Why no Parliament?

As I reached London before 7 am to avoid the £8 tax for coming to work called the Congestion Charge, I looked forward to another day with a broken Parliament not even bothering to meet to try to mend itself.

It beggars belief that the government will use its majority to send Parliament away as often as possible. It is particularly damning at a time when everyone else in the economy is having to work harder to keep their jobs and to preserve their businesses. It’s not as if there is a shortage of things to discuss or to put right.

It’s yet another day as an MP when my only option to say what I think needs saying is the web. No wonder so many people are fed up with Parliament, and think it offers such bad value for money. If Parliament was able to do a better job tackling the government, and was able to do so more of the time, maybe more people would think MPs needed office costs and back-up to do the job.

If all they see is an empty Parliament, closed owing to lack of government interest, they are not impressed. If at the same time they read some MPs think office costs include personal tax advice on the taxpayer, no wonder there’s such a gap between electors and elected.

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25 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Agreed.

    Good job you have this blog site, at least we can see you are willing.

    I wonder how many MP’s are now doing their second jobs.

    • ESSEX VOTERS VOICE
      Posted May 27, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Alan – this is an extract from a document we submitted in August 2008 to one of our Essex MPs (the excellent, and now well-known, Douglas Carswell).

      “The public feels entitled to know how much time a MP is allowed to allocate to interests other than those of his electorate. Also how he is allowed to spend his non-Westminster time and what are the parameters for overseas visits using the public purse? We see no reason why an MP should not have some form of published Job Specification without restricting his flexibility in dealing with the needs of the moment in properly representing his constituents. We also see no necessity for much of the ‘fact finding’ overseas trips in this day of internet, email and telephone conferencing. A presentation by the travelling MPs to his colleagues and the utilisation of private blogsites should generally suffice. The Speaker must play no part in the system.”

      No reason to change a word eh?

      We’ll cut and paste other extracts from some of the 12 topics we submitted as and when relevant.
      We hope with his new-found position of influence Douglas – and others – will re-read and adopt some of our proposals.
      We hope too that David Cameron will ensure that he matches his own fine words of listening to the voter and involving him/us in the reform process. He should ensure that all his present and prospective MPs take a defined early initiative to gather from their individual constituencies the ideas of we voters who are prepared to go the extra yard and offer specific ideas.

      We shall report back here if and when we see progress in that regard!

  2. Constantly Furious
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    “my only option to say what I think needs saying is the web”

    And that’s not a bad thing: you use the web very well. For you – and a few others – it acts as a complement to what you say in the media, and what you say in the house.

    If only all of your fellow MP’s were as good, we wouldn’t have to read this kind of tosh..

    realising that with the Archbishops comments, that at least I had God on my side, I began to vomit.

    Yes, Nadine Dorries is back, and she’s blogging again.

  3. Twotrees
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    As a member of the electorate, I’m beginning to wonder whether it makes any difference whether Parliament is sitting or in recess.
    You have commented previously that MPs do not have enough to do.
    Attendance at debates is miniscule and it takes quarter of an hour to rustle up enough members to vote at a division.
    Perhaps we could save a lot of money by abolishing Parliament altogether and just submitting to the diktats emanating from Brussels – which to a great extent is what we do anyway.

  4. tim holden
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    As we pay more we get less. The familiar reek of Gordon Brown pervades.

  5. Michael Booth
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    There’s one good thing about Parliament being closed… it means a temporary halt to shoddy, ‘let’s slip a draconian clause in and hope nobody notices’ legislation.

  6. James
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    This is a real oppurtunity for the Conservatives. Cutting the number of MP’s (Gordon Browns argument that we need more representation as we are not a federal system is a non-starter due to the fact we have three regional assemblies/parliaments) would be a winner with the public. Reform the Lords with 50 elected, 50 life and 50 hereditary peers. Abolish so called regional assemblies and replace Quangos with bodies that are accountable to the electorate. All this would save money, cut the red tape and increase real local democracy, all of which should be core conservative princples.

  7. Obnoxio The Clown
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Honestly, John, the less Parliament sits, the happier I am. It means they aren’t making our lives even more miserable that week.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    JR: “I looked forward to another day with a broken Parliament not even bothering to meet to try to mend itself.”

    Labour ministers even have the audacity to say that we can’t have a general election whilst these problems exist. Another example of why politicians are held in such low esteem by those they are supposed to be representing. The contempt with which the public is treated by this government and many MPs is outrageous but they have awakened the sleeping partner in that relationship and will pay the price for their contempt.

