Rushden Lakes development: MPs fall out over plans

Artist's impression of Rushden Lakes development Image copyright Other
Image caption Rushden Lakes development includes a hotel, leisure centre, shops and restaurants

Adjournment debates in the House of Commons are normally fairly straightforward affairs. Some might even suggest that they can be quite dull: twenty minutes at the end of the day for an MP to draw a minister's attention (and that of the one or two other people still in the chamber) to an issue close to his or her heart.

The debate to thank the minister for approving the Rushden Lakes development in Northamptonshire (it's going to become a retail and leisure park) looked as if would be one of those which would be quickly forgotten.

But instead, it proved to be the latest and most bitter skirmish in an ongoing dispute between the two MPs whose constituencies will be affected by the development, namely Peter Bone (Con) and Andy Sawford (Lab).

This clash of the Titans concluded with one telling the other that "he should be at Kettering hospital getting the splinters taken out of his backside".

The suggestion was made by Wellingborough's MP Peter Bone, who has taken issue with his neighbour from Corby. Both MPs have welcomed the Rushden Lakes development and both want to claim the credit but Mr Bone has been telling people that he had championed the scheme from the start, while Mr Sawford had come rather late to the party - something Mr Sawford disputes.

Mr Sawford says he has been a supporter of the plans for a long time and he felt particularly aggrieved when the planning minister Nick Boles went to Rushden Lakes last week to announce his decision but didn't tell the Corby MP about the visit or give him advance notice of the decision.

Image caption Andy Sawford said he had been a supproter of the Rushden Lakes development

So Mr Sawford complained to the speaker who gently wrapped Mr Boles over the knuckles and suggested he may want to apologise. But that in turn drew the wrath of Peter Bone who, in a separate point of order, told the speaker that the visit was not a ministerial visit but a party visit and that's why Mr Sawford hadn't been told.

War of words

The two men finally faced each other at the adjournment debate.

Mr Bone began by declaring that this was: "A joyous occasion, a celebration of localism working, a celebration of a Conservative-led campaign that has succeeded."

Image caption Peter Bone is the Conservative MP for Wellingborough

Mr Sawford tried to intervene, Mr Bone refused.

Mr Sawford tried to intervene again, Mr Bone declared: "I am not giving way tonight."

Mr Sawford tried a third time complaining that "he continually refers to my constituency".

To which Mr Bone replied: "I am not giving way. I will tell the honourable gentleman this: he should be at Kettering hospital getting the splinters taken out of his backside for sitting on the fence for so long over this matter."

At this point the deputy speaker intervened, reminding Mr Bone to temper his language. Mr Bone apologised, saying: "I am so annoyed by the appalling point of order yesterday for which I expect an apology."

Mr Sawford sat in silence for the next ten minutes but finally got his chance when the planning minister, Mr Boles himself, replied to the debate.

Mr Sawford rose and asked Mr Boles: "To confirm that he has received letters of support from me.... and (in the report) says that members of Conservative and Labour party are united in support of this proposal".

Mr Boles said he was "happy to make that acknowledgment".

Both Mr Bone and Mr Sawford feel they've made their point and this may well be the end of the matter - but perhaps not the final salvo in the war of words between the pair.