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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

5. What discussions he has had with the Department for Communities and Local Government in relation to casino bids. (86193)

How can the Deputy Prime Minister not have had any discussions, given that Office of the Deputy Prime Minister civil servants, attending a Thames Gateway meeting in February, stated that Ministers would appreciate some joined-up thinking and would like a single bid for the Thames Gateway? Are those the same ODPM officials who received briefings from the Deputy Prime Minister following his meeting with the dome’s owner?

The hon. Gentleman has made accusations in the press and in the Chamber about the feeling in his constituency about whether we interfered with its application for a casino. The former Tory mayor said that we had: the present Tory mayor has made it clear that that was not true—

I shall quote what the Tory leader of Southend says—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge) cannot shout after he has asked his question. He may not be happy with the answer, but he should not shout.

The Tory leader in Southend said:

“There wasn’t any pressure put on us”.

I accept that man’s statement and that is exactly what happened. I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a keen interest in casino policy. I understand that his constituency party in Rochford and Southend, East receives funding from a company that wants to build a £15 million casino and hotel complex in Southend.

It sounds to me as though the hon. Gentleman is a busted flush—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw.”]

Order. It is difficult for me to be fair if I cannot hear what is going on. I shall take advice on what has just been said and make a ruling—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Steve McCabe) should be quiet. I understand that he is a Whip and I do not want Whips shouting from the Back Benches. The Deputy Prime Minister has made an allegation, but allegations have come from both sides of the House. The best thing to do is to ask questions and hear the answers without any allegations being made. That includes replies, which should not incorporate any allegations.

Whether there will be a casino at the dome or not, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he is doing to bring about the regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula. I take the same view as the former Conservative mayoral candidate for London who, when asked on Radio 5 whether my right hon. Friend should have met with Anschutz, said that if he had not he would not have been doing his job properly. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he has done to bring about the regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula and the job opportunities for my constituents.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is the overwhelming view in London, where people want more jobs and investment. To be fair to the Opposition, the development of the site was begun by Lord Heseltine. He wanted regeneration to take place, and we have carried on the process. To a certain extent, I am surprised that people attack the idea that houses, development, jobs and investment should not follow naturally. If that is not what the Opposition intended, it is certainly what the Government intended, and we have carried it out.

Given the latest questions about the Deputy Prime Minister’s compliance with the ministerial code and his actions in respect of casinos, and all the acknowledged breaches by a succession of Ministers who have now departed the Government, does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government have lived up to their commitment to be purer than pure?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has the direct responsibility to implement the ministerial code. In his considerations, he has made it clear when he thinks that the code has been breached, and when it has not. He made it clear at the weekend that I had not done so.

I think that that means no—that the right hon. Gentleman does not think that the Government have been purer than pure. However, although he has been stripped of his Department, he still costs £2 million a year. Is it not time for him to recognise that that is neither comfortable for him nor acceptable to the country? Does not the idea that he cannot have a Department but can be left in charge of the country defy credibility? He mentioned that he has been in the House for 35 years, and I respect that, but I am someone who once resigned from office and I know that sometimes we all have to judge whether we are doing any favours for our party, our country or our own reputations. Is it not time for him to exercise that judgment?

I like the right hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that he resigned from Government. Did that not happen after a general election, when there was going to be a fresh start—with policies that the present Leader of the Opposition is rejecting every day? The right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) says that he believes in consistent policies, but the country’s rejection of the policies of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) was shown by the fact that he won only one extra seat in that election. He did not resign: the electorate rejected Tory party policy and accepted what Labour believed in.