Tuesday 29 June 2010
The original judgement can be read in full here.
At the heart of the argument is the question of what activities are covered by Parliamentary Privilege. It certainly covers words said in the Chamber - but how much further does it go?
"While the privilege is Parliament’s rather than the individual member’s, it is clear that it can and does attach to the activities of an MP in carrying out some of his Parliamentary functions. Although Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 is the best-known example of parliamentary privilege and has enshrined in Statute the privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament, it is part only of a much broader privilege which is found in the common law. Article 9 provides that ‘the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament’. The existence of a broader privilege, of which Article 9 is only a part, was accepted in a number of 19th century decisions. It is unnecessary to refer to them because they are encapsulated in the words of Lord Browne-Wilkinson in the Privy Council case of Prebble –v- Television New Zealand  1 AC 321 at p. 332D ‘In addition to Article 9 itself, there is a long line of authority which supports a wider principle, of which Article 9 was merely one manifestation, viz. that the courts and Parliament are both astute to recognise their respective constitutional roles. So far as the courts are concerned they will not allow any challenge to be made to what was said or done within the walls of Parliament in performance of its legislative function and protection of its established privileges’."
Mr Saunders further noted in his judgement "Very important constitutional principles are involved which must be respected, and that must be the case even if it leads to a result which is unpopular not only with the public but also with Members of Parliament."
In the ruling it was held that expenses claims do not come within the scope of privilege. That will be considered today. A House of Commons Library Paper sets out the issues and the background. It is available here.
Monday 28 June 2010
1. Black Rod
2. Garter, carrying the peer's Letters Patent
3. junior supporter
4. new peer, carrying his writ of summons
5. senior supporter.
Sunday 27 June 2010
On Thursday a short debate followed the introduction of a motion concerning the Cranborne money. An excellent speech was made by Baroness Boothroyd which can be viewed here (from 48 min 14 secs into the recording).
My Lords, this is an important resolution. It is cloaked in technical terms and it affects the way in which opposition parties are funded in this House to help them perform their parliamentary duties. Sadly, no one would know that without recourse to Hansard and to the resolution of 2002 that the Government seek to amend. I regret that. Where public funds and parliamentary accountability are involved, the Government need to be more transparent.
I believe that the Motion before us is more than a tidying-up operation. Rightly, it recognises the changed fortunes of the Liberal Democrats; wrongly—unless I am corrected—it implies a severe cut in the distribution of Cranborne money to the opposition parties in this House by no less than 30 per cent. At the same time, it does less than justice to Cross-Benchers, whose independence will always disbar them from office and who operate on a shoestring.
The Cross-Benchers came late to the party when Cranborne money was distributed for the first time in 1997. They had to wait two years. By that time, the cake had been cut and they were handed the smallest slice—a meagre slice, some would say. Cross-Benchers received £10,000 out of a total allocation of £291,000. Our relative position has improved slightly, but it remains at a subsistence level. I am really quite shocked at the disproportionate way in which Cranborne money has been divided during the past 13 years. To some, the Cross-Bench share was almost a joke.
Eight years ago, when Lord Williams of Mostyn increased the Cross-Bench allocation to £35,000, he laughingly remarked:
“I stand amazed at our generosity”.—[Official Report, 30/7/02; col. 820.]
My colleagues were grateful all the same.
Last year, the Cross-Bench Convenor, the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, received the princely sum of £61,003—a substantial percentage increase, you might say, but that was only because the starting point was so low. Cross-Benchers had trailed so far behind they were almost out of sight.
The £60,000 a year allows our Convenor to employ one full-time and one part-time assistant to administer her office and respond to the needs of the 187 Cross-Bench Peers. She also represents us in consultations with the Government and other parties. She sits on some nine House committees. I pay tribute to her fortitude, but it is wrong that she should have to bear so heavy a burden without adequate support.
