Home Office Restructuring

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 11:31 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 11:31 am, 29th March 2007

If the manner in which the announcement has been made is any guide to the manner in which it will be implemented, we are headed for further organisational chaos at the heart of government. On 21 June last year, the Prime Minister told my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Menzies Campbell that he saw no case whatever for the creation of a ministry of justice. A few weeks or months later, we were told through leaks to the press that, after all, that is on the agenda. Last night, we were told that the Home Secretary would make an announcement to this House. We were told a few hours later that it might be the Prime Minister, and then that there would be a written statement. We now see the Home Secretary on his feet, but only in response to an urgent question from the Opposition. This is a shoddy, shambolic and cynical way of treating this House and the British public on an issue of such grave importance.

How would the Home Secretary feel if he were a civil servant in the Home Office—vilified month in, month out by his political masters—and he learned about such an uncertain future through such contradictory leaks and counter-leaks in the press?

When the Home Secretary responded to my suggestion that there should be a public inquiry into the events surrounding the 7 July bombings, he claimed that my request was out of order, inappropriate and not possible because of the demands that it would make on official resources. How can he maintain that view when this change alone will consume far more official resources—certainly if it is to be implemented at the breakneck speed that he proposes—than a public inquiry?

Can the Home Secretary explain what role will be left for the Cabinet Office? The Cabinet Office plays a crucial role in co-ordinating information concerning our anti-terror strategy. The British public rightly expect the Prime Minister, not an aggrandised Home Secretary, to take the lead in setting our anti-terror strategy. Can he explain why the Cabinet Office appears at least to have been marginalised in the approach that he has set out this morning?

Can the Home Secretary explain how we can have any other interpretation but a political one of the timetable for changes, which will fall neatly on 9 May, the date on which, we are all led to believe, there will be a transition of power from one Prime Minister to the next? Does not he accept that, as long as that timetable is considered to be politically determined—