Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween in the UK

You often hear people say that "Halloween is an imported American festival". In a sense this is true - many of the practices we see today in Britain were rare when I was a child. November 5th was a much bigger occasion. For weeks before children would make and take from door to door (often very amateurish) effigies asking "a penny for the Guy". Guy Fawkes was the former mercenary who was the person tasked with collecting the gunpowder; guarding it and setting it off - which would have blown the Palace of Westminster up & killed King James I and many of the members of the Houses of Lords and Commons. He was discovered only hours before the attack was due. Since that day, "Guy Fawkes Night" has been celebrated with bonfires and fireworks.

BUT we did celebrate Halloween - there were some games (I remember "Apple-Bobbing" - at which I did not excel) & we had pumpkins - but it is only in recent years that Halloween has eclipsed Guy Fawkes Night and taken on the characteristics of the American holiday. Of course its roots were in celtic practices - and there is an excellent website about the British traditions and history of Halloween.

For more information on Guy Fawkes see previous posts on Washminster - Guy Fawkes; The New Session; and the Bonfire Night website.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Parliament Week

This coming week will see a number of events to celebrate "Parliament Week" (I suspect that the dates were not chosen by accident - November 5th was, by order of Parliament in the 17th Century, to be kept as an annual day of "public thanksgiving to Almighty God...that unfeigned thankfulness may never be forgotten, and that all ages to come may yield praises to God's divine majesty for the same." It was on that day that Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up Parliament was thwarted in 1605).

Details of the events (which occur across the country) can be found at a special website - http://www.parliamentweek.org/

I hope to be attending a few of the events, both at Westminster and in Birmingham. Do drop me a line if you will be attending any of the events.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

How Congress Monitors and Assesses Budgets

The Congressional Budget Office was set up by Congress to give specialist advice on costing and budgetary issues. It reviews legislatives proposals and the budget put forward by the Executive Branch. As a former elected official myself, I know how important it is to challenge the assumptions behind claims about the costs and savings of proposed actions.

The agency is composed primarily of economists and public policy analysts. About three-quarters of its professional staff hold advanced degrees, mostly in economics or public policy.

A fact sheet on the CBO is available here.

CBO Reports are published on its website http://www.cbo.gov/

The Analysis of the President's proposed budget for FY 2012 can be accessed here.

What numbers!

I inputed my date of birth via a link on the BBC News website - and was informed that

When you were born, you were the:

3,012,356,208th person alive on Earth
76,640,530,951st person to have lived since history began

It's a website worth visiting.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Statue of Liberty

Today is the anniversary of the dedication of the Statute of Liberty in 1886 by President Grover Cleveland. The statue, a gift from France, represents the Roman Goddess "Libertas". In France this deity of Freedom is personified as Marianne.

In Poitiers, one of my favourite cities in France, where I was once a visiting lecturer at The Sup de Co, and a student (part time) at the Universite - there is smaller replica of the Statue. If you are ever in that city, it's worth a visit - I did not know of its existence - but a friend, without telling me where I was being taken, surprised me as we turned the corner into La Place de la Liberte. An interactive map of Poitiers is available here.

The National Park Service website for the New York statue is available here.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Departments shamed

An update on the written questions unanswered by Departments (House of Lords) - the four worst are (with the DfT deserving a special award for being outstandlingly bad compared to every other Department. The Government Spokesman in the House of Lords is Earl Attlee - and the Government whip covering that Department is Lord Shutt of Greetland. Perhaps a word from both of them might encourage the DfT to get its act together. The Secretary of State, who has ultimate responsibility is Justine Greening [pictured])

Department for Transport     19
Dept for International Development     6
Welsh Office      3
Home Office      3

Electoral Registration - Lords Questions

Lord Bach: To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the reasons for their policy of making individual voter registration voluntary.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the Government's approach reflects the fact that it is not an offence not to be registered under the current system. This will not change under the new system. The offence of not providing information to an electoral registration officer-for example, when making a household enquiry-will be retained. It will not be extended to require an individual to apply to be registered.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, as far as it goes. He will know that at least 3 million of our fellow citizens, and probably more, already are not registered to vote at all. The independent Electoral Commission is of the view that if registering to vote becomes a voluntary activity, as the White Paper proposes, the result could be that up to 10 million people will fall off the electoral register, and that rates could fall in some areas from 90 per cent down to 65 per cent. Up to 35 per cent of the adult population could be disenfranchised. Is such a consequence acceptable in a mature democracy? Does the Minister agree that if such an event were to happen, no longer could we claim to the world, as we can today, that in Britain we live in a democratic country?

