Thursday, 28 June 2007
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
A Lib Dem tried to attack Blair's educational legacy - and gave the outgoing PM the opportunity to state the achievements!
Richard Burden asked about the Middle East peace process - and taking the lessons from Northern Ireland to this issue.
Blair joked about receiving a P45 - the document an employee gets for tax purposes when leaving a job.
When asked about church & state seperation his response was - "I'm really not bothered about that one".
Climate Change. Then the other Winterton, Nicholas (Ann's husband) - got in. A eurosceptic rant - what a surprise. He was called to order by the Speaker (should be a question) - "first of all I like the honourable gentleman..." was Blair's response - who said goodbye to him in a number of European languages!!!
David Blunkett paid his tributes - then Tony Baldry on his local general hospital ... and the lack of a referendum on Europe. Blair sighed - then reminded Baldry of the advances in health; education and the economy in Baldry's constituency.
Angela Smith, another Sheffield MP to ask a question today, was followed by Rev Ian Paisley - who paid a fulsome tribute. He wished Blair the same success in the Middle East as he had had in Northern Ireland.
Blair responded. The Father of the House, Alan Williams, asked the last question, it was a touching moment. Tony Blair finished with a few remarks about the House of Commons, and politics in general. He then finished.
MPs clapped as he left. - not normally permitted - but appropriate
11.13 The police have formed the passage for the procession early.
11.25 The Procession comes through then people head for the gallery. A number of their Lordships have also been making their way towards the Commons.
It's a day for looking forward - but also back. I've heard memories from those who saw Harold Wilson arrive at no 10 in 1964 and others who have visited the residential parts of No 10.
The TV news is showing the removal van in Downing Street being filled - it's not the green van I saw earlier!
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
Mr Blair is expected to be confirmed as a Middle East envoy on Wednesday by the Mid-East quartet - made up of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU.
Officials said Mr Blair was expected to attend a local Labour Party meeting after resigning as prime minister.
David Miliband was the keynote speaker. Dr Brian Iddon introduced him saying "this may be his last day" in the job. Messages of support for the conference were received, we were told from "today's Prime Minister and tomorrow's Prime Minister". Alan Duncan, refering to speculation that there may be a General Election in 2008 rather cheeekly added " and from next years Prime Minister too".
Lord Rees of Ludlow reminded us of Harold Wilson's comment that 'a week is a long time in politics' - "this week it's particularly true" he said. "Ministers will be dismembered and regrouped by the end of the week - we know not how"
Kenneth Clarke said: “I disapprove of a referendum. I do think it is a serious blow to the sovereignty of Parliament”.
Another Conservative, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said: “This Tory notes that the intellectually honest position of many of those in the forefront of the present campaign for a referendum is complete British withdrawal from the European Union”.
I can only suggest to the House that this is about political opportunism. This is about a Conservative Party that has nothing to offer in terms of a strong Britain in Europe and whose leader could not even be bothered to go to the meeting called by Angela Merkel for EPP colleagues in advance of the European Council because he was too busy. How will we ensure a strong Britain in Europe when we have an Opposition who are not even prepared to engage in the debate and on the issues?
Monday, 25 June 2007
Senator Craig Thomas died on June 4th. The Governor of Wyoming named John Barrasso to fill the vacant Senate seat until a special election is held in November 2008. The process of electing a successor to Representative Charlie Norwood in the 10th District of Georgia will continue to a runoff on July 17th because no candidate won over 50% in the special election held last Tuesday.
In the UK Piara Khabra died this week. A by-election will be announced shortly, in which the electors of Ealing Southall will choose his successor. On June 9th Lord Ewing of Kirkford died. As a life peer he will not be replaced. Only when one of the hereditaries dies is there considered to be a vacancy in the House of Lords. A by-election is held - with members of the relevant group (Labour; Conservative; Liberal Democrats; Crossbenchers) in the House electing the successor.
