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Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noted that that important announcement, which will damage the RAF's air transport capability in the future, was made in the form of a written statement. Can you use your influence with the Government to ensure that announcements of such significance and magnitude are made in the proper wayby oral statement to the House?
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not providing notice of my point, but are you aware of paragraph 137 of the report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, entitled "The Decision to go to War in Iraq", which reads:
Mr. Speaker: Order. The Prime Minister will be questioned by that Committee. In fact, the Liaison Committee meeting was set for tomorrow in order that the document that the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) mentions would be available.
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I personally asked the Prime Minister a question on the second dodgy dossier, and I also wrote to him a month ago asking him to come to the House or to provide a written apology to me and others who asked specific questions on that issue. I accept that Committees carry out work on our behalf, but we are not all members of Committees. Is there no way in which a Member who has received such a reply from the Prime Minister can receive an apology on the Floor of the House, as we would expect from any other hon. Member?
Mr. Speaker: Apologies are for the Prime Minister and any other Minister with whom the hon. Lady takes issue. As I stated, the Prime Minister will have to give an account of his stewardship at tomorrow's Liaison Committee, which was set up by the House. The Prime Minister may also be asked questions, similar to those that the hon. Lady has put to me, at Prime Minister's Question Time.
Mr. Forth: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely you are not suggesting, are you, that the Liaison Committee is now a substitute for the House of Commons? However eminent, important and superior it may be, it is not the equivalent of the Floor of the House of Commons and it does not give Members at large the opportunity to question Ministers. I do not want an
Mr. Speaker: I am not changing policy. The Prime Minister will appear before the Committee tomorrow. That does not exclude the House from demanding anything, or from seeking the views of the Prime Minister on any other matter when the time comes. The House decided that the Liaison Committee would meet and that the Committee should ask questions tomorrow.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that none of the minority parties has seats on the Liaison Committee. What can you do to ensure that we in the minority parties will also have the opportunity to question the Prime Minister on this serious and significant issue?
Mr. Wilshire: I am most grateful, Mr. Speaker. My point of order arises from a comment that you made a moment ago when you said that the House had decided that the Prime Minister would appear before the Liaison Committee. I am not aware that the House had decided that. My understanding was that the Prime Minister had decided that he would do it that way. Is there something that I have missed, namely a resolution of the House that the Prime Minister should attend?
Mr. Speaker: There is something that the hon. Gentleman has missed. The House set up the Liaison Committee and the House has given the Committee authority to call witnesses before it. Tomorrow, the witness will be the Prime Minister.
This debate is about the Government's record of tax and spend and fail. A fortnight ago, the Leader of the House called for an honest debate on tax. It is little wonder that he was slapped down. An honest debate on tax is the last thing the Government want. This is a Government who promised that they had no plans to increase tax at all, but have increased taxes 60 times and taken almost £44 a week extra in tax for every man, woman and child in Britain.
Every year, the Government excuse their broken promises on tax because, they argue, that is the price that people have to pay if they want better public services. Every year, they say, there will be reform to improve public services. As the Chancellor said:
Of course, that is easier said than done. Many of the Government's targets cannot be measured. The Treasury set itself a target of 2.5 per cent. annual efficiency gains. Four years later, it decided that it was unable to measure that.
Other targets were targets to set targets. The Crown Prosecution Service and the Lord Chancellor's Department were set a target to set a target for reducing the time from arrest to sentence. Alas, they have not yet been able to assess progress on that target to set a target. Although the Lord Chancellor's report says that the target to set a target should have been met by March
We must do the best we can, and the reality is that reports admit that more than a third of the targets set in 1998 have not been met, and a similar pattern is emerging for the 2000 targets. I emphasise that that is based on the Government's own information.
What is the Government's response to that failure? Do they intend to change their approach to the public services? Not at all. First, they try to downplay the figures. Failing some targets, they say, is not too badthey were challenging targets, ambitious targetsso hitting a fair few and missing the rest is really quite good. Of course, that is not what they said when they launched them. Then, the PSA targets were described as agreements between the Chancellor and the Departments concernedcontracts, in return for the largesse that the Chancellor was providing from the taxpayer. If the contracts were not honoured, there would be consequences. The Chancellor said: