Propriety in Public Life

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at on 7 September 2023.

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Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

What steps he is taking to help ensure high standards of propriety in public life.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections)

What steps he is taking to help ensure high standards of propriety in public life.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, Deputy Prime Minister

As the Prime Minister set out when he first entered Downing Street, this Government will uphold the highest standards of integrity and propriety. In July we announced a wide- ranging programme of reform, acting on recommendations from Nigel Boardman, the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Public Administration Committee.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

We have all heard that the former Member for Mid Bedfordshire failed to speak in this House for more than a year and that her farcical resignation, which was to have “immediate effect”, took nearly three months, but what about the years when there was no constituency office listed for people to make representations to? With no regard to standards in public life, it is clear that the Tories have sold my neighbouring constituency down the river. Does the Secretary of State agree that the good people of Mid Bedfordshire deserve a hard-working, full-time Labour MP such as Alistair Strathern instead?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, Deputy Prime Minister

The people of Mid Bedfordshire deserve a hard-working Member of Parliament who lives and works in the constituency, and in Festus they will find exactly that. I have every confidence that they will return him to this House in the by-election next month.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections)

At the conclusion of Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, my hon. Friend Lucy Powell made a point of order, picking up on a statement made by the Prime Minister that she described as “categorically untrue”. This is about the sixth or seventh time this year that we have had to make such points of order about the Prime Minister. How can we have any confidence that we are going to get high standards in public life if this keeps happening?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, Deputy Prime Minister

That is simply not the case. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the exchange, he would have heard that the Prime Minister answered comprehensively every question raised by the Leader of the Opposition and demonstrated a far greater understanding of the detail of this than that demonstrated by his opposite number.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Last year, the Prime Minister said that his Government would do “everything we can” to recover covid fraud losses, yet the crony PPE VIP lane helped Tory-linked business owners over small and medium-sized businesses, meaning that £15 billion of taxpayer money was wasted on useless PPE. The Public Accounts Committee found it “unacceptable” that the Government are not prioritising recouping misused money, with only £21 million—only 2%—recovered from fraudsters. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to fulfil his Government’s pledge to reclaim misused taxpayer money? Or is that, like the Prime Minister’s promise of integrity and accountability, another failed vow?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, Deputy Prime Minister

What we saw during the crisis was the Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor, acting decisively and rapidly to save the economy and millions of jobs. Since we have passed out of the covid period, we are taking action to recover fraud and error losses. As set out by my hon. Friends, in the past two years alone, we have recovered more than £3 billion. I would gently say to the hon. Lady that people in glasshouses should perhaps not throw stones, given the experience of her party’s leaders being frogmarched by the police to investigate the misuse of funds by her own party.