HC Deb 26 February 1996 vol 272 cc570-1
3. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what staffing resources he has within his Department in order to fulfil his duties of co-ordination and presentation of Government policy. [15239]

The Deputy Prime Minister

I have the resources that I need to carry out these duties.

Mr. Mackinlay

Does the Deputy Prime Minister not understand that many people would consider his Department to be over-resourced for someone who has a sinecure in the evening of his political life? May I tax his communication skill and ask him what he would say to the countless thousands of men and women who, through no fault of their own, had to endure the trauma of bankruptcy and were unable to get credit from the banks, and who see hatched in Downing street a rescue plan involving the National Westminster bank, Midland bank, Barclays bank, Trustee Savings bank and UCB to save the Government? Is he not aware that the people listening to the story will consider it grossly unfair that there is one law for Conservative Members of Parliament and the Government and another for people struggling to maintain businesses in which they have invested both their lives and their homes?

The Deputy Prime Minister

The whole House, having listened to that extraordinary outburst, will draw one clear conclusion: they would rather me half asleep than the hon. Gentleman wide awake.

Mr. Caborn

When he is co-ordinating policy, particularly on late payments for small businesses, can the Deputy Prime Minister tell us the Government's position on the Interest on Debt Bill—a private Member's Bill, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones)? Are the Government indifferent to that Bill?

The Deputy Prime Minister

No; it is an important issue. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we addressed and answered the question that he raised in the previous Government announcement on the subject. We made it clear that we are not at the moment persuaded of the advantages of a statutory interest rate on outstanding debts, because although some companies would gain from that, some companies would suffer. Therefore, we decided to back a number of initiatives, including support for the CBI code of practice and the encouragement of Government Departments to pay their bills rapidly, which we thought more likely to address the issue. We also made it clear that if our proposals did not deliver the improvements that we sought, we would return to the matter, and that we will do.

Forward to