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6.57 pm

Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden): By contrast with the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb), I believe that people are motivated to vote and have a keen interest in politics and politicians when they feel that politicians are expressing their views and when the Government and the Opposition are presenting the types of policy that they want.

I realise that quality of life issues are much more basic than some of the high-minded issues that we have been debating today, but people in my constituency, I dare say like those in every other hon. Member's constituency, are concerned about precisely those issues—such as the frequency with which their streets are swept and their rubbish is collected; whether they can walk their kids to school or go out for a drink without being threatened by someone; the number of abandoned cars in the street and the number of cars for sale on the highway; and the graffiti that disfigures buildings and makes their local environment ugly and threatening. I challenge anyone to deny that every hon. Member has had more letters about those issues than they have ever had about Jo Moore.

I therefore warmly welcome the lead that the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, his ministerial colleagues and his Department and civil servants have taken in tackling those menaces.

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I welcome also the interest shown by the Home Secretary and others in getting to grips with antisocial behaviour and environmental crime. We ignore those issues at our peril.

I have never ceased to be surprised by the way in which Conservative Members have allowed themselves to become entangled in the types of issue that do not have much impact on the lives of most people—so much so that they managed to spend four years increasingly losing touch with people's real concerns, and another four weeks, last May and June, deservedly losing people's votes. This debate is just another example of Conservative Members withdrawing from reality.

The people we represent, whatever our party, have a rightful expectation that we are here to serve them and to debate the issues that really matter to them. On Opposition days like this one, they would be disappointed. I see myself as the servant of Mitcham and Morden, and the majority of the work that I do as its Member of Parliament is devoted to helping the people who come to see me or write to me. I appreciate that that is my choice and I do not imagine myself as having a great parliamentary career—

Hon. Members: "Hear, hear".

David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde): At least my hon. Friend will not have a career in opposition for 20 years like the Tories.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

Siobhain McDonagh: I make no apology for concentrating on local issues. As we all know, all issues are local issues. The Secretary of State visited Pollards Hill in my constituency one morning in August to launch the Government's neighbourhood wardens scheme, of which we have three. They provide much support by maintaining a responsible civilian presence on the streets, giving young people a model of good citizenship, and helping to address the quality of life issues that people have been concerned about for decades. My right hon. Friend spent time with local residents, who were thrilled to welcome him, and explained to him the problems that they face in trying to keep their community together.

One of the key things that I did during the recess was to find out whether the issues that dominate in those areas of my constituency that have most need, most crime and most deprivation are replicated in others that are more wealthy. I undertook a survey in Longthornton ward, which anyone would recognise as south London suburbia, to find out the concerns of the local people. I had almost 300 replies. People referred to crime and the fear of it, youth nuisance, race relations, loud music blaring from houses and cars, speeding vehicles and traffic congestion, work lorries parked outside residences overnight, abandoned cars, the sale of cars from front gardens and the public highway, fly tipping in roads and back alleys, recycling facilities and recreational facilities. None of those issues is the stuff of newspaper front pages, but all are certainly at the forefront of our constituents' minds.

When asked what sort of facilities they would like to see improved in their area, people came up with a range of ideas. They included more police on the streets,

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more facilities for bored teenagers and more community facilities for families and pensioners. People want better roads, better drains, better street lighting and cleansing.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): To which amendment is the hon. Lady speaking?

Siobhain McDonagh: I am addressing myself directly to the Prime Minister's amendment and the issue of urban regeneration. It would be a good idea if the hon. Gentleman did the same.

Peter Bradley (The Wrekin): In the survey that my hon. Friend conducted in her constituency, which was a worthwhile venture, how many of her constituents told her that spin was the single contributory factor to the degradation of their daily lives?

Siobhain McDonagh: None.

Peter Bradley: What a surprise.

Siobhain McDonagh: Much of Mitcham and Morden was laid out in the 1920s and 1930s, and could be described as classic suburbia. However, for too many years the quality of people's lives in neighbourhoods such as Lavender, Phipps Bridge and Figges Marsh in Mitcham and Morden has been challenged by social problems, often manifested in graffiti, vandalism and other forms of antisocial behaviour.

That is why I support the neighbourhood warden scheme. It was created to help to lift up such areas, and so far, in my view, it has worked. It has given a fresh focus to the desire that my constituents have expressed to see cleaner, safer, better neighbourhoods. I understand that the result of bids for the next stage of the neighbourhood warden scheme will be announced tomorrow, and I know that Merton has put in an ambitious bid, which would add five more wardens to the existing three, and would create a graffiti removal squad of four. I hope that Ministers will look favourably on the hard work that has been done by Merton council in seeking match funding with the public, private and voluntary sectors to enable it to make its bid and to bolster the success of the warden scheme.

I do not know where Conservative or Liberal Democrat Members were last night during the very important Adjournment debate on abandoned cars. Perhaps none of them were present because they do not share my concern about quality of life issues. The neighbourhood warden scheme and other initiatives advanced by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions are proof of the Government's commitment to improving people's quality of life alongside public services.