Lord McNally: My Lords, of course it is not acceptable; but neither is it acceptable for a mature political party to go round shroud-waving on a conclusion which involved joint deliberation by the parties that the old system had become increasingly distrusted and that voluntary registration-which would eliminate, or do a lot to eliminate, fraud, and create greater public confidence in the system-should be the way forward. The way forward proposed in the White Paper gives enough guarantees and assurances to show that the kind of language that the noble Lord has just used is, quite frankly, scare tactics which are not worthy of him or his party.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, coming from a country where voting is compulsory, I can understand why it should be compulsory to be on the register. However, as voting is voluntary in this country, what is the difference between not wishing to vote and not wishing to register? Can the Minister please clarify?

Lord McNally: Unlike in Australia, not wishing to vote remains an inalienable right of the British people. Registering is a civic duty and we hope that it will increasingly be seen as such. I certainly hope that over the next few years all the political parties will embrace the idea of an individual register and use their influence to ensure that people exercise their right. Of course, once people are on the register they will retain their right not to vote.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, on the question of shroud-waving, will the noble Lord explain to us why, when this stupid system was introduced in Northern Ireland, the registration of voters totally collapsed? Why did that happen?

Lord McNally: Perhaps someone from Northern Ireland will intervene, but, again, the language is not borne out by the facts. It did not totally collapse. In this gradual process that we are bringing forward, we are learning from the examples and lessons of the Northern Ireland experience, as well as looking at some of the practices that are going on there now. Northern Ireland votes are a standard joke but we are now learning lessons about voluntary registration and its success in Northern Ireland.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, the existing system, whereby householders can in theory be prosecuted for failing to return their registration forms, has not worked, largely for the simple reason that no one can tell who the responsible householder is in households with more than person. Therefore, does not individual registration offer a good opportunity at least to consider a meaningful compulsory system, and is that not important, given that the electoral register determines not just the right to vote but also the call-up for jury service?

Lord McNally: Those are very valid points. To put the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, into perspective, I again emphasise that the annual canvass will continue to support the maintenance of the electoral register. Significant work, including public awareness campaigns by the Electoral Commission, will be funded in 2014-15 to manage the transition to individual electoral registration. In both those years, door-to-door canvassing will be used by electoral registration officers as part of a wide suite of powers to encourage people to register to vote. This is a step forward against electoral fraud. Instead of making emotional interventions, it would be good if the Labour Party would endorse it and get on with encouraging people to register.

Lord Wills: My Lords, all the evidence that I saw when I was the Minister responsible for these matters in the previous Government suggests that the introduction of individual registration, no matter how desirable for other reasons, is going to carry with it severe risks that millions of otherwise eligible voters will fall off the register. That is why, when the previous Government introduced this measure, they locked it into the achievement of a comprehensive and accurate register.

It is also why the Conservative shadow Minister at the time said on the Floor of the other place that, "we agree with the Government that the accuracy, comprehensiveness and integrity of the register ... is paramount ... I do not intend to vote against these Government amendments because ... I believe that it is right to take this matter forward carefully and step by step".-[Official Report, Commons, 13/07/09; col. 108.]

The Liberal Democrats also supported this approach. Can the Minister please tell your Lordships what new evidence he has seen that has persuaded him that the careful approach adopted by the previous Government and supported by both main parties in opposition is now wrong?

Lord McNally: We are going forward by learning from the lessons and experience of Northern Ireland.

Noble Lords: Answer the question.

