Three Ministers, no answers, one defeat – another typical day in the Commons

Yesterday Barbara Keeley produced one of the worst Ministerial replies I have heard during the proceedings on the government’s rushed and incompetent Bill to change the arrangements for paying MPs allowances and salaries. It was so bad her boss Jack Straw also gave a wind up speech on the same amendments, to try to calm the House down. Those of us who asked her to clarify her proposals received no answers of any kind. Shortly afterwards the government lost a vote on the much hated Clause 10 of the Bill, so that clause was struck out.

Sadiq Khan was dragged to the House around 8pm to tell us about the nationalisation of the East coast mainline rail franchise, which everyone else had heard about hours before on the media. I asked him how much money the taxpayer would have to put in as share capital and working capital to set up the nationalised company that would run the service. There was of course no answer, as Ministers apparently have gone ahead with their plan to do this without working out the numbers and the money at risk. As always, they only do soundbites.,

Sarah McCarthy Fry, a junior Treasury Minister, completed the trio by being unwilling or unable to answer basic questions about how their new scheme to encourage saving for people on benefit and low income would work.

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15 Comments

  1. Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    “Sarah McCarthy Fry, a junior Treasury Minister, completed the trio by being unwilling or unable to answer basic questions about how their new scheme to encourage saving for people on benefit and low income would work.”

    She won’t answer because she can’t. The idea that people on low incomes have any spare income over and above the immediate needs for survival is ludicrous. Any money that they do save will be at the expense of either survival purchases or modest discretionary spending.

    Anyway the financial regulatory system has progressively killed off the best advocates for long term saving that had developed a way of delivering savings vehicles. The man from the Pru.

    And finally it always better for people on low incomes to pay off debt before saving.

    • Posted July 2, 2009 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      I agree, those savings schemes where the savings man used to turn up every week (later monthly) to collect a pound per week and after ten years you would get £1000 and start another scheme, the plan also paid out on death, was very attractive to low income earners (I took my first scheme out at 16). In fact my father insisted I take out a scheme in my first YOP employment, it disciplined me to save 4% of my wage and covered my basic funeral cost at the time.

    • Posted July 2, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Lola
      Agreed

      Another Labour project to be killed off before it is born.

      What planet do these people live on ?

      Who dreams up these stupid thoughts, clearly not someone on low income or on Benefits.

      • Posted July 2, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        It gets worse. The FSA have just published the Retail Distribution Review. I have been reading it. It is absolute nonsense. It has four legs, as it were.

        1. Adviser Status. It goes on forever about how to define different types of adviser. A classic bureaucratic analysis, and entirely flawed. Differentiation is simple. Independent Advisers are agents of the client, and all that implies. Whereas everyone else is the agent for the company that employes them. Legally the former are governed by professional responsibility and the latter product floggers by caveat emptor. Simple. Next.

        2. Remuneration. For the avoidance of doubt I run and entirely fee charging FS business, and have done since 1992 ish. The FSA want to ban commission. Oh yeah. Why? Everyone is paid on commission one way or another. Traffic Wardens get a per ticket bonus. HMRC get bonuses for collecting more tax. The FSA get bonuses for ‘performance’. (Quite how that is measured defeats me). So why shouldn’t product makers pay commission for their products to be distributed?

        3. Qualifications. The FSA want to arbitrarily increase threshold levels. Quite apart form the fact that the existing exam structure and delivery is the monopoly of the CI, have they never heard the phrase ‘qualified success’?

        4. Price Controls. They are recommending price controlled products. This is ludicrous. It is now universally understood that price controls never ever work. They always fail in one way or another, usually by killing manufacture and distribution. Hence the death of the ‘Man from the Pru.

        5. Budget. The FSA gaily say that this will cost them 1.5m and the industry 450m. No. It. Won’t. It’ll cost the public that money. Economies consist of people and things. Governemnts and Companies are just admin fictions. All money is the citizens money. My FSA fees (aka Trading Tax) are nigh on £6000 for 2009/10 and I can assure you all it is the most epically poor value.

        Really all the RDR is is just a bureaucrats wet dream. If I was the Tory FS spokesman I’d make it very clear that there will be a complete review of the whole FSMA2000 and that any more rules and so forth brought in between now and the election will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny and may well get canned. If implementing them in haste has compromised businesses and customers there would be an full enquiry where nothing and no-one was sacred. That’d stop all this crap in its tracks.

        • Posted July 5, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          Ordinary savers in the UK get an appalling bad deal, and every time the industry is subject to more bureaucratic regulation they get a worse one. Remember when Margaret Thatcher used to talk about turning us into a share owning democracy? Some hope when nobody gains when individuals hold shares directly other than the saver and the business requiring funds for investment.

