Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate as soon as possible on the new Labour doctrine of ministerial irresponsibility, under which Ministers deny responsibility for their own Department‘s actions, plead ignorance, which should be culpable, blame officials, which is despicable, and attempt to silence whistleblowers, which is intolerable? The latest example of that involves the Lord Chancellor, who was found guilty of contempt of the House. An apology is not enough because the Committee‘s report says that

    “a subsequent apology is not, however, sufficient to undo the original damage”.

    We now have a Lord Chancellor who wants to abandon his title but hang on to the perks of his office; we have a Solicitor-General who is in contempt of court but wants to hold on to her office; and we have a Home Secretary who has used his hapless Minister of State as a human shield in order to deny responsibility for the biggest collapse of immigration policy that this country has ever known. When can we have a debate on Ministers taking responsibility for their actions and inactions?

    Mr. Hain: The right hon. Gentleman was a Cabinet Minister in a Government who consistently failed to take responsibility for their own actions and were bedevilled with incompetence and sleaze. I am amazed that he has come here a few hours?[Interruption.] A member of the Cabinet went to prison as a result of that, so I should have thought that he would have a little less aggression in raising such issues?[Interruption.]

    Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. The Minister is replying to the questions.

    Mr. Lilley: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order in the House, by association, to accuse people of dishonour or impropriety?

    Madam Deputy Speaker: Sometimes, in the heat of discussion that takes place in the Chamber, such an inference may be taken, but I did not read that into the reply from the Leader of the House.

    1 Apr 2004 : Column 1788