Lord McNally: I am answering the question. From some of the questions, you would not believe that we will be having a two-year period in which we will be taking a belt-and-braces approach with the present system running in parallel and with every opportunity for democratic organisations and others to persuade people voluntarily to go on the electoral register and exercise their civic duty. The answer is that we have decided on a belt-and-braces approach, which will allow a smooth transition to a new scheme. It is a perfectly sensible approach, which draws on some of the experiences of the previous Government. I think that the Labour Party is being disgraceful on this. It should get on with recruiting members and persuading people to register to vote instead of using these scare tactics, which, quite frankly, are not worthy of it.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Constitutional Handbook

The final version of the Cabinet Manual has now been published (a draft appeared last year). The Prime Minister writes in the introduction -

"The Cabinet Manual sets out the internal rules and procedures under which the Government operates. For the first time the conventions determining how the Government operates are transparently set out in one place. Codifying and publishing these sheds welcome light on how the Government interacts with the other parts of our democratic system."

The Cabinet Secretary writes "While the document primarily provides a guide to the operation of the Government itself, it also sets out – from the view of the Executive – the Government’s place in the UK’s Parliamentary democracy. It therefore includes chapters on how the Government relates to the Sovereign, Parliament and the independent judiciary, as well as the other democratic institutions within the UK and key international bodies."

As you can imagine from those comments - this document will be important for Constitutional Law students and lecturers (I've already downloaded a copy to my iPad!)

The Cabinet Manual (in PDF format)is available here.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The temporary absence of Washminster

My apologies for the current absence of posts for Washminster. I am in the middle of marking exam papers - and the blog will return as soon as I have finished (which should be in the next few days! In any event, the final deadline for sumbimission of the marked scripts is 1st November)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Almanac of American Politics

I reported some time ago that my copy of CQ Roll Call's "Politics in America" had arrived. I'm pleased to announce that National Journal's "Almanac of American Politics 2012" reached my home this week. While they both provide details of Members of Congress and the electoral districts - they are sufficiently different to justify buying both. I've been buying both since the 108th Congress (we are now in the 112th) - and both have been useful as reference sources during the Congress; as vital background for elections (see the posts in 2008 & 2010 where I describe some of the key seats); and now as a useful source of historical information for my Whips research.

Details of the Almanac can be found here

If you are in the UK, you can order the Almanac using the link below (Washminster earns some commission from orders placed via this link)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Assemblee nationale

The Assemblee nationale continues to meet (despite the distractions of the Socialiste primary and its aftermath). The business papers can be accessed Here (French). There's a very good English language site giving much background about the procedures and work of the assemblee here.

There is a "parliamentary channel" - LCP - http://www.lcp.fr/ (which is available also as an iPad App; iPhone App; and an Android App).

The next elections - once again run over two rounds - will take place on the 10th and 17th June. The country is divided into 577 districts ('circonscriptions'),

The law relating to the elections can be found in the Code electoral. The version which is due to be in force for the legislative elections in June can be accessed here.

If you are like me - obsessed by electoral statistics - then you can delight in the results of recent previous elections which can be accessed here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Shaping Up

The two main elections that Washminster will be following in 2012 are beginning to take shape. Yesterday the Centre-Left in France (Parti Socialiste and the Parti Radical de Gauche) held the final round of the Primary to select a candidate to take on the current French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. The latter has yet to formally announce his bid for re-election, but it would be a real surprise if he didn't run. The PS/PRG candidate will be Francois Hollande - a former First General Secretary (Head of the Party Organisation) of the PS (1997-2008) and a depute (equivalent of MP or Representative in the Assemblee nationale) for a district in the departement of Correze (1988-93; 1997-date).

As explained in earlier posts - the French Presidential election takes two rounds - the first in which all parties can put up a candidate - and the second, in which only the highest scoring candidates face off. The first round takes place on April 22nd and the final round on May 6th.

In the United States the Republicans continue with a series of debates before the State primaries or caucuses (each State has its own method of selecting nominees for each party). The primary season has inched forward - so watch this space for details of the calendar as it changes. The chosen nominee will formally be announced at the respective conventions - but in recent decades, the winner has been obvious for some time before.

