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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 19th July 2001.

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Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 12:30 pm, 19th July 2001

I thank the Leader of the House for that information. Before we discuss the business for the week following the recess, may I say that today should have been renamed "Gardeners' Question Time" because there are no fewer than 67 Government-planted questions on the Order Paper, no doubt in the hope that the answers would not be noticed by hon. Members who are tidying their desks and waiting to depart for the recess?

While I am on the subject of unfinished business and what hon. Members might notice in the next 24 hours, will the Leader of the House confirm that before the House rises tomorrow, the Government will have placed in the Vote Office the promised new ministerial code of conduct designed to prevent a repetition of the controversies that surrounded Mr. Mandelson and Mr. Vaz? As we understand it, it is to be accompanied by an inaugural code of conduct to govern Ministers' special advisers and spin doctors to stop the bullying of civil servants. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reassure me that that document will be made available and not just slipped on to the shelves once the House has risen.

I also wonder whether the Leader of the House will arrange for the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to come to the House in the week after the recess. The Prime Minister appointed Mr. Kiley during the election when there was no opportunity for us to discuss his decision. Yesterday, the Secretary of State sacked Mr. Kiley by press release. Again, the House has had no opportunity to become acquainted with the background and the reasoning behind that.

Perhaps the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions will deal with another matter when he comes to the House, which my hon. Friend Mr. Greenway raised with the Prime Minister yesterday. My hon. Friend expressed concern that the GNER east coast main line contract might be a short-term contract. In reply, the Prime Minister said:

"Some franchises may be short, while others may be longer. That is sensible, because it gives us the flexibility that we require. As for GNER and the east coast main line, that decision will be taken shortly."—[Hansard, 18 July 2001; Vol. 372, c. 286.]

So shortly was the decision taken that, no sooner had the right hon. Gentleman uttered those words than the Secretary of State announced—again, by press release—that the contract had been renewed for only two years.

Despite what the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is obvious that the Government have torn up their rail policy and delivered a slap in the face for the Strategic Rail Authority. Given that there are so many pressing issues for which the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions has responsibility, he should come to the House not just to make a statement, but for a whole afternoon.