In contrast, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats last year shared the rest of the Cranborne money on a 2:1 ratio. In 12 months, they received £770,000. If that is not lop-sided, I do not know what is. Sinn Fein received more than the Cross-Benchers for its non-performance in the Commons. Despite the refusal of five Sinn Fein Members to take the oath of allegiance, Sinn Fein netted £96,000 to finance what the previous Government described as “representative business”, a term capable of many interpretations. I take these figures from an excellent research paper on the public funding of opposition parties produced by the Commons Library. The section on the way in which the Cranborne money operates makes eye-popping reading.
Sadly, unless the Leader of the House enlightens us otherwise, this Motion makes matters worse. In the absence of further information, the Government appear intent on returning to the Treasury the funds previously allocated to the Liberal Democrats. If that is right, the total amount of Cranborne money available to the Opposition will be reduced by nearly a third, all without reference or explanation to this House.
A clever lawyer might argue that the Cross-Benchers are entitled to all the Cranborne money that went to the Liberal Democrats—not that I would think such thoughts, of course. But the pecking order set out in the resolution of 2002 is clear. Then, the Cross-Benchers were in third place; now, they are in second place. It is a position that the Government choose to ignore to save money and—who knows?—perhaps to reassure their junior partner that its entitlement to Cranborne money is secure if the coalition fails. I do not challenge Labour’s entitlement to the £475,000 which the Conservatives received as the Official Opposition last year—that is, of course, on top of the salaries paid to their Leader and their Chief Whip. Nor do I begrudge Ministers the command of resources needed to formulate their policies, run their departments and present their case as persuasively as possible. I do, however, believe in fair play and hope that the Government do too.
As the House knows, we on these Benches belong to no party. We have no common platform or agreed policies, and no leader. We speak and vote according to judgment and conscience, without the discipline of Whips to guide us through the Lobbies, and we may be swept away if this House is replaced by an elected Chamber. However, while we are here Cross-Benchers will, I know, do their duty to Parliament and to the country. They need adequate resources to do so. We are not partisans but share the same principles and, I believe, perform a useful role.
These Benches do not need the hundreds of thousands of pounds that routinely go to opposition parties. Your Lordships may be surprised to know that during Labour’s period of office, the Conservatives received over £4 million in Cranborne money, the Liberal Democrats £2 million and the Cross-Benchers £400,000. I was a Whip in Harold Wilson’s Government when the first public funds were allocated to opposition parties in the Commons. The aim was to improve the parliamentary effectiveness of parties and groups not in government. I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will agree that the need to do so has not changed. He is long experienced in the travails of opposition, and I hope that he will review the allocation of Cranborne money in the light of my unashamed appeal for a better deal for these Benches. I do not seek generosity; I seek fairness. Fairness will do for me.
Saturday 26 June 2010
The Better Government Initiative "was formed as a response to widespread concerns about the practical difficulties which government today faces as it seeks to run the country against a background of rapid change." It is a private initiative by a number of individuals who have served in key positions within Whitehall and Westminster. A number of conferences have been held - and reports produced. Most helpfully a report entitled "Good Government: Reforming Parliament and the Executive" has been published.
It sets out some of the factors which have led to current malaise - and puts forward a number of recommendations. In coming weeks these proposals will be the subject of Washminster posts. I would urge you to take part in the debate.
BGI's website is accessible here.
Friday 25 June 2010
The results of the elections for Chairs of committees are available here.
These elections are the result of reforms adopted after the "Rebuilding the House" proposed a number of changes to rebalance power towards MPs from government. A summary of reforms is available in a House of Commons Library Standard Note available here. The results of the Liberal Democrat votes are expected early next week.
Thursday 24 June 2010
That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:
L Crickhowell, B Falkner of Margravine, L Goldsmith, L Hart of Chilton, L Irvine of Lairg, B Jay of Paddington (Chairman), L Norton of Louth , L Pannick, L Powell of Bayswater, L Renton of Mount Harry, L Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L Shaw of Northstead;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;
That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;
That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;
That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;
That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee;
That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.
Wednesday 23 June 2010
The last major reorganisation took place in 1974. For most of England there was a two tier structure - with county and district levels. The metropolitan Counties were abolished - after resisting the policies of the Government in the 1980s. Some other authorities were given unitary status - combining and replacing county and district functions.
