argument is that special advisers are a drain on the public purse. I am sorry that he disagrees, as he made it very clear, with Lord Neill, who said last week in his sixth report that special advisers have a valuable role to play. Sir Richard Wilson, head of the civil service, has said that he does not think that the senior civil service—who number about 3,500 or 3,600—is in danger of being swamped by 70 special advisers; he does not regard what is happening as creeping politicisation.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

When the Prime Minister appointed 53 advisers, which was a substantial increase on the 38 posts that existed when he came to power, he said that although there would be more advisers, the total salary bill would be kept under the same cost umbrella of £1.8 million that he had inherited from the previous Government. Why has the salary bill now reached £4 million?

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

The Prime Minister made no secret of the fact that he wanted special advisers in the Government to help drive the Government's policies forward. I make no apology for the fact that we are governing in a different way from the previous Administration. Given the mess that they got into, I am sure that most people welcome the change.

In answer to the question from the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie), the overall costs have remained broadly in line with what the Prime Minister promised. We have made no secret of the numbers and cost of special advisers or of their work. We said that the number and funding of special advisers would be published—something that no previous Government had done. We have done all that.

The fact that we have special advisers guarantees—contrary to what the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire argued—the impartiality of the civil service. Who writes my party conference speeches with me? Do I ask a civil servant? No—I ask a special adviser. That is what they are there for. They protect the civil service, rather than making it political.

Let me reinforce that point by quoting Jonathan Baume of the Association of First Division Civil Servants. He said: A good special adviser is well worth having in any Department—it is also fair to say that this Government have used its special advisers in a much more upfront way. A good special adviser is an asset to a Department, both to the Minister and to the civil service.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister quotes Jonathan Baume. His predecessor at the Association of First Division Civil Servants now sits on the Labour Benches in the Lords, so I am not sure whether those comments are completely impartial.

The Government have put special advisers in executive control of impartial civil servants. Career civil servants know that they must serve the interests of the Government of the day if they want to get on. That is the new corruption that the Government have introduced through the special adviser system.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

That is an insult to the civil service. The quote I gave was from the head of the Association of First Division Civil Servants, whose integrity the hon. Gentleman has just questioned. Civil servants continue to be impartial advisers. If they were not—if we did not have special advisers giving us political advice—there would be the potential for politicisation. At the moment, there is not.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

Alastair Campbell is not a party spokesperson. It is right that he is not paid out of the party purse. His contract makes it clear that he is employed to speak to the media on the Government's behalf. He expresses not his own views but those of the Prime Minister, and he avoids personal attacks. [Laughter.] Does the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) want to follow that up? Alastair Campbell's role is clear.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

Not for the moment. The fact that Alastair Campbell's is a political appointment means that civil servants are not being asked to become involved in political arguments. As with all special advisers, Alastair Campbell's appointment helps to preserve impartiality. [Interruption.] I look forward to hearing less of the raucous shouting and more inclination to deal with reality.

The civil servants with whom we work have not complained, and their trade unions have spoken in support of our policies.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

Not at the moment. Let me deal with the media monitoring unit to which the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire also referred. There is, indeed, an attempt to monitor the media; all Governments have done it.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

I just want to finish this point. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already. Media monitoring is an important aspect of Government policy and is intended to correct inaccuracies. All Governments have done it. The media move faster today, and there are many more outlets. That means more questions to which people expect a faster response.

We have a duty to respond, to keep the public informed about what we are doing. We need the staff and the technology to make that possible in today's media world. We are not ashamed of that; I think that it leads to better information for the public whom we serve.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire also referred to changes of press officer in the past two and a half years. During the similar period from 1979 to 1981, the number of changes was comparable. There are many reasons for such changes; some are personal, some arise from recruitment, some result from promotion and so on. We have never tried to hide any change that has taken place.

The hon. Gentleman argued that Ministers are not accountable. Unlike previous Governments, we have set high standards for Ministers, and we expect them to be upheld. I welcomed Lord Neill's statement last week that there is less cause for concern about standards in public life than there was when the cash for questions affair led to the setting up of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. I also welcomed his statement that there was no need for an independent ethics commissioner to investigate alleged abuses by Ministers. Since we came to office, we have strengthened the ministerial code to make sure that it worked effectively.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire argued that democratic accountability had diminished under the Labour Government. In fact, the opposite is true: we have strengthened ministerial accountability. Devolution is enhancing democratic accountability, bringing government closer to the people of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, ultimately, London. We have brought democracy out of the dark ages by abolishing the voting rights of hereditary peers. We have increased parliamentary accountability by introducing pre-legislative scrutiny of some draft Bills, as the previous Government did not.

Labour Ministers have made nearly twice as many oral statements in the House—80 in 1998–99, compared with 45 in 1993–94. Ministers are being held to account more often as a result of Westminster Hall debates. We are increasing the opportunities for Opposition Members to hold us to account. It is not our fault that the press do the job better than the Opposition.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, Blaby

I thank the right hon. Lady for giving way at last. We all know that statements are given first to the press. Given her experience in Northern Ireland, she may wish to read today's Evening Standard, and to discover that the statement that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is to make in the House tomorrow has been given to the press today.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

I was making the point that pre-legislative scrutiny allows more people to be included in consultation. That can only help us to make decent policy. We have increased the openness of government. The Freedom of Information Bill will involve everyone more closely in decisions that affect their lives. The Representation of the People Bill will increase access to democracy by improving disabled access to polling booths and setting up a rolling electoral register to maximise people's opportunities to vote. The Political Parties, Referendums and Elections Bill will ban foreign donations, and require donations of more than £5,000 to be published and the donor to be identified.

In the past three years, we have begun to transform the ways in which the government can be held to account. We are proud of that record, and the Conservative party, with its history of secrecy and scandal, can have little of value to say about it.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

A few minutes ago, the Minister said that her party had introduced pre-legislative scrutiny. May I suggest that tomorrow she visits the so-called "truth office" in Downing Street to discuss that matter? If that unit is concerned with the truth, it will tell the Minister that what she has told the House is incorrect. In fact, the previous Government introduced pre-legislative scrutiny on, among other things, legislation on Sunday trading and abortion.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

That was done on specific issues such as private Members' Bills or matters on which that Government were split. We are introducing pre-legislative scrutiny on legislation so that parties across the House may consider it in advance.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire made allegations about task forces. There are clear lines of accountability for task forces. They are accountable to Ministers, and Ministers are accountable to Parliament. We make no apology for using task forces to crack problems that we inherited from the previous Government. They include more people with a wide variety of views. They involve experts as well as those whom the policy will affect. Task forces are a less centralised and a more accountable way of working. For the first time, the Government are publishing details of each task force, including membership, and updating those details every six months.

One example is the social exclusion unit, which has policy action teams. For each policy, a committee is created comprising civil servants plus 100 or so people from outside, which allows the inclusion of a range of views previously not heard. The recent independent Democratic Audit report on Government task forces said: We welcome the government's attempts to be more inclusive in its approach to policy review and implementation…to make the consultative and advice-seeking process more open to the public and to make it more inclusive of different kinds of expertise from civil society. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire also implied that we appoint people out of favouritism—[Interruption.] "Tony's cronies," as someone on the Opposition Benches says. I do not want to get into personal politics, but the individuals whom we have appointed across task forces provide good examples of our approach. David Mellor was appointed to chair the football task force; Chris Patten chaired the independent commission on policing in Northern Ireland; Lord Wakeham chairs the royal commission on reform of the House of Lords; Lord Mayhew chairs the advisory committee on business appointments; and Baroness Chalker is on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office panel of the 2000 advisory group. We have chosen those people for their expertise in particular areas. The cronyism argument does not hold up.

The Government are committed to openness and accountability. We made a contract with the people at the last election to clean up politics, to make them open and accountable. That is what we have done in our first two years. I remind the House again of Lord Neill's observation that there is less concern about standards in public life than there has been since the cash for questions affair led to the setting up of the Committee on Standards in Public Life under the previous Government.

We have come a long way, but we are far from complacent. We shall continue to work to clean up government. We shall work to rid ourselves of the legacy of distrust left behind by the Conservatives. We shall deliver, as cost-effectively and efficiently as we can, good government for the people of our country.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Liberal Democrat, Gordon 7:58 pm, 18th January 2000

The Minister will be reassured to know that we accept that the Government need special advisers. That is not a fundamental problem. Government, after all, is about politics, and the need for political advice within the machinery of Government is accepted. It was an established fact under the previous Government. The question is not whether we should have policy advisers of a political character, but what the balance should be between political presentation and what is developed as policy advice.

I am slightly taken aback by the complacency, or perhaps the inconsistency, of the Conservative attack—it is as if there had been no continuity of practice between the previous Conservative Government and the present Labour Government. There were highly political advisers to the previous Government; for example, Bernard Ingham was a highly political member of that Government, who spun stories against Ministers. I suspect that some of the frustration and anger of Conservative Members is due to the fact that Labour have been more successful at using advisers for positive political affect, rather than for the succession of public relations disasters that harried the Tories out of office.

We need to ask whether we are imposing a more political management on to the civil service. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, does not think so. I do not necessarily disagree, but one or two developments have given rise to the question. For example, to give powers to Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell to direct civil servants raises the question that there could be a tension between political advisers and civil servants—as was pointed out in an intervention. That might compromise the integrity of the service.

Ed Balls was a special adviser and I do not question his ability or the quality of his advice. However, to take him from that role to the position of chief economic adviser to the Treasury in one seamless move, without open advertisement or consultation raises questions about privilege and the process of association. Somewhere, there must be people who thought that they might have got that job, but, until it was filled, they did not even know that it had been vacant. Those are reasonable questions and the Government should consider them.

The point has already been made that expenditure on entertaining, on the press, on publicity and on the number of special advisers has risen under the Labour Government. Since they came into office, the number of special advisers has risen from 38 to 74—nearly double. What effect does that have on the political process? It does not always add anything to that process. The Prime Minister may have read in today's press of the collapse in his personal support—he was the most popular politician, but his approval rating is now only plus 9 per cent. The right hon. Lady emerges as the most popular politician in the country, a fact in which she no doubt takes comfort. Perhaps the Prime Minister might consider whether part of that collapse is the result of his and the Government's obsession with news management and presentation over substance. Over time, people will judge Governments on substance.

Under the previous Government, I sat on several Committees as my party's Treasury spokesman and noted that Labour Members, in opposition, were terrified to commit themselves to any firm policy. Whenever they were under pressure to state their policy, their ploy was to call for a policy review. On our calculations, by the time of the last election, they had asked for 1,000 policy reviews. That might have been understandable when they were in opposition. They wanted to be elected; it saved them from committing to anything and showed that they were interested in policy.

However, although they are now in government, with the responsibility for making decisions, it does not seem that that instinct has been much curbed. The Government set targets; they set up task forces and review groups, all of which are designed to keep the policy process moving. They produce an annual report in which, miraculously, all their targets appear to have been achieved—although the Government's interpretation of an achievement is not what most people would always recognise. For example, one target was that there would be a referendum on Britain's entry into the euro. The report described that as "achieved". We still intend to have a referendum on entry. There are several other targets of the same character.

The problem is that the Government set and evaluate their own targets and, then, in their annual report, claim that the targets have been achieved. There have been problems with some of the targets. They have used most regularly those for class sizes and waiting lists. Class sizes for years one, two and three have probably gone down, although they have not yet reached the Government's overall objective. However, although it was not part of Labour's pledge, it is noticeable that class sizes for years four, five, six and seven and the sizes of secondary classes have all gone up. That means that the Government's claim was rather partial.

Hospital waiting lists were coming down, but, after the flu epidemic, it has been acknowledged that they are likely to rise. However, we have discovered that the lists are being reduced by putting people on lists to get on to the waiting lists. The Government may say that they are meeting their targets, but the public say that as that does not change the quality of the service, the targets are not relevant. I do not imply that the targets were not genuine, but they cannot be defined in that narrow way.

