Ministerial Code

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 26th April 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 3:35 pm, 26th April 2021

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her questions. As ever, she raises a number of significant issues. On the question of the No. 10 Downing Street refurbishment, it is important to stress that previous Prime Ministers have used taxpayers’ money in order to refurbish No. 10 Downing Street. In 1998-99, in real terms, the then Prime Minister spent £73,000 of taxpayers’ money on refurbishing Downing Street; in 2000-01, £55,000; and, again, in 2007-08, £35,000—all taxpayers’ money. This Prime Minister has spent his own money on refurbishing Downing Street. That is a distinction to which the hon. Lady should pay close attention.

The hon. Lady also suggested that the Government did not act on scientific advice in dealing with the pandemic. I hope that she will reflect on those words and recognise that that is completely wrong. This Government, as I pointed out, initiated not just a second but a third lockdown in response to medical and scientific advice, and this Government, working with doctors and scientists, have ensured that we have had the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe. We have also developed many of the therapeutics and tools necessary to ensure that those who are suffering and in pain at last receive relief. Of course, the ventilators that this Government took part in procuring are now helping to save lives in India.

The hon. Lady is right to say that we should appoint an independent adviser on ministerial interests as soon as possible, but as I mentioned in my statement, that appointment is due within days and that independent adviser will have the freedom to carry out their role in exactly the way that they should. Scrutiny is always welcome, but it is also the case, as the hon. Lady should recognise, that scrutiny should extend beyond those who are our political opponents to the parties that we ourselves lead or are members of. I can only quote from The Times at the weekend, one of whose columnists wrote:

“our only proper bit of suspected corruption” in this country

“in Labour-run Liverpool. The allegations have got everything: dubious contracts, records created retrospectively, discarded in skips or destroyed altogether.”

The hon. Lady must look at the beam in her eye before criticising the mote in others’.