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Government Running Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 9:43 pm on 18th January 2000.

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

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:—