The current calendar is -

01-10December 2011 or Early January 2012 New Hampshire primary
01-03January 3, 2012 (tentative) Iowa caucus
January 14, 2012 Nevada caucus
January 21, 2012 South Carolina primary
January 31, 2012 Florida primary
February 4–11, 2012 Maine caucus
February 7, 2012 Colorado caucus
February 7, 2012 Minnesota caucus
February 28, 2012 Arizona primary
February 28, 2012 Michigan primary
March 3, 2012 Washington caucus
March 6, 2012 Alaska caucus
March 6, 2012 Georgia primary
March 6, 2012 Idaho caucus
March 6, 2012 Massachusetts primary 
March 6, 2012 North Dakota caucus
March 6, 2012 Ohio primary
March 6, 2012 Oklahoma primary
March 6, 2012 Tennessee primary
March 6, 2012 Texas primary 
March 6, 2012 Vermont primary
March 6, 2012 Virginia primary 
March 6–10, 2012 Wyoming caucus
March 10, 2012 Kansas caucus
March 10, 2012 U.S. Virgin Islands caucus
March 13, 2012 Alabama primary
March 13, 2012 Hawaii caucus
March 13, 2012 Mississippi primary
March 17, 2012 Missouri caucus
March 20, 2012 Illinois primary
March 24, 2012 Louisiana primary
April 3, 2012 Maryland primary
April 3, 2012 Washington, D.C. primary
April 3, 2012 Wisconsin primary
April 24, 2012 Connecticut primary
April 24, 2012 Delaware primary 
April 24, 2012 New York primary
April 24, 2012 Pennsylvania primary
April 24, 2012 Rhode Island primary
May 8, 2012 Indiana primary
May 8, 2012 North Carolina primary
May 8, 2012 West Virginia primary
May 15, 2012 Nebraska primary
May 15, 2012 Oregon primary
May 22, 2012 Arkansas primary
May 22, 2012 Kentucky primary
June 5, 2012 California primary
June 5, 2012 Montana primary
June 5, 2012 New Jersey primary
June 5, 2012 New Mexico primary
June 5, 2012 South Dakota primary
June 26, 2012 Utah primary
Not yet scheduled American Samoa caucus
Not yet scheduled Guam caucus
Not yet scheduled Northern Mariana Islands caucus
Not yet scheduled Puerto Rico caucus

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Constitution 3.0

From the Brookings Institution, Washington DC

Technological changes are posing stark challenges to America’s core values. Basic constitutional principles find themselves under stress from stunning advances that were unimaginable even a few decades ago, much less during the Founders’ era. Policymakers and scholars must begin thinking about how constitutional principles are being tested by technological change and how to ensure that those principles can be preserved without hindering technological progress.

Constitution 3.0, a product of the Brookings Institution’s landmark Future of the Constitution program, presents an invaluable roadmap for responding to the challenge of adapting our constitutional values to future technological developments. Renowned legal analysts Jeffrey Rosen and Benjamin Wittes asked a diverse group of leading scholars to imagine plausible technological developments in or near the year 2025 that would stress current constitutional law and to propose possible solutions. Some tackled issues certain to arise in the very near future, while others addressed more speculative or hypothetical questions. Some favor judicial responses to the scenarios they pose; others prefer legislative or regulatory responses.

Here is a sampling of the questions raised and answered in Constitution 3.0:

• How do we ensure our security in the face of the biotechnology revolution and our overwhelming dependence on internationally networked computers?

• How do we protect free speech and privacy in a world in which Google and Facebook have more control than any government or judge?

• How will advances in brain scan technologies affect the constitutional right against self-incrimination?

• Are Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure obsolete in an age of ubiquitous video and unlimited data storage and processing?

• How vigorously should society and the law respect the autonomy of individuals to manipulate their genes and design their own babies?