I do not often quote The Daily Telegraph, but its leader of 10 January summarises the matter rather well. It states: Fortunately, on the question of whether the targets are being met, we are able to listen to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. He admits that 'because the targets are demanding, they are not always achieved'. Given that targets—which were always met, naturally—were a favourite tool of Communist governments to demonstrate their supposed efficiency, we should be on the watch for the day when the Government announces that all the trains are running on time. Targets are useful, but only when the electorate, and not the government, is the judge of whether they have been met.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Liberal Democrat, Portsmouth South

If my hon. Friend had been in the House earlier this afternoon, he would have heard one such example of over-hype when the Secretary of State for Health told us about 100 new intensive care beds. However, despite the fact that he had had almost a week's notice of today's debate, when push came to shove, he was able to tell us where only eight of them were.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Liberal Democrat, Gordon

That is an example of the problem.

We can all have a little bit of fun at the Government's expense. Sometimes these debates form a legitimate part of that process. However, the Government must address the fact that, if the public become cynical about targets and do not think that they have honestly been met, or if the targets are renewed and redefined when they are not being met, or if the public can tell that what surrounds the targets does not add up—that there are no genuine improvements to the quality of service—no amount of presentation will get the Government off the hook.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is especially remarkable that, during the past few days, in Standing Committee, the Government have rejected attempts by his party and by the Conservatives to ensure that the Comptroller and Auditor General audits the performance target results?

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Liberal Democrat, Gordon

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's question. That is a point that we have been making for some time.

I challenge the Government that—although it might be an uncomfortable suggestion to Governments wrestling with genuine difficulties and uncertainties—the crucial test will be whether government by objectives and outcomes will be a real part of the process, rather than a synthetic sham. If the Government are the only determinant of whether they are achieving their targets and can redefine those targets, the public will become cynical.

I offer some advice. In their comprehensive spending review, the Government have got into the habit of triple accounting—globally adding up the cumulative effect of all their spending plans to telephone numbers that are meaningless. I doubt that the average Member of the House—never mind the wider public—can really conceive of the difference between £2 billion and £20 billion in regard to what those amounts can achieve. We want to know what the practical difference will be, in a way that we can all understand. By hyping the figures to the largest possible amount, the Government have raised public expectations to an unsustainable degree. They are now reaping the consequences.

Another problem is the role of the House. I have been in the House for 16 years, visited and talked to parliamentarians in other legislatures and shared experiences with them. By comparison with many others, we are a pretty weak and ineffective Parliament and that is because the Executive do not use Parliament as part of the process. They do not recognise—it makes no difference which party is in government—that politicians from both sides of the House could make a contribution to many policy issues. They have experience of representation, not all of which is party political, and that fact does not deny that the Government will ultimately decide and use their majority to do so.

When I came to the House, I had the naive belief that we had heated, public debates on the principle of a Bill in the Chamber, but we then went into Committee where everyone sat down and worked through in a business-like way how to make the legislation work. What a load of baloney! I am not saying that it has never happened—there must have been one or two occasions when it has—but I can rarely think of an occasion when a Government have been really willing to work with a Committee in those terms. That makes many Members feel frustrated, given their and the public's expectations of what we should be doing.

I wholly agree that it would be good if the House had more say in helping to determine Government objectives and on how their targets should be set and monitored. That would raise the standard of debate and public confidence in Parliament and in politics. A bold Government might regard that as something that would benefit them as well as the political process. However, I fear that this Government are more concerned with the management of the process.

When I read the note on the knowledge network project, which has already been mentioned, I was appalled at what it was supposed to do. According to documents obtained by The Guardian, its objective was to explain the Government's core message so that citizens can get the full facts without going through the distorting prism of media reporting. The article continues: It will take the form of a computer network into which every Department can feed their 'lines to take' on every key issue and from which every Department can read. The Kremlin would have been proud of that turn of phrase. In other words, the project will produce the line to be defended at all times. It does not provide substance to the belief that there is the degree of inclusiveness that the Government like to boast about.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

May I remind the hon. Gentleman of his comments on The Daily Telegraph? He said that he was reluctant to quote from it regularly. That point acknowledged that the process of media communication distorts what is said in the House by, for example, the hon. Gentleman and by Government. Does he not acknowledge that there is a place for direct communication—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman communicates regularly with his constituents—between public and Parliament that bypasses the organs of the daily press?

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Liberal Democrat, Gordon

Yes. I used a turn of phrase that suggested that the media were some kind of obstacle to the process rather than a different component of it. That is a different matter. My speech has balanced a quote from The Guardian with one from The Daily Telegraph. On this occasion, I agree with what The Daily Telegraph said.

The Government tell us that we do not understand the process and they change the targets and the terminology. Since the turn of the year, we have seen what I suspect is a whole new battery of neo-Poujadism emanating in particular from the Home Office. Those who deign to criticise the Government or the Government's programme are either described as woolly Liberals or as the massed ranks of Conservatism. That does not leave much room for anyone else. The more spin doctors there are, the more targets they develop. That means more confusion and disillusionment with the process of government.

The process has sunk to a particular depth in the use of special advisers specifically to brief Labour Members on the party line. That is clear abuse of the process. The Conservatives have come under inquisition for their use of Short money for campaigning purposes. I am not here to defend the Conservative party, but it is difficult to see how using special advisers to brief Labour Members at the taxpayers' expense is different from using Short money to support the Conservative's campaigns. If one is wrong, the other must also be wrong. On that basis, if the Conservatives will have to pay the money back, will the Labour party pay it back to balance things out?

I wish to raise a serious point—I do not think that this will surprise the House—that explains why I and Liberal Democrats are so committed to radical constitutional reform. We want a written constitution, a representative voting system, a federal constitution and an elected second Chamber to enhance the role of Parliament in developing and monitoring public policy. We believe that such reforms are pivotal to securing that aim.

On the passivity of the House, can anyone remember when it last rejected even a component of a Budget? We have not rejected a Budget, and even the European Parliament, which is so reviled by the Tory Opposition, has shown more spine than that.

I am a strong supporter of devolution and I tell those who criticise it that there is something already to be learned from the process that we have set up in Scotland. Andrew Cubie's committee, which was appointed by the Scottish Executive, has produced a more considered review of policy on student finance and university funding than anything that the Department for Education and Employment would even be allowed to think about. That is pluralism and it should not be an embarrassment. It is what devolution is designed to do. It allows different ideas to be explored in a different context. However, we hear that Downing street and the Department for Education and Employment are appalled at that degree of independence.

The truth at the end of the day is that new Labour will reap what it sows. To Liberal Democrats, the desert of Tory spending commitments reaps the whirlwind of public anger over the state of the national health service. Reannouncing the same funding over and over, and triple counting spending pledges will yield good headlines in the short run. However, if responses and resources are not there, the targets are not real and the objectives are not met Alastair Campbell's team may spin like whirling dervishes but it will not fool the British people.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Labour, Leeds Central 8:18 pm, 18th January 2000

I should declare an interest, if not necessarily an expertise, as a former special adviser. It is principally on that subject that I want to contribute to the debate. Four points have been raised about the role of special advisers. They relate to the existence and legitimacy of special advisers, their effect on government and governance, their numbers and the extent to which they help the effectiveness of government.

There has been much media comment on special advisers and the Opposition have made great play of the issue tonight. For example, the Financial Times has referred to the shadowy role of special advisers in general and a leader in the Evening Standard said: It is a scandal that ministers' special advisers are paid from the public purse to advise their bosses about the likely consequences of their actions on party and public opinion. Conservative Members nod, which is helpful because those quotes are from 1989 and 1993 when the Conservative party was in government. They merely demonstrate that advisers work for all Governments and it is right and proper that they should be under continual scrutiny. The righteous indignation to which the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) treated us about special advisers and this Government was not quite as righteous as it seemed.

I shall deal first with legitimacy. The truth is that special advisers have existed in their current form for about a quarter of a century, although I read with interest in the Neill report that the very first special adviser was appointed by Lloyd George. That may not be the best precedent to follow, but it was almost a century ago.

We know that special advisers are curious creatures in the civil service because they are appointed by Ministers and last only as long as the Minister who appointed them. They are required to abide by the civil service code of conduct but, for obvious reasons, are free from the restrictions on political activity. As I pointed out in a recent debate in Westminster Hall, my letter of appointment rather pointedly stated that special advisers are free from the requirement that normally all civil servants should be appointed on merit. I always thought that that was a rather gentle way for the civil service to remind special advisers that they are not quite the same as the people with whom they are working.

Why has the system evolved? Rightly, Ministers want a source of advice and expertise that civil servants cannot and, as I think all hon. Members would agree, should not be asked to provide. That expertise, as well as covering the Department's policy area, may deal with presentation of policy. Above all, special advisers bring to the job an understanding and knowledge of the governing party's politics, its history and the background to its policy debates.

I shall give a simple example. A civil servant could, technically speaking, design a perfect policy, such as—to pick an example at random—the poll tax, but a sensible adviser would recognise it as being politically unworkable and advise against it. It is a great pity that there was not such an adviser in the previous Government because they would have saved billions of pounds if someone had been able to say, "Sorry, that isn't going to work."

The key point, however, is that Ministers get that advice from a particular perspective, which is a point that the model contract specifically refers to. It says—and I welcome this—that the civil service has no monopoly of policy analysis and advice". We could argue, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office pointed out, that the existence of advisers helps to shield civil servants from pressures that they might otherwise face.

In a very British way, we have evolved a compromise because we have avoided a situation in which Opposition politicians who come into government are forced to leave behind the people with whom they have worked very closely in opposition. In the case of those Members sitting on the Opposition Front Bench today, those advisers are paid for out of Short money at public expense, and rightly so. I have no argument with that. We do not put politicians into the civil service machinery bereft of the support and advice network that they have relied on. That would be nonsensical.

On the other hand, we avoid the spoils system that operates in countries such as the United States, where a change of Administration results in the whole top tier of the civil service being removed and placemen and placewomen being appointed. That is why I think that the Neill committee got it right when it said: special advisers have a valuable role to play". I say to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire that if there were any evidence of malign influence, a threat to the impartiality of the civil service or any undermining of the values of civil servants, I would have expected the Neill committee to identify that and refer to it in its report. It did not do so because that is not the case. In fact, Neill explicitly recognises the legitimacy of special advisers, and I trust that the House will as well.

The second issue is the effect of special advisers on the process of government. I happen to think that the current group of special advisers are very professional and effective. Indeed, they are rather more effective than their predecessors before May 1997, which may, in part, explain the Opposition's sense of grievance about them this evening.

Advisers act as the eyes and ears of Ministers, and with the complexities of modern government, which the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) referred to, and the sheer volume of submissions that emerge from what I call the departmental silos and fall on to the Minister's desk, it is important that special advisers support Ministers in trying to sift through those submissions.

In my experience, the dialogue between advisers and civil servants was helpful in clarifying issues, which meant that the submission that was finally presented to a Minister had benefited from advice from both of those perspectives. Those perspectives are different but they are both recognised within the system. That system can work only on the basis of trust and respect for those different standpoints. It is essential that advisers advise, civil servants advise and Ministers, who are accountable to this House, decide. Nothing must ever get in the way of that fundamental principle.

On the question of numbers, we must be careful not to confuse influx with influence. The shadow Leader of the House said in his evidence to the Neill committee that we would begin to change the nature of the debate and the way a Civil Service department operates—if the special advisers became, as it were, the dominant influence on the Minister rather than the civil servants. That argument has more to do with the relative quality of the advice than with the number of advisers because if one took that argument to its logical conclusion, one adviser could be one too many if he or she were that influential. In practice, as we know, the 70 or so advisers in the civil service are opposed to—I do not mean in a policy sense—several hundred thousand civil servants, which is hardly an equal contest. I do not think that the numbers argument is credible.

My final point is about effectiveness. I thought that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire strained credulity in a slightly half-hearted contribution, not least because the Government have been extremely effective in organising the machinery of government to try to achieve their objectives.

