POLITICS
10/04/2013 09:47 BST | Updated 10/04/2013 10:59 BST

Margaret Thatcher Commons Debate 'Completely Over The Top', Says Ex-Labour Minister

David Cameron is "entirely wrong" to have recalled parliament in the wake of Margaret Thatcher's death, according to a former Labour minister.

John Healey, who was housing minister under Gordon Brown and served as Ed Miliband's first shadow health secretary, said the Commons debate due to be held on Wednesday afternoon was "completely over the top".

Speaking on Sky News, the Wentworth and Dearne said: "David Cameron is wrong to recall parliament in this way, parliament could have paid proper tributes to Margaret Thatcher when it returns on Monday".

"David Cameron is creating in parliament today, by recalling it, a platform for promoting Tory ideology and partisan debate, not the proper eulogy for a former prime minister," he said.

Healey said that as the occasion was more like a memorial than a proper Commons debate and therefore MPs would not wish to speak ill of the dead.

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"It can't be a balanced debate, it can't do justice to the deep legacy and bitterness as prime minister she left in Britain," he said.

Parliament has only been recalled five times since the Second World War, including after the September 11 terrorist attacks and following the 2011 London riots.

"This afternoon is not an occasion to properly where we can have a debate about the destruction of the of coal industry, the privatisation of £17bn of social housing, the squandering north sea oil assets," he added.

But Tory MP Penny Mordaunt, who will be speaking in the debate, said it was right for the Commons to recognise the "political giant" of Thatcher in this way. "I think the spotlight will be on us," she said.

Several other Labour MPs have expressed disquiet at the recall of parliament, with many planning to stay away despite Ed Miliband urging them to attend. When asked if he would be be making his way to Westminster, Bassetlaw MP John Mann said he would be at the dentist.

Other Labour MPs may attend the debate in order to speak out against Thatcher's legacy. David Winnick, the MP for Walsall North, told The Guardian: "It would be absolutely hypocritical if those of us who were opposed at the time to what occurred – the mass unemployment, the poverty – were to remain silent when the house is debating her life. This will be an opportunity to speak frankly.

More than 700 armed forces personnel will take part in the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, with her coffin to be carried to St Paul's cathedral those from units particularly associated with the Falklands conflict.

Tony Blair and his wife Cherie as well as Gordon Brown ans his wife Sarah have confirmed they will attend the funeral. A number of high-profile guests are also expected to attend from across the world.

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