You couldn’t make it up

Two news items today –

The Audit Commission (public body dedicated to getting value for money for taxpayers) placed £10 million in a couple of Icelandic banks and tells us this accorded with its investment guidelines. Wouldn’t an apology and a mea culpa have been more in order?

We learn that they might close the Commons for up to three years to spend lots of money on modernising it! That would a fitting tribute on this government’s grave – “We closed Parliament so we could spend more of your money on modernising it”. They do say we might be able to meet somewhere else – that’s quite a concession! They have also sent out the Parliamentary holiday dates for next year. They amount to some 145 days.

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18 Comments

  1. Paul Danon
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    It is scandalous that parliamentarians get so much holiday. They can't get that many letters from constituents about defective drains and, anyway, such matters are for councils rather than legislators. It would be better if MPs weren't paid but, for as long as they are, they should get just five weeks' holiday a year like the rest of us. Time always seems short in parliament, yet it wouldn't be as scarce if MPs treated their work like a job. Their most important roles are lawmaking and scrutinising government, which is done in Westminster, not in the constituency. MPs are sent from a place to the legislature. They're not governors or mayors of the areas they represent. They shouldn't have directorships or law-practices because their loyalties are thus divided and, anyway, with a full working year, they'd be too busy in parliament.

  2. Stuart Fairney
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    From the BBC

    ~ A Commons spokeswoman said much of the infrastructure in the Commons had reached the end of its "economic life" ~

    For once I cannot disagree with them….

  3. Mike Rouse
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Would you be open to the idea of Parliament being held in different parts of the country during the 3 years? It's been done before in the 1400s when it was moved to Coventry for a number of years under Henry IV.

  4. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Most of the Labour government is behaving as is nothing has changed. When are they going to start cutting back. I see the Irish government are taking pay cuts as a way of showing they understand. This Labour government does noy inhabit the same world as we do.

  5. rugfish
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    We live in a world of illusion.

    Wealth is based on personal debt or debt of others – Wealth is an illusion as it relies on others debt.

    Freedom is based on the ability of people to travel and lodge themselves in others backyards and jobs – Freedom is an illusion for some and a nightmare for others.

    Democracy is based on having a say to influence laws – Democracy is an illusion as no one has the ability to change laws.

    Justice is based on seeing justice done – Justice is an illusion because it is meted out and then usurped by others who we have no power to control.

    Power is based on military, political and economic strength – Power is an illusion as our politics has extracted the piss out of people, robbed their democracy, it has no mandate and is therefore weak, our economies are built on a pile of sand and our military lacks moral respect or proper mandate under this government.

    We lack natural resources to change it and we lack political motivation to help ourselves, and we therefore live an illusionary existence based on debt.

    We are in fact living a lie and if parliament was closed the only thing we'd notice was the scaffolding if we passed it.

    Also, the fact that the Audit Commission could be blameless for placing £10 million into an Icelandic bank is also an illusion and one the government should be held to account on in a formal financial enquiry which gets to the bottom of all this so we can all stop living a lie in future.

  6. FatBigot
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    A trustee would find himself in deep trouble if he took the same risks with the trust fund under his care as Councils, the Audit Commissions and other public bodies have with the taxpayers' money they have received. As soon as the Icelandic banks started to be downgraded they should have been treated as off-limits. No institution with less than the highest credit rating is a suitable repository. Some councils did this rather than chase an extra percent or so of interest, hats off to them for treating their responsibilities with due seriousness.

    We are now hearing a lot of rather lame excuses being trotted out by the councils who thought the equivalent of a three-legged nag in the 4.30 at Doncaster was a wise investment. It's all the stuff one would expect: "following guidelines", "carefully considered", "high credit rankings", "seeking value for money". It's all nonsense, their first responsibility was to ensure the fund was safe and they failed because they took a risk and they knew it was a risk. Will heads roll? I'm not holding my breath.

  7. DennisA
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Isn't all this just an acknowledgement that we are in reality governed by the EU Commission. Who did Brown go and discuss the financial situation with? Parliament? No, his colleagues in Europe.

    Anyway it seems a lot of MP's don't think it's worth turning up. The chamber was virtually empty when Ed Balls was delivering yet more changes to education with his speech on SATS.