I welcome the imminent publication by the Secretary of State of a consultation document on unlicensed and abandoned cars. I understand that the document will propose a move towards continuous registration during a vehicle's lifetime. That will help to speed up the process of establishing ownership and will enable local authorities to take charge of abandoned cars and arrange for their disposal much more quickly. It will also enable the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the police to catch up

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with road tax dodgers much more effectively. I welcome such developments, which I doubt would ever have happened under the Conservative party.

I strongly urge the Government to continue to be bothered about those issues because they are what ordinary people are bothered about.

7.5 pm

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): There have been some remarkably good speeches in this debate. I particularly enjoyed and agreed with almost all of the speech of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), and the second half of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb), which is all I heard. I strongly agree with him about the need for more intelligent, mature politics, and less yah-boo, which has done so much to bring politics into disrepute in this country.

Mr. Salter: I, too, am a great fan of the speech by the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb). If we need more consensus and more pluralism in politics, will the hon. Gentleman explain why his party has just elected the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) as its leader?

Mr. Tyrie: I shall let that comment pass. The hon. Gentleman is taking a leaf out of the book that my hon. Friend said we should throw away.

I was also impressed by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), which offered a devastating analysis of the Railtrack decision. I have suggested to him that he try and get it into print, because unfortunately, partly for the reasons to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton alluded, many people will never find out about that speech. The best place that my right hon. Friend can put what he said is in a newspaper, if he wants it to be more widely noticed.

Unlike many hon. Members who have spoken, I want to address the main motion, which is about advisers, and the conduct of one adviser in particular. I shall then draw some general conclusions from that. The memo that Ms Moore put out was foolish and tactless, but it is in the same category as the behaviour of a couple of Whips who get together about five minutes after they have heard of the death of one of their colleagues and talk about what majority he had and what the by-election will be like. We all know that such tactless and tasteless exchanges take place. The difference in Ms Moore's case was that it was recorded in an e-mail and circulated at a time of great international concern.

My view is that Ms Moore probably should not go for having written that memo, because in itself it is not a hanging offence. The problem for her is much deeper than that: so much else has come to light about her behaviour in the Department that is unacceptable. It is beyond dispute—although the Secretary of State tried to dispute it, but less than half dealt with the points in the press—that over a sustained period Ms Moore sought to discredit Bob Kiley and to rubbish him as best she could. She also tried to get the chief press officer at the Department to engage in similar activities. He rightly turned down that request, because if he had done otherwise he would have

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breached the rules in the guidance given to him as a civil servant, which requires that in his contact with the press he should avoid anything that is tendentious or polemical.

In trying to get the press officer, Mr. Evans, to breach his guidance, Jo Moore broke her own guidance in several clear and important ways. I shall read out examples. The guidance makes it clear that advisers should not put civil servants in an embarrassing position or one that prejudices the impartiality of the civil service. The code states that they

Jo Moore's actions with regard to Kiley were not consistent with that.

Secondly, Ms Moore broke another equally important part of the code, which states:

It is beyond dispute that she engaged in personal attacks and that that happened over a sustained period. No sudden rush of blood to the head led to those serious mistakes, for which she should have resigned. It is a tragedy for her and probably for her boss that they did not separate quickly.

Even if Jo Moore had resigned, why all the brouhaha about, as someone put it, one relatively minor adviser? I understand that she is a press, not a policy adviser. She certainly does not appear to have given good advice on Railtrack if she was being paid as a policy adviser. The issue has been magnified partly because of the press feeding frenzy that is part of the response to the tragedy on 11 September. However, Jo Moore has become the subject of such attention mainly because she symbolises so much that is wrong with the way in which new Labour goes about its business in government.

Advisers' activities get up the noses of all hon. Members, including Labour Members, many of whom have spoken up. Many Ministers dislike the behaviour of special advisers. Even worse, all hon. Members know that Jo Moore's role model is Alastair Campbell, who has been doing such dirty work for years. He has initiated attacks on Opposition parties in contravention of the special advisers' code, smeared individuals—there are numerous reports of that—and breached the rules that limit partisan activity. He has done that at taxpayers' expense and in breach of his contract. The Prime Minister has done nothing about it; indeed, he has praised Alastair Campbell at the Dispatch Box for engaging in such activities.

Under Labour, advisers play a key role in the new style of government that they have wrought in the past four years. It is much more centred around 10 Downing street and far more presidential, with far fewer devolved decisions, even to Cabinet Committees. No. 10 is run by advisers. The organisation chart that I eventually managed to get out of the Cabinet Secretary after a year and a half of pressing shows that all the lines of accountability in 10 Downing street run not to a civil servant but to Jonathan Powell, a special adviser. The other most powerful person in No. 10 is, of course, Alastair Campbell. Both were brought in by the Prime Minister.

The traditional lines of accountability and information flow in No. 10 have been changed, and civil servants have been replaced by advisers. Throughout Whitehall,

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advisers are more numerous, often more influential and powerful, and able to intervene more directly in the conduct of Government than ever before in peacetime.

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