The Speaker

Enough has been said in the press this morning about the Speaker’s performance yesterday. As feared he sought to tackle the issue of expenses, but could only say he would now discuss it with the there party leaders. He failed to tell us anything about his own position.

His Statement revealed yet another inadequacy in Parliament. Of course when the Speaker pronounces on a matter of interpetation of the rules of the House, or on a disciplinary matter affecting a Member, there must be no challenge to his authority, no questions to him to undermine the judgement. He is like an umpire or referee.

When he wishes to tell us his views on reform or improvement to the House, he is more like a Minister reporting on a department. In that role he should give a statement, then take questions in the usual way. He is not infallible on those matters, must gauge the mood of the House and be answerable to it. Yesterday he allowed a number of Points of Order. When one of these which strayed from Points of Order too far he declined to deal with it.

Douglas Carswell has now succeeded in collecting some Labour signatures for his motion of No Confidence. That is what is needed. As we were reminded yesterday, the Motion will only be debated if the government puts it on the Order paper. The government needs to see it is not just Opposition MPs who want that to happen. It should recognise that most Opposition MPs do want that to take place, and take place soon.

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22 Comments

  1. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    The public, understandably, has an appetite for retribution. However apart from a few of the more blatant abuses we’re not holding our breath that the Met will get their man/men/women – particularly after Burrell and Cash for Honours.

    We shouldn’t, though, underestimate the severe affect this sorry saga will have on the careers and future earning prospects of the offending MPs.
    Not only the loss of a job paying well above their proficiency level in many cases but a far dimmer prospect of future positions with quangos, grateful government suppliers and company directorships.
    Add to that the loss of a 34 weeks a year job, paid UK travel, foreign jaunts and the employment of family members.

    Whatever the official repercussions on these greedy servants of the public the hidden cost to them is catastrophic.

  2. figurewizard
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    One of the more odious moments in yesterday’s sorry episode in the Commons was the intervention by Sir Stuart Bell in support of the Speaker. This came from a man who as a member of the Speakers Common’s estimates committee tried to head off a then emerging scandal on MPs expenses by proposing a reformed system to be administered by an outside private agency. This device would have ensured that were this ever to be accepted, details of MPs expenditure would then not ever again be available for scrutiny under the Freedom of Information act.

    As plans go this was a breach of trust with the people of this country that ranks with the worst excesses of the likes of Morley and Chapman.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    John
    So The Speaker finds himself on the front pages again.
    Yes you are correct, the speaker is like a referee/umpire.
    The problem is that a referee/umpire should not be on the front pages at all.
    Aware that referees/umpires do sometimes make mistakes and find themselves temporarily in the spotlight, but good referees/umpires dislike such publicity, and if they appear too often then clearly there is either a flaw in their charecter, ability or their interpretation of the rules.

    I am afraid Mr Martin has had too much publicity for his own good, for the good of Parliament, and for the good of the Country.

    When the Speaker becomes the story, as has been the case now (on and off) for a number of years, and recently for days on end, then he should go, and go quickly before lasting damage is done to politics.

    At the moment we have Parliament in chaos, with a Government so weak (in public support terms) that it is impotent to act in any sensible way.

    Every policy that is being proposed by this Government is now ill thought out, does not work, is overcomplicated ,has no proper time scale, and has little support.
    Just look at the latest fiasco of the car scrappage scheme.
    Launched yesterday now in chaos on the same day, with both Honda and Toyota pulling out until a proper payment schedule and VAT charge can be sorted.

    Government Policy failure should be the headlines, not the Speaker.

    The Speaker should put his hands in his pocket one last time and take out his resignation.

    Mr Cameron should now get off the fence and join Mr Clegg in asking for him to go.

    The present situation is farcical.

    Here we have the Mother of all Parliaments being dictated to by a man who simply refuses to answer to his critics, supported in his position by a Prime Minister who was never elected to that position.

    A simple disgrace.

    Who would have though this possible 12 years ago when we heard the words.

    Purer than Pure, whiter than white.

  4. Sarkis Zeronian
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    So have you signed Carswell’s motion yet, Mr Redwood? And if not, why not?

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    The Speaker’s abysmal performance in the Commons yesterday was an emblematic microcosm of the whole crisis of parliamentary democracy facing our country.

  6. Letters From A Tory
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I simply do not see the Government going along with this. They know that a Labour Speaker being humiliated and thrown out of his position will reflect extremely badly on them and make it appear as though Parliament and the Government have lost control.

    The public are more concerned with the (most recent round of) abuse of expenses by MPs than they are with Parliamentary protocol.

  7. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    There’s something very wrong here.

    I understand that the government must govern, and therefore normally it should be able to get its everyday business debated in a timely fashion. But when a particularly serious and abnormal issue, especially a constitutional issue, arises then MPs should not simply roll over and allow government ministers to suppress debate.

    Again and again it comes back to having MPs who behave like the slaves of their party leaders, rather than being prepared to subordinate the narrow interests of their party to the wider interests of the country and its people, and therefore also of Parliament as the representative of the people.

    If they’re told to vote for a treaty which transfers decision making power from Parliament to the EU, they’ll do that; if they’re told to renege on the promise they made to their constituents, and vote against having a referendum on that treaty, they’ll do that; if they’re told to vote against the legal supremacy of their own Parliament, our national Parliament, they’ll even do that; I strongly suspect that if their party told them to vote to abolish Parliament altogether, they’d bloody well do that too, provided only that their personal futures were somehow assured.

    The way I see it, the behaviour of MPs over their expenses is one side of the coin, while their behaviour over the Lisbon Treaty is the other side of the same coin: the common feature being a profound, even if largely unspoken, contempt for the people who sent them to Parliament.