    Perhaps there should be a basic salary plus attendance money. No wonder there was so much antipathy a few years ago to the filming of Parliament.

    • Andrew Forbes
      Posted October 17, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, I don't think I'd bother to turn up for an Ed Balls speech, either.

  8. mikestallard
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that Parliament has had its day.
    Let's not bind on about the EU taking all the decisions. We all know they do.
    Then we all know that our MP is beholden to the party not the electorate. His/her promotion prospects depend on being good and answering the blackberry obediently when told. They in no way depend on being elected; that is increasingly a formality. For MEPs, of course, as we saw in the good fringe debate with Nigel Farrage and Simon Heffer at the Conservative Party Conference this year hen the two very best MEPS were forbidden to attend, their reselection depends on the party completely.
    We live in a Presidential autocracy now where the Boss chooses his friends and runs the country through appointees. There is very little discussion, just debates.
    Do you remember C Northcott Parkinson? He noticed that when organisations are in sharp decline, that they start building huge palaces for themselves? The instance he gives, if I remember right, is the palace of Versailles. The baths of Caracalla, at the end of the Roman Empire are another example. So is Mugabe's Mansion, funded by the Chinese for oil concessions.
    Now we have Portcullis House and the refurbishment you speak of.

  9. StevenL
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    "They do say we might be able to meet somewhere else …" (JR)

    Perhaps they could find a room for you all in Brussels to rubber stamp the directives and regulations in?

  10. Donitz
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Are MP's in competion with teachers?

    Start work at 9 and finish at 3:30 with an hour and a half off each day for tea/lunch breaks. Thats a 5 hour day.

    Of course there are the 15 weeks of annual holiday. Christmas, Easter, Summer and 3 half terms.

  11. Acorn
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Just a minute, how come the Audit Commission has got £10 million to stash in a bank anyway!!!

    Why are they not working out of a Treasury current account at the BoE or a Treasury clearing bank current account.

    They are a Quango; they should not have £10 m "on deposit" anywhere.

  12. David Eyles
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    These ever longer Parliamewntary holidays combined with the reduction of PMQs from twice a week to once a week appear to be a steady erosion of Parliamentary democracy. The government is gradually reducing the number of occasions when it can be publicly held to account.

    Is David Cameron going to restore democracy to the UK?

  13. Bazman
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    The Tory party. Bankrolled by the city and bailed out by the taxpayer. You could not make that one up John.

    • mikestallard
      Posted October 18, 2008 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Actually, what with Lord Levy and Peter Mandelson's statement about being completely relaxed about capitalism, then the reaction to the banking crisis, you have just described New Labour.
      Did you mean to?

  14. Stephen Jenner
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    How does the number of days a parliament sits in a year equate to quality of government?

    This Labour government could sit 24/7/365 and still bugger everything up.

    Notably the Swiss parliament sits for around 72 days per year.

  15. adam
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Walter Mitty seems to have decamped to Brussels permanently now, so he can save the western world, whats the odds they suggest you all decamp to Strasburg to learn how to be good Europeans.
    Anyway, three years! ? What on earth does the modernisation involve. I bet when you return the thing will be demolished and replaced with some post-modern office that looks like it belongs to a well-to-do insurance firm. Think Scottish Assembly.
    Wembly Stadium style building overruns, incompetance and corruption will mean it is never finished and the talking point will be we dont really need parliament as regional assemblies are better and local.

    And that will be that.

  16. John
    Posted October 20, 2008 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    We learn that they might close the Commons for up to three years to spend lots of money on modernising it! That would a fitting tribute on this government’s grave – “

    er -this is not a small thing.
    parliament is not a government building . it is parliament and the government cannot simply order it to be closed . it would take a vote by the members of parliament to close it which the government could do as they have a majority

    They would have to make a case and a debate would have to be held

    details – is there simply to be no parliament for three years or indeed ever again ? Slippage in the refurbishment timetable could be used to close it forever .

    The complacent tone of your remarking upon this topic Mr Redwood leaves me very worried. Brown could just close down democracy under such a pretext and it would seem the Tories wouldn't be too disturbed – other than a bit bemused!

    Reply: I am not complacent but critical. I do not want them to close the building or spend so much money, but they have the majority so will be able to do so. They do intend to let us meet elsewhere.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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