I shall reflect for a moment on my experience as a special adviser in the Department for Education and Employment and some of the measures that the Government have set in train. The hon. Member for Gordon referred to the fact that we are on our way to meeting our class size pledge. Hopefully, by the end of this Parliament we will have nearly doubled the number of early years education places and doubled capital investment in school buildings and equipment.

We are supporting primary schools, in particular, in raising standards of numeracy and literacy. We have gone from having no numeracy and literacy summer schools before the last general election to running 1,500 this year. We have put about 10 million new books into schools, courtesy of the extra money that we have invested. We are investing about £1 billion to support information and communication technologies.

We have made a record investment in further education, which was sadly neglected and greatly punished under the previous Government. We are working towards enabling 50 per cent. of our young people to benefit from higher education and we have managed to more than halve long-term youth unemployment. I simply say, modestly and quietly, that if that is not getting on with the business of government, and if that is not substance, then I do not know what is.

There is a great deal still to be achieved. However, what really lies behind the motion is that the Opposition are attacking the messengers, the special advisers, who cannot speak for themselves. I was keen to contribute to the debate because they cannot respond to the attacks that have been made on them tonight. When we come to the next general election, I think that the Opposition are afraid that the electorate will demonstrate, as at the previous general election, that they rather like the message.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Agriculture Committee 8:28 pm, 18th January 2000

In addressing the motion and the Government's amendment, I ask myself why I feel such deep antipathy to the Government's spin-doctoring techniques. In a way, it is because I feel for the Government. The tragedy for the Government and for the country is that they think that they can do no wrong, which is a dangerous thing to believe. To believe one's own propaganda, as the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn) obviously does, is a tragedy for a politician.

I resent that belief because it leads the Prime Minister into making some serious charges against the Opposition that I do not think are sustainable. Each week, I sit on the Opposition Benches to hear the saintly Prime Minister accuse me of the most heinous crimes against humanity. I am told that I do not want a national health service, to reduce unemployment, to help the developing world or care about crime, poverty and social exclusion because I am a Tory, which makes it impossible.

I have news for the Prime Minister and for his right hon. and hon. Friends. He is wrong. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House care passionately about such matters. Our difference is often, but not always, about means, not ends. I accept that there are issues on which we disagree about the ends too, such as the future of sterling, the future of the United Kingdom, our right to participate in country sports and to eat particular foods.

The dreadful way in which the Government have been caught up in the web of their own deception means that they can no longer see that essential truth, and that makes their attacks curiously offensive. The Prime Minister seems genuinely to believe that the answers to the problems that will always exist in any democratic society lie in bigger government and more politicians. That goes to the heart of the Opposition's motion. He seems to believe that the answer to Britain's problem is more politicians in Wales, Scotland and everywhere else, including this place. We should try to reduce the number of Members here, not increase them as the Boundary Commission inevitably does.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Agriculture Committee

I will if you will. I am not referring to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but to the hon. Gentleman.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said that 359 new politicians are the result of the Government's policy, and that is not the answer to our problems. I heard the Minister for the Cabinet Office deny the increase in public expenditure for the management of central Government. I have the figures. Last year, we were planning to cut it by £223 million. Instead, the Government increased it by £967 million. That is £1,190 million extra. This year, our planned cut is £114 million. The Government's increase will be £1,104 million. That is a total over two years of £2,408 million. That is the increase in the cost of government that the Government have imposed on us. That is because they genuinely believe—this is the tragedy—that that is the right way to run a country. It is not.

The regional development agencies were rightly highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire. He said that they cost about £69 million. These monsters have laboured mightily to bring forward their regional strategies.

I have the strategy of "Advantage West Midlands", the West Midlands regional development agency. In an earlier debate, I highlighted the facile gibberish of the language in which it is written, but what of the content? The glossy and unreadable document includes such surprising insights as: Research shows that people with the highest skill levels are most likely to find and keep employment and enjoy higher earnings. As Michael Caine would say, "Not a lot of people know that."

Later we read: Transport is seen as being very important for growth. I am grateful to the agency for this fresh insight into the workings of the United Kingdom economy.

When the agency is not offering such insights, it is threatening to meddle where it is not wanted. The document states: '"Advantage West Midlands' has no responsibility for housing". That does not stop it from stating that it intends to play an effective role in helping to co-ordinate housing and regeneration strategies across the region. It knows absolutely nothing about the region. How can it seriously say: It is the blend of culture, unique histories and shared futures that defines the West Midlands"? That defines every arbitrarily drawn region of the United Kingdom. It is a load of nonsense. Nothing defines the west midlands except some arbitrary lines drawn on a map by a bureaucrat.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

I entirely endorse all my hon. Friend's comments on regional development agencies and the west midlands region. The people of Shropshire bitterly resent being lumped in with the central conurbation of the west midlands, which will dominate all RDA decisions. They will be the country cousins, left out on a limb.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Agriculture Committee

I am glad that I gave way to my hon. Friend, who makes exactly my point. The people of Worcestershire have exactly the same feeling. How do you think I felt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Agriculture, to read that the West Midlands RDA says implicitly of my constituency: The main problems generally include … too much reliance on farming and forestry"? That is an opportunity, not a problem. Birmingham-based bureaucrats of the agency that was imposed on us by the Government do not understand that.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

For the record, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he was an adviser to Lord Walker, the former Secretary of State for the Environment—the very gentleman who drew up the boundaries of the west midlands and the other English regions?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Agriculture Committee

I do not want to have a debate about that. Of course the boundaries are useful for administrative purposes and for gathering statistics, but that does not mean that the people of Worcestershire should be run from Birmingham. Will the Minister get that simple thought into his very small brain?

Of course we must carve up countries for administrative and statistical purposes. That has some passing relevance, but it does not mean that the historic counties of England must be run from remote places such as Birmingham, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) rightly said.

It is not just the development agencies, but the Government who write dreadful documents. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who is not now present, refer to the wretched little document entitled "The Government's annual report". Rightly, he poured ridicule upon it. It is a check list of completed actions. It states, for example: The Royal Commission on Long-term Care. Done. It is true that it has been done. It has been well and truly done, ignored, pigeon-holed and forgotten, because its recommendations were too difficult.

The report goes on to refer to The referendum on voting systems", as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last week. That is said to be "On course." Yes—on course for the waste paper basket. The report continues: Simplify Government. On course. See page 57. I saw page 57 and could not understand it.

A further entry reads: Hold referendum on any EMU decision. Kept. Excuse me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, did I miss the referendum? Was I asleep?

The Government had to buy half the copies of this wretched little document. They claim that the other 49,000 were sold. I should love to see Tesco's sales figures. The document should never have been produced. It goes to the heart of this dreadful Government and the motion rightly tabled by the Opposition.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most extraordinary part of the document is the last page, headed "Your say", which I suppose is Labour's dim attempt at some form of accountability to the public? It states that last year, the Government asked people's views and have published a cross-section of them on the opposite page. All we get back is a little tapestry of cuttings, rather than a serious account of people's views. It is supposed to be a serious public document.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Agriculture Committee

My hon. Friend is right. That hardly encourages people to believe that, in the new, open, inclusive style of government of which the Government boast, their views are being taken seriously. I am grateful to him for making an important point.

With regard to the new deal, the Government are once again in danger of believing their own propaganda. They seem to think that their huge expenditure has created jobs. It has not. The jobs were being created by the private sector. Youth unemployment was collapsing under the previous Government because of the success of their economic policies.

The present Government have spent £20 million of our money—taxpayers' money—on promoting the wretched new deal. They are doing so for party political advantage. They are trying to be seen to do something about unemployment. That is a monstrous use of money. New jobs are being created not by the Government, their bureaucrats or the new deal, but by hard-working small business men and women, who were doing so anyway without the Government's meddling interference.

Others want to speak, so I shall be brief. The Minister's research was quite good. He suggested that I was a special adviser to Lord Walker of Worcester. I was not. I was a special adviser between 1987 and 1989 to Lord Young of Graffham at the Department of Trade and Industry.

I freely admit that special advisers have a useful role to play. That is why the previous Government had a number of them. They can bridge the gap between civil service and party, work alongside Parliamentary Private Secretaries on parliamentary liaison, and inject original thinking into policy making. They are an extra set of eyes and ears for the Minister.

All that is good, but their role is not, as the special advisers of this Government seem to think, to promote party at public expense, to undermine the Government information service or to brief against other Ministers. It is clear that that is happening in spades in the Government.

We must cap the numbers. What justification is there for increasing the number of special advisers at No. 10 from eight under the previous Government to 22 under the present Government?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Agriculture Committee

Twenty five, I am told—a huge number. The same applies to press officers. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire rightly highlighted the sacking of the Government information officers. It is a scandal—an outrage. The Government's attitude seems to be, "Clear them out and make room for people who are more compliant with our wishes." It is not often appreciated that Alastair Campbell has a spy in every Department. Campbell's cronies bully and intimidate their colleagues and journalists. They may be civil servants now, but a year or two ago, many were Labour press officers or Labour party officials. That is an outrage.

As Conservative Members frequently point out, the Government are more obsessed with spin doctors than real doctors, and with glamour rather than the gritty reality of improving public services. The Government are run by elites for elites. In November 1998, a letter from Dr. Richard Mullen to The Daily Telegraph discussed the BBC's excellent serialisation of "Vanity Fair" by Thackeray. It also commented on Thackeray's "Book of Snobs". Dr. Mullen said that, in that book, people would find much that is apt today. Thackeray's best writing was done in an age full of prattle about 'reform'—Victorian English for modernisation—when a section of the middle class succeeded in grabbing power from the House of Lords.These 'Liberals' ruled for what they endlessly proclaimed was the benefit of 'the People', but their rule always benefited the prattlers themselves. Thackeray was superb in exposing the cant and hypocrisy of such stuff.How he would have relished the sight of Blairites invoking the sacred mantra of 'the People', while a deferential 'wait-person' delicately shaves white truffles on to their polenta, or pointing out how they spend more on their wallpaper than they pay hard-working nurses. My hon. Friends laugh. I agree that it would be funny if we were not considering a subject as serious as government. It is not funny, but frightening. This bloated, complacent, arrogant Government resemble Falstaff in Verdi's opera or Don Giovanni in Mozart's. Their end was always inevitable; it was only a question of when and how. For the Prime Minister's sake, I hope that the end is characterised by the recantation and forgiveness of Falstaff, not the damnation of Don Giovanni.

Photo of Mark Todd Mark Todd Labour, South Derbyshire 8:41 pm, 18th January 2000

It will be hard to maintain the unusual excitement that was generated by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff). Unlike both previous speakers, I have never been a special adviser to the Government, or wished to be such. I have worked in the private sector for 20 years, trying to create wealth in this country. That implies no criticism of hon. Members who have been special advisers, but it shows that other perspectives can inform the debate.

The charge is that the Government have politicised and fattened central government. I concede that a substantial change has occurred in the way in which central Government govern. That process has not gone far enough, but the right strategic choices have been made. From the mess of departmentalised policy silos, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn) referred, and agency government, which was the legacy of the previous Administration, customer and citizen-focused provision, based on measurable objectives, has begun to emerge. From a highly educated but often numbing culture of introversion in our civil service, there are signs of recognition of the need to encompass genuinely new skills and backgrounds and to adopt an outward-looking perspective. From a culture in which ministerial accountability was muddled at best and denied at worst, there is growing recognition of the need to accept ownership of the goals and administrative competence of performance in Government.

I shall explore those themes. In information technology, strategy, project definition and management have, until now, been handled by individual Departments. That has meant a lack of purchasing strategy. A multiplicity of purchasing decisions makes for increased inefficiency and overall waste. A confusion of technologies and methodologies makes assembling a complex project difficult. There is no critical mass of project skills. Reference has been made in previous debates to the relatively small number of civil servants who have key skills in managing complex information technology projects. Silos with often impermeable boundaries mean that no learning occurs from experiences elsewhere. It is hard to grasp why something goes wrong or why other things succeed in particular projects, and to learn from that outside the silo.