Milton Keynes is a unitary council. They have an extensive website accessible here. Citizens can access details of Cabinet and Council meetings - and read the reports which will be considered. Other documents relating to the council are available here. The Council is made up of 51 Councillors, elected for four years - with a third facing election each year (with 2013 being an election free year). The current list of councillors, listed by party, is available here.
The area is also served by a number of Parish Councils. I live in Furzton, which is in the south west of Milton Keynes city (the whole district includes rural areas to the north and east). We are served by Shenley Brook End & Tattenhoe parish council. Despite the name - this has nothing to do with church parishes - but is a local authority providing some vital services at a community level. For more details of parish councils in Milton Keynes press here.
Tuesday 22 June 2010
A Budget speech normally has two distinct parts. The first part is a report on the current and forecast state of the British economy. Much of the detail is already available in the Office of Budget Responsibility's recent forecasts - and the Government has produced The Spending Review Framework
The second part of the speech deals with taxation.
After the speech has been delivered the Commons need to pass a Provisional Collection of Taxes motion - this allows the continuation of existing taxes and any new taxes or amendments to take effect - prior to the passing of the Finance Bill. Without it the changes couldn't take place.
There is an excellent House of Commons Standard Note on the Budget available here.
Monday 21 June 2010
I have been writing posts for a blog about this season - and already have some superb video footage; photographs; personal reviews and information. Some have already been posted - others will go up in the next few days.
Please do visit the blog - which can be accessed here - and if you are able to come along, you'll have a great time in this little village very close to Milton Keynes.
Here's a quick view from yesterday -
Sunday 20 June 2010
The law governing the holding and conduct of a referendum is to be found in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). A summary and explanation of the main provisions can be found in a House of Commons Library Standard Note available here.
The rules deal with the timing of the referendum (there is a minimum time between the legislation authorising a specific referendum getting the Royal Assent and the actual referendum - to ensure an adequate campaigning period); donations and expenditure.
Last week Baroness Quin asked a written question - "To ask Her Majesty's Government what use of referendums they propose for the British political system."
The answer given was -
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The coalition's programme for government includes proposals for future referendums and the introduction of a requirement for future referendums to be held in certain specified circumstances.
We will bring forward legislation providing for a referendum on the alternative vote system for future elections to the House of Commons.
Local people will be given the power to hold local referendums on any local issues to instigate change for the better in their local areas.
To further our aim of increasing democratic and parliamentary control, scrutiny and accountability over EU decision-making, any proposed future treaty that transfers competences or areas of power will be subject to a referendum. In addition, the use of any major ratchet clause which amounted to the transfer of an area of power to the EU will also be subject to a referendum. However, we have agreed that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers from the UK to the European Union over the course of this Parliament.
The Government will set out further details of how they intend to take forward these commitments in due course.
There are also plans for a referendum in Wales on the powers of the National Assembly of Wales
Saturday 19 June 2010
Friday 18 June 2010
Lord Toby Harris writes a blog - which is often updated many times a day. It is unashamedly partisan - he is a Labour Peer - but is one of the best sources (other than Hansard itself) about what has been dealt with in the thirty minute Question Time held on Mondays through Thursdays.
Thursday 17 June 2010
Wednesday 16 June 2010
Tuesday 15 June 2010
Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Hugh Bigod, Heir to the Earldoms of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford.
Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford.
Gilbert de Clare, heir to the earldom of Hertford.
John FitzRobert, Lord of Warkworth Castle.
Robert Fitzwalter, Lord of Dunmow Castle.
William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle.
William Hardel, Mayor of the City of London.
William de Huntingfield, Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.
John de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract Castle.
William de Lanvallei, Lord of Standway Castle.
William Malet, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset.
Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex and Gloucester.
William Marshall Jr, heir to the earldom of Pembroke.
Roger de Montbegon, Lord of Hornby Castle, Lancashire.
Richard de Montfichet, Baron.
William de Mowbray, Lord of Axholme Castle.
Richard de Percy, Baron.
Saher de Quincy, Earl of Winchester.
