Mr Speaker, I wish you and all the staff of the House a happy new year.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for announcing the business for next week. Dazzled as I was by the overwhelming success of the Cabinet reshuffle, I thought that I had missed the announcement on the deputy Leader of the House, but one had not been made. We are all grateful to the hon. Gentleman for filling in. Who knows, he might just dazzle us enough today to be given the job permanently—and who would not jump at the chance to respond to the pre-recess Adjournment debates? I am relieved to hear that the Leader of the House is still firmly in her place. It has not been a “Cruel Summer”, in the words of Bananarama, but a cruel winter, given some of these reshuffles. The reshuffle was supposed to restore the Government’s diminished authority, but it has left them between a Hunt and a hard place. Never before has a Cabinet reshuffle actually diminished the authority of a Prime Minister in quite such a way. It is an outstanding feat, even for this chaotic Government.
The repeal Bill returns next week, and there is profound disappointment in Scotland that no amendments have been made, as promised, for the devolution-threatening clause 11. It was the Secretary of State for Scotland who set himself this timetable, and the failure to deliver has even disappointed and frustrated his own Scottish Conservative colleagues. What will be totally and utterly unacceptable is for these issues to be considered in the unelected House of Lords. The nation’s aristocrats, Church of England bishops and party donors and cronies will now have more say on these critical issues than directly elected Members of Parliament from Scotland. In what sort of tin-pot democracy could that possibly be acceptable? It is a big test for my friends in the Scottish Conservative party, because they cannot possibly vote for this, knowing the flaws, in the hope that the be-ermined ones might fix it for them. [Interruption.] Is all this blind loyalty really worth it? For all their commitment to the Lobby-fodder cause, not one of them was thought to be of sufficiently quality to be promoted—[Interruption.]