Row Over Former Home Secretary Rumbles On
The former Home Office minister, Ann Widdecombe, has failed in her attempt to get permission to make a statement to the Commons about the past conduct of the Tory leadership contender, Michael Howard.
The Speaker of the House, Betty Boothroyd told Miss Widdecombe that she had no grounds for making a personal statement to the Commons.
Miss Widdecombe was also told that she could not use an adjournment debate to air her criticisms of Michael Howard's sacking of former Prisons Director General Derek Lewis because it was no current minister's responsibility.
She is considering raising the matter during the Queen's Speech home affairs debate on Monday.
"If I do address the House and speak on Monday, which is my preferred option, I will speak as a complete whole," she said. "I will not take interventions or interruptions and I will put the whole case on record."
"Anybody who saw him (Mr Howard) refusing to deny 14 times on Newsnight what he has already denied on record in the House, will understand precisely why I have such huge question marks in my mind. It stinks," she said.
Miss Widdecombe believes that when he was Home Secretary, Mr Howard deliberately misled the Commons over the resignation of Derek Lewis as head of the Prison Service. The accusation's been strongly denied by the former Home Secretary. Miss Widdecombe has said that she is still determined to make her accusations in public and has challenged Mr Howard to sue her if he thinks her views are unfounded.
Mr Howard has also issued a statement, defending himself against one of the charges that Miss Widdecombe may level at him. Following the breakout from Parkhurst in 1995 Mr Howard was asked by a Home Affairs select committee whether he had delayed the installation of security phones at Parkhurst in order to finance work in other prisons. He said he had not, but then conceded six months later that his answer had been inaccurate. He said that he had not been informed of the decision which was taken by the Prison Service and not by the Home Office.
"Most important of all, he found no evidence to suggest that I had ever been informed that such a decision had been taken". Mr Howard said.
Second Minister Attacks Howard
Miss Widdecombe has received the backing of a former prisons minister, Sir Peter Lloyd. He attacked the decision to sack Derek Lewis, describing it as "an injustice".
According to a report in The Express newspaper, Sir Peter told colleagues: "Derek Lewis was a good manager. Michael Howard should have backed him rather than sacked him. The record shows that during Derek Lewis's period in charge of the prison service, the number of escapes was reduced."
His comments are another setback in for Mr Howard's bid to be Tory party leader.
The former Home Secretary is fighting back. He has attempted to turn the tables on Miss Widdecombe by admitting that maybe he is indeed "dangerous stuff".
Howard fights back in magazine article
In an article in The Spectator magazine, he hit back at Miss Widdecombe, claiming that the picture of a ruthless politician that she has drawn of him may be exactly what the Tory party needs.
"The next party leader must be prepared to take decisions which ruffle a few feathers and provoke the occasional tantrum when the situation requires," he wrote.
"It will be a hard road back to power, and if (though I wouldn't have put it like that myself) I am indeed `dangerous stuff', that may be part of what's required to turn the tables on our New Labour masters," he continued.
Leadership Race Overshadowed
The bitter personal feuding between Mr Howard and Miss Widdecombe has overshadowed the race for the leadership of the Tory party.
A rival candidate, Peter Lilley said he "greatly deplored" the way the row being carried out in public.
"The need to elect a new leader who can unite the Party, who can rebuild the Party, who can renew it, is something we have to go through. And we should go through it in a friendly and constructive fashion," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.