  9. Peter Turner
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    There is a desperate need need for Parliament to regain its authority. However, this will not happen unless there is a radical reform of its workings, a radical reform of its membership and a return to Parliament of the sovereign responsibilities that have been given to others. As long as Parliament stands subservient to Brussels it cannot regain the authority and primacy it needs.

  10. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I see that Cameron is talking about having fixed term parliaments.

    Once again, this is a proposal which does nothing to address the core problems; in fact for the more cynical among us it may even seem to be an attempt to distract attention from those problems and offer a preferred “non-solution”, rather than allowing people’s minds to turn to alternative solutions that the political class would see as highly undesirable.

    The people want a general election, but Brown will refuse to exercise the Royal Prerogative and call a general election until a time which best suits him, which in the present circumstances means until a time which best suits the EU.

    That is, not until after the Lisbon Treaty has come into force, assuming that the Irish can be bullied into voting “yes” in the repeat referendum in October.

    But under Cameron’s proposal it would be even worse, because an immediate general election would be forbidden by electoral law. The last general election was on May 5th 2005, and so the next general election would be five years later, May 2010, full stop.

    I know some will say that it should be fixed at four years, not five, but even that wouldn’t solve the problem in general terms. The Major government became intensely unpopular within six months of the general election on April 9th 1992, and yet with a four year fixed term the next general election would have already been scheduled for April 1996, full stop.

    Even if the governing party, and the government, started to disintegrate, and even if the government became increasingly incoherent and incompetent and resented by the populace, and even if many MPs knew that the longer they kept that discredited government in office the more discredited they themselves would become, it would be there in black and white on the statute book that there could be no early general election.

    So what then? Cut the fixed term to three years, or maybe to two years, or just one year?

    What Cameron is trying to avoid is the other solution – not legislation which rigidly fixes the interval between general elections, but legislation which empowers the people to bring about a general election at a time of their choosing.

    If he really believes, as he is expected to say:

    “… the central objective of the new politics we need should be a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power. From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities.”

    then his policy on parliamentary terms should be to retain a maximum term, maybe five years as now, but also provide the citizens with a direct legal mechanism for shortening that term.

    I’m sorry if this seems a cynical posting, but over several decades politicians themselves have taught me to be cynical, or at least deeply sceptical, about their motives and intentions. I would be a fool to ignore all those lessons of the past, simply because there’s a new face at one of the political parties.

  11. James Morrison
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    John,

    am fully in agreement with your thoughts on (and frustration at) the lack of activity in parliament, but I was wondering, is there any reason why the rest of the house couldn’t meet, even in the absence of the government?

    I know it might seem a bit stupid if, say, the Tories and LibDems were there debating/discussing government action (or inaction), or anything else for that matter, when the benches opposite are empty, but wouldn’t that also prove a point?

    (Obviously) I don’t know how all this (parliament) works, and I suppose it’s a bit of a silly idea, but I just can’t help thinking the “general population” don’t realise that this goes on, and might your doing this provide a little publicity? If only on the Parliament channel!

    Reply: The House authorities woulod prevent such a meeting I expect.

  12. Downsized Pete
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood. You are absolutely right in what you say. Here’s and idea: Why don’t you and other similarly minded MPs meet up ‘off the premises’ and debate some of these issues? It would show willingness to provide leadership and would further the cause of open democracy. The mainstream media might even turn up to cover it out off sheer curiosity. Think of it as a kind of “Britain’s MPs Got Talent”

  13. jean baker
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The arena for debate on ‘expensegate’ is the House.
    It’s been widely reported that Labour has for sometime past desisted calls for full and open disclosures on possible abuses of the system they operate.

    Conversely, the Telegraph (for one) has, by some means, either taken, or been given, ‘selected’ government data for publication.

    The whole issue should be brought to the house by the Opposition, coupled with a full and thorough investigation as to why alleged financial abuse was (reportedly) sanctioned by one of Brown’s own ministers.

  14. Adam Collyer
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I think the disillusionment is not just with elected politicians. There seems to be a growing gap between the whole ruling “class” and the people in general. I think it generally surrounds the continuous excuses for inaction and indecision on major issues.

    Just one little example: the Severn Barrage. A two year study into the alternative options (on top of two previous feasability studies), followed by meaningless “consultation” with supposed “stakeholders”, then a selection of a shortlist of options (by the way with money put into looking into the unselected options just in case they turn out to be better than the ones on the shortlist), followed by a report by the “Task Force”, followed by more “consultation”, followed by a decision by the Minister about whether he is able to support a scheme in principle, followed by detailed studies into the shortlisted options, followed by one or probably more “environmental impact assessment(s)”, more reports, another “decision” by the Minister, then a planning enquiry….and so it goes on.

