BUSINESS QUESTION – WILLS RESIGNATION – 13 June 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a statement from the Prime Minister or, even better, a debate on early-day motion 1412?

[That this House is concerned to see the name of the honourable Member for Swindon North still listed on the official 10 Downing Street website as one of eight former Government ministers who had resigned; notes that the honourable Member was reported by the media as long ago as 2nd June to have been appointed Minister for Information Technology and Criminal Justice at the Home Office, but that this appointment had still not been listed on the Home Office Ministerial Team page of the official Home Office website by l0th June; and calls upon the Prime Minister to consult with other relevant Cabinet ministers to clarify the position.]

The early-day motion concerns the status of the hon. Member for North Swindon (Michael Wills). The Leader of the House may be aware that on 29 May the Government reshuffle announced that the Queen had accepted the resignations of eight Ministers, including the hon. Gentleman. On 2 June, however, the press reported that the hon. Gentleman had been appointed a junior Home Office Minister, yet for a full fortnight after the first announcement the official No. 10 website recorded that the hon. Gentleman had indeed resigned and that the Queen had accepted that resignation. Only yesterday, after the tabling of the early-day motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (George Osborne), was the official website altered. It now states that the hon. Member for North Swindon has indeed been appointed an Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and that he is

"driving forward the reform to business processes and working practices . . . to deliver a modern and joined up Criminal Justice System".

It does not sound very joined up to me. Even today, when one enters the words "Michael" and "Wills" on the search engine of the Home Office website, why can one find no trace of him?

[Robin Cook: I have to confess to the hon. Gentleman that I have not had the leisure to peruse the websites as frequently and with such diligence as he has, and I am sure that the House is grateful to him for his explanation of his experience of surfing the Home Office website. My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills) is indeed now at the Home Office, and I understand that he will be in action next week when he presents a Home Office statutory instrument.

If I may allude to an earlier exchange in the House, I have found my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon extremely helpful in the matter of data protection. If we are successful in carrying that statutory instrument, I would want my hon. Friend's role to be properly recognised.]