It is hard for citizen access to be organised beyond simply the front end of a web page and there is no governmental strategic vision relating information services to policy goals. Those gaps have been obvious for a considerable time—certainly throughout the latter part of the previous Administration—and the outcome has been an array of failed, poor-quality, expensive systems. That process was inevitable, but the Government have recognised those faults and started to remedy them, strengthening the central IT function and developing a strategy.

We have made a critical start and a key choice in setting things right: our civil service culture has recognised the need to increase recruitment from the private sector, introduce outward-looking processes such as benchmarking, recognise the need for cultural change and develop new leaders, greater openness and greater co-working.

Encompassed in Sir Richard Wilson's report, which I suspect has probably not met the eyes of many Conservative Members, is a clear vision for the civil service of the future. It is relatively brief, and is worth repeating in full because it places in context some of the remarks about the demoralisation of the civil service and its difficulties in working with the Government: Our aim is to help make the UK a better place for everyone to live in, and support its success in the world. We want to be the best at everything we do.In support of successive administrations, we will:act with integrity, propriety, and political impartiality, and select on merit; put the public's interests first; achieve results of high quality and good value; show leadership and take personal responsibility; value the people we work with and their diversity; innovate and learn; work in partnership; be professional in all we do; be open and communicate well". The report clearly bears no resemblance whatever to Conservative Members' perception of morale and focus in the civil service, which is serving today's Government and will serve future Governments of any political complexion. It paints a picture of focused determination, not demoralisation or despair.

The establishment of cross-departmental teams to tackle a wide range of issues is a hallmark of this Government and the phrase "joined-up government" has entered the dictionary. I refer to the White Paper on modernising government, which gives some of the reasons why joined-up government—which is an innovation of theirs, in large part—is necessary: People had to give the same information more than once to different—or even the same—organisations. A mother of a boy with physical disabilities said: 'I have lost count of the times I have had to recount my son's case history to professionals involved in his care.'There is often no obvious person to help those most in need to find their way around the system.There is a lack of integrated information to enable service providers to give a full picture of what help might be available.There is minimal use of new technology. Most government Departments have a website, but few allow people to fill in forms on line. And government websites are not well linked to other relevant sites. That paints a pretty clear picture of the problem that faced the Government on coming to office: a fragmented service often offered excellent quality in isolation, but did not work together to achieve the needs of the individual customer or citizen it was working towards. It had failed to adopt business practices—one would hardly say modern business practices—that focused on the needs of the customer or individual it was seeking to serve. Instead, it focused introvertedly on the departmental mechanisms on which people's rewards were often based.

At last, one can expect issues of social exclusion to be addressed by all relevant agencies. The sure start initiative and others for tackling drugs and for redesigning our criminal justice system all require a multi-agency, multi-departmental approach. That is to be commended, yet we have heard not a word of such innovation from Conservative Members.

When I attended a meeting to discuss rough sleepers recently, I was struck by the immediate recognition of the important role of the Ministry of Defence. In fact, the importance of that role would be obvious to any citizen dealing with such problems. As most of us will have observed, many who find a place on the streets have left the armed services relatively recently. It is shameful to have to admit that the recognition of the need for Departments to work together to address problems is novel. We did not see a great deal of it during the 18 years that we witnessed previously.

The establishment of regional development agencies has been criticised today, but I think that it has enabled local communities to apply upward pressure in arguing for joint initiatives. Regional offices of government have begun to consider joint solutions to many obvious regional problems. It is easy to deride the way in which an RDA has drawn up its strategy. I do not live in, or represent, an area in the west midlands; my seat is in the east midlands. The strategy in the east midlands has been widely commended, has set extremely high standards and has drawn attention to a variety of issues that require attention, across the entire scope of government service.

At the highest level, the performance and innovation unit has addressed a range of cross-departmental issues for the future. We look forward to, for example, its pronouncements on the study of the Post Office, which will almost certainly demand a cross-departmental response. High-level reports such as that provide a critical input into Government thinking for the future. The comprehensive spending review also addressed the need to realign budgets in the direction of clear political goals.

As for accountability, in debates such as this, one is often struck by the shortness of Conservative memories. Few could forget the performance of the former Home Secretary, who claimed that the conduct of prisons was a matter not for him but for the Prison Service— [Interruption.] I am afraid that my hearing is sometimes very poor in the Chamber. I did not catch what was said by the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson).

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

I said that the former Home Secretary had reduced the amount of crime, which I would have thought was the fundamental role of a Home Secretary.

Photo of Mark Todd Mark Todd Labour, South Derbyshire

That trend has continued under the present Government, if we take their time in office as a whole. In any event, that does not constitute a response to the question of accountability, which I understood to be the focus of the debate requested by the Opposition.

I was present at the debate on the Passport Agency and its performance. It is worth contrasting the performance of the last Home Secretary with the frank apology offered by the current Home Secretary. There was no attempt to blame the civil service; rather, there was a recognition that Ministers were accountable for performances of that kind. The stark contrast between the two approaches struck me at the time.

The phrase "boom and bust" has become almost a catchphrase in Government, so I will use another. We will take no lessons on this from the last Government. I have not used those words before, but they seem singularly appropriate in this instance. When it comes to accountability in Government, there is little to be learned from the 18 years of Conservative administration.

Without dissolving that accountability, the present Government have also sought to consult more widely. The pre-legislative process has been extended to cover major Bills, which has helped to isolate the issues that divide us—the existence of such issues is inevitable—from genuine discussion of how best to manage specific policy choices. Changing a complex and history-ridden institution and political process is hard and frustrating, but the right choices have been made so far. The management of those choices will be challenging, and mistakes will be made. Improving management quality at both civil service and political level will be necessary, but excellent progress has been made.

The motion snipes at the fringes of the issue. The Opposition spurned the opportunity to tackle many of these opportunities during their 18 years in government, and I see little reason to listen to them now.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 8:54 pm, 18th January 2000

It is a great pleasure to be called to speak in the debate on the cost of central Government.

I thought that it would be interesting to go back to 1997, when the Government set out with such high hopes. The Labour manifesto bluntly said: We have modernised the Labour Party and we will modernise Britain. This means knowing where we want to go; being clear-headed about the country's future; telling the truth; making tough choices … being prepared to give a moral lead where government has responsibilities it should not avoid. I wonder what Lord Winston thinks of that in the light of this week's events.

I have much simpler beliefs. I think that people are happier with less government, fewer politicians, fewer bureaucrats and therefore less taxation. I can think of no country that has been made more successful by an increase in Government activity, or in taxation. In the light of that, I am appalled at what has happened in the past two and three quarter years.

The second line of the motion expresses regret that this means resources are not reaching front-line public services". They certainly are not in Shropshire. Not one publicly funded service in Shropshire is adequately funded. The Government have wilfully shifted £500 million from the shire counties to the inner cities. One can see it immediately.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) dug out some figures in a written answer, which show that the average pupil in a Shropshire primary school receives £2,220, whereas a pupil in a Southwark primary school receives £3,396. Resources are not reaching front-line public services in Shropshire.

We hear that, instead of being 6.1 per cent., this year's standard spending assessment increase is only 5.4 per cent. That is another £500,000 to £600,000 that the people of Shropshire will not get and were expecting. Amazingly, the fire brigade is 47 per cent. underfunded. It bought no new fire engines in 1998. It is struggling to see how it will afford to buy any more this year, with one pump costing £130,000. Resources are not reaching front-line services, such as the fire brigade.

West Mercia—this affects my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff)—has the lowest net expenditure per 1,000 of population in the shire counties. To reach the average, it would need an increase of £14.3 million. To reach the highest level, it would need a £55.3 million increase. It is clear that resources are not reaching front-line services, such as policing in West Mercia.

Sixty-seven per cent. of people in Shropshire drive to work in a car and 97 per cent. of goods go by motorised lorry. There is a £100 million backlog on the roads.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

I wondered whether you had had any notification of that. Has there been any accountability to you, or to local people about those changes?

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he must use the correct parliamentary language.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

Has there been any accountability to my hon. Friend about the lack of resources?

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

No. Those are arbitrary decisions by a central Government dominated by urban interests. They ignore national interests, too. Major road schemes are a constant battle because the Government have an in-built prejudice against the motorised vehicle.

In the light of the figures that I have mentioned, it is staggering to see what has happened to the cost of running Government Departments. In 1997–98, the cost was £13,246 million. It rose by an amazing £1,104 million in 1998–99. That would provide 11 district hospitals, probably 110,000 hip operations at today's figures, over 60,000 E grade nurses and 36,000 junior doctors. Those are striking figures for the general public to ponder when they think of the crisis in health and in Government services elsewhere.

Where is that money going? Before Christmas, I tabled a written question to the Minister for the Cabinet Office and it is already out of date. I asked how many special advisers there were. I was told that there were 68, but an addendum to the written answer gave another six. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) has managed to elicit information showing that the number has been ratcheted up to 77. They are also not cheap, those boys. Moreover, the bill has increased from £1.8 million in 1996–97, to an estimated£3.9 million in 1999–2000. They also spent £500,000 on jollies abroad.

Taxpayers in Shropshire wonder what they are getting out of those special advisers. What have they got out of the antics of Alastair Campbell, who is paid by the taxpayer a cool £93,562 annually? This week, his service was to tent-peg into the ground a real expert—and member of the Labour party—who understands health problems and was promoted to the Lords for his expertise in health matters.

What did Lord Winston say before he had his talk with Alastair Campbell? In the New Statesman, he said: There are fewer IVF treatment cycles under this Government than there were under the Tories … One could not be anything but unhappy about that. There is a lot wrong with the Health Service and no one is prepared to say so … It's just gradually deteriorating because we blame everything on the previous Government. After Lord Winston received a wet sandbag behind his right ear, he said: I certainly do not believe … that the NHS is worse under this Government than the last Government. In the New Statesman, Lord Winston said: Our reorganisation of the Health Service was very bad. We have made medical care deeply unsatisfactory for a lot of people. We've always had this right, but monolithic view, that there should be equality throughout at the point of delivery. All very good stuff, but it isn't working. After Lord Winston's interview with Alastair Campbell, he said: I believe that the basic direction of NHS policy is right under this Government and in primary health care there have been considerable improvements. We now need to see these in hospitals and specialist services in particular. It is a real disservice to the British people that Alastair should be paid more than £90,000 annually to distort entirely the debate on health. Lord Winston is a real expert and has genuine points to make on a matter of national interest that affects every citizen, but taxpayers' money has been spent to shut him up. He has gone to ground, and we have not heard from him since. It is disgraceful.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) endorsed that view. On 14 January, in The Scotsman, he bravely said: Special Advisers have become an abomination. They cause little but sickness in the body politic. They intrigue and chatter, causing misunderstandings about policy … I just do not think that those who engage in this kind of activity should be paid for by the taxpayer. I heartily endorse that view.

Politicisation of the civil service has become particularly apparent in relation to Government information officers. Why, since the 1997 general election, have 16 of the 18 most senior press officers been either removed, moved sideways or pensioned off? Perhaps it is worth listening to the words of Mr. Andy Wood, who was replaced as director of information at the Northern Ireland Office. He said: At principal and senior information officer level, discontent with the increasingly politicised atmosphere in which they have to work is running at a high rate. What about task forces? In November 1999, a report conducted by Democratic Audit—an independent research group at the university of Essex—was published. It identified 318 task forces, on which 2,500 appointees sit. What do the task forces do? They review. Subsequently, the Government received bad press for having too many reviews—so we had a review of reviews, resulting in a ban on reviews. I suspect that, at the next stage, we may progress to a review of bans and that, subsequently, we may come full circle and have a ban on bans. One really wonders where that money is going and what it is achieving.

We should also examine expenditure on devolution. We now have 359 more elected politicians and are spending £120 million more on the cost of elected representatives. Before the referendum, in the White Paper, the Scottish people were told that their Parliament would cost them £50 million. On the latest estimate, however, the building alone will cost £109 million.

