Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:37 am on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:37 am, 15th March 2007

I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the future business and his written statement of today on the procedural change, which will definitely be for the convenience of Members of the House.

It has recently been discovered that Ministers have released documents relating to council tax revaluation under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that they had previously refused to release in response to parliamentary questions. My hon. Friend Mrs. Spelman has raised the matter with Mr. Speaker, who is responding. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you have always been clear about Ministers' duty to Parliament. The duty is set out in the ministerial code, which says:

"Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest".

Does the Leader of the House agree that Ministers have a duty to be more open with Parliament and the public?

This week, we have seen shocking pictures of the injuries sustained by Morgan Tsvangirai while in Zimbabwean police custody. I am sure that the whole House will be disgusted by his treatment and appalled by the wider crisis in that country, which is the direct result of the policies of President Mugabe. Two weeks ago, in reply to my hon. Friend Sir Nicholas Winterton, the Leader of House said that there was a

"need for a debate in Government time."—[ Hansard, 1 March 2007; Vol. 457, c. 1074.]

May we now have an urgent debate in Government time on Zimbabwe?

At the beginning of their long friendship, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor fought many battles with old Labour to build new Labour. One of those was over nuclear disarmament. In yesterday's vote to replace Trident, nearly 100 Labour Members rebelled against the Government. Indeed, one of the Chancellor's close allies, the former Deputy Leader of the House, resigned over the issue. Not for the first time, the Government would not have carried their business without the support of Conservative Members. May we thus have a debate on the dwindling authority of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor?

Back in those good old days, the Prime Minister and Chancellor promised us that they would be "whiter than white". On 25 April, Sir Alistair Graham's term as chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life comes to an end. It was the Prime Minister who decided not to renew his term, and it is the Prime Minister who has failed to appoint his successor. Sir Alistair says:

"this Government places a low priority on the maintenance of the highest standards of conduct in public life".

May we have a debate on the future of that committee and on why the Prime Minister sacked Sir Alistair for doing his job?

This week, the Government published the draft Climate Change Bill, and the Prime Minister and Chancellor were playing up their green credentials. However, let us judge them by their record. Before my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron became Leader of the Opposition, the Chancellor had not made any major speeches on the environment. Since then, he has made three. On his watch, green taxes have fallen from 9.4 per cent. to 7.7 per cent. of his total tax take. And then there is his policy to provide home insulation: he announced it in 1995, scrapped it in 1998, and reannounced it last year. May we have a debate on the Chancellor's environmental record?

With a Brown-Blair legacy like this, is it any surprise that Labour is turning in on itself? The Labour party is rebelling against the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is briefing against the Chancellor, and the people are turning their backs on all of them. Whenever the Prime Minister hands over to the Chancellor, is not the truth that new Labour is an old idea that has simply run its course?