May I begin on a consensual note and endorse every word that the hon. Lady said about our former colleague Alan Keen? Our thoughts are very much with Ann and the family at this difficult time for them.
On the statements and announcements earlier this week, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in response to a point of order, explained the background to what happened on Monday. Inevitably, as a background to the housing statement, other organisations were involved and their consent was needed to make the statement. Therefore it was more difficult—although equally essential—for the Government to maintain strict confidentiality about the announcement. I confirm that I deplore any leaking of statements that should be made first to the House and I am happy to remind my colleagues of the ministerial code and what is expected by you, Mr Speaker.
We inherited a deplorable housing position. The outgoing Government admitted that they did not give it the priority that it deserved. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Lady will welcome the initiatives announced on Monday by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government to kick-start the housing market, to get public land into play and to make it easier for first-time buyers to buy their first home.
On the date of the Queen’s Speech, I said on
I am not in a position to confirm a specific date—as the hon. Lady knows, it is subject to progress in another place—but I can confirm that all constitutional proprieties will be observed come the state opening of Parliament.
The hon. Lady did not remind the House of what action the Labour party took to deal with executive pay and the widening differential between executive pay and average pay, to which I referred at the last business questions. As she will know, we are consulting on the matter—consultation ends tomorrow—and we welcome the High Pay Commission’s contribution. We are consulting on shareholder votes on executive pay, reforming remuneration committees, including the possibility of an employee representative, greater transparency and a much stronger link between pay and performance.
I was amazed that the hon. Lady had the nerve to mention lobbying. The outgoing Labour Government refused to implement a Select Committee recommendation of a statutory register of lobbyists. In the coalition agreement, we committed to introducing that register, and consultation on the proposals will begin shortly. We would welcome any advice that she might have.
Finally, the hon. Lady mentioned the economy. I was interested to read that apparently the Leader of the Opposition will say today:
“The biggest economic gamble in a generation has failed”.
I agree, and I am glad that he has seen the light. It was the reckless gamble that he and the shadow Chancellor took in the last Parliament that got us into this mess—borrowing beyond our means, claiming to have abolished boom and bust and completely failing to regulate the banks properly. Now they want to increase the deficit by more than £20 billion. It is their economic strategy that has failed the country—it is no wonder that the shadow Chancellor, by his own admission, is often to be found in tears.