Angela Eagle (Shadow Leader of the House of Commons): Yesterday’s report from Sir Robert Francis revealed that nearly a quarter of NHS staff have experienced bullying or harassment—a problem that is all too prevalent in other workplaces across the country too. Given that the Government were quick to welcome the Francis report but have made it their mission to make people pay to access employment rights and protection from bullying and arbitrary treatment everywhere else, may we have a debate on the protection that Britain’s workers deserve against bullying at work? May we especially have a debate about the 60% fall in employment tribunal cases since the Government introduced steep payments for access to justice in the workplace?
Yesterday we learned that a string of Tory donors banked with the Swiss arm of HSBC, which has been caught red-handed facilitating tax abuse. Since the Prime Minister became leader of his party, those donors have given him £5 million and HSBC’s chairman, Lord Green, was appointed a Minister in the Government after the scandal was public knowledge, with no questions asked about his oversight of this rogue bank. Does that not say everything about this Government?
On the Government’s own estimate, uncollected taxes rose by a massive £34 billion last year. Their sweetheart Swiss tax deal is full of holes and has brought in less than a third of what they promised, and they have cut taxes for millionaires and hedge funds, which have given them £47 million since the Prime Minister became leader.
With the election looming, our shameless Prime Minister travelled to the British Chambers of Commerce to steal a TUC slogan and suddenly declare that “Britain needs a pay rise”. Yet this is the first Government since 1874 who have left people worse off at the end of the Parliament than they were at the beginning. While he was there, he even decided to channel Lord Kinnock, but I would have used a different speech: “I’ll tell you what happens with impossible Tory pre-election promises. They’re pickled into a rigid soundbite, a code, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Tory Government—a Tory Government!—hiring chauffeur-driven limos to scuttle round Davos handing out huge tax breaks to its own donors.”
The Prime Minister has reportedly told the Cabinet that he is fed up of this zombie Government and that he wants Ministers to get back to work. Most appear to have responded by suddenly dumping hundreds of statutory instruments on the Order Paper, but the invisible man—the Tory Chief Whip—has responded in his own unique style. On a day when he failed to show up in Parliament—the day before Parliament adjourned five hours early—he gave a speech on the “myth” of the zombie Parliament. His key evidence was an increase in urgent questions under this Government. But, Mr Speaker, you grant urgent questions and you grant them when the Government are avoiding scrutiny.
I read this morning that the Chief Whip has literally been back-seat driving, but not at the Department for Education: he has been taking vanity trips in his Jaguar to travel the 400 yards between Parliament and No. 10. He drove teachers round the bend, he has put this place on the road to nowhere, and his Government hold the record for the most U-turns. He certainly will not be allowed anywhere near our magenta battle bus.
Daily Mail, the Prime Minister partied with the kings and queens of sleaze, including a porn baron, the owner of a strip club and the boss of Ann Summers. Perhaps they should have changed their theme to black, white and a little blue. This year, in a doomed bid to limit the PR disaster, they banned ostentatious displays of tuxedos and champagne, but they did still auction a 500-bird pheasant and partridge shoot for tens of thousands of pounds; a bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher for £210,000; and, hilariously, a holiday in Cobblers Cove.On Monday night, the Conservative black and white ball raised millions of pounds and gave a whole new meaning to the term “by-election”. According to the
I have been inspecting the auction lots and if I had more money than sense I could have bought shoe shopping with the Home Secretary or a personalised cartoon from the Leader of the House’s private collection, where he is depicted as a “bionic babe”. Perhaps he could tell us what that went for. I could also have paid to take on the welfare Secretary in an endurance race across hills, woods, streams, hedges and hay bales. Surely I would be certain of winning that one, because, judging by his welfare reforms, that man has no hope of finishing anything.
I gather that the Liberal Democrats are organising their own fundraiser, too: instead of an auction, they are going to sell off their principles to the highest bidder.