    In fact, you often hear politicians and civil servants on the radio claiming they have taken action because “a process is in place” or “they have amended their procedures” or “they have begun the process of getting approval”.

    People are fed up with the excuses for inaction from people who really just don’t have the guts to make a decision, stand up to special interests and get the job done.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      …and who get paid very handsomely indeed for so doing.

  15. Robert K, Oxford
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    People are losing faith in parliamentary democracy, for good reason. Democracy only has virtue if it promotes justice and enhances individual liberties. One consequence of the past 12 years of misrule is the ascendance of the state over the citizen. This has been achieved by a domineering government and an acquiescent parliament: our democratic system has failed in its primary duty. In this context, the scandal of MPs’ expenses is merely a lightning rod of a much deeper fury amongst the electorate about the erosion of liberty and the arrogance of the ruling class. The route to economic recovery is to pare back the public sector and the reinvigoration of free markets. Absent a revolution (a word that has been getting more airtime recently) the only way this can be achieved is by Parliament asserting its will over the state and reversing the illiberal aggrandisement of government that characterised the Blair and Brown years.
    My vote will go to anyone who can make a fist of this argument in the upcoming election campaigns.

  16. Richard
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Absolutely spot on, on the money, too right, bleedin’ obvious really. It completely beggars belief – sure, I think we understand that there should be time alloted for constiuency stuff but if anyone can explain 82 days off in summer, i’ll go out shopping for a hat, buy it and eat it right there and then.

    Anywho – what with the DT revelations and this bloggy type thing taking off – hopefully Cammo will pull it back.

    If it makes it any better – i’m one of the only dude’s in my Local Government office – the Chief Exec’s here and the porters but… probably blag the aft off tho – but back to work tomorrow – no rest for the employed eh? Cheers John.

  17. Acorn
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    JR, a question if I may.

    Is it possible for you, or any MP, to obtain this type of information from our parliamentary machine as part of doing the job? Could YOU get this from the Treasury for instance or would the HoC Library supply it to you on request? (see link)

    You will see that the Senator has asked a question and recieved a detailed written answer within seven days. This letter then becomes a public document for all to read.

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/81xx/doc8116/05-18-TaxRevenues.pdf

    Reply: usuually this gov ernment makes answers to PQs as weak as possible.

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 26, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Acorn
      This information from my very limited eyesight (albeit the US version), is what I was suggesting be published in this blog last year.

      The growth in tax revenue from year to year when using a comparison with the last 1997 Conservative year in office.

      Ie: What is the increase in tax take from 1997 to now.

      Think it may be very substantial not only in figures but also in the way Tax has been raised, with additional stealth taxes introduced.

  18. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I have a dream:
    Mr Attlee going to work on the tube. Mr Gaitskell going on holiday in Leeds. Nye Bevan actually working down a mine for some of his life. Mr Redwood speaking from years of experience in industry and banking. Mr Hague writing books about stuff and thoroughly enjoying being a Director. Mr Field being able to do something about the amoral poor. The Archbishop saying, quite clearly, what he believes and why we should too. A prominent Muslim condemning terrorism. The Bank of England reforming and privatising the banks. The Treasury cutting back hard on its budget deficit. Mr Brown calling an election so Mr Cameron can get started on putting Dan Hannan’s ideas into practice. Parliament reflecting and containing these views, and people listening to each other and coming to some form of conclusion.

    And then I woke up.

  19. Adrian Peirson
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I personally think the Congestion charge should only apply to MP’s it was after all their Idea to open our borders.
    Ditto the coming taxes on CO2 Emmisions and Landfill.

  20. Duncan
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. That’s what you get when you let people set their own hours. I don’t see why Parliament can’t sit all year round and MPs have proxy voters for when they take holidays. If a corporation stopped trading for three weeks while everyone went on holiday at the same time it wouldn’t last very long…

  21. Clare
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m genuinely curious – why no Parliament? Nowadays if it’s a school holiday, it seems to be an MP’s holiday, and yet I’m sure this didn’t used to be the case. Is it under the guise of family friendly policies? If so, it is ludicrous, no one outside of the public sector could ever expect such terms of employment.

    Reply: Yes, it was a Labour “reform” to give us half term holidays. It means there is even less opportunity to cross examine the government.

  22. Matt
    Posted May 27, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    So if you didn’t need to get to London for work why did you bother driving in? Some of us are trying to get to real jobs and joyriders clogging up the roads is not really doing anyone a favour. Surely your time would be better spent trying to serve your constituents.

  • 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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