Sunday, 31 January 2010
Saturday, 30 January 2010
Friday, 29 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Its conclusions are
1. We support the proposal relating to the division of Chairs between the parties. (Paragraph 6)
2. We endorse the proposal for the election of Chairs by the whole House, and agree that it should be done on the basis of the two-year experiment proposed by the Reform Committee. (Paragraph 7)
3. We support the Reform Committee’s suggestion of the need “to provide for the situation, should it ever arise, of a committee where the members altogether lose confidence in the elected Chair” . (Paragraph 8)
4. We support the recommendation for the election of members of select committees in accordance with the general principles of transparency and democracy advanced by the Reform Committee. (Paragraph 11)
5. We support the aim of seeking to set up the principal select committees within six weeks of the opening of a new Parliament. (Paragraph 12)
6. We support the proposal for the exclusion of Ministers, opposition frontbenchers (except possibly for the smaller parties) and Parliamentary Private Secretaries from eligibility for membership of select committees. (Paragraph 13)
7. It would be a token of good faith in any government’s expressed wish for Parliament to be seen as independent of the executive if the steady spread of patronage were to be halted and reversed. If it does not happen voluntarily, the House should consider taking steps to enforce it. (Paragraph 14)
8. To fit in with the proposed new system of elections, any member of a select committee whose cumulative attendance during a Session is below 60% should be automatically discharged at the end of that Session on the basis of a report made by the Clerk of Committees to the Speaker. The Speaker would have discretion to waive the application of the rule in cases such as ill-health, etc. New elections should be held to fill the vacancies so created within two weeks of the opening of the next Session. (Paragraph 16)
9. We support the proposal to reduce the average size of select committees. (Paragraph 18)
10. We support the proposal to rationalise the number of select committees. (Paragraph 21)
11. We consider that no proposal for changing the Standing Orders relating to select committees should be able to be moved by a Minister unless the Liaison Committee had been consulted and given time to report its views on the proposals to the House. (Paragraph 25)
12. We welcome and endorse the proposals for the creation of “House time” controlled by a backbench business committee as a major opportunity to change the balance of power between Parliament and the Executive. (Paragraph 30)
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
The following answer to a Written Question was published -
Mr. Evennett: To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what information the Electoral Commission holds on the number of election counts that are not planned to commence on the evening of polling day in the general election.
Mr. Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that it has asked all returning officers to provide information about their current plans for counting ballot papers at the next UK parliamentary general election. This information has been made available in the House of Commons Library.
In summary, as of 7 January 2010, returning officers for 586 out of 650 constituencies had provided information. Of these, 52 currently do not plan to count ballot papers on the evening of polling day at the general election. A further 17 have indicated they may defer counting in the event that the general election is combined with local authority elections, and 187 were still undecided.
The whole Bill can be accessed here. Yesterday's debate can be read in Hansard from column 1197. There were votes on
Amendment 98 - agreed to 216-178
Amendment 99 - agreed to
Amendment 99A - disagreed 174-195
Amendment 100 - agreed to 177-172
The amendments are listed here
Monday, 25 January 2010
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Saturday, 23 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010
CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION.
It is a very important decision - which will have a big impact on the conduct of elections, and politics generally in the United States. The Court, in a 5-4 decision overturned earlier precedents. There will be congressional hearings on the issues arising from the decision. As well as raising issues about the role that corporate money can play in elections - this decision should pose questions about the power of Supreme Court justices, and whether the Court is playing a role far beyond what the Constitution intended.
The judgement can be read here.
Comments on the decision can be accessed via the following links -
The Hill(1) and the Hill (2)
Thursday, 21 January 2010
I look a couple of videos as I drove around the city. By the time you read this I should be back in Milton Keynes.
Last weekend I returned to the site, which has been much improved in terms of signs and clearing of undergrowth, that I last came to in 1999. The significance of the battle was not its size, but the death of Senator Baker - which led to the establishment of the congressional 'Committee on the Conduct of the War'. The tragedy of the battle is made clear as you look around the site. It was a pointless skirmish - which led to the deaths of 223 soldiers. A faulty intelligence report led Brig. General Charles Stone to send troops up the near cliff like sides of the Potomac. Trees were misidentified as a set of confederate tents. The battle involved close range firing in a wooded area. The Union force sent by Stone was virtually destroyed. A surviving casualty was Oliver Wendall Holmes, who become one of the greatest Supreme Court Judges.
The spot where senator Baker was shot and killed
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
This visit took us north to the battlefield of Balls Bluff - and then southwards to Manassas - the site of two battles - both lost by the"North". There is a lot of information about the battles - the first (which was the first major battle of the civil war) was fought in July 1861; and the second in August 1862 - on the internet. I particularly recommend
The National Park Service
Civil War Album
Civil War Preservation Trust
During the day I made a few video recordings showing key places on the site
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
When the US Constitution came into force in 1789 the Federal Government was established in New York City. The Senate met on the second floor of Federal Hall. In December 1790 it began a ten year stay in Philadelphia - in what is now the upper floor of 'Congress Hall' - a building close to Independence Hall.
The Senate chamber - and the adjacent committee rooms - can be visited by the public.
A list of the first Senators and Representatives can be found here. Of the Senators who served in the First Congress - William Paterson (NJ) William Grayson (VA) and John Walker (VA) - only served in New York.
Monday, 18 January 2010
Key Documents - Critical reports and memos as they are published online by the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service, Office of Management and Budget, party policy committees and more!
Whip Notices - Daily and weekly notices from the House Majority and Minority Whips.
