Another bad day in the hopeless Parliament

Yesterday the government presented a Business motion to the House which allowed just one hour to “complete” consideration of the Digital Economy Bill, and a mere 3 hours to consider and pass an entirely new 71 Clause Finance Bill. It summed up all that has been wrong for the last five years. It was the final denouement of a government which hates, sidelines, marginalises and trivialises Parliament. This government has undermined Parliament by its actions and its inactions.

I and a few others opposed the government’s Motion. The government moved to close down debate on the shortage of time for debate. We forced a division and voted against, but there were too few of us. We then called another division to try to stop the steamroller on the Finance and Digital Bills, but again we lost by a wide margin. We also wished to salvage the motion to ensure backbench involvement in future timetables for House business, but that was brushed aside by an arrogant government machine. Then we were in to the shortened debates.

I decided to use my share of the little time available to speak against the Finance Bill. It is normal for there to be a short Finance Bill to allow revenue to becollected prior to a May election. It is not normal for there to be a blockbuster 166 page Bill with just three hours for Second Reading,. Committee and Third Reading. In the time available we just managed a short 2nd Reading and the beginnings of a commitee session. I had spoken against the Digital Bill the day before. I will post the Finance speech as usual. The main burden of my comments was to highlight the lack of any enterprise strategy, the failure to reduce tax and bureaucracy on those who work hard and create jobs, at a time when we need hard work and new jobs to fuel the recovery.

So what should we call this miserable Parliament as it limps to a sorry conclusion today? Should it be known as the Bad Parliament, for all the damage it has done to itself and the UK economy? Or as the Bankrupt Parliament, for the huge sums it has spent on banks, the public sector and itself, forcing the country into huge debt? Or the Crashed Parliament, to remidn us of the massive Boom and Bust it helped fuel? Or as the Failed Parliament, for its inability to hold a bad government to account owing to the refusal of Labour MPs to vote for proper Parliamentary scrutiny of most things, and its refusal to see the damage the failure of Parliament was doing to itself and to the country? Or should it just be known as the Hopeless Parliament, the Parliament that gave away yet more powers to the EU, to quangos and anyone in sight, and couldn’t even work out its own expenses? I am opting for Hopeless as the best description, but you may wish to make other suggestions. Please remember to frame them for a family audience!

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

49 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Since most of the actions of the Government and its MP's have been deliberate, I think the word ARROGANT probably sums it up better.

    I can only hope the next one is better.

  2. Acorn
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I have a great idea! How about separating the "executive" from the "legislature". I don't think I have mentioned this before? Well, not since yesterday. No politician should be more than two years away from an election. It concentrates their minds. Please see all my previous posts. (Not easy to do on this site JR)

    • Acorn
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      And another thing. During the election period there are "Purdah" restrictions on government department communications. That is, they must not promote anything that could influence voters to favour any political party.

      This government is clever. It allows QUANGOs to make such statements on its behalf – Radio 4 this morning: Ofsted.

      All QUANGOs should be subject to the same Purdah rules as government departments. That includes Quango Charities; those that operate on significant amounts of public money.

  3. Richard
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    What's wrong with the Digital Bill there hasn't been much in the media on it?

    • Martyn
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      1. It will sideline local stations who will not have access to the DAB system.
      2. The UK DAB system is incompatible with the rest of EU and the world.
      3. You will need to buy a bolt-on adaptor (est. cost £55 but don't hold your breath) to make your car radio work receive DAB BBC.
      4. The DAB system is technically flawed and now long out of date; unless and until there are the same number of transmitter masts as there are mobile phone masts, the coverange will be patchy and unreliable.
      5. It is a poorly thought through piece of legislation that should not have got off the starting blocks without full engineering consultation. But then, politicians know best, do they not?

  4. Norman
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Can't think of a pithy word to sum my feelings up but the legacy of this Parliament is the further disenfrachisment of politicians from the people you are there to serve.

    If ever a Parliament engendered hostility and a 'them & us' mentality it is this one.

    The public in 'public service' has been replaced by 'self' and 'Party'.

  5. Derek Duncan
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    The Despised Parliament? The Trampled Parliament? The Abused Parliament? The Ignored Parliament? The Downtrodden Parliament?

    Or the Flipping Parliament? The Duck Pond Parliament?

  6. DennisA
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I think there were too few MP's altogether, judging from yesterday's Guardian photo:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/apr/08/

    This is all too common a picture in news shots on TV. No wonder the public have so little confidence in the system when bills like this with important measures, are passed with apparently no interest from those who are supposed to be guarding our freedoms:

    "Earlier the government removed its proposed clause 18, which could have given it sweeping powers to block sites, but replaced it with an amendment to clause 8 of the bill. The new clause allows the secretary of state for business to order the blocking of "a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright"."

    As with RIPA that will be used way outside its remit at some point in the future. And we criticise China…..

  7. Charles Flaccidwidge
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    How about The Brown Parliament. Tells you all you need to know.

  8. Pete
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    John, I understand your need to frame last night's events as "The Labour government is terrible, a Conservative government will be better" but most of the people watching the Digital Economy Bill on BBC Parliament last night won't buy it. They saw how empty the room was during the debates. They witnessed how the vast majority of the MPs in the room during the debates seemed to be of the same (reasonable) mindset – this is being rushed, it needs to be postponed. The few who took the opposite stance demonstrated with their comments how spectacularly uninformed they were. They saw the hundreds of MPs appear at the end of the evening, having not witnessed any of the debate, and push the bill through.

