Will Parliament wake up?

Yesterday saw the return of the government’s Constitutional Reform Bill. The government could not resist two more studied insults to the Parliament they have done so much to destroy.

The first was another ridiculous guillotine or “timetable motion”. All previous governments have followed the convention that MPs should have as much time as it needs to debate constitutional Bills. Not this one. We were given just five hours to consider more than 50 pages of amendments and new clauses, many of them produced by the government itself. We protested, we pleaded. We pointed out that if the government wishes to be taken seriously in its new found role of believer in a strong Parliament the very least it should do is to allow sufficient time on major matters for criticism, debate and proposed improvements. We should have known better. Once again, the government used its majority to insist on too little time.

The second was the “Money resolution”. Each Bill which will impose additional costs on long suffering taxpayers has to come with a Money resolution. The government invites the House to vote in favour of the extra spending as part of the proceedings on the Bill. This Bill had already come with one Money Resolution, but apparently they had got it wrong or it had not covered later amendments to the Bill, so they needed a supplementary.

The new Money Resolution came without any figures. I asked how much we were being asked to approve. I was told that the previous Money Resolution was somewhere between £80 and £100 million. This new one might or might not be additional. There were no numbers. On this sloppy basis I and my colleagues voted against. The Labour majority happily shoved through a Money resolution in ignorance of how much it might cost.

This one was a relatively small item. It is nonetheless representative of the casual approach to spending that has characterised the last five years. No wonder the government has lost control of public finances. No wonder this Parliament had a reputation for uselessness, when we can’t even be told how much money we are voting for, and when the majoritry party does not seem to think these little niceties matter. No wonder the big issue which so many MPs do still not seem to grasp is the looming deficit and the financial crisis it will engender if not tackled soon.

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31 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    What a shame that this blog cannot be given air time on BBC, ITV, SKY or any other type of Media and be open to discussion.

    You have summed up exactly what this Government thinks of our supposed Democracy.

    You have summed up exactly what is wrong with our system, where MPs just vote like drones for whatever their own Party wants (other than perhaps just a few).

    Given the above, why do we need 650 unthinking drones, with all of their salaries, pensions and expenses, when in reality we could get by working like this with just a few.

    Will the next Government behave any differently ?????

    Probably not, and that is why people are drifting out of frustration to the more fringe or marginal Party’s as a protest.

    • APL
      Posted March 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      “650 unthinking drones”

      649?

      🙂

      • alan jutson
        Posted March 3, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        APL

        Still many, too many !!!!!!

  2. Blank Xavier
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Parliament has been subverted.

    If it can be, then how it is useful as a balance or check? what is to stop this occurring once more?

    What now exactly is our relationship with the Government? they do as they wish, just or injust, fair or unfair, sane or insane, with our money; and the only option we are allowed is to vote, once every four years, in an attempt to replace them with the other party, or to leave the country?

    In what way do we possess freedom?

  3. gac
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Could it be that so many Labour backbenchers are either stepping down or will lose their seats at the Election that they are quite happy to clutter the next Parliament with unworkable bills?

    Or is it end of term fever – they just couldn’t care less?

  4. Letters From A Tory
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    It really undermines political debate, the functions of Parliament and democracy itself when constitutional bills can be amended or accepted without opponents being allowed to record their concerns.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    The answer to your question is NO this Parliament will not wake up. Most MPs are nothing more than overpaid social workers who act as lobby fodder for their party’s leadership. Depressingly, I doubt that this will change even if the Conservatives are elected to government. I hope you can prove me wrong.

  6. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Strong Parliament – let’s have the Lords sorted. The place should have a much more policing role as opposed to the correction of glaring errors and sloppy legislation. Paid and unelected membership for the best club in town for life with all sorts of kudos and side benefits – how democratic. It is crying out to be replaced with an elected Senate.

    It is perfectly acceptable to have experts drafted into Government but let’s have them sitting but not voting in the Commons and do away with this nonsense of the real deputy PM sitting in the Lords.

    Blair bottled reform, DC should pick it up. It is another example like MPs expenses where something is clearly wrong but being ignored until the clamour gets too great.

    • David B
      Posted March 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      The Lords is an unelected house, but it is doing a better job of holding the government to account than the Commons.

      Any reform must ensure it is a proper reviewing chamber with experience of the real world and not just a clone of the Commons which I fear would be the main ambition of this government

      • eddyh
        Posted March 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        It couldn't do a worse job!

  7. Norman
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the insight into Parliament life. I don’t have the time nowadays to sit and read as much as I’d like so it’s nice to have these posts as things like this are not headline makers so slip past me.

    Another reason (if any more was needed) to make a clean sweep of Labour in the election.

    It’s a shame to see our grand old parliament reduced to this and more should be made of it but I imagine the workings of parliamentary democracy wouldn’t rank high on any focus groups hot topics.

  8. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    We can do two things to declare war on the Labour government. The first is to say – and mean – that ALL legislation passed by Labour between now and the general election will be repealed by an incoming Conservative government.

    And if by a miracle there is a minority Labour government after the election, we can go nuclear. (1) Withdraw all pairing the way that Winston did in 1951 so that they will have to carry their people into the lobbies on stretchers. (2) Organise the opposition parties to vote down the tax raising measures in the budget in their entirety. Without finance, they can not spend. As Gough Whitlam found out in Australia, without supply you can not govern and a further election will be necessary.

