Tories defend under-fire Andrew Mitchell

 

Labour MPs today attempted to pile the pressure on embattled Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell amid renewed demands for him to be sacked over his row with Downing Street police.

Shadow leader of the House of Commons Angela Eagle claimed Mr Mitchell kept "changing his story" and challenged him to divulge to MPs "what he actually did say".

Andrew Lansley defended Mr Mitchell in the Commons from a flurry of remarks from the Opposition benches relating to Mr Mitchell's confrontation with officers, saying he was "doing his job well".

Yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband used the first Prime Minister's Questions since the incident last month to denounce Mr Mitchell, saying he should have been arrested like any other "yob" who had sworn at officers.

And at last night's weekly meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee at Westminster, four Tory MPs were said to have voiced concerns about Mr Mitchell's position.

Speaking today at the start of Commons Business questions, when Mr Mitchell was absent from the chamber, Ms Eagle said: "As the Leader of the House has already announced, next week there'll be an Opposition day debate on the police.

"There's a long standing convention that the chief whip in this House is seen, but not heard. The current Government Chief Whip who is inexplicably not in his place today, would be well advised to observe that convention outside this House too."

"We know the police's account, they report the Chief Whip saying that police officers were 'plebs, who should know their place', now I've missed out the expletives. Mr Speaker.

"The Chief Whip keeps changing his story and I would have wanted to say to him, had he had the courtesy of this House to attend today, that he should come to the despatch box and tell the House what he actually did say, but perhaps he's too busy repairing relations with the Conservative backbenchers to bother to attend Business questions."

Leader of the House of Commons Mr Lansley replied: "The Chief Whip is doing his job well ... the Chief Whip knows and made clear that he had made a mistake, he apologised for that, The police officer concerned accepted it and the Metropolitan Police accepted it.

"I will take no lectures today or indeed next Wednesday when the Opposition day debate on the police takes place about the support this Government gives to the police."

To laughs from the Opposition benches, Labour's Clive Efford (Eltham) asked: "Can we have a debate on the place of plebs in society?

"The worst aspect of what the Chief Whip said to those police officers was that they should know their place and a debate like this would give him the opportunity to actually get up on his feet and give us the truth about what happened, but also give those of us who consider themselves to be plebs an opportunity to know just exactly what our place is."

Mr Lansley accused Labour of attempting to "make political capital" from the debacle.

He replied: "It's all very well trying to make political capital on the opposite side, but, actually, from our point of view, we support the police and we are getting on with that job and the Chief Whip is getting on with that job and doing a grand job doing it."

Part way through Business questions, Mr Mitchell walked into the chamber and took his place on the frontbench while appearing to chew.

Labour's Ian Mearns (Gateshead) said this year in Manchester two people had been arrested, charged, prosecuted and imprisoned for abusing police officers and in South Shields an arrest had taken place for a similar offence.

He said: "Can we have a debate on policing, prosecutions and sentencing as a matter of urgency I think it is very topical."

Mr Lansley maintained the matter was "frankly closed weeks ago".

He said: "Members of the public watching our questions and discussions might wonder whether it actually wouldn't be better for Members to devote themselves to the interests of their constituents and new issues, rather than constantly trying to contrive new ways of returning to an issue that frankly was closed weeks ago."

The police debate will give Labour MPs the opportunity to again raise Mr Mitchell's actions, although it is not expected that the motion will be focused on the Chief Whip.

Labour's Simon Danczuk has tabled a Commons motion calling for Mr Mitchell to have his pay docked by £1,000, the traditional method of forcing a vote of no confidence and also roughly equivalent to the amount he could be fined for swearing at police.

But a senior party source said this was not expected to be the motion chosen for the debate.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr Danczuk (Rochdale) asked if the issue was "surely worthy of debate".

Mr Lansley said it was "interesting" that so far there had been no request from Labour for a debate on employment.

Labour's Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) said that for "several weeks now the Chief Whip has struggled to answer questions about what exactly he said outside Downing Street.

"Is it time for a ministerial statement on ministerial answers?"

Mr Lansley responded: "No".

Raising a point of order at the end of the session, Labour's Wayne David (Caerphilly) said: "Given that the Chief Whip has been chewing for most of this session, is it appropriate for masticating to be allowed in the chamber?"

His query again drew laughs from the Labour benches.

Commons Speaker John Bercow replied: "I won't go into that. I would only say quite a lot of noise has been heard in the course of the last hour, but the Government Chief Whip has been as quiet as a church mouse."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own