The fire service is to get a new way of putting out fires. They're going to spit on them until they go out. This is presumably the rationale behind John Prescott's new administrative body: the Fire Service Expectorate. Don't think this is one of the Deputy Prime Minister's neologisms - the term appeared in his printed speech. It must be a departmental initiative.
We can only hope it works as well as the other multimodal, cross-cutting, over-arching initiatives of Mr Prescott in the years when he was responsible for Transport. But sceptics must be allowed to wonder. Won't it cause problems of labour supply if we can only recruit firefighters with heavy head colds?
The Hunting Bill came back before the House, to fulfil the many promises made by Tony Blair and the Government to ban fox hunting with dogs. From the look of it they're going to do no such thing. These people can't lie straight in their beds. Confirmation of this made cynics and pessimists very happy.
What have they done? It's not easy to say. Notes to and from civil servants were flying up and down the front bench. The clerks whispered urgently. The Speaker offered some useless advice. Gerald Kaufman made an intricate explanation, which he then chiselled away over two or three more attempts and the outline of the Government's plot emerged.
There is supposed to be a free vote on the issue, right? There are a number of hunting options to choose between. But it seems that the likelihood of the preferred government option succeeding has been loaded into the Bill by a cunning procedural mechanism. This must have come from No 10. I don't know why I say that. Perhaps because it's a low-down, dirty trick produced with exquisite skill and timing.
Those who don't want to know should look away now.
The House was instructed to vote on a New Clause 13 before being able to vote on the New Clause 11 (which would ban hunting with dogs).
If the House voted for New Clause 13 it wouldn't have been able to vote for the incompatible New Clause 11. Here's the blackmail: if the House didn't vote for New Clause 13, the whole Bill would have had to go back to Standing Committee and be redrafted - and thereby run out of time. Either way, the ban lobby doesn't get its ban.
"If we don't get the opportunity to vote on the banning of hunting with dogs," said one MP, "the PM will have ratted on his undertaking." Er ... yes?
It also emerged that Margaret Beckett had heavied the standing committee into not debating a ban. The idea that she could monster a whole committee is the first thing I've ever heard that gives a good impression of that minister.
But there it is. A Government that is instinctively dishonest, manipulative, cunning, spin-driven. It redrafted what could have been amendments into new clauses and, as Mr Kaufman said, "shoe-horned them into the Bill to delay the debate".
I hope you're not so cynical that you can't be shocked.Reuse content