Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 6:04 pm ar 6 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 6:04, 6 Chwefror 2024

I would like to begin by wishing Fleur Anderson a very happy birthday. We are delighted to be spending it with her in these conditions.

We can only imagine the scenes—the absolute scenes—in Labour HQ that preceded this debate: the heirs to Bevan, Attlee, Wilson and Mandelson wrestling with the great issues of the day and wondering what they would bring to the mother of all Parliaments for this Opposition day debate. Would it be the war in Ukraine, the future of NATO, conflict in the middle east, the situation in the Red sea, Children’s Mental Health Week, the failure of the NHS in Labour-run Wales, the collapse of Labour-led Birmingham, National Apprenticeship Week, the Mayor of London’s failure to control crime, deepfakes and the future of democracy, the strength of UK manufacturing or the halving of inflation? No, the eureka moment, when it came, was reform of the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991. Yay! They have waited 33 years for this moment, and now they are going to strike. We can imagine the panic giving way to relief as they set about handing out their lines to eager Back Benchers.

This motion has given the country something it did not have before: that rarest of beasts, that most elusive of fowl, the red squirrel or red-footed booby of politics—a Labour policy. To be fair, it is not utter chod. The truth is that the legislation from 1991 has been on the books for a very long time—a third of a century—and it is due for review, and when that time comes, it will be right to consider a number of things. It will be right to consider the length of service and severance pay, it will be right to consider those who swiftly re-enter work after a period out of it, and it will be right to consider the status of those who are under investigation when they lose their job. I say “consider” very specifically, because—as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the whole House will know—that is how we legislate in this place: we consult, we debate and we consider. When this subject is next considered, there will be other issues that Labour did not have time to put in its motion as it was scrabbled together at the last minute.

My hon. Friend Richard Fuller asked whether there should be severance pay at all, and that would need to be debated. My hon. Friend James Sunderland asked whether the law on over-65s and severance pay is right, and that needs to be considered. A number of hon. Members questioned the status of former Prime Ministers, and that should be considered. There will be other issues—many other issues—and, as I say, when the time comes to do this, the Government will consult, consider and allow proper time for debate, not the less than two hours that the Labour motion would give for Committee stage of this legislation. It is an absolutely ridiculous way of going about trying to pass legislation.