Individually and collectively, the deeply thoughtful analyses in Constitution 3.0 present an innovative roadmap for adapting our core legal values, in the interest of keeping the Constitution relevant through the 21st century.

Contributors include: Jamie Boyle, Erich Cohen, Robert George, Jack Goldsmith, Orin Kerr, Lawrence Lessig, Stephen Morse, John Robertson, Jeffrey Rosen, Christopher Slobogin, O. Carter Snead, Benjamin Wittes, Tim Wu, and Jonathan Zittrain.

To Order from the USA
To Order in the UK or Europe - Go here & search for "Constitution 3.0"; Publisher (from drop down list) "Brookings"

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Second Round

On Sunday, the Second Round of the Primaries for a Socialist candidate in the French Presidential Elections will be held. A number of different systems for election are used in France - but the two-rounds which apply to elections for the Assemblee nationale and Presidential elections have a certain attraction.

Only the two leading candidates from the first round go forward. This has a number of advantages - the person ultimately elected has to get 50% of the votes cast (a disappearing quality for British MPs - who can be elected on a small proportion - and the more candidates who stand, the smaller the winning proportion necessary). Representation is based on which candidate can attract the widest support (Proportional Systems can hand seats to candidates who only appeal to a particular group - and can discourage reaching out beyond the particular ethnic or extremist group). It is more expensive than expressing second (or more) preferences on a single ballot sheet (as in the Alternative Vote) - but allows the voter to choose between the most popular candidates (or parties) - without promoting the "least offensive to all" candidate.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Legislative Process in the House of Commons

Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of posts about procedure and practice relating to the passage of Bills through the House of Commons. This will be in more depth than the overviews that can normally be found - for example (and I'd recommend this to anyone wanting a useful overview of the UK legislative process) - the guide on the Parliamentary website.

One criticism that is often made of the Commons process, is that there is insufficient scrutiny. In this series I will highlight opportunities for scrutiny. Most of all - I would encourage you to look at bills - and contact your Member of Parliament if you identify concerns. Better legislation is in OUR interests.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

EU Law

European Union Law is - [by virtue of Parliament's will expressed in the European Communities Act 1972 (note especially s2(1); s3(1)) - which of course, should any future Parliament so resolve - be rescinded] - as much a part of English Law as any Statute, Statutory Instrument, or precedent.

The Treaties are "Primary Legislation" - and under them secondary legislation may be made. Article 288 defines the different types of secondary legislation.

"To exercise the Union's competences, the institutions shall adopt regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions.

A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods.

A decision shall be binding in its entirety. A decision which specifies those to whom it is addressed shall be binding only on them.

Recommendations and opinions shall have no binding force."

Rights arising in Euroean Union Law may be enforceable in the national courts. For this to happen they must be capable of "Direct Effect" (not to be confused with Directly Applicable - an attribute of Regulations, which means that no further national legislative action is needed to bring the regulation into national law. Directives, of course, need to be implemented). The Van Gend criteria applies to all types of legislation - the right must be clear, precise and unconditional. Directives require two additional tests to be passed
* the date for implementation must have passed
* the body the right is being claimed against must be "an emanation of the State". The Foster v British Gas case sets out the principles for identifying what an emanation of the State is.

If a right can't be enforced because it fails the criteria for Direct Effect - "indirect effect" may be of help. This principles obliges the national court to seek to interpret the national legislation to give effect to the EU right. Of course sometimes that is not possible - it would do 'violence to the language' of the national legislation to read in the word "not" or change a number (for example the number of months a person must have worked for an employer before he can rely on the right).

If a right can be enforced using Direct Effect or Indirect Effect, it may be possible to sue the national government (in Direct & Indirect Effect cases the person or body whose immediate action has harmed the Claimant - the employer who hasn't given the employer what EU law says they are entitled to - equal pay for work of equal value, for example - is the person sued). The Francovich Principle applies.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

London Jazz Festival

The Annual London Jazz Festival begins in a month's time. This is the programme of events.


