Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:17 pm on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 12:17 pm, 29th March 2007

To pick up on the sedentary comment by the Patronage Secretary, it is obvious that we are in the process of transition from Camelot to Spamalot. [ Laughter. ]

To return to the serious issue of the changes in the machinery of government, and as Mrs. May said, there is a statement on the Department for Constitutional Affairs in the other place. It is not acceptable for a statement to be made about a Government Department in the non-elected House and not made to this House. I shall leave that thought with the Leader of the House.

Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of the proposed changes, is not Mr. Prentice right that when we have machinery of government changes that affect Departments, costings and organisation it is sensible for them to be put forward in costed form in a consultation paper that sets out the advantages and disadvantages and allows the House to have scrutiny of such changes before implementation? It is not back-of-the-envelope stuff just before a change of Administration. We ought to be able to set a precedent for this.

May we have a debate on ethical leadership? Given the Select Committee on Public Administration comments this week and those of Sir Alistair Graham, and in the context of Ministers being accused of leaning on officials for political purposes and an ex-Cabinet Minister one day being the advocate of a new policy on ID cards and two years later turning up as an employee of an ID card company, is it not time for a civil service Act and a strengthened ministerial code of conduct? Should not this House have an opportunity to debate that?

May we have a debate on rural housing? The establishment of a new rural housing advisory group has been announced, but we have not yet had a Government response to the affordable rural housing commission that reported only last year. That is a serious issue for many people in rural areas.

Finally, last week the Leader of the House showed that he is adept at studying rail timetables for Milton Keynes and I applaud him for that. I have to repeat my request, however, for a debate on rail services. To quote one of my favourite books:

"Man is born free and everywhere is in trains."

TravelWatch South West said:

"The Government does not seem to care about public transport in the South West", and points to drastic timetable cuts, plummeting reliability and chronic overcrowding. This is a serious issue for the south-west, as it is in many other places, and it is time that we had a debate not only on the narrow issue of rail fares, which the Leader of the House has announced, but also on the wider issue of what is happening to our rail services.