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Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): As the Member who, sitting where the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) is sitting now, named Colette Bowe in the House, may I remind my right hon. Friend that we argued that it was quite improper for Bernard Ingham and, indeed, Sir Charles Powell—as he now is—to remain civil servants, and that they should have been paid with party funds?

Mr. Kaufman: My hon. Friend is right. He will remember the evening of the first ballot for the Conservative party leadership, which saw the ejection of Margaret Thatcher. He will remember the scene on the steps of the British residence in Paris, when Mrs. Thatcher came down to say that she would fight and stand in the second ballot. Who should be next to her but Bernard Ingham, a civil servant, at a party political event?

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Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman: I will give way later—[Interruption.] As the Leader of the Opposition might say, they do not like what they are hearing.

Mr. Miller: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Kaufman: Will my hon. Friend allow me to continue for a moment?

We then come to another event 10 years later—only five years ago. This is a subject in which my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is greatly interested and, although he and I have disagreed on it, he has shown considerable integrity in pursuing his point of view. I refer to the export of arms to Iraq.

Does the House remember—if not, I feel obliged to remind it—the Scott report? That report concerned not a remark in one e-mail by one civil servant, but the deliberate violation by a Conservative Government of their own arms embargo on Iraq, which included Alan Clark advising arms salesmen on how to evade it and enticing people into circumstances in which they were prosecuted and could have been sent to jail. That is the Conservatives—that is the way they do it. Not only were they breaking their own embargo and exporting arms to Iraq up to the moment when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, they were granting him trade credits up to that moment.

Mr. Redwood: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for elderly Members to embark on reminiscences of former Prime Ministers and other Ministers whom they knew, which do not seem to be covered by the subject of the debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): That is not a point of order. If what is being said were not related to the subject of the debate, I would of course have stopped it.

Mr. Kaufman: I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) objects to my speaking directly on a Conservative motion about "the culture of spin", which is what I am doing.

Let us come to the culture of spin. The Scott report was published on 15 February 1996, only a year or so before the Conservatives lost office. What did it contain? It consisted of five volumes and 1,806 pages, plus appendices. A civil servant who was the Prime Minister's press secretary—Ingham had gone—withheld it from publication, and also withheld it from the Opposition until three hours before the debate. It was only because of the brilliance of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that the Conservatives were trounced on that. The fact is that the Conservatives—by spinning, by withholding, by lying—deliberately tried to prevent the House of Commons from validly debating the Scott report. Let us move on.

Mr. Key rose

Mr. Kaufman: I give way to the hon. Gentleman, because I am about to refer to a constituent of his.

Mr. Key: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. For the record, let us remember that Tony Benn invited

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Bernard Ingham to leave The Guardian and join the Government information service. There is no parallel between the Ingham case and what is happening now.

Mr. Kaufman: The hon. Gentleman's memory is not accurate, but I shall not argue with him because he has given me an opportunity to note that my good friend Eric Varley went to the Department of Industry having been Secretary of State for Energy. Eric Varley was contemplating bringing Bernard Ingham from the Department of Energy to the Department of Industry. I did my best to persuade him not to, because I remembered Bernard Ingham's career on the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Leeds Weekly Citizen.

I advise the hon. Gentleman that I am coming to one of his constituents—namely, Sir Edward Heath. We are bringing ourselves up to date. [Interruption.] I would not want the Conservatives to think that I dwell only on the past, so let us come to Amanda Platell, communications director under the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) and former editor of the Sunday Express. She published a front page carrying a huge lie about me, for which the Press Complaints Commission forced her and Rosie Boycott to apologise.

The Conservatives are good in respect of the ex-journalists they pick up. They employed Amanda Platell and every one of us remembers with relish, coupled with a certain nausea, watching her television election diary. We remember her saying how she was so worked up about The Spectator interview with Sir Edward Heath that she telephoned the editor, the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), and in the middle of an election campaign tried to de-spin what had already been spun by achieving some repudiation of what Sir Edward said.

What we have from the Conservative party is an extremely long—

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Could the right hon. Gentleman possibly give way?

Mr. Kaufman: Not only possibly, but probably.

Mr. Francois: I acknowledge the right hon. Gentleman's seniority in the House, but we would not want him to miss anything out. Is he aware that a recently published biography of the Duke of Wellington claimed that he once resigned because he thought that a letter written to him by Castlereagh had been delayed by two hours? Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that an example of spin by the Conservative party and would he like to chuck that in too?

Mr. Kaufman: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on getting that on the record. It is likely to be as irrelevant a remark as any he makes throughout his parliamentary career.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tried to widen the debate by talking about the various achievements of the Government, including Railtrack.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for interrupting his speech,

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but I fear that there may be about to occur a much more dramatic example of the culture of spin, which the House is debating, than any he has mentioned. At 5 o'clock, the IRA made a statement on decommissioning and I understand that the Prime Minister has summoned the press to be at No. 10 at 5.45 pm. He wishes to make a statement of his own in response to the IRA statement.

So far as I know, there is no indication that the Prime Minister has the slightest intention of coming to the House, to which he has a prime responsibility to account, to give hon. Members an account of this important matter and of the Government's attitude towards it. Do you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have any indication, contrary to my assumption, that the Prime Minister does, indeed, intend to come to the House, and, if not, what we can do about it? How long do we have to go on being treated in this dismissive fashion in Parliament by this Government?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have no knowledge of the matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers. The Speaker's views on these matters are well known. Hon. Members on both Front Benches will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said. It is not for me to comment further.

Mr. Kaufman: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman intervened with his customary sincerity and I do not quarrel with him for being concerned about that matter. His point of order was a great deal more sincere than anything else we have heard from that side of the House this afternoon.

Mr. Miller: This news has also just been brought to my attention. I have listened to my right hon. Friend's wonderful speech with the usual enthusiasm that I give to his speeches. Does he agree that the news that has just been announced illustrates once more just how petty the Conservatives are being? There are far more important things affecting this country—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) answers, I must tell him that I have allowed him a reasonable amount of latitude in this debate so far. I do not want him to wander too far from the original motion or from the amendment.

Mr. Kaufman: Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Let me point out something to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), as I gave him notice that I would do. He is a great expert on cinema, and the chairman of the films group in the House of Commons. I recommend that he go to see the new Ken Loach film, "The Navigators", which is about the privatisation of the railways and the disaster inflicted by the Conservative party on the railways with regard to Railtrack and to the operating companies. That is the kind of subject that we ought to have been debating today, and the kind of thing in which people in this country are interested.

I said to the Conservatives on the day of the Queen's Speech, and I repeat it to them here and now, that they were beaten by a landslide in 1997 and by a landslide in June this year. That will be as nothing compared with the drubbing they will get at the next election, unless they somehow reconnect themselves to the real concerns, interests and worries of the people of this country.

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They show no signs of doing so. They continue to be an irrelevant rabble, and this debate, which they have initiated, is proof of that.

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