Sunday, 24 June 2007
Whereas Tony Blair has served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for more than a decade, winning three general elections as leader of the Labour Party;
Whereas Mr. Blair played an instrumental role in achieving peace in Northern Ireland and negotiating the Good Friday Agreement which brought all communities into the political and governmental process and ended centuries of division, conflict, and strife;
Whereas Mr. Blair committed himself to bringing devolved government to Northern Ireland which was achieved with the recent decision of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein agreeing to form a power-sharing government;
Whereas the United Kingdom and the United States have had a long-standing alliance which was further strengthened during Tony Blair's tenure as he and the United Kingdom stood side-by-side with the United States during conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq;
Whereas Mr. Blair showed British solidarity with the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by being the first foreign leader to visit Ground Zero and attending President Bush's speech before a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001;
Whereas Mr. Blair displayed exemplary leadership as Prime Minister when the United Kingdom suffered its own terrorist attacks on July 7, 2005, when suicide bombers killed 52 people traveling on London's public transportation system;
Whereas the United Kingdom has been a steadfast ally to the United States in the Global War on Terror as it is the second largest contributor of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; and
Whereas on July 17, 2003, Mr. Blair was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal that declared `Congress finds that Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom has clearly demonstrated, during a very trying and historic time for our two countries, that he is a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States of America.': Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes the remarkable public service of Tony Blair during his tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and
(2) expresses appreciation to Mr. Blair for his steadfast support for the United States and Britain's invaluable alliance to our Nation.
Saturday, 23 June 2007
Friday, 22 June 2007
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
The major Conclusions and Recommendations are:
- The House authorities should identify ways of publicising the work of the Chamber
- There should be a longer gap than usually occurred in the past between the election and the day the House first meets to permit some of the practicalities that prevent Members from focusing on their new job to be addressed and to make time for an induction programme before the House starts its work. "We recommend that the gap should be about twelve days."
- "We recommend that the House authorities make continuous development opportunities available to all those who want them."
- "We believe that the current short guide to procedure should be expanded."
- "We recommend that oral Question Time should be divided into two periods: an initial period for oral questions under the current arrangements followed by a period of ‘open’ questions. "
- The topicality of debates in the Chamber should be improved. "We believe that the House will attract greater attention from Members, the public and the media if it finds a means of debating topical issues."
- provision should be made in Standing Orders for topical debates on issues of regional, national or international importance to be held on one day each week. Topical debates would last for an hour and a half and be taken immediately after questions and statements but before the main business of the day.
- "For the majority of regular debates we recommend rebalancing the current allocation of days and mix of subjects."
- The Government should listen carefully to representations from the main Opposition parties and from back bench Members of all parties about whether a debate should take place on a substantive motion to which amendments could be tabled, and a vote held if
necessary, or whether it should take place on a motion that allows a debate without
the House having to come to a resolution in terms.
- Debates held for the purpose of discussing a topic be renamed ‘general debates’ and that debate should take place on a motion ‘That this House has considered [the matter of] [subject]’.
- "We believe that opportunities for a number of shorter debates can be created without
any procedural change and that these would encourage more Members to participate. "
- "We are convinced that greater flexibility in managing the business of the House is
- The Government and opposition parties should agree more flexible use of time, splitting some of the current all-day non-legislative debates into two or more shorter, more focused debates where appropriate.
- There should be a weekly committee half-hour in Westminster Hall in which a Minister can make a brief response to a committee report, selected for debate by the Liaison Committee, followed by the Chairman or other Member of the Committee. The remainder of the half-hour slot would be available to the opposition front benches and back bench Members generally. The usefulness of these weekly slots in Westminster Hall should be kept under review. "We also see no reason why it should not be possible for committee reports to be debated in Westminster Hall on substantive motions: this may require a change to Standing Order No. 10 to make clear that debates on reports of this kind cannot be blocked by six Members."
- "We believe that in heavily over-subscribed debates the Speaker should have the discretion to impose a twenty minute limit on speeches from the front benches with an additional minute given for each intervention up to a maximum of fifteen minutes of additional time."
- Front bench speeches in the one and a half hour topical debates recommended earlier in the Report should be limited to ten minutes each. However, front bench spokesmen could receive an additional minute for each intervention they accepted up to a total of ten minutes with similar limits set for smaller parties in proportion to the time limits the Speaker recently announced for statements. The Official Opposition and second largest opposition party spokesmen should be able to choose whether to make an opening or a wind-up speech (although additional time for interventions may not be practicable at the end of a debate). The minister with responsibility for the topic would reply to the debate in a speech lasting no more than five minutes. Back bench speeches in topical debates should be limited to not less than three minutes, the precise allocation depending on the number of Members who wished to speak.
