The House Magazine – 14 March 2005

Labour election coordinator and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Alan Milburn had a bad week in the press, with several briefings alluding to his poor handling of his Party’s campaign. And his week did not get much better at his Question Time session last Tuesday, with more attacks on his dual party-government role.

MPs have tried to establish the cost of having two ministers, rather than one, in the Cabinet Office, but Milburn said this information would not be available until the end of the financial year. Tory Julian Lewis claimed:

“It is quite obvious that the Chancellor would not like the country to know how much his office is costing until after the election is over”.

“May I advise him that, according to my reckonings, he has spent at the Despatch Box since his appointment somewhat less than the 45 minutes for which this dodgy Government will forever be remembered,”

he said.

“It works out at about £2,000 a minute. Does he think that his special friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would regard his record as good value for money?”

Milburn replied:

“What I regard as remarkably poor value for money is the Opposition Front-Bench team”.

He accused the Conservatives of failing to ask him about health, education or the economy. That prompted several Points of Order pointing out that MPs are specifically prohibited from asking such questions by the Commons Table Office as they do not relate to Milburn’s remit. The Speaker declined to adjudicate.