    I'm sorry if you all find this 'strong meat' but this government is ruining the country, and I am beginning to think that they are doing it with malice aforethought. Every other day, I wake with murder in my heart.

  9. Michele
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    DO YOU READ ALL THE COMMENTS THAT ARE POSTED HERE MR. REDWOOD AND IF SO, DO YOU FEED THEM BACK TO DAVID CAMERON?

    Reply: Yes I read them. I tell David Cameron what I wish to pass on or suggest to him. I do not send him all these comments.

    • waramess
      Posted March 4, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Your reply would imply that you pass on all those opinions that conform, more or less, with your own beliefs. Not unreasonable.

      I am suprised that Cameron himself does not take time to read all the blogs, not only on your website but on other Conservative websites, regularly.

      This is by far the best way for him to get a feeling for what his grass-roots are thinking. But maybe he is not interested.

      Being a busy man and not having the time is of course no excuse

    • Michele
      Posted March 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      So you must be one very frustrated man.

      Tel me, did you read my other note about the Tower Block of Commons?

  10. NigelC
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Any institution with a large majority, after extended tenure, tends to abuse it powers. This happens at all levels of local Government.
    Time for a change

    • waramess
      Posted March 4, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Your reply would imply that you pass on all those opinions that conform, more or less, with your own beliefs. Not unreasonable.

      I am suprised that Cameron himself does not take time to read all the blogs, not only on your website but on other Conservative websites, regularly.

      This is by far the best way for him to get a feeling for what his grass-roots are thinking. But maybe he is not interested.

      Being a busy man and not having the time is of course no excuse

  11. Tedgo
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like we need proportional representation, so government and Parliament have to work together, like they expect the people to do.

  12. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    It's the whipping system.

    • waramess
      Posted March 4, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      No question

  13. no one
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    its as much to do with the way parilamentary candidates are selected as anything

    if candidates were more tied to their constinuents than the "party" (any party) a lot of this would stop

    too many safe seats, too many candiadates in place due to old boys networks of one kind or another

    we need more independance in the MPs, then they would stand up for the hard won freedoms much more

  14. Chris
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for responding so clearly to us all via Michele. Any reassurance that politicians may be taking seriously the comments which people are taking the trouble to make on this website is greatly welcomed. There has been so much frustration that the Cons. party has not been listening to what the voters have been saying about the issues that really concern them. It seems that only in the last few days has action been taken by HQ to start to remedy this situation. My fear is that it may be too little, too late.

  15. Johnny Williams
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    John

    As you do read those comments and blog responses, please tell DC from me that you are far more in touch with the pulse and the heart of this Nation than he is. In fact I feel as a conservative ( retired businessman and Managing Director) that you are also far more in touch with conservative opinion and common sence across the UK The DC Notting Hill set are in great danger of being Blair Mark 2 with focus Groups, Spinners and Media Players.

    Get him back to principles, values and common sence and then ask him to repeat such values as his mantra, to meet his own vision up to this Election. If he does not lead soon with clarity of purpose and stop being sidelined by Mandelson and the BBC over Ascroft and other side issues- he will lose many of us..

    Give me just ten minutes on the phone with Cameron and i would let him know where the heart of England and Britain really stands- Its not Notting Hill my friends- He is not getting it

  16. Bazman
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Seems like my comments on Ashcroft a couple of days ago that John deleted were very current. Rich benefit (of living in Britain) (people-ed) are very much in the news at the moment. Any chance of getting me one of those bottle openers with the Tory logo John? Just to see if it works mind. Might be one that talks or plays music. The mind boggles what you would get for six grand worth.

    Reply: I deleted your post in accordance with my general policy of deleting personal attacks on all public individuals of whatever party where I have not seen evidence to back the allegations or where there could be legal consequences for the blogger.

  17. asmodeus
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    We are a sinking ship, and the captain is Ahab.

  18. Bob
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Well, even if Labour scrape through in May, I don’t suppose they will have sufficient numbers to abuse the system like this in future, unless they buy off the LibDems.

  19. Javelin
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Lord Owen summed it up in an interview with Iain Dale when he said Gordon and Tony got into a spending race to please the electorate.

    That mentality hasn’t gone.

  20. Citizen Responsible
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    JR”…so many MPs do still not seem to grasp is the looming deficit and the financial crisis it will engender if not tackled soon.”

    In conversation with some friends recently I was surprised at how they did not seem to grasp the size of the deficit and debt problems facing this country. It’s shocking to read that many MPs are no better. How frustrating it must be for you “at the coal face” so to speak.

  21. Javelin
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    QE – a.k.a. buying back gilts from banks – a.k.a. buying back your own debt – a.k.a. borrowing to pay your interest payments was a trick played by Nick Leeson before the Kobe earthquake. Also a trick paid by reckless chavs borrowing on the credit card to keep the baliff at bay.

    There has been a false gilts market banks buy gilts to flog them back to the BofE at inflated prices. Banks have lots of extra cash to shore up their balance sheets and the BofE is left with lots of devalued gilts.

    I'm trying to think of a shock to the system. Hung parliament and crisis or a slow drawn out decline in sterling. Maybe Clegg's liberal economics will save the day?

  22. cheap ghd
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    It’s a shame to see our grand old parliament reduced to this and more should be made of it but I imagine the workings of parliamentary democracy wouldn’t rank high on any focus groups hot topics.

  23. Dofus Kamas
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Your blog is so informative ?keep up the good work!!!!

  • 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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