Just got back from the Westminster Hour. Ed Vaizey (Conservative MP), now clearly desperate to put me off my stride on our weekly Sunday tryst, has taken to wearing strange outfits. Tonight’s little number was a bright yellow phosphorescent jacket and shorts. That boy will try anything! So if I seemed distracted … perhaps next time I should bring a camera!
First up was the Opposition Day motion on an Iraq enquiry coming up this week in Parliament. The Scot Nats had a debate asking for an enquiry not that long ago – and whilst we Lib Dems voted for an inquiry – the Government (just) won the vote.
This time however, the interesting issue for me is the timing. With Gordon about to ascend the throne – if I was he and trying to put a bit of distance between myself and TB – I might very well in my first hundred days announce an Iraq inquiry. So let’s spoil it for Gordy and vote for one before he gets the chance to spin his involvement in taking us to war.
In fact, listening to a package before I went on tonight, several of the would be deputy leaders of the Labour party were – at one of their hustings in Oxford that the Westminster Hour’s Carolyn Quinn had been to – wringing their hands in grief over how misled they had been over the war (even though most were in the cabinet) and how wrong the intelligence must have been. Spare me the tears. We, the Lib Dems, were the only party asking the hard questions and we were reviled in the House for our stance. Those Labour MPs can’t get away with saying “we were misled”. The truth is – they not only failed to answer the right questions, they reviled those who did ask questions.
And those Tories are being very cheeky (if not somewhat opportunistic) having a debate for an Iraq inquiry as they were very much cheerleaders for the war (though boy David has flipped and flopped back and forth on the issue – saying he was for it, then saying he agreed with the Lib Dems, then changing his mind again, and now – I presume! – will be voting for an inquiry).
Anyway – we also had a chat about my colleague Tom Brake’s 10 minute rule bill on Freedom of Information – coming up on Tuesday. It really extends the original powers to request material under the Freedom of Information Act so that when the Government tries shenanigans to avoid giving up information the ultimate decision will be in the hands of the Information Tribunal or Commissioner – and not in the hands of ministers.
Interestingly, the Bill would also bring private contractors who work for public bodies into the realm of FoI. Quite right! Now virtually everything is outsourced – the companies to whom previously public sector contracts are now awarded should be subject to proper scrutiny and come under the FoI banner.