First, I thank the Leader of the House for his tribute to our friend Jack Dromey. I find it hard to talk about, so I will wait until the tributes, but I join him in sending our love, support and sympathy to the Mother of the House. The loss of Jack will be felt so keenly by so many and it is a real tribute to him that so many people have said so and so obviously fulsomely.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I was listening intently to him. He will have noticed that I was gazing, waiting for the words to drop from his mouth. Given the publication of the Standards report into the conduct of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), I should not have to ask, but in the light of recent actions on a previous case, will he please confirm when the Standards motion will be laid, and whether the Government will mount the same level of defence as they did for the former constituency neighbour of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, Owen Paterson?
Last week, the Leader of the House revealed his socialist tendencies in calling for the scrapping of the national insurance rise. Last night, in the media, he revealed his Scottish National tendencies. [Interruption.] Didn’t he just? Indeed, I do not think that Scottish National party Members are as rude as he about his Scottish colleague. Is it now Government policy to attack their own party? Does the right hon. Gentleman think it is appropriate to dismiss the leader of the Scottish Conservatives as a “lightweight”? In the light of all that, could we have a statement on where the Government see the future of the Union?
First, the Prime Minister said no rules were broken. Then he said that he did not know about any parties, then that he needed to wait for the internal investigation, and now he has admitted that he was at one of them, but he did not know it was a party. The Prime Minister was the one setting the rules. Are we really expected to believe that he did not understand them? As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) said—and goodness me, I wish I had thought of it—what a
“shower of shenanigans”—[Official Report, Wednesday 12 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 573.]
Can the Leader of the House direct us to the part of the coronavirus legislation where there is an exemption for the Prime Minister and those in No. 10 to break the rules and hold a boozy gathering just so that they can enjoy the nice weather? Does he really think that the Prime Minister cannot tell the difference between a party and a work meeting? And while I am at it, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he knows the difference? It is completely unsurprising that the public—the public—have concluded that the Prime Minister is lying to them and that he is laughing at them while he does. [Interruption.] It was the public—I did refer very carefully to the public and I did not make any accusations myself.
Throughout some of the most difficult months of this pandemic, all my constituents, and I am sure all the Leader of the House’s constituents, were following the rules that the Prime Minister set. On that day—when hundreds of people died from covid, it was illegal to meet any more than one person and that was allowed in an outside setting only—a bring-your-own-booze party was held at No. 10. I know that the Leader of the House has previously dismissed this as “brouhaha” and that the Prime Minister only attended the party for 25 minutes—I think that is what he said last night—but to all those who were unable to say goodbye to dying loved ones, unable to comfort family and friends, 25 minutes would have meant the world. But they, unlike the Prime Minister, followed the rules because they believed they were the right thing to do. How does the Leader of the House defend any of this as acceptable behaviour?
As if that is not enough, the Tories have been busy wasting even more taxpayers’ money this week. While our hard-working NHS staff were going without personal protective equipment, the Government were busy lining their mates’ pockets with PPE contracts. They are still covering up key documents and critical messages. Minutes have gone missing. A judge has ruled that the Government’s so-called VIP lane for handing out crony contracts was unlawful. So will the Leader of the House commit to a fully independent investigation to get to the bottom of how £3.5 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money was handed out in crony contracts and ensure that the Government cannot do this again?
When they are not wasting taxpayers’ money, the Government are voting against helping people with their bills. Working families feeling the pinch with rising prices deserve security, prosperity and respect, but this Government are not delivering that. I know the Leader of the House will say that there is a global gas price crisis, but I am sorry—it is 10 years of Conservative failed energy policy that has left us and our constituents uniquely exposed. The Conservatives’ dither, delay and incompetence have created an energy price crisis felt by everyone.
On Tuesday, the Government could have fixed this by backing Labour’s plan. Will the Leader of the House please explain why the Government refused to back the windfall tax that would have helped to support families and keep bills low, because if it was not clear then, it certainly is now—this is a Government who have lost their grip and working people are paying the price?