New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome both Ministers to their new responsibilities – although they were formerly discharged by a single Minister at non-Cabinet level. May I reassure the Minister for the Cabinet Office in particular that, while she may have only half the job title, I am sure that she will be doing all the work?

What advice has the Chancellor [of the Duchy] received from Alastair Campbell on the question of diversity of appointments, given that official calls to Alastair Campbell are now directed to a Cabinet Office secretary employed at No. 10 Downing Street? Is this one more diverse appointment that has yet to be reported publicly?

[Alan Milburn: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. With him, it is not so much a question of the poisoned chalice as the poison; however, I am grateful – one takes what one can get in this job.]

Dr Lewis: There will be plenty more!

[Mr Milburn: As he says, I am sure that there will be a lot more to come, but if I were him I would take heed of one piece of advice.

Bill Wiggin: Answer the question!

Mr Milburn: I am just about to answer the question, if the hon. Gentleman will pipe down for a moment. He says that a single Minister previously did this job, and he and his hon. Friends have made the absurd allegation that the current post is a waste of public money. That is a bit rich given that, according to my figures, the Opposition's Short Money has been increased by 400 per cent. since 1997. Given the performance of the hon. Gentleman and rest of the Opposition, one wonders what they are doing with it.]