My apologies if you are an iPhone or iPad reader of this blog. They are unable to display the video. If you know of any way to resolve this issue - or are having any other problems viewing Washminster - please email me on jdavidmorgan@googlemail.com

The Constitutional Role of Judges

C-SPAN broadcast this video of two US Supreme Court Justices giving evidence to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the role of judges. It is a very important issue to be thinking about. In the UK Judges has recognised the principle of "Parliamentary Sovereignty", in which they have recognised that their role is to interpret, but not overrule what Parliament has decided.

I hope that you would use this video to reflect on the role that the judiciary can, and should play.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Updated Website

The new website has been enhanced - http://www.washminster.com/p1.htm


We all associate "Impeachment" with attempts to remove American Presidents - Clinton in 1998-9 (and for those of us with a longer memory - Nixon in 1974). Yet it was a concept adopted by the Americans from the English Parliament, just as it was falling out of favour here. It is now regarded as obsolete in the UK.

The House of Commons Library has produced an interesting background paper on the subject - it is available here.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Looking Ahead

The new term has begun at the US Supreme Court. This C-SPAN programme gives a preview of the cases that the Court is likely to be considering in the coming months.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The New Shadow Cabinet

The membership of Labour's Shadow cabinet used to be decided by Party Conference. The Leader then allocated jobs to those chosen. This year, Ed Miliband succeeded in persuading Conference to change the rules so that he had complete freedom of choice. The new Shadow Cabinet is, with immediate effect -

Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party
Ed Miliband MP

Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Party Chair and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Harriet Harman MP

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ed Balls MP

Shadow Foreign Secretary
Douglas Alexander MP

Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
Yvette Cooper MP

Shadow Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
Sadiq Khan MP

Shadow Chief Whip
Rosie Winterton MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Andy Burnham MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Education
Stephen Twigg MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Chuka Umunna MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Jim Murphy MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Hilary Benn MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Angela Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Caroline Flint MP

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Rachel Reeves MP

Shadow Minister for London and the Olympics
Tessa Jowell MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Maria Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Policy Review Co-ordinator
Liam Byrne MP

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Ivan Lewis MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Mary Creagh MP

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Jon Trickett MP

Labour Party Deputy Chair and Campaign Coordinator
Tom Watson MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Vernon Coaker MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Margaret Curran MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Chair of the National Policy Forum
Peter Hain MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Lords Chief Whip
Lord Bassam of Brighton

Also attending Shadow Cabinet:

Shadow Minister for Care and Older People
Liz Kendall MP

Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)
Michael Dugher MP

Shadow Attorney General
Emily Thornberry MP

Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)
Lord Stewart Wood

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Speakers' Lists

For certain business (General Debates; Second Reading Debates), Members of the House of Lords can sign up for the Speakers List. These are not complied for business in which moving amendments to a Bill are discussed (such as the Committee or Report Stages).

It can be useful to look ahead to see how much interest there is in a debate. Yesterday Lady Thornton tweeted that (by 09-00 on 5th October) 73 Peers had signed up to speak in the Second Reading Debate on the Health & Social Care Bill, which is due on 11th October. An indication of the keen interest in that Bill.

The information can be found on the Government Whips' Office website here.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Naming and Shaming

As with the House of Commons, Members of the House of Lords can submit questions for written answer (QWAs). These should be answered within 14 days. Each day a list is published in the "House of Lords Business (a Green booklet setting out the days business; business to come in the forthcoming month - and which is full of useful information - visit here to see the document) - which lists Written questions unanswered after 10 working days. The dates when the questions were submitted (and in brackets when the answer should have been given by) are given

5 September (19 September)

HL11585 Lord Warner [DfID]
HL11589 Lord Avebury [HO]
HL11601 Lord Ramsbotham [MoJ]
HL11602 Lord Ramsbotham [MoJ]
HL11603 Lord Ramsbotham [MoJ]
HL11606 Lord Laird [DWP]
HL11608 Lord Laird [DCLG]
HL11639 Lord Hunt of Kings Heath [HO]
HL11640 Lord Hunt of Kings Heath [HO]

6 September (20 September)

HL11691 Lord Chidgey [DfT]
HL11695 Lord Chidgey [DfT]