We should again ask the West Lothian question, which has been much publicised in the press: why should decisions on the roads and health of the people of Shropshire be made by hon. Members from north of the border, whereas I have no say there? There is no equity in the arrangement, and it cannot last.

The same is true of the Welsh Assembly, which has more impact on my constituents. Its costs are running at £15 million to £20 million. The cost of the temporary and permanent accommodation is estimated at £17 million to £20 million. However, the situation could get worse because, amazingly, the building that has been designed is too big for the plot available. There could be yet more cost for the benighted British taxpayer. The organisation is also inefficient. The Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, of which I am a member, has great trouble in getting the Welsh Assembly to answer letters even to set up meetings.

There are other outrageous costs that have upset my constituents, particularly in the farming sector, which has taken a hammering under this Government. Farm incomes were at record levels under the last Government, but they have now plummeted. Pig farms are closing every week and milk prices are at rock bottom. What did my farmers think when the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the previous Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, spent £930,000 relocating MAFF offices and making extravagant trips on Concorde? There is real arrogance in the Government. They must learn that 1 May 1997 did not settle history for good.

The Government also spend huge amounts on publicity. The amount spent by Government Departments on opinion poll research, media advertising, direct mail publicity, press releases, websites and extra publicity totals an astonishing £107,184,624. A lot of that is spent very badly. I shall give just one example that annoyed my local farmers. When the British cattle movement service helpline was set up, 109,000 leaflets were issued, of which 50 per cent. contained errors in the address. A letter of apology then had to be issued to livestock farmers. The total cost of the apologies was £45,000. There is not time to give further examples.

The Labour Government set out with high hopes and an excessive belief in their ability to deliver good. They are failing, and many people resent the extraordinary increase in the cost of central Government, which is not benefiting them in their everyday lives. I support the motion.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 9:07 pm, 18th January 2000

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) expressed concern about the relevance of Committees and even debates on the Floor of the House at the moment. I understand his worry, but the quality of the official Opposition is so poor that it is no wonder there is a problem. The debate has illustrated that in spades.

I was going to refer to the role of special advisers, but my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn) was so eloquent on the subject that I shall not develop the argument. I have known him for longer than anyone who was listening to him—with one right honourable exception, who was sitting in the corner like a cat at the cream, justifiably proud of my hon. Friend's speech. In all the time I have known my hon. Friend as a special adviser, I do not remember him ever straying from the lines that were developed in the contracts that were rightly in place before he came to the job.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset

I should like to give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to adjust something that he has said. Does he not think it odd that he attributes only to the—no doubt existing—failings of the Opposition the lack of willingness of Ministers to adjust in Committee, given that we are currently witnessing repeated ministerial resistance to efforts in Standing Committee on the part of the Public Accounts Committee—including the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) who leads for the Labour party on the PAC, and other Labour Members, as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives— to establish a national accounts commission to settle accounts independently and to enable the Comptroller and Auditor General to audit them by enforcement? Is not that proof that he is wrong and that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was right?

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

If the hon. Gentleman has an axe to grind about the Public Accounts Committee, I suggest that he keep it with the PAC. I was just about to praise the decision of one of his right hon. Friends—the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who set up the Government's central IT unit. When he did so, I said that it was an impossible function and that it was not going to work. There was not the political will, because of the lack of co-ordination on the part of Ministers in that failing Cabinet, to make that central IT unit develop and flourish, as it has done under this Government. There was no willingness to embrace the kind of change to which I shall refer.

I want to concentrate my remarks on a phrase in the amendment, referring to the role of Government in the context of the "Modernising Government agenda". The legacy of the structures and systems over which the previous Administration presided is in many areas the difficulty, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) gave a good example. When we were in opposition, the Tories told us time and again that they knew how to run businesses. If that is how they run businesses, God help British business.

The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire was emphasised time and again in research that I did in the period leading up to the publication of the White Paper "Modernising Government". On page 25 of the White Paper, a chart illustrates the number of organisations a person needing long-term care may have to deal with. It is a terrifying list—the whole page shows a complex chart. That is the case time and again when we look at key life events.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) introduced the White Paper, the phrase "life events" was ridiculed by Opposition Members. They may shake their heads, but it is recorded in Hansard. That part of the White Paper was regarded as trivial, but it is not—it is a central area on which we must concentrate.

I looked in detail at the example of the number of organisations that a person has to deal with following a death in the family. Someone came up with the record number of 23. That is absurd. When one is dealing with something that is so painful and personal, one finds that one must deal with people in the hospital and with the doctor who issues a death certificate. One is then wandering in a paper maze, trying to find out what to do when one is least well-equipped to deal with it. That is the kind of administrative nightmare that we must unravel in developing the modernisation of our Government.

The philosophy must be based on better service to the customer. There is no doubt that public service needs to be reformed and modernised. Again, the word "modernised" is often ridiculed by Opposition Members. I would remind them of a paper placed in the Library on 15 December—the report to the Prime Minister from Sir Richard Wilson, the head of the home civil service. Under the heading "civil service reform", Sir Richard makes it clear that, in the autumn, at Sunningdale, the permanent heads of the main departments who make up his management board pledged themselves personally to drive forward a new agenda of civil service reform, both corporately and in modernising Government. I am certain that the Opposition would not suggest that Sir Richard Wilson was exceeding his brief by using words such as modernisation, which they ridicule time and again. I genuinely commend that document to the Opposition. I invite them to remember that we are here to deliver services to citizens, and our task is to improve those delivery mechanisms from the shambles that we inherited.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester 9:15 pm, 18th January 2000

Everybody accepts that Governments of all hues are less accountable to the House than they used to be. I do not think that there are any takers for any other view. The health announcement that the Prime Minister made on the Frost programme is a reflection of that—it was the biggest single spending commitment of this Parliament and it was made on a television programme at 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning, instead of to the House of Commons. That would have been inconceivable 20, or even 10, years ago.

We are living in an age in which Parliament is increasingly bypassed. The press do not get their information from watching our proceedings: they go directly to civil servants whom they hope will leak them information or they talk to Ministers who definitely leak them information. The public do not watch our proceedings much: they watch their elected representatives performing on television in interviews. There has been a steady erosion of the importance and relevance of the House of Commons in British public life, as I am sure the father of the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn) would wholeheartedly agree.

The Prime Minister almost wholly controls the House of Commons and he is in the process of ensuring that he can put his placemen into the other half of Parliament. That is mostly what the reform of the House of Lords is about. A group of people who had no logical right to be there—the hereditary peers—but who were at least independent, have been removed and are being replaced by appointed representatives, a disproportionate number of whom are from the Labour party. Some 195 life peers have been appointed by the Prime Minister, which is fast approaching as many in two and a half years as the Conservative Administrations between 1979 and 1997 appointed in 18 years.

Photo of Neil Turner Neil Turner Labour, Wigan

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that for every 10 of Tony's cronies in the House of Lords, there are four of Charlie's plants and 12 of little Willie's silly billies?

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

That does not merit a response.

We must ask what other ways there are to hold Prime Ministers to account. Prime Ministers have, from time to time, dominated the House of Commons, but even then some checks on them have operated. Prime Ministers have historically been accountable to the Cabinet. Even Margaret Thatcher in her strongest moments was accountable to a small group in the Cabinet and she never really succeeded in ruling alone.[Laughter.] Those who laugh at that idea have little knowledge of the inside workings of the Thatcher Administration in the mid-1980s. If they care to read the memoirs of Lord Howe or Lord Lawson, they will see that what I am saying is accurate. Indeed, it is one of the reasons behind her fall.

This Prime Minister is accountable to nobody in Government. The Cabinet has become virtually a rubber stamp. Historically, Prime Ministers have generally also been held accountable to some degree by the internal party democracy from which they sprang. However, I doubt whether the parliamentary Labour party acts as an effective check on the Prime Minister. I wonder whether the party's national executive council has any teeth. Labour Members may tell me differently and be able to recount occasions when they have knocked the Prime Minister off course and caused him to listen carefully to all their utterances. However, I do not see Labour Members rushing to give me examples of events. I do not think they have taken place.

The Prime Minister has more or less abandoned all pretence at dispersing power in his party, in Cabinet or to Parliament. He talks openly about the need for a strong centre.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is understandable for a new Prime Minister and his party to believe their rhetoric at the beginning of a period of office? In such circumstances, is not it likely that the party will allow that Prime Minister more latitude than when the rhetoric turns out not to be convincing?

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I agree.

The Prime Minister has appointed a coterie in No. 10 to ensure that the strong centre can become meaningful. That is why 25 advisers sit in No. 10 Downing street, compared with the five or six that Margaret Thatcher had, and the eight that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) had.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of advisers throughout Whitehall. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central made a number of interesting points, which I shall address in turn. Although I disagree with it, his speech was one of the most perceptive and thoughtful to be made by a Labour Member tonight.

It is worth reminding the House of the facts. Margaret Thatcher began with seven advisers. When she left office, there were about 20 of them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon inherited that number, and there were 38 when he left office. This Prime Minister began with 53 advisers. After nine months, there were 67, and now there are 77. The numbers are rising steadily, and the ratchet effect is inevitable.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office said that the Prime Minister's pledge of an initial cost envelope of £1.8 million would be adhered to. That is nonsense: by November 1997, the cost envelope had risen to £2.6 million, and it now stands at £4 million. That excludes some pension costs and all secretarial support and office costs. To comply with the Prime Minister's 1997 pledge, there will either have to be mass sackings, or all the advisers will have to take a pay cut. I do not know how the target of £1.8 million will be adhered to. Something pretty drastic would have to happen, but of course the Prime Minister is not going to ask for anything of the sort.

Advisers have a legitimate role. I strongly support the introduction of outside advice into Whitehall. However, it is not acceptable for the massive increase in the number of advisers to be accompanied by a reorientation towards highly party political work. Of course there was a party political aspect to being a special adviser when I was in Whitehall but, according to anecdotal accounts from people in the civil service with whom I used to work, that element has increased dramatically. Those accounts are also supported by evidence given to the Select Committee on Public Administration when it investigated the Government information service some time ago.

Incidentally, the Minister said that civil servants had not complained about that trend. In fact, they have complained a great deal, and some—especially those who have left the service—have been prepared to go public. I have no time to read all the evidence, but I urge the Minister to study the evidence from Mr. Steve Reardon. He said that advisers blurred management lines and proper demarcation lines … and served to put considerable strains on the relationships between private offices, ministers and the press secretary which had not previously existed. He added that the relationship with the special advisers was difficult. Numerous other former civil servants are prepared to attest to those difficulties.

The problem is that there is no clear demarcation line to limit party political work. That is why I wrote to Lord Neill with several recommendations. The first was that there should be a cap on the number of advisers. The second was that there should be a code of conduct creating that demarcation line. The third was that Permanent Secretaries should be given the power of, and responsibility for, enforcing contracts and the code of conduct. I am very pleased that Lord Neill appears to have accepted all three recommendations.

We could go down a different route for our civil service. The American system, for example, has hundreds of appointees. France has the Cabinet system, putting a few key people into private offices and turning them into Cabinets. That answers the question of the hon. Member for Leeds, Central; he asked how 70 people can take on thousands of civil servants. It is not the numbers that count—indeed, the hon. Gentleman said so elsewhere in his speech. What counts is whether those people are in key positions to enable them effectively to take over part of the work formerly undertaken by civil servants. We will be moving towards that once the special adviser numbers increase to the extent that they have small teams operating in private offices.

We must put a stop to the growth in advisers. We are seeing the creation of what amounts to a campaign team for the re-election of the Labour party, working in Whitehall and paid for by the taxpayer. That is wholly unacceptable.

Photo of Claire Curtis-Thomas Claire Curtis-Thomas Labour, Crosby 9:27 pm, 18th January 2000

I have had the privilege of listening to all the debate this evening. Although I admit to being pretty disappointed by some of the contributions, I strongly support others.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) called for transparency in government and the need for a reform on spending. He said that his Administration had had a grip on administrative costs, and that they had sought to hold executives to account. I presume that they thought that the most effective way of doing that was to cut the number of civil servants by a third.

