Wednesday, November 01, 2006

So Who Does The Speaker Speak For Then?

I think it is about time the Speaker of the House of Commons changed his title to “Spokesman for the Labour Party”.

Today he’s ruled against David Cameron asking about the Labour leadership since “The Prime Minister is here to talk about government policy, that is a matter for the Labour Party”. It is true that the Speaker has had the odd pop at Blair for talking about Tory policy over the past few weeks rather than government policy but he has never once berated the PM for not answering the question that was asked of him.

Here are some examples:

DC: Three years ago, the Government said that the youth justice system had been totally transformed. Yesterday, the chief inspector of prisons said that the system was approaching breaking point. Who is right?

The Prime Minister: Over the past few years, according to the National Audit Office— [Interruption.] I am trying to answer. According to the National Audit Office, in 1997 the system was a shambles; in 2004 it had made substantial improvement. The fact is, we have managed to reduce dramatically the time that it takes to get young offenders fast-tracked through the justice system. We have expanded the amount of secure accommodation. We are making sure now that those who breach antisocial behaviour orders are given a custodial sentence, although it is true that that is causing pressures in the system. We believe that that policy is right. That is why we shall continue investing in our youth justice system and continue to make improvements.

No answer there then

DC: The Home Office has explained that it is moving prisoners at risk of escaping to open prisons. The Home Secretary is apparently happy with that. [Interruption.] Is the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister: As the Home Secretary has just pointed out, absconding is at its lowest for 10 years, so the idea that we are going to put the public at risk is absurd. No people will be put in open prisons who are a risk to the public. [Interruption.] As the Home Secretary has just pointed out, the figures on absconding are the lowest for 10 years. Let me point something else out to the right hon. Gentleman. When he was advising the Home Secretary at the Home Office under the previous Administration, many, many category A prisoners as well as other category prisoners escaped. I am pleased to say that under this Administration there have been no category A escapes.

Nor there…

DC: Let us look at something else that the Prime Minister told us. He told us in January—Labour Members will enjoy this one—

“I’m absolutely happy that Gordon will be my successor. He needs the confidence of knowing he will succeed me and that’s fair enough.”

Does the Prime Minister still think that today?

Well does he?

The Prime Minister: Let me just say— [Interruption.] I do not resile from anything that I have said, but let me just go back for a moment to the NHS. The right hon. Gentleman has just proposed a campaign, saying that he would reverse all those decisions that are being taken by local decision makers on the NHS. Let me read to him from his campaign document—

Err…. Does he?

The Prime Minister: I am simply explaining why I will not accept the policy on the NHS proposed by the Conservative party. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is launching this policy proposal because he wants us to accept it, and the reason I will not accept it is that his proposal is for an independent board to take all commissioning decisions and to allocate resources. That would mean no accountability for politicians in this House about the decisions that are taken, and it would mean that, since there are no limits to the private sector involvement, none of these services that he will protest about at the end of the week will be guaranteed under his proposals made at the beginning of the week.

So does he or not?

Mr. Cameron: It was a pretty straight sort of question, and the Prime Minister has told us that he is a pretty straight sort of a guy. Does he back the Chancellor as his successor? Yes or no? I do, does he?

The Prime Minister: I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is a lot happier talking about that than he is about policy, but I will talk about policy. I will talk about the policy on the NHS, our policy and his policy, because in the end the issue for the country is who has the right policies for the future, and it is the Labour party that has made record investment in the NHS, which he voted against. It is this party that has delivered better waiting times, improved cardiac and cancer care, better accident and emergency departments, and his policies would put all of that at risk, and that is why we will stick with our policies,not his.

Yet I still don’t know whether he supports Brown. Do you?

The Speaker might claim, as might that toadying fuckwit Khan, appearing on News 24 straight after, that it isn’t a matter of national government. Well it fucking well is boyo. Unless you’re going to call an election when Ol Tone finally fucks off you’re talking about a Prime Minister being installed. I think we have a right to know who it is.

So.. Mr. Speaker, if you’re going to chair debates you could start by not closing them down, and if you’re going to hold politicians to account in the debating chamber can we have a little less lefty bias than we get from the BBC please?

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