- The Speaker should have greater flexibility to vary time limits during debates with the objective of allowing all those who wish to speak to participate. "We recommend that the Standing Orders be amended to give the Speaker greater discretion in setting and revising time limits on speeches, including raising or removing limits if appropriate. "
- "We do not see a need for lists of speakers in debates."
- Removing barriers to participation is important and the use of handheld devices to keep up to date with e-mails should be permitted in the Chamber provided that it causes no disturbance.
- "We believe there should be more opportunities for back bench Members to initiate business."
- "We recommend an experiment with a ballot for opportunities for debating Private Members’ Motions using one of the longer slots each week in Westminster Hall on a trial basis for a whole Parliamentary Session. We recommend that this experiment should take place during the 2008–09 Session."
- "We recommend the operation of programming is kept under review."
An interesting set of proposals. Many are worth further consideration. I personally think these are excellent proposals, though I regret that the Speakers Lists proposal and the idea of 'injury time' have, for the moment been rejected.
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Monday, 18 June 2007
"Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will address legislators from Russia and the United States this Thursday in the first-ever open meeting between the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on International Affairs of the Duma, the legislature of the Russian Federation.
"I am delighted that the Speaker of the House will share her thoughts on US-Russian relations in this ground-breaking forum," said Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House committee and the host of the event. "The Speaker is a strong supporter of inter-parliamentary dialogue. She will set the tone for us, and set the ball rolling for the day."
The June 21 joint session will mark the third in the series of meetings between the American and Russian foreign affairs committees, with previous sessions held in Moscow (June 2004) and Washington (November 2005). It will be the first such meeting ever to which the media and members of the public will be invited.
The gathering will focus on four key themes:
- democracy and human rights,
- unresolved regional conflicts,
- strategic stability and trade and
- economic issues
Agenda for Public Session of Joint Meeting
June 21, 2007 Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building [Washington time]
10:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Opening Statements, including Speaker Pelosi
10:30 a.m. - 10:55 a.m. Strategic Stability (including the Conventional Forces in Europe, non-proliferation, missile defense)
10:55 a.m. - 11:20 a.m. Unresolved Regional Conflicts (including Kosova, Georgia, Moldova)
11:20 a.m. - 11:40 a.m. Humanitarian Issues (including democracy, human rights)
11:40 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Trade and Economy (including energy security)
Sunday, 17 June 2007
Mondays bills for consideration under the 'suspensions' procedure include
- H.R. 885 – International Nuclear Fuel for Peace and Nonproliferation Act of 2007 (Rep. Lantos – Foreign Affairs)
- H.Con.Res. 21 – Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel (Rep. Rothman – Foreign Affairs)
- H.Con.Res. 80 – Calling on the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to recommit to a political solution to the conflict in northern Uganda and to recommence vital peace talks, and urging immediate and substantial support for the ongoing peace process from the United States and the international community (Rep. Johnson (GA) – Foreign Affairs)
- H.Con.Res. 151 - Noting the disturbing pattern of killings of dozens of independent journalists in Russia over the last decade, and calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to authorize cooperation with outside investigators in solving these murders (Rep. Chris Smith – Foreign Affairs)
- H.Res. 137 – Honoring the life and six decades of public service of Jacob Birnbaum and especially his commitment freeing Soviet Jews from religious, cultural, and communal extinction (Rep. Nadler – Foreign Affairs)
- H.Res. 233 – Recognizing over 200 years of sovereignty of the Principality of Liechtenstein, and expressing support for efforts by the United States continue to strengthen its relationship with that country (Rep. Stearns – Foreign Affairs)
Friday, 15 June 2007
Thursday, 14 June 2007
The matter was raised in the House of Lords yesterday by Lord Dubs, who asked the Government:-
"Whether they will introduce legislation before the next general election to enable Members of the House to have the right to vote in a general election."
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): "My Lords, the Government have no plans to do so."
Lord Dubs: "My Lords, does my noble friend accept the principle of no taxation without representation and will she perhaps join me in a little tea party to discuss this further? Will she also confirm that the basis for Members of this House being denied the right to vote in general elections stems not from statute but from a resolution passed by the House of Commons in 1699?"
The supplementaries which follow make for interesting reading, and I was priviliged to watch the exchanges from the gallery. The can be read in full in Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldhansrd/text/70613-0001.htm#07061372000004 or watched on the archive of Parliament Live [only until mid July 2007]. at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Archives/ (at the start of business for 13th June).