I was disappointed, to say the least, at the hon. Gentleman's contribution, and at those of the hon. Members for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) and for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff). The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire descended into a flash flood of emotion and, as we know, flash floods wreck and do not build. I suppose that wrecking and building were characteristics of the previous Administration.

I want to talk about something far more significant than the appointment of 70 advisers—namely, what the Government have done for business. They have sought to put in place the structures and processes to make legislation far more effective for business. They want to be accountable to this income-generating activity on which we all depend.

The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) has already said that legislation had previously received some pre-legislative scrutiny. That is simply not adequate when we consider the mass of legislation affecting the business community that the previous Administration brought before the House.

As a business person at the time, I perceived the legislation as being introduced without review of what went before. I received multiple diktats from the same Department in one week. It was evident that the right hand never understood, or even knew, what the left hand was doing. That led to a great deal of frustration and confusion. At no time did anybody ask me for my opinion. I wrote to many individuals in numerous Departments trying to explain the daily difficulties that I faced as a direct consequence of their activity—and I am still waiting for a response.

It was with pleasure that I noted that on coming to power, the Government immediately established the regulatory impact unit. It is not a glamorous unit, but it seeks to do what most businesses want the Government to do—to scrutinise each piece of legislation with regard to its impact on business. That is to be welcomed. It requires Departments to do something that they have never done before. Guidelines have been produced to help them execute this task. They were desperately needed, as each Department decided what was appropriate in the light of its own guidelines, so the effectiveness of each Department could not be compared and contrasted. Some hon. Members will have noticed that legislation is now accompanied by a regulatory impact assessment, a vital document that has arisen not as a consequence of civil service input, but as a direct result of communication and consultation with the groups affected by Bills.

We heard a lot about deregulation and red tape under the previous Administration, who set great store by what they were sweeping away. Let me put their efforts into context. Much to the relief of the business community, the Conservative Government enacted the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. That was supposed to make great changes for the business community, but it did not.

Since 1994, the number of orders pursued as a result of the Act is 46. The business community, at a conservative estimate, has an annual turnover of £1 million billion, but over the past three years the reduction resulting from the Act has been £120 million. That does not make a great deal of difference to business. We have tinkered at the edges rather than achieving fundamental root-and-branch re-evaluation of regulations that we expect businesses to continue to follow long after they have ceased to be effective or competitive.

I welcome the inclusion in the Queen's Speech of a regulatory reform Bill, which will impact both on business and on public sector Departments. That represents a major and welcome shift in scrutiny. Significant sums go to the public sector, and we need to move from legislation that is no longer effective and constrains the public sector towards meaningful legislation that will enhance activity.

Finally, the previous Government may have been accountable, but by conducting a crusade against administration, they removed the structures by which they might have listened to the people they purported to serve. They served themselves; we accept that communication costs money while seeking to be an effective and accountable Government.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset 9:32 pm, 18th January 2000

We have heard much interesting discourse this evening. Alas, the Chamber has not been very full, although the subjects under discussion are almost as important as those that attracted a larger audience earlier.

Our starting point was costs. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) spoke eloquently about the £1 billion a year more that is being spent on the apparatus of government. The Minister for the Cabinet Office sought to make light of that figure, saying that it took no account of inflation. One could almost hear Sir Humphrey telling her so. Alas, on accrued calculation, the increase between 1997–98 and 1999–2000 exceeds the rate of inflation by about £500 million. That is a significant real-terms increase.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) was keen to point out the contrast between that increase and what the Government spend in his constituency, where the costs of publicity have risen faster than the amounts spent on the ground. We turned next to special advisers and information officers, and my hon. Friend raised the role of Alastair Campbell and the notorious silencing of Lord Winston—now to be known as the silencing of the lamb.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie), who has made a notable contribution on the question of special advisers, identified a trend that we must admit occurred under previous Governments, but which has been accelerated by the present one. As he pointed out, we are heading remorselessly towards the establishment of campaign teams in Whitehall that serve to extend the principle of elective dictatorship. They give the Prime Minister ever-increasing control. Again, that is not a new phenomenon, but it has been accelerated under the Labour Government.

There has been an increase in the number of special advisers, an increase in political appointments to information positions and an increase in costs. Of course, there is a connection between them—one leads, in small part, to the other.

Other matters are deeper and far more significant. In a remarkable speech, the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn) said something that is of the greatest possible significance to the House. There were moments when, from his intonation, I thought that I was listening to his father, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). Alas, there were not moments when, from the contents of his remarks, I thought that I was listening to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of the protection of the House and its prerogative.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central told us that he celebrated the great virtuosity with which the Government have used the machinery of government to achieve their ends—that was the broad gist of his remarks. He is right—unqualifiably right. The Government have shown great virtuosity in using the machinery of government to achieve their own ends. The problem is what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) described. The end that the Government have in mind is not merely that of governing—no reason why they should not use the machine to achieve that—but much more: they are determined to use government as a means of remaining in government. That notorious annual report is the supreme example of that.

When the Minister for the Cabinet Office replied to my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, she made light of all that. She said that there were no real complaints from civil servants: no one thought that there had been any serious politicisation of the civil service— no, no, nothing of the kind. I draw her attention to the statement that, at principal and senior information officer level, discontent with the increasingly politicised atmosphere in which those officers have to work is running at a high rate. Who said that? Was it some Conservative spokesman? Was it somebody who had nothing to with the right hon. Lady? No, it was Mr. Andy Wood, the director of information during her tenure at the Northern Ireland Office. She knows whereof she speaks, because she has been one of its prime exponents.

According to the right hon. Lady's information officer, she has helped to ensure that the Government's brilliant performance—we have to grant them that—has been better than that of any previous Government at using the machinery of government to achieve their own ends. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central also pointed that out. The Government have attacked the Opposition. If possible, they have obliterated the Opposition through big tentery— the use and manipulation of the media—as never before and never so brilliantly. They have made an effort to use the fact of being in power to remain in power.

I emphasise that fact, because it is a remarkable attack not only on the Opposition and on the civil service, but on our constitution. Above all, our constitution depends on the fact that the people who gain power do not use it to remain in power. The cardinal feature of a democratic constitution is that those who find themselves the tenants of power cannot abuse that power to obliterate democracy thereafter.

The situation in this country is strange. We do not have a written constitution of the kind for which the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) calls. There is nothing to govern the activity of our Government or our politicians—nothing but the procedures of the House and our ability to interrogate and to hold to account. The sad truth is that, because under its procedures the House is run by the majority that is run by the Government, we cannot hold Governments to account unless they are governed by the procedure and the convention enshrined in the civil service.

Our civil service is not just a set of servants of the Government of the day. They are the servants of the Crown and the state in the profound sense that they are there to enshrine proper procedure and to protect the veracity of the information flowing from Government to the populace so that we in this place can hold Government to account and can argue the truth about facts and debate policies. If the Government use the civil service, politicise it, surround it with campaign teams, put in special advisers and make sure that it turns its attention to producing annual reports that are mere examples of self-congratulation, they will begin to undermine the constitutional foundations of our democracy.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent

My hon. Friend is making a remarkably powerful speech and I entirely agree with him. It is in the nature of party politics that parties do their utmost to remain in power. However, the Labour party, which is now in government, expects the taxpayer to pay for what used to be a charge on a political party. Is that process not part of an undesirable atrophy of the political parties in this country?

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Government seek to use the taxpayer for their own party political ends. He is right to say that it is legitimate for a political party to seek to remain in power and that it is wrong for it to use taxpayers' funds—£1 billion more of them—to achieve that aim. Above all, it is wrong for a Government to use the civil service in that way. That undermines the civil service as the guardian of our constitution and undermines the ability of this place to hold the Government to account. In the end, that is what counts most.

If I had to trade that £1 billion—or several billion more—and the special advisers across Whitehall who do the Prime Minister's bidding for the sovereign integrity of the civil service as the guarantor of the veracity of Government information and the procedures that enable us to hold them to account, I would do the trade. The Government do not offer us that trade. They offer us expense, the addition of advisers everywhere, the campaign teams and finally the corruption of the politicisation of the civil service, which offers an end to our constitutional integrity. That is the charge, and I hope it sticks.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office 9:43 pm, 18th January 2000

Before I respond to the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), may I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn), for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd), for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) and for Wigan (Mr. Turner) for their speeches and interventions? The special mixture of integrity and knowledge of the subject that they showed bodes well for future Labour Front-Bench teams in government when I hope to be collecting my zimmer from the Cabinet Office. On the Government Back Benches is a range of Members who will be able to take the Government forward to their second, third and fourth terms.

I hope that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) does not take this personally, but, as I listened to him, I almost lost the will to live. He said that, when the Labour party was in opposition, it had policy reviews, but no commitments. What about the new deal and the national minimum wage for more than 2 million people and what about linking the new deal with economic stability to provide 600,000 new jobs, more than halve youth unemployment and halve long-term unemployment? We have reformed the criminal justice system by providing more than £19 billion to help and put £21 billion into education with more to come. We have put billions into urban regeneration and social housing, and provided more rights for consumers and for workers, who have the social chapter and the right to paid holidays for the first time.

However, I make an apology to the hon. Gentleman. We made no mention before the election of the introduction of the working families tax credit, which is the biggest boon to cutting family poverty in Britain this century. We did not mention the record increase in child benefit or the introduction of a minimum income guarantee for pensioners. I apologise for that, but pensioners, mothers and working families with the working families tax credit do not want us to apologise. They say, "Thank God we elected a Labour Government in 1997".

I turn now to the speeches by the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire and for West Dorset. They demonstrated the three phases that the Tories have gone through since their landslide defeat. The first phase is the one in which Tories said, "I can't believe it. I've lost the ministerial car and the special advisers." However, I see that some of those advisers have washed up on the Tory Back Benches. Some former Tory Members got their P45 from their constituents and had to apply for a proper job for the first time in 18 years.

The second phase was denial. The Tories told themselves that they had done nothing wrong except perhaps that they had not been extreme enough, right-wing enough or Conservative enough. They invented a world in which there was no Tory sleaze, no incompetence and no favours for friends.

Tonight, they have entered the third phase, which I call the brass neck phase. During this phase they are brazening it out and trying to give the impression that all they left us was a golden legacy. What a legacy. [Interruption.] Hold on a minute, lads. When we came to power in 1997, 40 per cent. of the largest quangos were chaired by Tory party members or people who had donated to Tory party funds. Those people, mainly men, were responsible for dispensing billions of pounds of public funds. They had been appointed for the sole reason that they were Tory party activists or had donated to the slush funds that the Tories have yet to open up to public scrutiny.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

No, I gave up ten minutes of the time for my wind-up speech so that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues could speak, although they did not make the best use of their time.

Sir Donald Wilson, the former president of Chester Conservative Association—Chester was a Labour gain at the last election—was appointed chairman of the West Midlands regional health authority. He made a complete mess of that, but was he sacked? No, unfortunately, he was transferred to run my health authority, the North West regional health authority. Sir Bryan Askew, a defeated Tory candidate in Penistone and in York, was given a job running the Yorkshire health authority.

Did Lord Crickhowell, a defeated Tory MP and ex-Cabinet Minister, go on the dole? No, he was paid £51,000 to run the National Rivers Authority. Michael Pickard became chairman of the London Docklands development corporation. He got that job for the simple reason that he founded the chain of Happy Eater restaurants, which are the favourite eating establishments of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). The Tories really investigated the credentials of people they put in charge of public funds. David Plastow ran the Medical Research Council for the simple reason that his company consistently donated to the Tory party.

When Mrs. Thatcher came to power, she promised to abolish quangos. By 1992, she had increased their budget from £13.9 billion to £42 billion—a sum equivalent to a fifth of the entire national expenditure and more than the total sum that we spend on local government. There was no consistency of policy on appointments.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

No. The hon. Gentleman should listen because he is not facing reality, and I have to bring him back to reality.