Robert de Roos, Lord of Hamlake Castle.
Geoffrey de Saye, Baron.
Robert de Vere, heir to the earldom of Oxford.
Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick Castle.
Monday 14 June 2010
Sunday 13 June 2010
- were sent an annual canvass return
- returned the form (which is a legal requirement) - in total numbers and percent
and how the form was returned
- by post
- after a personal canvasser had called round
- by telephone
- by internet
- by text message
The efforts taken by the ERO is also indicated by the details of numbers of home confirmed by personal visit or other information to be vacant.
The number of persons prosecuted for not returning the annual canvass was 41 in Houslow; 20 in Scarborough; 6 in Aylesbury Vale and 6 in Woking. Otherwise there were no other prosecutions throughout the country.
One set of figures shows the number of suspicious returns. Birmingham appears to have identified the greatest number.
The spreadsheet is available here.
Friday 11 June 2010
Thursday 10 June 2010
Wednesday 9 June 2010
Monday 7 June 2010
I expect to be on local radio today arguing that while this is a speech about the deficit - Cameron is seizing the opportunity to impose his ideological beliefs on Britain. He isn't proposing a temporary tightening of our belts to bring the deficit down - instead - this is an attempt to overthrow the policies which have dominated the world economy during and beyond the second half of the Twentieth Century - a period of great prosperity and growth. It is a return to the ideological conservatism that last had a free run in the 1920s and 1930s - and was unsustainable.
In the speech he tries to focus our eyes on the "sins" of the Labour Government of the last 13 years. He does what every incoming government does - feigns surprise that the situation is much much worse than they had imagined. (for precedents see 1964; 1979; 1997).
He proposes massive cuts to deal with the situation - "the effects of...(which)....will stay with us for years, perhaps decades to come". But are these inevitable cuts? I will argue that while some belt tightening is necessary - he is suggesting a "conservative" solution which is flawed. He, and true conservatives genuinely belief in the minimal state. They believe that the free market will provide the optimal solution. Trouble is this belief is not shared by all - and I fear it is flawed - and history has shown it to be.
This was the ideology which held sway in the 1920s and was applied to great detriment in the 1930s. The market is not perfect. From the 1860s each recession grew deeper and longer. Market failures led to inefficency and suffering. In the 1930s and its aftermath there was a general consensus that there was a positive role for the state. Some true 'conservatives' remained - but they were out of power. Thanks to state action we educated more people than ever, to higher levels of education. State investment in education and the infrastructure enabled private business to thrive. We build road infrastructures and telecoms development was sponsored by Government.
But the 'conservatives' have grown in strength. They have learnt nothing from history - save how to package their message. Now in Britain - under the guise of addressing the deficit - Cameron is proposing a radical change to the role of government - in a way which, in his words "will affect our economy, our society - indeed our whole way of life".
I don't doubt the genuineness of the convictions of these conservatives - and look carefully at the people who sit alongside and behind Cameron! They genuinely believe that their ideology is the answer to our problems. But progressives need to wake up to this sleight of hand by Cameron. He is about changing how British society and the economy works - a warning needs to be sounded.
This is an ideological position as strong - and as discredited as communism. It will affect people's live - immensely.
Saturday 5 June 2010
Friday 4 June 2010
Thursday 3 June 2010
Children, Schools and Families [Education] - Conservative
Communities and Local Government - Labour
Culture, Media and Sport - Conservative
Defence - Conservative
Energy and Climate Change - Conservative
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Conservative
Foreign Affairs - Conservative
Health - Conservative
Home Affairs - Labour
International Development - Liberal Democrat
Justice - Liberal Democrat
Northern Ireland - Conservative
Science and Technology - Labour
Scottish Affairs - Labour
Transport - Labour
Treasury - Conservative
Welsh Affairs - Conservative
Work and Pensions - Labour
Environmental Audit - Labour
Procedure - Conservative
Public Administration - Conservative
Public Accounts - Labour
The ballot will take place on Wednesday 9 June between 10 am and 5 pm. Nominations will close at 5 pm on Tuesday 8 June.