Mr Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Lab): It is a bit like the old days for me, with the Government on the run, the Opposition in pursuit and a headline in The Sun saying, “Brown wrong”, another example of my very close relationship with News International. It is like the old days, but with one exception: if I had not come to the House when I was Prime Minister, in a debate in which the Prime Minister has been implicated, I hesitate to think what hon. Members would have said—[ Interruption. ]
Much has already happened today outside the House, with the announcements by BSkyB and the subsequent announcement by Ofcom only a few minutes ago that it is now examining whether News Corporation is a fit and proper person or organisation for the 38% of BSkyB that it still holds. When there have been great occasions and great questions of moral concern, it has been this House that has spoken for Britain, and over the next few months this House must show that it can rise to the challenge. With the exception of decisions on peace and war, there is no matter of greater importance than the basic liberties of our citizens. Each generation has to reconcile for its times the freedom of the individual with the freedom of the press and balance two great rights, the right of the public to information and the right of the individual to privacy.
Mr Graham Stuart : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Mr Brown: I want to set out the facts for the House and will be happy take any interventions after.
By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday, however, he decided to break his post-election silence by seeking to catch the Speaker's eye during yesterday's end-of-day adjournment debate introduced by his parliamentary neighbour in Fife, Thomas Docherty, on the subject of aircraft carriers. He even deigned to vote in the 10pm division just before the debate (his voting record now standing at attending four out of 107 divisions).
As the pictures below show, the former Prime Minister (wearing what appears to be a somewhat ill-fitting suit) took his seat in the third row behind the Opposition front bench in what was a packed chamber for an adjournment debate.
His purpose in making the intervention was to speak up for Fife's Rosyth dockyard, although began by paying tribute to the armed forces in general:
"At the start of any defence debate, even one on the Adjournment, it is important to recognise the quality and commitment of our armed forces: our Army, our Navy, our Air Force, and the civilian defence staff who work for the security, strength and safety of our country. Speaking as someone who has visited Iraq and Afghanistan on many occasions, I think it is important to pay tribute to all those serving in Afghanistan at the moment and to their contribution to the security of this country.
"In the week that precedes Armistice day, I also think it important to recognise those who gave their lives in the service of this country. On this day and in this month, it is important to say that those who lost their lives in Afghanistan will never be forgotten and that their influence lives on in the lives of the people they leave behind.
"I have been Member of Parliament for one of the Fife constituencies for 27 years. I am pleased that the other MPs for Fife are with us this evening, and I applaud my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) for securing this debate and for securing this above-average attendance for an Adjournment debate. In the course of those 27 years, the whole history of Fife has revolved around the future and the fate of Rosyth dockyard.
"Winston Churchill said that Rosyth was the best defended war harbour in the world, in recognition of Rosyth's work during the second world war, when it refitted as an emergency all the vessels sent to sea from that area of Scotland. Over the past 30 years, the naval base has closed; the Rosyth dockyard and naval base, which once employed 15,000 people now employs 1,500 people. Rosyth is the only base that can assemble the aircraft carriers that this country has commissioned. It is also the only base that can serve us by refitting the carriers in the future. When announcements are to be made by the Ministry of Defence, it is important to recognise that Rosyth is the base best able to refit the carriers in the years to come."
Read the rest of his short contribution here.
Relpying to the debate, Defence Minister Peter Luff noted that Members present were witnessing a "footnote in parliamentary history", saying of Brown:
"I am tempted to say some of the things that are on my mind, but I shall leave them for another occasion... I particularly welcomed the contribution of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. I well remember sitting on the Opposition Benches and making similar points on behalf of my own constituents, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find my response as constructive as I found many Government responses then."
James Forsyth at Coffee House points out that if Gordon Brown doesn't say sorry for "Smear-gate" before the Commons returns next week, he risks it becoming a distraction at PMQs next Wednesday on Budget Day.
But even if it did get raised in the Commons, what are the chances of him saying sorry for what was happening in his Downing Street bunker?
By way of background, here's a run-down of the the last ten occasions on which the Prime Minister uttered the phrase "I am sorry" in the House of Commons.
"I am sorry to have to teach the right hon. Gentleman [David Cameron] what an economy is about."
"I am sorry that I have to give him [David Cameron] an economic lecture every week."
"I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman [David Cameron] does not recognise that we have taken action immediately..."
"...our determination to buy these shares is a result of the difficulties we face, and I am sorry to have to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover [Dennis Skinner] that it will be temporary."
"The decisions that we made on the advice of the military commanders on the ground were the right decisions. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman [David Cameron] wishes to make political capital out of them..."
"I am sorry to hear of reports today of yet another terrorist incident in Jerusalem."
"I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman [Elfyn Llwyd] did not receive the statement in advance..."
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