When the Tories ran out of business men they moved on to politicians and those who had been defeated at the polls. In 1991, the Welsh Secretary was responsible for appointments to 81 public bodies, with the Welsh Office having powers directly to appoint 1,261 people to them.

The Welsh Secretary appointed Ian Grist, a former Tory Minister, to head the South Glamorgan health authority. He was defeated by his constituents but given a job by the Tories. The secretary to Gwilym Jones, another Welsh Office Minister, was also appointed to the South Glamorgan health authority. Jeff Sainsbury, a former Tory councillor, was put in charge of the Cardiff Bay development corporation. Phil Pedley, a defeated Tory candidate, was put in charge of the Board of Housing for Wales, succeeding another failed Tory candidate.

When the Tories ran out of failed politicians, they turned to the Conservative party's national union executive. Of its 200 members, we have identified at least 37 who landed jobs in the public sector, including the party treasurer Charles Hambro, Sir Basil Feldman, Sir Philip Harris, Sir Robert Balchin and Beata Brookes.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has given way, and I am most grateful to him. I wonder whether, in the light of that marvellous tirade, he could answer a simple question. Will he guarantee that the Government will apply Nolan rules to the appointment of members of task forces?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

The Government are not only applying Nolan rules but extending accountability across the appointments system. The Government have applied the accountability rules to all appointments to quangos, which meant 6,000 more appointments. This is the first Government to have tenants on task forces talking about their housing conditions. The Tories put construction director bosses on to quangos and we are putting on to them members of residents' and tenants' associations.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later.

When the Tories ran out of members for the national union executive, they called in the Tory praetorian guard, their wives. That was the next group to be given public appointments. There was Lady Elspeth Howe, the then Deputy Prime Minister's wife, Anne, and Lady Brittan, wife of Sir Leon Brittan. As for Mary Archer, I wonder whether she had an opportunity to persuade us that she had more abilities than her husband. There was Lady Ann Parkinson, wife of Lord Parkinson. In addition, there was Lady June Onslow, wife of Sir Cranslow Onslow.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

The hon. Gentleman may have a go at my accent but I have more integrity in my little finger than there is in the whole of the Tory party. It does not matter if the gentleman is called Cranslow Onslow or Cranley Onslow. The fact is that the Tories gave his wife a job without consulting the public. There was then Arabella Lennox-Boyd, wife of a former Foreign Office Minister, Mark Lennox-Boyd.

When the Tories had fixed jobs for their friends and their families they started fixing things for themselves. It was the greatest folly of the previous Conservative Government. There was Tim Smith, who was forced to stand down as the Member for Beaconsfield because he involved himself in cash-for-questions. Neil Hamilton was defeated in Tatton—I thought that that would silence Conservative Members—after resigning as a Minister because of his involvement in cash for questions. Graham Riddick was defeated in Colne Valley. He also accepted cash for questions.Thehon.Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) was criticised for agreeing to accept £1,000 in return for tabling questions. Jonathan Aitken was defeated in South Thanet after being forced to resign as a Minister following revelations that he had stayed at the Ritz, courtesy of middle east arms dealers.

Sir Andrew Bowden was another Member linked to Greer. He was used to lobby and to recruit other Tory Members to lobby for him. Angela Rumbold, the former Deputy Chairman of the Tory party, was defeated in Mitcham and Maiden. She arranged meetings with Ministers for lobbying companies. William Waldegrave was criticised for being involved in misleading the House. Sir Nicholas Lyell was criticised in the arms to Iraq affair. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan)—[Interruption.]

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The Minister must distinguish carefully between ex-Members and current Members.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I am clearly differentiating between right hon. and hon. Members and I am naming hon. Members who are here and referring to those who were defeated in the general election and their former constituencies. It is important that, in a debate about standards, probity, integrity and open access to government, we set the record straight. I have no intention of allowing Conservatives to get away with their gross incompetence and sleaze during the period of the Conservative Government.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am sure that the Minister was about to move to the list of 260 Labour councillors who have been appointed to health trusts—[Interruption.] In the light of that, will he give an assurance to the House that if and when the commissioner for public appointments reports that in that scandalous process there has been political bias, those people will be dismissed and that new appointments will be undertaken without political bias?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I am proud that we took the opportunity in government to change the way in which the Tories ran national health service trusts. For the first time, we are giving opportunities to women to be appointed. We are giving opportunities to members of ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and people from the local community, whether they work in the business community, in industry or in the local authority.

The previous Government scarred the capacity of local health trusts to represent the community. In my community, for example, they appointed people who did not even live in that community. Those people were appointed simply because they were members of the Conservative party.

Sir Leonard Peach, the previous Commissioner for Public Appointments, stated in 1998 about appointments to NHS trust boards that there was no evidence of Ministers intervening to ensure advancement of their nominees or colleagues and that patronage on behalf of individuals is clearly not an issue. That was the position, and the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) does not like the fact that NHS trusts are no longer the bastion of Tory party members appointed—

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The Minister has indicated that he is not giving way at present. It would be helpful if he could indicate whether he intends to give way or not.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

With all due respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I am 5 ft 1 in tall, it is sometimes difficult to know whether I am standing or sitting. I gave way to the hon. Gentleman and replied to him. He just does not like the reply.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who is present, was criticised for using the right-to-buy provisions offered by Westminster council to fund the purchase of valuable council-owned property by a friend. That is the level of members of the Tory party, who used the right to buy to advance themselves.

That is the reality of Tory sleaze. No wonder that under the Tories, public confidence in the political process plumbed new depths. Under the Tories, sleaze entered the political dictionary. They left a tainted legacy.

Labour's 1997 manifesto promised to clean up politics in order to rebuild the bond of trust between the British people and government. The Conservatives seem to be opposed to the very idea of accountability in the democratic process. They support hereditary peers, unaccountable quangos and secret government.

We know from the debate this evening—I hope our colleagues in Scotland and Wales realise this—of the Tories' continued opposition to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. They have tried to thwart the Government's determination to improve democracy by devolving government to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions. They have opposed the removal of the rights of hereditary peers, and in the past they resisted universal suffrage and votes for women. There is nothing new in the Tories' opposition to the extension of democracy.

There is a further damning indictment of the Tories. Under their Government, we paid more and got less. They spent billions on the NHS internal market, while there were fewer doctors and nurses, and they privatised the dental service. They introduced the poll tax, which failed and cost the British taxpayer £14 billion. The Tories were the Government of BSE, which cost the British farming community billions of pounds in lost jobs and lost trade.

On Black Wednesday the Tory Government lost £10 billion of British reserves, and they doubled the national debt to £30 billion a year. It took a Labour Government to eliminate that national debt.

What about Steven Norris, the Tory candidate for London mayor? As Minister for Transport in London, in two years he ripped off the British taxpayer with overrun costs of £1.4 billion for the Jubilee line extension, yet he wants to be mayor of London. It was a case not of "catch a tube", but of "get on your bike".

The Tories cannot even add up. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) said that central bureaucracy costs £1.1 billion, but he adjusted that the following day. No wonder he cannot get his figures right. His financial adviser is Michael Ashcroft, a resident of Belize and the man who bought the Tory party lock, stock and barrel.

There is no disguising the fact that the Government have introduced greater accountability. More real people serve on quangos, instead of Tory place men and women. People are appointed on merit, not as favours. We have ended the secrecy about appointments. We have stopped ministerial patronage. We have slammed the door on the political scandals of the last two years of Tory rule. The Tories have learned nothing. I urge the House to reject their motion and support the Government.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 331.

Division No. 31][9.59 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Allan, RichardEvans, Nigel
Amess, DavidFaber, David
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelFallon, Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesFeam, Ronnie
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyFlight, Howard
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Forsythe, Clifford
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Baldry, TonyFoster, Don (Bath)
Ballard, JackieFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bercow, JohnFox, Dr Liam
Beresford, Sir PaulFraser, Christopher
Blunt, CrispinGale, Roger
Body, Sir RichardGarnier, Edward
Boswell, TimGeorge, Andrew (St Ives)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Gibb, Nick
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaGill, Christopher
Brady, GrahamGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Brazier, JulianGray, James
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGreen, Damian
Browning, Mrs AngelaGreenway, John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Grieve, Dominic
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hague, Rt Hon William
Burnett, JohnHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Butterfill, JohnHammond, Philip
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Hancock, Mike
Harvey, Nick
Cash, WilliamHawkins, Nick
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Chope, ChristopherHeathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Collins, TimHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Colvin, MichaelHunter, Andrew
Cotter, BrianJack, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, JamesJenkin, Bernard
Curry, Rt Hon DavidJones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Keetch, Paul
Davis, Rt Hon David (Hattemprice)Key, Robert
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Duncan, AlanKirkbride, Miss Julie
Duncan Smith, IainKirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs EleanorSanders, Adrian
Lait, Mrs JacquiSayeed, Jonathan
Lansley, AndrewShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Leigh, EdwardShepherd, Richard
Letwin, OliverSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Lidington, DavidSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSpicer, Sir Michael
Livsey, RichardSpring, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Llwyd, ElfynSteen, Anthony
Loughton, TimStreeter, Gary
Luff, PeterStunell, Andrew
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSwayne, Desmond
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSyms, Robert
McIntosh, Miss AnneTapsell, Sir Peter
MacKay, Rt Hon AndrewTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Maclennan, Rt Hon RobertTaylor, John M (Solihull)
McLoughlin, PatrickTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maples, JohnTaylor, Sir Teddy
Mates, MichaelThompson, William
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisTonge, Dr Jenny
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianTownend, John
May, Mrs TheresaTredinnick, David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Trend, Michael
Moore, MichaelTyler, Paul
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)Tyrie, Andrew
Moss, MalcolmViggers, Peter
Norman, ArchieWalter, Robert
Oaten, MarkWardle, Charles
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Waterson, Nigel
Ottaway, RichardWebb, Steve
Page, RichardWells, Bowen
Paice, JamesWhitney, Sir Raymond
Paterson, OwenWhittingdale, John
Pickles, EricWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelWilkinson, John
Prior, DavidWilletts, David
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWillis, Phil
Rendel, DavidWilshire, David
Robathan, AndrewWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Robertson, LaurenceWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Yeo, Tim
Ross, William (E Lond'y)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, DavidTellers for the Ayes:
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Mr. John Randall and
St Aubyn, NickMr. Stephen Day.
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeBest, Harold
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Betts, Clive
Ainger, NickBlackman, Liz
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Blears, Ms Hazel
Alexander, DouglasBlizzard, Bob
Allen, GrahamBlunkett, Rt Hon David
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Borrow, David
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Ashton, JoeBradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Atherton, Ms CandyBradshaw, Ben
Atkins, CharlotteBrinton, Mrs Helen
Austin, JohnBrown, Russell (Dumfries)
Banks, TonyBrowne, Desmond
Barnes, HarryBurden, Richard
Barron, KevinBurgon, Colin
Bayley, HughButler, Mrs Christine
Beard, NigelByers, Rt Hon Stephen
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretCaborn, Rt Hon Richard
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Campbell-Savours, Dale
Bennett, Andrew FCann, Jamie
Benton, JoeCaplin, Ivor
Bermingham, GeraldCasale, Roger
Berry, RogerCaton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chaytor, DavidGrocott, Bruce
Clapham, MichaelGrogan, John
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Gunnell, John
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hanson, David
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clelland. DavidHealey, John
Clwyd, AnnHenderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Coaker, VernonHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Coffey, Ms AnnHepburn, Stephen
Cohen, HarryHeppell, John
Coleman, IainHesford, Stephen
Colman, TonyHewitt, Ms Patricia
Connarty, MichaelHill, Keith
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hinchliffe, David
Cooper, YvetteHodge, Ms Margaret
Corbyn, JeremyHoey, Kate
Corston, JeanHood, Jimmy
Cousins, JimHope, Phil
Crausby, DavidHopkins, Kelvin
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cummings, JohnHowells, Dr Kim
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Hoyle, Lindsay
Dalyell, TamHughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairHumble, Mrs Joan
Darvill, KeithHurst Alan
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Hutton, John
Davidson, IanIddon, Dr Brian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Illsley, Eric
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Dawson, HiltonJohnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Denham, JohnJohnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian HJones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Doran, FrankJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dowd, JimJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Edwards, HuwKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Efford, CliveKemp, Fraser
Ellman, Mrs LouiseKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Ennis, JeffKhabra, Piara S
Etherington, BillKidney, David
Fisher, MarkKing, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Fitzpatrick, JimKing, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Fitzsimons, LornaKumar, Dr Ashok
Flint, CarolineLadyman, Dr Stephen
Flynn, PaulLawrence, Mrs Jackie
Follett, BarbaraLaxton, Bob
Foster, Rt Hon DerekLepper, David
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Leslie, Christopher
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)Levitt, Tom
Foulkes, GeorgeLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Fyfe, MariaLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Galloway, GeorgeUddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Gapes, MikeLloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Gardiner, BarryLove, Andrew
George, Bruce (Walsall S)McAvoy, Thomas
Gerrard, NeilMcCabe, Steve
Gibson, Dr IanMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Gilroy, Mrs LindaMcCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, PaulMcDonagh, Siobhain
Golding, Mrs LlinMacdonald, Calum
Gordon, Mrs EileenMcDonnell, John
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McGuire, Mrs Anne
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, KevinSarwar, Mohammad
McNulty, TonySavidge, Malcolm
MacShane, DenisSawford, Phil
McWilliam, JohnShaw, Jonathan
Mallaber, JudySheerman, Barry
Mandelson, Rt Hon PeterSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Shipley, Ms Debra
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall-Andrews, RobertSmith, Angela (Basildon)
Martlew, EricSmith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Maxton, JohnSmith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Meale, AlanSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Merron, GillianSnape, Peter
Miller, AndrewSoley, Clive
Mitchell, AustinSouthworth, Ms Helen
Moffatt, LauraSpellar, John
Moonie, Dr LewisSquire, Ms Rachel
Moran, Ms MargaretStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Steinberg, Gerry
Morley, ElliotStevenson, George
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mountford, KaliStoate, Dr Howard
Mowlam, Rt Hon MarjorieStringer, Graham
Mudie, GeorgeStuart, Ms Gisela
Mullin, ChrisSutcliffe, Gerry
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr DougTaylor, David (NW Leics)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Temple-Morris, Peter
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
O'Hara, EddieTimms, Stephen
Olner, BillTipping, Paddy
O'Neill, MartinTodd, Mark
Organ, Mrs DianaTouhig, Don
Osborne, Ms SandraTrickett, Jon
Palmer, Dr NickTruswell, Paul
Perham, Ms LindaTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Pickthall, ColinTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Pike, Peter LTurner, Neil (Wigan)
PlasWtt, JamesTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Pollard, KerryTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Pond, ChrisVis, Dr Rudi
Pope, GregWalley, Ms Joan
Pound, StephenWard, Ms Claire
Powell, Sir RaymondWareing, Robert N
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Watts, David
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)White, Brian
Prescott, Rt Hon JohnWhitehead, Dr Alan
Primarolo, DawnWicks, Malcolm
Purchase, KenWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon GilesWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Rapson, SydWills, Michael
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Winnick, David
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)Wise, Audrey
Roche, Mrs BarbaraWood, Mike
Rooker, Rt Hon JeffWoodward, Shaun
Rooney, TerryWoolas, Phil
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Worthington, Tony
Rowlands, TedWray, James
Roy, FrankWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Ruane, ChrisWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Ruddock, JoanWyatt, Derek
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Tellers for the Noes:
Ryan, Ms JoanMr. Mike Hall and
Salter, MartinMr. Kevin Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.
Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):
The House divided: Ayes 327, Noes 162.

