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Mr. Rowe: My hon. Friend is making a remarkably powerful speech and I entirely agree with him. It is in the nature of party politics that parties do their utmost to remain in power. However, the Labour party, which is now in government, expects the taxpayer to pay for what used to be a charge on a political party. Is that process not part of an undesirable atrophy of the political parties in this country?

Mr. Letwin: I agree with my hon. Friend that the Government seek to use the taxpayer for their own party political ends. He is right to say that it is legitimate for a political party to seek to remain in power and that it is wrong for it to use taxpayers' funds--£1 billion more of them--to achieve that aim. Above all, it is wrong for a Government to use the civil service in that way. That undermines the civil service as the guardian of our constitution and undermines the ability of this place to hold the Government to account. In the end, that is what counts most.

If I had to trade that £1 billion--or several billion more--and the special advisers across Whitehall who do the Prime Minister's bidding for the sovereign integrity of the civil service as the guarantor of the veracity of Government information and the procedures that enable us to hold them to account, I would do the trade. The Government do not offer us that trade. They offer us

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expense, the addition of advisers everywhere, the campaign teams and finally the corruption of the politicisation of the civil service, which offers an end to our constitutional integrity. That is the charge, and I hope it sticks.

9.43 pm

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr. Ian McCartney): Before I respond to the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), may I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn), for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd), for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) and for Wigan (Mr. Turner) for their speeches and interventions? The special mixture of integrity and knowledge of the subject that they showed bodes well for future Labour Front-Bench teams in government when I hope to be collecting my zimmer from the Cabinet Office. On the Government Back Benches is a range of Members who will be able to take the Government forward to their second, third and fourth terms.

I hope that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) does not take this personally, but, as I listened to him, I almost lost the will to live. He said that, when the Labour party was in opposition, it had policy reviews, but no commitments. What about the new deal and the national minimum wage for more than 2 million people and what about linking the new deal with economic stability to provide 600,000 new jobs, more than halve youth unemployment and halve long-term unemployment? We have reformed the criminal justice system by providing more than £19 billion to help and put £21 billion into education with more to come. We have put billions into urban regeneration and social housing, and provided more rights for consumers and for workers, who have the social chapter and the right to paid holidays for the first time.

However, I make an apology to the hon. Gentleman. We made no mention before the election of the introduction of the working families tax credit, which is the biggest boon to cutting family poverty in Britain this century. We did not mention the record increase in child benefit or the introduction of a minimum income guarantee for pensioners. I apologise for that, but pensioners, mothers and working families with the working families tax credit do not want us to apologise. They say, "Thank God we elected a Labour Government in 1997".

I turn now to the speeches by the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire and for West Dorset. They demonstrated the three phases that the Tories have gone through since their landslide defeat. The first phase is the one in which Tories said, "I can't believe it. I've lost the ministerial car and the special advisers." However, I see that some of those advisers have washed up on the Tory Back Benches. Some former Tory Members got their P45 from their constituents and had to apply for a proper job for the first time in 18 years.

The second phase was denial. The Tories told themselves that they had done nothing wrong except perhaps that they had not been extreme enough, right-wing enough or Conservative enough. They invented a world in which there was no Tory sleaze, no incompetence and no favours for friends.

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Tonight, they have entered the third phase, which I call the brass neck phase. During this phase they are brazening it out and trying to give the impression that all they left us was a golden legacy. What a legacy. [Interruption.] Hold on a minute, lads. When we came to power in 1997, 40 per cent. of the largest quangos were chaired by Tory party members or people who had donated to Tory party funds. Those people, mainly men, were responsible for dispensing billions of pounds of public funds. They had been appointed for the sole reason that they were Tory party activists or had donated to the slush funds that the Tories have yet to open up to public scrutiny.

Mr. Letwin: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McCartney: No, I gave up ten minutes of the time for my wind-up speech so that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues could speak, although they did not make the best use of their time.

Sir Donald Wilson, the former president of Chester Conservative Association--Chester was a Labour gain at the last election--was appointed chairman of the West Midlands regional health authority. He made a complete mess of that, but was he sacked? No, unfortunately, he was transferred to run my health authority, the North West regional health authority. Sir Bryan Askew, a defeated Tory candidate in Penistone and in York, was given a job running the Yorkshire health authority.

Did Lord Crickhowell, a defeated Tory MP and ex-Cabinet Minister, go on the dole? No, he was paid £51,000 to run the National Rivers Authority. Michael Pickard became chairman of the London Docklands development corporation. He got that job for the simple reason that he founded the chain of Happy Eater restaurants, which are the favourite eating establishments of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). The Tories really investigated the credentials of people they put in charge of public funds. David Plastow ran the Medical Research Council for the simple reason that his company consistently donated to the Tory party.

When Mrs. Thatcher came to power, she promised to abolish quangos. By 1992, she had increased their budget from £13.9 billion to £42 billion--a sum equivalent to a fifth of the entire national expenditure and more than the total sum that we spend on local government. There was no consistency of policy on appointments.

Mr. Letwin: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McCartney: No. The hon. Gentleman should listen because he is not facing reality, and I have to bring him back to reality.

When the Tories ran out of business men they moved on to politicians and those who had been defeated at the polls. In 1991, the Welsh Secretary was responsible for appointments to 81 public bodies, with the Welsh Office having powers directly to appoint 1,261 people to them.

The Welsh Secretary appointed Ian Grist, a former Tory Minister, to head the South Glamorgan health authority. He was defeated by his constituents but given a job by the Tories. The secretary to Gwilym Jones, another Welsh Office Minister, was also appointed to the South Glamorgan health authority. Jeff Sainsbury, a former Tory

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councillor, was put in charge of the Cardiff Bay development corporation. Phil Pedley, a defeated Tory candidate, was put in charge of the Board of Housing for Wales, succeeding another failed Tory candidate.

When the Tories ran out of failed politicians, they turned to the Conservative party's national union executive. Of its 200 members, we have identified at least 37 who landed jobs in the public sector, including the party treasurer Charles Hambro, Sir Basil Feldman, Sir Philip Harris, Sir Robert Balchin and Beata Brookes.

Mr. Letwin: I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has given way, and I am most grateful to him. I wonder whether, in the light of that marvellous tirade, he could answer a simple question. Will he guarantee that the Government will apply Nolan rules to the appointment of members of task forces?

Mr. McCartney: The Government are not only applying Nolan rules but extending accountability across the appointments system. The Government have applied the accountability rules to all appointments to quangos, which meant 6,000 more appointments. This is the first Government to have tenants on task forces talking about their housing conditions. The Tories put construction director bosses on to quangos and we are putting on to them members of residents' and tenants' associations.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McCartney: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later.

When the Tories ran out of members for the national union executive, they called in the Tory praetorian guard, their wives. That was the next group to be given public appointments. There was Lady Elspeth Howe, the then Deputy Prime Minister's wife, Anne, and Lady Brittan, wife of Sir Leon Brittan. As for Mary Archer, I wonder whether she had an opportunity to persuade us that she had more abilities than her husband. There was Lady Ann Parkinson, wife of Lord Parkinson. In addition, there was Lady June Onslow, wife of Sir Cranslow Onslow.

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