What do you think. I'd be very interested in your views - either as a comment on this blog, or by email to email@example.com
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
The meeting will be broadcast live (and will be on archive at) www.parliamentlive.tv
In the US system monies are appropriated to Departments and Agencies, who use their discretion to apply the funds to achieve their legally defined objectives. Congress has always had the power to 'earmark' - that is to designate an amount for a specific project. However in recent years the numbers of such earmarks have rocketed. One study claimed that in 1970 there were 12 'earmarks' in the Appropriations Bills, this number rose to 62 in 1980 and hit 2,671 in 2005.
The objection to earmarks is that they have been used as political favours handed out for votes. The manner in which they have appeared has also caused controversy. Often they have not appeared during the earlier stages of the appropriation bills process - when each House can consider the individual earmarks in detail - but at the Conference phase when a joint committee of both Houses meets to reconcile differences between the respective bill from each House. Once a conference decision has been taken the full Houses can only vote for or against the entire bill.
It has been claimed that in 2005 98% of earmarks to Appropriations bills were added at this late stage.
Groups like the 'Sunlight Foundation' have set up websites to highlight the issue and provide information about examples. http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/
One problem facing anyone wishing to investigate earmarks is that there are subtly different definitions. There's a good article comparing the differing definitions at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earmarking#Definitions
I'll be looking at current developments in future posts.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
Normally if Parliament passes a law, it is expected that Parliament itself should be the only body able to amend or repeal that legislation. Henry VIII clauses in a bill (and if passed, the Act) give the power to Ministers to repeal or amend the provisions using secondary legislation. Parliamentary scrutiny is limited over secondary legislation. Instead of weeks or even month of consideration by committee and in the various stages of the legislative process - Parliament gets, at most, the opportunity to vote for or against the measure - no amendment is possible.
The term "Henry VIII clause" is a reference to the Statute of Proclamations 1539, which has traditionally been seen as 'the highwater mark of Tudor despotism' [Maitland]. Or as Robin Cook once said, they "are termed Henry VIII clauses in disrespectful commemoration of that monarch's tendency to absolutism.” In fact that statute might not be as far reaching as British mythology has made out. G R Elton wrote a fascinating article on the Statute of Proclamations in The English Historical Review, Vol 75, No 295 (Apr., 1960) pp. 208-222, which I had the pleasure of reading in preparation for this entry.
A 1932 Report (The Donoughmore Committee) found that between 1888 and 1929 nine Acts of Parliament contained such clauses. It recognised that their occasional use might be justified but concluded that their 'use must be demonstrably essential, and justified on each occasion by the Minister "to the hilt"'. There were none until the war, but they then returned in growing numbers. Concerns were more frequently expressed in the 1970s and 1980s. Controversy reached a height during the passage of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 which contained a number of such clauses. They continue to appear in bills, but provoke - rightly - much concern.
Monday, 11 June 2007
HOUSE DEMOCRATS’ BIPARTISANSHIP LEADS TO PROGRESS
Democrats are operating the House of Representatives in a more bipartisan, fair, and civil manner than it was run during 12 years of Republican rule. As legislation moves from committee, to the Rules Committee, to the Floor, Democrats are allowing greater debate, and providing Republicans more opportunities to express their views and affect legislation. The more bipartisan, fair and civil manner at all steps in the legislative process helps ensure that progress is made on the American people’s agenda.
COMMITTEES MAKE HOUSE MORE BIPARTISAN
Committee Chairmen have worked to make their committees fair and bipartisan for all members to contribute their opinions and affect legislation. Many Chairmen are crafting legislation with the ranking Republican on their committee, which leads to compromise legislation with broad support from Members. A few examples of renewed civility in committees:
Agriculture: Under the leadership of Chairman Collin Peterson, the House Agriculture Committee is writing the Farm Bill under regular order for the first time since 1990, allowing for debate and amendments at both the Subcommittee and full Committee level. Members of both parties have been involved in developing preliminary drafts that the Subcommittees are considering, and all Subcommittee members are allowed to submit amendments during the markups of these drafts. During the full Committee hearing, all Committee members will have the opportunity to submit amendments as well. The Farm Bill’s development is an open and public process that will allow all of the important issues included in this legislation to be fully considered.
