[Un-alloted half-day] — Dissolution of Parliament

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 10th June 2009.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 5:28 pm, 10th June 2009

The hon. Gentleman has not only made his point but undermined his own argument. If we think that everything in the garden is rosy, then there is no obstacle to the general election that some of us believe should be held, but that is not the case. We have done some very basic things that some of us called for a long time ago, but they are far insufficient in meeting what is needed. If he really thinks that that is enough to regain the trust of the electorate, I can only suggest that he has not been on the doorsteps in recent weeks with enough assiduity.

The third argument against having a general election concerns the point that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks made so amusingly about chaos theory—the Prime Minister's idea that we would somehow be plunged into irremediable chaos were we to have a general election. I do not buy that for one moment. However, let me share something that I seem to remember from a long time ago in the days when I was attempting to do physiological sciences. There is a sort of chaos that is often observed at a microscopic level among very small organisms within an aqueous medium: it is called Brownian motion, and that is what we have seen from the Government recently.

So what has been the Government's response to this crisis of confidence in the House and in the Government? We have had yet another of the Prime Minister's regular relaunches. Sadly, he is getting into a situation similar to that of the former right hon. Member for Huntingdon—he has been relaunched almost as many times as the Padstow lifeboat. It never really does the job, because one can only relaunch one's boat so many times when it is leaking below the waterline, as is the case at the moment.

We have had a re-engineered Cabinet. A Department that was created only a year ago has been subsumed by another one—purely, it would appear, for the greater glorification of the noble Lord Mandelson. I will not go through the whole of his nomenclature, as the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks did, but it occurs to me that this new Department will need very wide doors if his name is to be displayed appropriately.

We have a new Cabinet. Is anybody excited by it? Does anyone feel it will supply the answers to the country's problems? As the right hon. Gentleman said, there will be seven people attending Cabinet who are not elected Members. I would have thought that that situation would be familiar to the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury rather than to a Government in the 21st century, yet that is what we now have. It suggests that there is a conspicuous lack of talent in this elected House if that is what the Prime Minister has to rely on. Or perhaps those who will serve in his Cabinet do not have the talent, and those who have the talent will not serve in his Cabinet. Either way, it does not suggest a Prime Minister with the confidence of either his colleagues or the country.

Today, we heard a cobbled-together programme of constitutional change. It picked up bits and pieces of what other people have suggested over the years, but was all developed in the secretive and obscure way that is always the modus operandi of this Prime Minister. It tells us everything we need to know about him that his idea of consensus is to have this Committee of Public Safety, or whatever it is called, with no Opposition parties invited to contribute. Do not invite anyone who might disagree—that is the way to build consensus, is it not? It establishes immediate consensus.

Today's statement was issued to the leaders of the other parties a quarter of an hour before Prime Minister's questions. The Prime Minister then challenged them to establish a consensus by agreeing with what he and his cronies had put together as a proposal for a constitutional change. Then he had the gall to say that that was the new politics, the change, the way we were now going to do things to establish democratic renewal based on the agreement of all parties and people across the country.

The Prime Minister has said repeatedly that he is the man to cure Parliament of its ills. However, he is the man who, when David Maclean was trying to exempt the House from freedom of information legislation, could not be bothered to turn up to vote. Members can look it up in Hansard for 20 April 2007. That was the sort of leadership that the Prime Minister showed. He allowed Government Whips to do their job and help the Bill to go through, and he allowed them to vote, but he absented himself. So did the Secretary of State for Wales.

The Prime Minister is the man who, on 3 July last year, when there was a perfectly proper proposal from the House of Commons Commission to bring in independent auditing of Members' allowances, was again not here. He was not present to support that proposal, and he allowed it to be amended out of the Commission's proposals, so this House managed to escape proper independent auditing of allowances for yet another year. He now says that he is the man to reform the system in this House. He is not the man, because he is not a leader. He is in fact an obstacle to reform, and has been for 12 years now.

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