Ministerial Code/Register of Ministers’ Interests

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:44 pm on 18th May 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Paymaster General 12:44 pm, 18th May 2021

The right hon. Lady raises issues about the ministerial code, the arbiter of which is the Prime Minister; the work of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which is a matter for that Committee; and the role of the independent adviser. She also touches on various reviews that are taking place and matters for the House authorities. As you pointed out, Mr Speaker, these are not things it would be appropriate for me to pontificate on, but I will try to answer the general thrust of the accusations the right hon. Lady makes today, and I shall speak frankly, because I know she appreciates that.

The charge the right hon. Lady makes is that the people she names are somehow on the take. That is the charge she is making here today on the Floor of the House: that they have not been focused over the past 16 months on working their socks off to save lives, to get a vaccination programme up and running and to do the things that the public need us to do, but that they have, unbelievably, entered into politics, made sacrifices and overcome the obstacles that she will be aware of to get into this place not to serve in public life but to do a mate—more accurately, a Tory mate—or someone they vaguely know, or met in a lift once, or perhaps do not know at all, a favour. That is the accusation that she is making today. I am afraid that that is why the Labour line of attack is not getting traction, well rehearsed though it is. It is not getting traction with the public because it is not plausible. It is based not on fact but on speculation, innuendo and smear.

Perceived conflicts of interest are not those that the right hon. Lady has made up. The public care about scrutiny—they do. They care about accountability, transparency and standards in public life. What they see through though is the performance she has given today, which is designed to smear decent colleagues and denigrate British business. I would direct the right hon. Lady to the National Audit Office report, which refutes the accusations she has made about MPs, civil servants, business and members of the public—but I am sure she already knows that. I would suggest to her that an Essex MP is perfectly entitled to forward an offer from the Essex chamber of commerce to help in a pandemic. MPs do it all the time—it is part of our job—but the right hon. Lady already knows this, too, and so does everyone else. The urgent question today has more to do with Labour’s internal politics and divisions than the conduct of Members of this House and enterprises that have been working to help the NHS and to save lives.

The right hon. Lady has made particular accusations today about colleagues, and I want to make a final point, Mr Speaker. If you were to take every single MP she has made an allegation about this afternoon, if you were to look at all the political donations they have received since the pandemic started, since January 2020, and if you were to add them all up and then double them—no, quadruple them—you would just about match what the right hon. Lady herself has received in the same time period. She should thank her lucky stars that we do not play the same games that she does.

The right hon. Lady is in a new position shadowing the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who now looks after some of the most pressing issues facing this nation: the Union of the United Kingdom, devolution, the recovery from this crisis, national security, community resilience and the British brand around the world. That is what we are focused on. I hope that, after her debut today, she will be too, and I wish her well.