Education: Chairman George Miller and Ranking Member Buck McKeon worked closely together to produce the Pell Grant Equity Act, the Student Loan Sunshine Act, and the Head Start Reauthorization, all of which passed the House with broad, bipartisan support – the Pell Grant Equity Act passed by a voice vote, the Student Loan Sunshine Act passed 414-3, and Head Start passed 365-48. The Committee has also held a bipartisan briefing on No Child Left Behind where any Member of the House could come before Chairman Miller to share feedback and recommendations on how to improve the program.
Energy & Commerce: Before marking up the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, Ranking Republican Joe Barton told Chairman John Dingell that Republicans were unhappy with the legislation. Rather than going forward with the markup, Chairman Dingell postponed the markup so his staff could work with Committee Republicans overnight to reach an agreement. The bill was passed out of Committee the next morning by a unanimous voice vote.
Judiciary: Before the Judiciary Committee voted on granting immunity to Monica Goodling, Ranking Republican Lamar Smith asked Chairman John Conyers to postpone the vote in order for Republicans to have more time to think the matter over. Chairman Conyers postponed the vote for one week, at which point the Committee voted overwhelmingly, by a 32-6 margin, to grant immunity.
Science & Technology: Because the Science & Technology Committee has operated in a bipartisan fashion, it has been roughly 150% more productive than the Committee was at this point in the 109th Congress in terms of hearings held, full committee markups held, subcommittee markups held, reports filed, and bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Working in a bipartisan fashion, the Committee quickly cleared five major legislative pieces of the House Democrats’ Innovation Agenda. This follows through on a commitment Democrats made to the American people – and puts Congress one step closer – to insuring U.S. students, teachers, businesses and workers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research and technology well into the future.
Transportation & Infrastructure: The Water Resources Development Act was a bipartisan product of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. When problems emerged with certifications for Republican projects, Chairman Jim Oberstar assured the Republicans that the issue would be fixed before the bill was brought to the Floor, which it was.
Ways & Means: H.R. 976, the Small Business Tax Relief Act, was crafted with cooperation between Chairman Charles Rangel and Ranking Member Jim McCrery, as well as the Democratic and Republican Committee Staffs. This could have been a controversial and partisan bill, but as a result of working closely together in the drafting process, the final bill passed the House with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 360-45.
RULES COMMITTEE MAKES HOUSE MORE FAIR
Democrats Allow Greater Debate with More Amendments, Quadruple the Number of Open Rules During the first five months under Democrats (through May 15), the House Rules Committee processed significantly more legislation and reported out many more rules than the 109th Congress in the same period. In this short time, Democrats have quadrupled the number of open rules Republicans reported out.
109th (through May 15, 2005) - 29 total rules; 2 open rules (including 1 appropriation bill); 15 structured rules; 51 Democratic/minority amendments in order.
110th (May 15, 2007) - 43 total rules; 8 open rules; 20 structured rules;
60 – Republican/minority amendments in order
In addition, Republicans reported out 3 open Rules during the entire 109th Congress (excluding
appropriations measures, which are by tradition always open) compared with 8 open rules issued by Democrats in just four-and-a-half months.
Some open rules during the 110th Congress have required that amendments must be pre-printed before the bill is brought to the House Floor for consideration. These rules are still considered “open” because every amendment that a Member wants to put forward will be considered, unlike under structured rules whereby some amendments will not be allowed to come up for debate. Open rules with pre-printing requirements actually further increase openness and transparency in the House by providing Members have sufficient time to read and understand the amendments being offered before having to vote on them.
A Rules Process Which Takes Place in the Light of Day Makes House More Transparent
The Republican Rules Committee of the 109th Congress was notorious for meeting late in the
afternoon and reporting out rules late at night. While some such meetings are inevitable, Republicans in the 109th Congress reported a significant number of their rules after 8 p.m. Such meeting and reporting hours made the Committee difficult to cover for most reporters, and therefore less transparent, and made its sessions less accessible to Members of Congress:
• 53 of the 111 total rules reported from the Rules Committee (47 percent) were reported after 8:00 p.m.
• 14 of those rules were reported after midnight.
• 9 of the 14 were reported after 6:00 a.m. on the day that they were to be considered on the floor.
By comparison, the Democratic Rules Committee has thus far reported out only 8 rules (out of 47) after 8 p.m. (17 percent). Democrats have worked to conduct the business of the Rules Committee during the light of day, so that the process is accessible to reporters, the public, and Members.
