Tebbit blasts Des Browne for silence over how he divides time between his two jobs

Last updated at 22:47 24 November 2007

Defence Secretary Des Browne's attempts to conceal how much time he spends away from the Ministry of Defence because of his second Cabinet job as Secretary of State for Scotland were laid bare yesterday.

He was accused of a "gross abuse" of Parliamentary rules for using blocking tactics to refuse to say how much time he devotes to each post.

Since Mr Browne was given his dual Cabinet role in June, former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit has tabled a series of formal Parliamentary questions to the Government asking how much time the Minister would spend on each position.

Five months on, Mr Browne is still using a variety of Parliamentary ploys to avoid replying. His apparent evasiveness was disclosed as pressure grew on the Defence Secretary - denounced by Army chiefs as "Two Jobs Des" - to give up his Scottish duties.

Lord Tebbit tabled the first written question in the Lords in June, asking: "In what proportions does the Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Scotland plan to divide his working time between the two responsibilities?"

On October 1, Defence Minister Lord Drayson answered on Mr Browne's behalf: "He plans to devote an appropriate amount of time to each role. In discharging his responsibilities he is supported by other Defence Ministers."

Lord Tebbit twice tabled another question about how Mr Browne divides his time between his two roles - on October 9 and again on November 8 - but has yet to receive a reply.

He now plans to challenge Mr Browne's conduct in a Lords debate on December 10, demanding to know why he has failed to say how he splits his twin Cabinet duties.

Lord Tebbit said yesterday: "It is outrageous for Mr Browne to refuse to say how much he spends on each job. His diary secretary could provide the information in an instant. His behaviour is not merely bad manners but offensive and a flagrant abuse of Parliament."

Mr Browne said on Friday that he worked full-time at the MoD and did his Scottish work in his own time.

"The amount of time that takes comes out of what was my private life, my family's life and my constituents' time," he said.

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