I was drafted in at the last moment to do the job as Shadow Leader of the House. Today I have been made Shadow Secretary of State for Wales. It was not a long shortlist. Like London buses, you wait 26 years for one and two come along together. Serious part is that I will be in a position to speak on Chilcot.
These are troubled unhappy times. It's like being in the middle of Greek Tragedy when the outcome is unknown, bad things are happening but no-one knows who is writing the script.
I have been a serial loyalist to Labour Leaders since Attlee. As a ten year old I worked in the 1945 election. Still waiting for a Government as good as that one.
Our internal crisis can rip us apart. We must keep the show on the road in parliament. There was a real danger on Thursday of Labour leaving an empty frontbench that would have been occupied by the SNP. That is why I stepped into the breach. Next week we have the Chilcot report. We must make a powerful response and not be distracted by internal rows. Parliament is on trial. Attached is the speech made touching on the need for the love ones of the fallen in Iraq to be given a chance to air their grief and to challenged the carefully scripted, barrister-written spin of those who will be accused by Chilcot.
THIS IS MY SPEECH ON THURSDAY.
Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
You may be a tad surprised to see me in this position, Mr Speaker, because for the past 26 years I have been a Back Bencher by choice—not just my choice, but the choice of the past five leaders of my party. Today, however, I am here for very positive reasons, as part of a diversity project in my party at which we have done splendidly. There are now far more women on the Front Bench and in Parliament than ever before—although not enough—and far more ethnic minorities, but there is currently a total absence of octogenarians. I believe that my appointment to this post will be a trailblazer which will lead to an all-octogenarian shortlist in the party, and will make the wealth of experience and wisdom among my fellow octogenarians available to the House. It is important for us to have people here who can remember life before there was a health service.
I note that the Wales Bill will be back in the House on Tuesday, and I hope that the Leader of the House has abandoned his curmudgeonly attitude to it. He has dismissed the idea of allowing both the beautiful languages of the House to be spoken here. Speaking Welsh has the same status as spitting on the carpet: it constitutes disorderly behaviour. However, Welsh has been used in Committees of the House when they have been held in Wales, and, at nugatory cost, it could be used here. There is no reason to obstruct the will of most Welsh Labour Members, and Conservative Members as well. A number of Conservative and Labour Front Benchers are now Welsh-speaking. It is a sign of the great health of the language. It is marvellous to recall that Welsh was an ancient sophisticated language centuries before English existed. In fact it was spoken, as was Gaelic, at the time when the ancestors of those who created English were pagan barbarians who painted themselves blue with woad and howled at the moon from the top of mountains.
There are also lessons from the football field about leaving Europe that the Government would do well to heed. The English team Brexited swiftly and ignominiously; Wales remain, with honour. I appeal to the Leader of the House for his party not to dismiss the very sensible idea of having a second referendum, which is supported by one of the candidates in his party’s leadership election. There are good precedents for this in the EU, which has a splendid tradition of keeping voting until you reach the right decision. It happened in Denmark and two other countries where they held a referendum and a year later reversed the decision. The reason is that people voted on false agendas. Where is the £365 million for the health service? Where is the emergency Budget?
The public are rightly outraged by the mistruths they were told by the propagandists on both sides. It is not a surprise that we have a petition of historic dimensions—as big as the petitions of the Chartists and suffragettes—put before this House. There are 4 million signatures and counting, of people who say they were deceived by the vote—by the propaganda—and which was largely determined by the proprietors of the daily newspapers, rather than by a sensible realisation of the horrors to come. So it is quite reasonable that, after the issue has settled down and when a new alternative comes along—we have been told it will take five years—the public should have the right to have their views considered.
It is timely now to look at the role of the independent adviser on ministerial interests. This man is virtually unemployed. He has looked at only one case in the past five years, and that involved a baroness who confessed to a minor misdemeanour. There have been six other cases since that have not been reported to the adviser because the only person who can report them is the Prime Minister. Two of them occurred a year ago and involved the Cabinet Office Ministers who gave £3 million to Kids Company in spite of the published advice of civil servants not to do it. Kids Company went bankrupt three days later. That is surely a matter to be considered by the adviser.
Another far more serious matter is of current concern. Some five years ago a Secretary of State for Defence stood down and the then adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Philip Mawer, recommended that the case should be heard by him. The Prime Minister decided it should not be, and the Minister involved achieved absolution by resignation. He left the job and nobody knows what he did—what was so serious that he had to leave office. The problem is that that person is now offering himself not only as leader of the Conservative party, but as Prime Minister, and it is a matter of concern to all of us that we know what happened and why he left that job. The first question one would ask anyone applying for a new job, particularly one as Prime Minister, is “Why did you leave your last job?” and we do not know.
Next week is going to be dominated by one event: the publication of the Chilcot report. The Prime Minister gave no information about that yesterday in his answer to Alex Salmond. We must remember, as the report comes out, that Parliament is on trial. It was not just one man; it was hundreds of MPs, three Select Committees of this House, the military and the press who were in favour of joining a war in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Those who saw the very moving programme on BBC2 featuring Reg Keys will understand the true cost of war. For the last seven years, he has not been able to—
John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
Order. The hon. Gentleman is an immensely experienced parliamentarian, and I know that he is just beginning his apprenticeship in this role. I always enjoy listening to him because he speaks with great experience and huge passion, but let me gently say to him that he has exceeded his time. It is his first time at the Box, and I do not wish to cut him off, but he must now bring his remarks to a conclusion, maybe with a couple of pithy questions. Then we will have had our dose for today.
Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker.
My question is: what is the programme that will allow the loved ones of the 179 soldiers who died to have an opportunity to present their case? We know that those who are likely to be accused by the Chilcot report have already employed lawyers to go over their defences. We want to ensure that Parliament takes responsibility for a decision taken in this place in 2003 that resulted in the deaths of 179 of our brave soldiers, probably in vain, and the deaths of an uncounted number of other people. Chilcot must be debated fairly. What are the arrangements for doing that?