HOUSE FLOOR IS MORE BIPARTISAN, FAIR, AND CIVIL
On the House Floor:
Iraq Debate – Democrats held an exceptionally open debate on a resolution opposing the President’s Iraq escalation, with every single Member – Republicans and Democrats – given five minutes to speak on the Floor. Debate lasted for 44 hours and 55 minutes over the course of four days, with 392 Members speaking.
Fair Floor Votes – At the beginning of this Congress, House Democrats enacted a rules change that ended the Republican practice of keeping votes open solely in order to change the outcome.
A BIPARTISAN, FAIR, AND CIVIL PROCESS HELPS THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’S AGENDA MOVE FORWARD
Democrats’ commitment to a bipartisan process and its positive results can be seen in a number of key pieces of legislation that stalled in the last Congress or were given less debate, but have passed the Democratic 110th Congress with broad, bipartisan majorities. After years of inaction on key issues, the New Direction Congress has had significant bipartisan support on 38 measures.
Listed below is some of the important legislation that was stalled or given minimal debate in the last Congress, but that now has seen a more fair process under Democrats:
1. H.R. 547- Advanced Fuels Research Infrastructure Act – Passed 400 to 3
i. 110th – Open rule – 13 amendments considered
ii. 109th – Similar bill considered under suspension - 0 amendments
2. H.R. 556- National Security Foreign Investment Reform Act – Passed 423 to 0
i. 110th – Open rule – 6 amendments considered
ii. 109th – Similar bill considered under suspension, 0 amendments
3. H.R. 569 – Water Quality Investment Act – Passed 425 to 0
i. 110th – Open rule – 4 amendments considered
ii. 109th – Similar bill passed out of committee by voice vote but never received
4. H.R. 700- Healthy Communities Water Supply Act – Passed 368 to 59
i. 110th – Open rule – 5 amendments considered
ii. 109th – Similar bill passed out of committee by voice vote but never received
5. H.R. 1427- Federal Housing Finance Reform Act – Passed 313 to 104
i. 110th – Open rule – 36 amendments considered
ii. 109th – Similar bill considered under structured rule - 9 amendments (of 28
offered) in order, 4 of which were Democratic
Listed below are some of the important pieces of bipartisan legislation enacted by the 110th Congress:
• SCHIP Funding: 123 Republicans supported legislation signed into law that will provide
$650 million in funding to continue providing health insurance to children in low-income
• Katrina Recovery Funding: 123 Republicans supported legislation signed into law that will
provide $6.4 billion in funding to rebuild the Gulf Coast and help the victims of Katrina and
• Joint Continuing Funding Resolution: 57 Republicans voted to clean up the fiscal mess left behind by the previous Republican Congress, passing 9 out of 11 appropriations bills that were left undone by Republicans, and keeping the federal government working for America through Fiscal Year 2007.
• Increasing the Minimum Wage: 82 Republicans supported legislation in January that would give hard-working minimum wage earners a long overdue raise; 123 Republicans supported an increase in the minimum wage in legislation signed into law in May.
H.Res. 354 - To recognize the year 2007 as the official 50th anniversary celebration of the beginnings of marinas, power production, recreation, and boating on Lake Sidney Lanier, Georgia (Rep. Deal – Transportation and Infrastructure)
The first electricity was produced from generators in the Buford Dam - the dam which created the lake from the waters of the Chattahoochee River - on June 17th 1957. Details of the lake and its history can be found at http://www.lakelanier50.com/index.htm
We spend a glorious three week holiday in Northern Georgia last August. This bill has my support!
Sunday, 10 June 2007
The Senate begins the week by resuming consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 6, (an act to reduce US dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes). It will then resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S.J. Res. 14,( a joint resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people).
Bills before the House of Commons include - Serious Crime Bill (2nd Reading); International Tribunals (Sierra Leone) Bill (All Stages) and the Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill (Consideration of Lords Amendments). The Opposition Day Debate on Monday relate to (1) Iraq Inquiry and (2) Carers.
The Lords will consider a number of pieces of legislation, and on Thursday will debate "the contribution of the European Union to United Kingdom national interests and management of global problems".
Saturday, 9 June 2007
The Commons have enhanced their effectiveness in recent years. Select Committees have become an important part of the work of the House and are now better resourced. Some outdated practices have been ditched - but clearly there is a perceived need for further, perhaps quite radical, change.