  2. Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Knee-jerk government where no action is thoroughly worked through before announcements are made. Ministers apparently don’t understand their own policies or are happy to behave undemocratically and withhold the details from MPs and the people. This rotten crowd is devoid of talent. If there had been someone capable of even basic leadership then the dreadful Brown would no longer be in office.

  3. Posted July 2, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    … and the new speaker has done what about the rail announcement to the media?

    Ed Balls was all over the TV making his announcements about changes to education. And what has the new speaker done about that?

    You said you would would give the new Speaker a chance. I couldn’t really care who the new Speaker was – as long as they clawed back authority to the commons. I went with your line to be open minded and wait. But I’ve given him a chance and now think he has to go. He’s only been in the job a few days and he’s shown himself to be weak and fearful.

    I hope you are keeping a list of media announcements, so when you finally give up on the new Speaker you will list them all out for us.

  4. Posted July 2, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Reading this post reminded me of Gordon Brown’s own words, quoted in an interview with Andrew Marr on the 31st May on the subject of the Telegraph’s revelations on MPs’ expenses.

    ‘We need an open, transparent democracy where all these things are above board.

    In the light of the all too familiar examples you cite in this article it appears that publishing members’ expense accounts fully satisfies this ‘democratic’ criteria whereas ministers giving explicit and truthful answers to inconvenient questions does not?

    He must have a very odd notion of the meaning of the word democracy.

  5. Posted July 2, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Apart from the issue of the sovereignty of parliament, which must be the major concern, that they should propose criminal sanctions with lesser penalties for MP’s than for the same crimes committed members of the general public just about tells me all I need to know about the present government.

    Crimes committed by MP’s who are found guilty and constitute an abuse of the trust placed in them by their unique position should attract higher penalties in my humble opinion?

    Again some excellent input from the opposition benches which was mostly ignored.

  6. Posted July 2, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Yesterday in parliament was a hoot. Have you ever seen such a display of government incompetence and arrogance, unbelievable!

    Is it time for me to reprise my case for separating the “executive” from the “legislature”; (see numerous previous posts)? There was a glimmer of hope on the government benches from the member for Nottingham North. His speech is worth a read (Hansard Col’s 340 – 343). Particularly col., 343.

    “… but one day, when we have a self-respecting and self-confident Parliament, we will have our own parliamentary draftspeople and our own right to legal advice on going to war or whatever it may be. We will have our own capabilities to transform the legislative framework. At the moment, we have an Executive who are not directly elected by the British people taking the advice of a civil service that has no familiarity whatever with the ballot box. Members of this House are being overseen by people who have no understanding of electoral politics and our democracy, but who decide on the rights of Members.”

    Perhaps he should draft a private members bill to enact his suggestions; transform the legislative framework and our democracy; and, the public purse.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090701/debtext/90701-0010.htm#09070159001899

  7. Posted July 2, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Sounds similar to my local council debate on approving the annual accounts when we were promised written answers to our questions after the meeting but still asked to vote the accounts through

  8. Posted July 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure I heard on the radio that Brown is framing new laws to stop US from borrowing irresponsibly???????

  9. Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    What a shower ! No wonder the PM has had to make so many Peers into ministers .If that is the best of the PLP then Heaven protect us from the worst…..

  10. Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Stephen Byers, who took over from the disgraced Mandelson, sells Railtrack, a few years later we are nationalising operating companies. Don’t worry Mandelson is back, selling Royal Mail, oh hold on he didn’t after spending millions on the project. Prescott turns up saying its wonderfull as his train turned up on time. No Prescott, it’s not actually been nationalised just yet. Go back to Hull where you spent millions demolishing sturdy Victorian homes to replace them with new ones. Brown says 0 percent is growth but forgets about debt. Oh and then some twonk said Northern Rock may be sold in the Autumn for a large profit. How amazing, a 3.4 billion toxic debt write off by the taxpayer and we can also look forward to a huge profit.

    This waiting for an election thing just doesn’t cut it. They would be sacked (and worse-ed)

    Wouldn’t it be nice instead of taxes we used shares. Invest in this government if you want to, if not withhold your money and give it to someone else like happens elsewhere.

  11. Posted July 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    And to think, these people only actually make 20% of our laws.
    the other 80% are made in Brussels, layers upon layers of beaurocrats telling us what to do.
    It’s easy to see how revolutions happen, not that I’m suggesting but how long is it to bonfire night.

  • 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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