Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gordon Brown - guilty of misleading the House of Commons? Or is it amnesia?

I've been catching up with BBC Parliament this evening, as you do, and was watching Prime Minister's Questions of 16 July and was somewhat surprised to see Gordon Brown answer a question with a factual inaccuracy (I'm a civil servant, we don't use words like 'lie').

Alastair Carmichael, our most northerly MP, asked El Gordo if he would take action over the ongoing industrial action being taken by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Here's the exchange in full...

Alastair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat, Orkney and Shetland) "On Friday, staff in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency will begin a 48-hour strike. During the previous 24-hour strike, the contingency cover that was put in place was barely adequate, and it would not be sufficient to cover a 48-hour strike—as a result, lives will be put at risk. Will the Prime Minister intervene to solve this dispute? Will he pay our coastguards a decent wage, or will he sit on his hands until lives are lost?"

Gordon Brown (Prime Minister) "I will certainly look at the issue of contingency cover to see what is being provided in the event of this dispute. I would, even now, call on the people who are engaged in planning the dispute to cease this action. I think that it is very important that employers and employees get together to find a solution to these disputes. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that 1.5 million workers in the public sector have already signed, or are subject to, three-year pay agreements, including nurses, teachers, and those who work in the Department for Work and Pensions and in the Inland Revenue. Never before have we had three-year agreements during difficult times such as these, and I believe that there should be support for other groups of workers in the public sector signing up to long-term pay agreements."

Interestingly, there is no pay agreement in place for HM Revenue and Customs (oh for heavens sake, Gordon, you merged the Inland Revenue with Customs and Excise, remember?). Our last pay deal expired on 31 May, and there is no indication that an offer is likely to be agreed any time soon. In fact, we were due a pay rise on 1 June, there is no offer on the table yet, and the expectation is that we won't reach a settlement until the autumn.

So, Gordon, a lie, a mistake or just a dream? And will you be apologising to the House when you get back? I'll be letting Alastair know that he hasn't had a truthful or accurate reply when I see him in mid-August...

1 comment:

Jennie said...

I vote lie!

(this is a bit like marry, date, dump, yes?)