    • APL
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Dennis Cooper: “Again and again it comes back to having MPs who behave like the slaves of their party leaders, ”

      I couldn’t agree more.

      And don’t forget the rotten expenses system has been festering for over ten years, none of the Party leaders have done anything about it nor brought the issue to light. Why?

      Simple. Because it suited them to use the blandishments and blackmail on their own party members, and who knows on members of the opposing party.

      The Party establishment; Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat encouraged the corrupt system for their own ends. They are rotten, not the institutions of Parliament!

  8. Acorn
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    JR, is it true that the Father of the House takes over if the Speaker stands down. What is the new procedure for electing a Speaker?

    Reply: The new Speaker will be elected as soon as the old Speaker steps down. There will be a new procedure based on secret ballot, instead of past practise based on motions proposing different names.

    • Acorn
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Forget my previous post today, it is now irrelevant. Triple Flipping etc., is now history. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good so congratulations to the Daily Telegraph for upping its sales.

      I have been listening to the Policing and Crime Bill this pm. Yet another timetable motion. There was a chance here for MPs to assert the role of parliament by voting against this motion. But alas, the toady trougher lobby fodder did what it always does and voted it through.

      Our so called parliament will spend the rest of the evening discussing opposition amendments that will all fail; and spend at least fifteen minutes on every devision trooping through a lobby, just like they have been doing for centuries. I wonder how many expense forms you can fill in during a division.

      You would have thought that in the present climate these “honorable” members would have struck a blow for the sovereignty of parliament; fat chance. I am now watching a Whitehall farce, that is costing taxpayers a quarter of a million pounds an hour to produce.

  9. Waramess
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    This is I fear yet another sensational smoke screen contrived by “honerable” members to deflect the publicity otherwise directed at themselves.

    What however is being missed in all the smoke is that there are honourable members.

    Until Cameron, Brown and Clegg have a thorough clear out, not only of the fraudsters but also of those who dared skate on thin ice, then the public will continue to consider all MP’s to be troughing at the font of the public purse. And who can blame them?

  10. Demetrius
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    If this one is down to the bloggers various then there really has been a revolution. The problem is London. Government and Parliament should be moved out as soon as possible with the costs being met by scrapping the 2012 Olympics.

  11. Bazman
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Shooting the engine driver in a classic soviet way. Why not pin the banking crisis on him as well? He was helping this parasitic culture prevail in parliament, which was in turn fawning over a flawed entitlement based financial culture. Hardly any MP’s had much to say about either subject in the past. Now they are in the kangaroo court of public opinion are squealing like stuck pigs. Well done Comrades. Have a one way ticket to the Siberia that are the provinces of Britain. It will be a change from free to those that can afford it. Very expensive to those that can’t.

  12. Dan Tubb
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, is it too soon to ask your insider view as to who might make a good speaker?

    Reply: it is too early, as we do not know all who might run. The two early front runners are George Young and Frank Field.

  13. Antonia Howard
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    great day for democracy, next step is Brown before the Irish second vote.

    thanks

  14. Paul
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Sky News are reporting that Martin is due to make a statement to the House at 16:30 this afternoon to announce he is stepping down.

    Call me a cynic, but I would still want Carswell’s Motion debated because I do not trust these lying, spinning, cheating Labour crooks to be straight about this.

    I notice that Douglas Hogg has announced that he is to stand down at the next election. Now if McKay and Kirkbride and the Wintertons could also be shown the door we might start to get somewhere.

  15. Ronald Rumley
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    New speaker – Frank Field ?

  16. Adrian Peirson
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    To my mind the whole expenses shambles is small potatoes, the real scandal in Westminster and Whitehall is Treason.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-xGM6hzeWk

  17. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    WITH YOUR PERMISSION WE WISH TO REPRODUCE OUR BLOG THIS AFTERNOON TO DOUGLAS CARSWELL…A FINE ESSEX BOY!!

    Douglas – a good and just result. We and Parliament owe you thanks.

    Forward-thinking members can and must now use this unique time to go further with far-reaching reform.
    We have written to the Gazette on your own fortitude and fine performance alongwith our hope that this is the springboard for real parliamentary reform.
    2 extracts from this week’s letter follow…

    1…What’s more, current momentum provides real opportunity for reform beyond the immediate issue of MP’s ‘expenses’. The conditions of employment of MPs should be brought into the 21st century. There are 18 weeks a year in which Parliament does not sit and we should know what our members are doing for their 52 weeks-a-year salaries, accrued pensions and perks. And how often are they allowed to join in overseas ‘jollies’, if at all?…
    ***************
    2…However we are heartened to see now how the broad public has taken the matter to heart and is rising up in indignation. This age of the internet and 24-hour news has given voters real power and we must not forget it.
    We believe we have a local MP who is prepared to help drive through complete reform in Westminster, including a 20% reduction in MP numbers, elimination of bloated and wasteful allowances and the other issues raised in his book ‘The Plan’ and our own research.(Essex Voters Voice)…

    **************
    We hope the party will engage with all constituencies and invite the suggestions of their electorates. We are ready to play our part here in this constituency!

    AND IN WOKINGHAM TOO WE’RE SURE JOHN!

  18. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    De mortuis, nil nisi bonum
    “Abut the dead: nothing except good (words).

    (This reminds me of an extremely witty saying about the Liberal Party. “De mortuis, nil nisi Bonham Carter”. I forget who said it first.)

  19. Robert Eve
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Good to see he is on the way out.

    He won’t be missed.

  • 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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