Hearing Schedules - Schedule of upcoming committee hearings from House and Senate.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Details of the Center are available at http://constitutioncenter.org/. I spent a couple of hours there during my, all too short daytrip to Philadelphia. I hope to revisit (many times) in the future. There are excellent exhibits which tell the history of the US - and the central role of the Constitution. Whether you want to learn about the Constitution; how the American system of government works; or about US history - there is something for you. For me the highlights were the initial dramatic presentation by an actor setting the scene - the life size models of the signers of the Constitution; and the gavel used in the House hearings on Watergate.
There is a Research Center on site. Further details available here.
Friday, 15 January 2010
Franklin's ancestors came from the village of Ecton in Northamptonshire, England. He lived in London for many years - and now it is possible to visit Benjamin Franklin House, close to Charing Cross Station. But he was born an American - and he made his home in Philadelphia.
During my visit to that city this week I took this short video -
Thursday, 14 January 2010
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
On Sunday I was driven from Washington DC to the home of the family I am staying with in the Mount Vernon area of North Virginia. Our route took us past the Jefferson Memorial. I am a great fan of Thomas Jefferson. We have named our current home in Milton Keynes for the Third President and principle writer of the Declaration of Independence. As President Kennedy said when he hosted a reception of Nobel Prize winners "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
His original words proposed for the Declaration are worth reflecting upon.
"We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles & organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness."
He believed in individual rights, and he believed in government.
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
"No matter what, people were going to say something," she said.
"Frankly, she rode that stock right into the ground," John Dingell said. "She did that because she had to." "
Monday, 11 January 2010
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Metro spokesman Ray Feldman said on Thursday Hedgepeth was an unlucky victim of a weeklong crackdown at a Metro station in northwest Washington and policies that leave police with no middle ground between issuing a warning and arresting young food offenders."
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Friday, 8 January 2010
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the prime area in which Ministers are held to account is here, in the House of Commons? Does she therefore agree that the failure by the Department for Communities and Local Government to field a Minister for last night's Adjournment debate was a basic failure in accountability? As the debate was about discrimination against minority faiths, the lack of a departmental Minister made the point forcefully. What steps will she take to ensure that Departments understand that private discussions in meetings are no substitute for proper parliamentary accountability here on the Floor of the House?
Ms Harman: I agree: if something has gone wrong, Ministers should offer a meeting with the hon. Member concerned-and I understand that that has happened in this case-but that is not sufficient. There is something unique about accountability on the Floor of the House, and that is what a Back Bencher seeks when initiating an Adjournment debate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House for taking that debate so ably on behalf of the Government. She is committed to those issues, but she is not the accountable Minister, and that is why I will take this up with the Secretary of State. It should not have happened and we need to ensure that it does not happen again.
Thursday, 7 January 2010
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): What recent representations he has received on bringing forward proposals arising from the report of the Select Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister: The Leader of the House has written to representatives of the other parties on this issue. The Government are keen to proceed on a consensual basis.
Mr. Allen: UK politics has become ever more the private playground of Governments and the media, and this place, Parliament, an ever more tatty backdrop, with little independence. Will the Prime Minister take the powers that he has to bring forward to our agenda-not for debate, but for decision-the proposals to reform this House? Will he please do that in the next few weeks?
The Prime Minister: It is in all our interests to say that both the standard of debate in this House and what is discussed in this House should reflect the views and values of the people of this whole country. All of us want in this new year to make sure that the House is discussing the issues that matter to people.
We welcome the Select Committee report. I know that my hon. Friend has taken a long- standing interest in these institutional reforms. The creation of a Back-Bench committee, a business committee and party ballots-all these are being looked at in detail. The Leader of the House has made it clear that we will have an opportunity to debate them in due course and to discuss the recommendations.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): In due course? We have been waiting for weeks. Is that not typical of this Government and this Prime Minister? He made a big announcement on 10 June last year that we were to have urgent reform of the House of Commons, but when it comes to action the Government act with all the dispatch of a particularly arthritic slug on its way to its own funeral. Will he tell us whether he is still committed to urgent action on reforming this ineffective and incompetent House, or are there people on his own Benches who are stopping that from happening?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman gives me a great deal of hope that the consensual approach will work! I think that he is part of the talks. The talks are taking place. The issues about the creation of a business committee, party ballots for Select Committee membership and ballots of the whole House for Select Committee chairmanship were recommended by the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright). We are now discussing these issues, and they will form the subject of a debate and decisions by this House.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Northampton South was the real surprise of 1997. Tony Clarke became the Labour MP for the following two parliaments. He has subsequently broken with the Labour Party and has been an independent Councillor in Northampton. He could play a decisive role in the outcome of the 2010 election. The seat loses important affluent areas to the new constituency of Northamptonshire South. It will be treated as a notional Labour seat with a majority of 1,445 (3.78%). The current Conservative MP, Brian Binley faces Labour’s Clyde Loakes and the Liberal Democrat candidate Paul Varnsverry. Binley is a self-made businessman of Northamptonshire working class origin. The seat covers the centre and south of the older parts of Northampton as well as new estates in Ecton Brook and the Hunsburys.
Sally Keeble has represented the North Division since 1997 and had a majority of 3,960 in 2005. With boundary changes she is defending a notional majority of 3,340. It is the 80th most vulnerable Labour seat and 84 on the Tories target list. If this were the worst Labour loss, there would be a hung parliament with Labour and the Tories having almost exactly the same number of seats. The Tory candidate is Michael Ellis and the Liberal Democrat is Andrew Simpson.
Northampton North contains the wards of Abington; Boughton Green; Eastfield; Headlands; Kingsley; Kingsthorpe; Lumbertubs; Parklands; St David; & Thorplands.
Monday, 4 January 2010
Sunday, 3 January 2010
Saturday, 2 January 2010
“this House do pass to the Orders of the Day.” Such an amended motion would allow a later motion to move the writ.