Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 4:39 pm ar 6 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Ceidwadwyr, Northampton North 4:39, 6 Chwefror 2024

I begin by making a disclosure to the House, which is of course in the public domain and has been for some time: I have received severance pay in the past. I want to make that clear from the outset. I also want to make it clear from the outset that, in my respectful view, some of the ad hominem attacks on named Members of Parliament that we have heard damage the institution of politics rather than working in a partisan way. Those individuals did not do anything wrong: they were part of a system that allocated funding to them, so there should be no legal or moral opprobrium attached to them in their absence, whether they have been notified or not. It is fine to say that the system ought to change, but surely it is not fair to criticise people for being subject to a system that has not been changed.

As I said, I have received severance pay, but I served in Government roles of one sort or another for over 10 years, if one includes non-ministerial positions. In terms of ministerial positions, I served as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Transport, Solicitor General, Attorney General for the first time under one Prime Minister, Paymaster General, Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Attorney General for the second time under a second Prime Minister. In fact, I served under four Prime Ministers in one role or another, and in Cabinet on three occasions. Should I not receive severance pay?

Bill Esterson asked where else this would happen in the outside world. Well, where else in the outside world would we have a situation where there are no redundancy arrangements, no notice periods, no contract between the parties and no consultations, and the employees—if they were employees—could be removed without cause? I am not criticising those things: that is the way Government works. Ministers take on those roles knowing that that is the position, so they should not criticise it—that is the way the cookie crumbles, and those who do not like it should not take the position.

However, there is no point in comparing chalk and cheese. The system operates in a different way from the outside world: we have a constitutional situation in which the Prime Minister, whether he or she be Labour or Conservative, has to have the right of hiring and firing his or her ministerial team. That is an essential prerequisite of the role, and the way it must work—the only way it can work—is by giving the Prime Minister that primus inter pares role, where he or she has that function.