Friday, 8 June 2007
In my view the committee stands as an example of well meaning legislators losing sight of their role in oversight, who end up interfering in the work they should be standing back from and scrutinising. Rather than investigating they took it upon themselves to harry Generals they distrusted and tried to pressure Lincoln into taking ill thought out actions.
I'm a strong advocate of greater powers for committees, especially at Westminster but the Committee on the Conduct of the War serves as a warning that powers must be used wisely, or harm can be caused.
Thursday, 7 June 2007
An amendment was proposed to the Offender Management Bill which would have required the Secretary of State to
(a) ... by order specify factors, relating to the quality and value for money offered by the other person, by reference to which such decisions shall be made;
(2) ... after making each arrangement under section 3(2), publish a report explaining the basis on which the decision to select the relevant person was made by reference to the factors specified in the order made under section 5(1)(a).”
Lord Warner's remarks in the debate are worth noting
"It is an unnecessarily bureaucratic way of dealing with what is essentially a contracting issue. I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, says about shortcomings in particular providers outside the public sector in other areas of public policy. We could all trade examples of failures of public, voluntary and private providers of public services. That is what regulators and inspectors are there to help deal with. That is not the issue here; it is whether we should, as the amendment proposes, tie up a Secretary of State over the detail of a contracting process for alternative ways of providing services to the traditional probation service. Telling a Government how to draw up a contract in primary legislation, as the amendment would, seems absurd; then requiring them to publish a report on a set of individual decisions on these contracts is going over the top.
I should like to detain the Committee a moment by talking about some personal experiences I have had as a Minister letting contracts in the public sector. I authorised contracts for elective surgery, diagnostic equipment and clinical assessments worth hundreds of millions of pounds. There was no requirement in primary legislation to go through the process set out in the amendment because there are umpteen safeguards in common law and European contract law for the process by which contracts are let. You have to go through a very diligent process of specifying what you require and making that information available to all potential providers. As a public body, you are under an obligation to seek value for money in your contracts. There is often a testing process supervised by the Office of Government Commerce and the Treasury.
We do not need to lay this down in primary legislation. We are still accountable to Parliament as Ministers when we make those decisions. We can still be hauled before a Select Committee such as the PAC and we still have to answer to Parliament, day in and day out, in questions and parliamentary debates, for our behaviour and conduct in letting those contracts. This is not how to handle this issue. Micromanaging ministerial actions in the area of contracts through primary legislation, as this amendment does, is not how to govern an advanced country."
YOUR comments on Lord Warner's observations; the merits of making such requirements; and how to get the balance right are appreciated.
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
Particularly interesting was his comment - "I wonder whether royal commissions are the appropriate way to deal with constitutional change now and whether there are ways of communicating with the public in a much larger way. I wonder whether bringing together the great and the good and saying this is the way that constitutional reform should take place is the appropriate way to deal with it. I suspect that the day of the royal commission determining what constitutional reform should take place may be in the past."
What do you think?
Tuesday, 5 June 2007
Jefferson had a life long interest in parliamentary practice. He studied parliamentary law under William Small whilst a young man at the College of William and Mary. He kept his own 'Parliamentary Pocket Book' where he recorded notes from his extensive reading on the subject. His own library included 36 books about parliamentary practice.
Monday, 4 June 2007
On Wednesday and Thursday the House will begin legislative business at 10.00am (3pm London) - there are 6 bills to be brought up under the 'suspensions' procedure (1 Energy & Commerce 5 Science & Technology). There are three bills subject to a rule - the Afghanistan Freedom & Security Support Act of 2007; Lumbee Recognition Act (they are a tribe in North Carolina) and the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007.
Votes on Tuesday will be postponed until 6.30pm and no votes are expected on Friday.
Sunday, 3 June 2007
Tuesday sees a debate on Darfur in the Commons.
The Lords will consider, at the Committee stage, both the Pensions Bill (Monday & Wednesday) and the Offender Management Bill (Tuesday).
Full details of the weeks business can be found in the Weekly Information Bulletin http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmwib/wb070526/26.5.2007.pdf
and in the daily Order Paper of the Commons http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmagenda.htm
and the Lords Business Papers
Saturday, 2 June 2007
One of the reasons (the other being the mountain of academic marking, to tight deadlines, I had to do this week), that the blog took its short break, was that I was kicking off my own campaign for selection as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate in my home town of Rugby. For further details visit my personal website at http://www.jdavidmorgan.org.uk/