Division No. 32][10.16 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeCousins, Jim
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Crausby, David
Ainger, NickCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Alexander, DouglasCummings, John
Allen, GrahamCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Dalyell, Tam
Ashton, JoeDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Atherton, Ms CandyDarvill, Keith
Atkins, CharlotteDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Austin, JohnDavidson, Ian
Banks, TonyDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Barnes, HarryDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Barron, KevinDavis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, NigelDawson, Hilton
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretDenham, John
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Dobbin, Jim
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Donohoe, Brian H
Bennett, Andrew FDoran, Frank
Benton, JoeDowd, Jim
Bermingham, GeraldDrew, David
Berry, RogerEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Best, HaroldEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Betts, CliveEdwards, Huw
Blackman, LizEfford, Clive
Blears, Ms HazelEllman, Mrs Louise
Blizzard, BobEnnis, Jeff
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidEtherington, Bill
Borrow, DavidFisher, Mark
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Fitzsimons, Loma
Bradshaw, BenFlint, Caroline
Brinton, Mrs HelenFlynn, Paul
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Follett, Barbara
Browne, DesmondFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Burden, RichardFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Burgon, ColinFoster, Michael J (Worcester)
Butler, Mrs ChristineFoulkes, George
Byers, Rt Hon StephenFyfe, Maria
Caborn, Rt Hon RichardGalloway, George
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Gardiner, Barry
Campbell-Savours, DaleGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
Cann, JamieGerrard, Neil
Caplin, IvorGibson, Dr Ian
Casale, RogerGilroy, Mrs Linda
Caton, MartinGodsiff, Roger
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Goggins, Paul
Chaytor, DavidGolding, Mrs Llin
Clapham, MichaelGordon, Mrs Eileen
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Grocott, Bruce
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Grogan, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Gunnell, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hain, Peter
Clelland, DavidHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clwyd, AnnHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Coaker, VernonHanson, David
Coffey, Ms AnnHarman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Cohen, HarryHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Coleman, IainHealey, John
Colman, TonyHenderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Connarty, MichaelHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hepburn, Stephen
Cooper, YvetteHeppell, John
Corbyn, JeremyHesford, Stephen
Corston, JeanHewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, KeithMoonie, Dr Lewis
Hinchliffe, DavidMoran, Ms Margaret
Hodge, Ms MargaretMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hoey, KateMorley, Elliot
Hood, JimmyMorris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, KelvinMountford, Kali
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Mullin, Chris
Howells, Dr KimMurphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hoyle, LindsayMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)Naysmith, Dr Doug
Humble, Mrs JoanO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hurst, AlanO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Hutton, JohnO'Hara, Eddie
Iddon, Dr BrianOlner, Bill
Illsley, EricO'Neill, Martin
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Organ, Mrs Diana
Jamieson, DavidOsborne, Ms Sandra
Jenkins, BrianPalmer, Dr Nick
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Perham, Ms Linda
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Plaskitt, James
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Pollard, Kerry
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolvem'ton SW)Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pound, Stephen
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kemp, FraserPrescott, Rt Hon John
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Primarolo, Dawn
Khabra, Piara SPurchase, Ken
Kidney, DavidQuinn, Lawrie
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)Rapson, Syd
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Kumar, Dr AshokReid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Ladyman, Dr StephenRobinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Laxton, BobRoche, Mrs Barbara
Lepper, DavidRooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Leslie, ChristopherRooney, Terry
Levitt, TomRoss, Emie (Dundee W)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Rowlands, Ted
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Roy, Frank
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs HelenRuane, Chris
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Ruddock, Joan
Love, AndrewRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McAvoy, ThomasRyan, Ms Joan
McCabe, SteveSalter, Martin
McCafferty, Ms ChrisSarwar, Mohammad
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerheld)Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
McDonagh, SiobhainShaw, Jonathan
Macdonald, CalumSheerman, Barry
McDonnell, JohnSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McGuire, Mrs AnneShipley, Ms Debra
Mackinlay, AndrewSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McNamara, KevinSmith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McNulty, TonySmith, Angela (Basildon)
MacShane, DenisSmith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
McWilliam, JohnSmith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Mallaber, JudySmith, John (Glamorgan)
Mandelson, Rt Hon PeterSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Snape, Peter
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Soley, Clive
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Southworth, Ms Helen
Marshall-Andrews, RobertSpellar, John
Martlew, EricSquire, Ms Rachel
Maxton, JohnStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelSteinberg, Gerry
Meale, AlanStevenson, George
Merron, GillianStewart, David (Inverness E)
Miller, AndrewStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mitchell, AustinStoate, Dr Howard
Moffatt, LauraStringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms GiselaWatts, David
Sutcliffe, GerryWhite, Brian
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Taylor, David (NW Leics)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Timms, StephenWills, Michael
Tipping, PaddyWinnick, David
Todd, MarkWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Touhig, DonWise, Audrey
Trickett, JonWood, Mike
Truswell, PaulWoodward, Shaun
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)Woolas, Phil
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)Worthington, Tony
Turner, Neil (Wigan)Wray, James
Twigg, Derek (Halton)Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Vis, Dr RudiWyatt, Derek
Walley, Ms JoanTellers for the Ayes:
Ward, Ms ClaireMr. Kevin Hughes and
Wareing, Robert NMr. Mike Hall.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Fox, Dr Liam
Allan, RichardFraser, Christopher
Amess, DavidGarnier, Edward
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelGeorge, Andrew (St Ives)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesGibb, Nick
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyGill, Christopher
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Gray, James
Ballard, JackieGreen, Damian
Bercow, JohnGreenway, John
Beresford, Sir PaulGrieve, Dominic
Blunt, CrispinHague, Rt Hon William
Boswell, TimHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Hammond, Philip
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaHancock, Mike
Brady, GrahamHarvey, Nick
Brazier, JulianHawkins, Nick
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHeald, Oliver
Browning, Mrs AngelaHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Burnett, JohnHoram, John
Butterfill, JohnHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Cash, WilliamJenkin, Bernard
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Bamef)Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Chope, ChristopherKey, Robert
Collins, TimKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Cotter, BrianKirkbride, Miss Julie
Cran, JamesKirkwood, Archy
Curry, Rt Hon DavidLaing, Mrs Eleanor
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Lansley, Andrew
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenLeigh, Edward
Duncan Smith, IainLetwin, Oliver
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterLewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Evans, NigelLidington, David
Faber, DavidLilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fallon, MichaelLivsey, Richard
Fearn, RonnieLloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Flight, HowardLlwyd, Elfyn
Forth, Rt Hon EricLoughton, Tim
Foster, Don (Bath)Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSpelman, Mrs Caroline
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSpicer, Sir Michael
McIntosh, Miss AnneSpring, Richard
MacKay, Rt Hon AndrewStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidSteen, Anthony
Maclennan, Rt Hon RobertStunell, Andrew
McLoughlin, PatrickSwayne, Desmond
Maples, JohnSyms, Robert
Mates, MichaelTapsell, Sir Peter
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianTaylor, John M (Solihull)
May, Mrs TheresaTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Thompson, William
Moore, MichaelTonge, Dr Jenny
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)Townend, John
Moss, MalcolmTredinnick, David
Norman, ArchieTrend, Michael
Oaten, MarkTyler, Paul
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Tyrie, Andrew
Ottaway, RichardViggers, Peter
Page, RichardWalter, Robert
Paice, JamesWardle, Charles
Paterson, OwenWaterson, Nigel
Pickles, EricWebb, Steve
Prior, DavidWells, Bowen
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWhittingdale, John
Rendel, DavidWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Robathan, AndrewWilkinson, John
Robertson, LaurenceWilletts, David
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Willis, Phil
Ross, William (E Lond'y)Wilshire, David
Ruffley, DavidWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
St Aubyn, NickYeo, Tim
Sanders, AdrianYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, RichardTellers for the Noes:
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)Mr. Stephen Day and
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)Mr. John Randall.

Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
Resolved,That this House notes that, compared to the previous administration, the costs of central Government have not risen in real terms, and have indeed fallen; supports the progress made by this Government in cleaning up politics and rebuilding the bond of trust with the British people, broken through the failures of the previous administration; welcomes the Government's actions to improve democratic accountability; endorses the inclusive approach to policymaking of the Modernising Government agenda, which involves more people from all walks of life; welcomes the improvement in standards in public life; and agrees with the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that 'special advisers have a valuable role to play.