7 September (21 September)

HL11713 Lord Adonis [HO]
HL11714 Lord Laird [HO]

8 September (22 September)

HL11743 Lord Morris of Manchester [HO]
HL11775 Lord Kennedy of Southwark [MoJ]
HL11786 Lord Lester of Herne Hill [MoJ]
HL11793 Lord Laird [DWP]

12 September (26 September)

HL11797 Lord Chidgey [CO]
HL11798 Lord Chidgey [CO]
HL11799 Lord Chidgey [CO]
HL11803 Lord Kennedy of Southwark [DfT]
HL11804 Lord Kennedy of Southwark [DfT]

13 September (27 September)

HL11852 Lord Kennedy of Southwark [DfT]
HL11853 Lord Kennedy of Southwark [DfT]
HL11881 Lord Laird [CO]
HL11884 Lord Ahmed [MoD]
HL11885 Lord Ahmed [MoD]

14 September (28 September)

HL11923 Lord Hunt of Kings Heath [DEFRA]
HL11930 Lord Kennedy of Southwark [HO]

15 September (29 September)

HL11933 Lord Harrison [DfT]
HL11937 Baroness Smith of Basildon [HO]
HL11942 Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead [DfID]
HL11957 Lord Tebbit [HO]
HL11961 Lord Howard of Lympne [MoJ]
HL11963 The Earl of Sandwich [DfID]
HL11987 Lord Boswell of Aynho [DWP]
HL11988 Lord Boswell of Aynho [DWP]
HL11997 Lord Bradshaw [DfT]
HL11998 Lord Bradshaw [DfT]

The Departments which have been the most number of questions unanswered are revealed in a table - I intend regularly to reproduce this "naming and shaming" on Washminster -
[Cabinet Office]      4
[Department  for Communities and Local Government]      1
[Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs]      1
[Department for International Department]      3
[Department for Transport]      9
[Department of Work & Pensions]      4
[Home Office]      9
[Ministry of Defence]      2
[Ministry of Justice]      6

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thoughts on Revision

A video made for students facing exams within the next month (if that's not you - do bookmark this post and come back to it when you are in the middle of exam revision).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Washminster Website

I am in the process of constructing a website to accompany the Blog. An initial version is now available at http://www.washminster.com/

Separation of Powers in the UK

University exams on Constitutional Law usually have a question on the Separation of Powers. I've already mentioned the idea of three functions of government in my post of 29th September. There are also a number of earlier Washminster posts on the subject - see my 2007 post; Comparing Constitutions; Checks and Balances;

Below is a MindMap highlighting the main points. This can be increased in size by clicking on the image. It is just a beginning - examples of where Separation of Powers is legislated for; and where the doctrine is ignored - can be added. The key thing to remember is that Britain has a system of responsible Government - Ministers are members of - and answerable to - one of the two Chambers in the UK Parliament.

The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 excludes a number of people from the Commons, because of their role in other branches. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 separates the Highest Court in the English Legal System from the House of Lords.

The link to the biographical details of Montesquieu can be found here.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Milton Keynes' own Roman Villa

Milton Keynes is Britain's newest city. It was built since being designated as a "new town" in 1967. Yet within its boundaries are many historic buildings and sites. Only a couple of streets away from my home an iron age settlement was discovered.

Often I will get some exercise by going for a cycle ride - and I frequently follow the Millennium Way - a cycle route which goes around the city. Just off the route is a Roman Villa.

This is a photo I took of the site during a recent cycle ride. There are interpretation boards which explain the historical development of the site - and they show how it looked at various times. Below is an artists impression of the Villa at its height.

A local archeological webpage is dedicated to the villa. It can be accessed here.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Conservative Party Conference

The final major party conference, as is the usual pattern, is that of the Conservative Party. It is being held in Manchester. Last year Labour held their conference there, and will return next year (and I'll be going!). However for 2011 Manchester hosts the Conservatives. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister will address the conference.

A Conference App is available here.

The website can be found here.