HC Deb 26 February 1996 vol 272 cc569-70
2. Mr. Olner

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many civil servants, and at what cost to public funds, were employed in the preparation of the Government's response to the Scott inquiry. [15238]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service (Mr. David Willetts)

The Scott report covered a wide range of policy issues. Access to the report itself before publication was restricted to a very small number of officials in the main Departments concerned. However, a number of other officials will have contributed to preparation of the Government's response without sight of the report. It is not possible, therefore, to give precise numbers or costings.

Mr. Olner

The wider world will know that the Tories have once again failed to answer a question on the Scott report. If figures are not being given, my constituents in Nuneaton who suffered job losses as a result of Matrix Churchill being closed will conclude that the Tory Government are again engaging in a cover-up on the report. When will the Government pay some compensation to the 600 workers and their families at Matrix Churchill, workers who lost their jobs through the Government's bungling?

Mr. Willetts

I fail to understand how a 1,800-page report and a day's debate can be regarded as a cover-up.

Mr. Derek Foster

Does the Minister, who was part of the cost of the response to the Scott report, accept the verdict in paragraph D4.63 that Government statements made in 1989 and 1990 … failed … to comply with the standard set by paragraph 27 of the Questions of Procedure for Ministers on Ministers' accountability to Parliament? As "Questions of Procedure for Ministers" is the Prime Minister's document, is the Prime Minister not failing in his constitutional responsibility to the sovereign Parliament in not bringing Ministers to account? Is he not undermining parliamentary democracy? If the Ministers concerned do not resign, should not the Prime Minister resign?

Mr. Willetts

The right hon. Gentleman should know, if he has read the Scott report carefully, that Conservative Members have been cleared of any "duplicitous intent", to quote the words of the report, and have been cleared also of deliberately misleading Parliament. There will be a debate today when the wider issues that the right hon. Gentleman rightly raises will be addressed by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.