    The country doesn't blame this on the Labour government, because they are aware that the Tory whips were pushing their people to vote Aye as well. The country blames this on the system, and the Conservative party are just as responsible for the system as the Labour party. The country has witnessed the failure of democracy, and right now the question on their mind isn't "should we keep the Labour government, or get rid of them?" but rather "should we keep our currently parliamentary system, or get rid of it?"

    When you attempt to direct your fire on to the Labour government, as you have done in your blog entry above, you should be aware that, as far as public opinion is concerned, your own party is also standing in the firing line.

    Here's a way you could start – make a promise to the voters that a Conservative government will guarantee that no MP will be eligible to vote on issues if they have not been present, and active, for the entirety of the debate.

    Peter Hall

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      Peter

      Perhaps the very simple thing to do is only allow Mps who listen to a whole debate to vote on it.

      At a stroke we will either have a full chamber with much debate, or Bills would not be passed by the Government of the day.

      At least this very simple rule would prevent the face rthat happens on a regular basis.

      It may slow law making down but that really is no bad thing.

  9. Simon
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    The Most Abused/Disrepected/Dismissed/Irrelevent Parliament Ever .

    Of all the that has gone on over the last 13 years it is this that has saddened me the most .

    I do not believe things would have been the same if the Conservatives had had a landslide victory .

    Because the British People don't want a federal europe Tony Blair/Gordon Brown do what their NWO friends tell them and dilute us with a deliberate mass immigration policy .

    Those remaining sincere Labour MP's must be mightily disilusioned about sitting next to low grade idiots anxious to rubber stamp whatever is put before them without even reading it .

  10. DBC Reed
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    How about the Bone Idle Parliament? This bunch did nothing to stop us getting into an unbelievable economic mess ("How come nobody saw something this big coming?" said the Queen:the first time I've seen any point in a Constitutional Monarchy); plus wars with people who are never going to invade us; plus the expenses scandal.All linked ,in my view, by the lazy Homeownerist doctrine "Keep house prices rising and we'll get elected .Market forces will sort out the rest".
    What the hell do they do all day?Time was when MP's of all stripes busied themselves in schmoozing anybody and everybody to get jobs in their constituencies.Margaret Thatcher bent over backwards (not a pretty sight)to get Nissan into the old site of Sunderland Airport. A return to the old days of MP's wheeling and dealing to secure jobs would not go amiss.
    Second thoughts: the Stupid Parliament.

  11. James Schlackman
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    While I applaud your attempts to stop what I think you accurately describe as the "steamroller" on both the Finance and Digital Economy bills, I am curious as to why you were apparently absent for the final debate on the Digital Economy Bill, despite being both present, and encouragingly vocal, on the immediately preceding debate on the Finance Bill.

    I appreciate that time is always limited and that the Finance Bill was also deserving of it, and I have of course read with interest your input on the Digital Economy Bill from the day before, which only makes it seem more odd you did not stick to your guns until the end. Hansard does not record your participation in either division during the debate; is there something I'm missing in this account, or did you consider further opposition to be a lost cause by this point?

    Regards,
    James Schlackman

    Reply: Yes it was clearly a lost cause, as the records show us. Labour had kept back large numbers of MPs to steam roller it through, and Ministers had made it abundantly clear they were not istening to our entreaties to slow it down or stop this bad legislation.

    • Pete
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      John – so you're saying that people shouldn't bother to vote if they think that it won't make a difference? Interesting.

      Pete

      Reply: No, I am not saying that. I am saying I knew when we were defeated in Parliament, having lost two votes on the issue of how much time we could have to debate the Bills. In a General Election everyone's vote is worthwhile, as the result is unpredictable.

    • James Schlackman
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Fair enough, and I'd agree with your assessment. It's a pity though – I do wonder how much narrower the margin would have been if all those opposed had been counted. There certainly seems little shortage of opponents commenting today, while proponents are somewhat thin on the ground if the media coverage is to be believed.

  12. Steve Cox
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I like alliterations, so how about:

    The Pointless Parliament

    or

    The Pathetic Parliament

    or

    The Pitiful Parliament

    or

    The Purposeless Parliament

    …just take your pick.

  13. Pauper
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    A Parliament which allowed itself to be bribed into servility by the Executive deserves to be marginalised and trivialised. Yes, my dear Mr Redwood, I do mean bribed, and on the cheap too!

    What should we call this Parliament, you ask. The Telegraph, which has certainly earned the right to a view, has settled on the Rotten Parliament. For myself, I'd like to see the indomitable Heather Brooke awarded the privilege of naming it – seated in honour at the Bar of the House to hear public thanks and the award of a noble pension unanimously voted her by the incorruptible new representatives of a grateful people.

  14. Martin
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I watched some of the Digital Economy Bill considerations on the Parliament Channel last night.

    You are right – it was bad. A pity that the Conservatives seemed to be abstaining on most of the votes in the hour or so I looked in. Why?

  15. Phil J
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I'd like to thank you for your speeches on Tuesday on the Digital Economy bill – you did an excellent job of putting the fairly abstract concept of copyright into a context where it was easy to relate to in terms of our everyday life.

    I wish your colleagues on the front bench had been so articulate – I can't help feeling that it was a misstep for them to be so disengaged during a debate which almost certainly had a record online audience.

  16. Max Van Horn
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    To parady the greatman 'never in the field of human endeavour has so much damage been done by so few.'

    This parliament should be called the Ass's Parliament.Lots of noise and no intelligence.

  17. lola
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    You can name it now what you like. History, though, is written by the winners. If Brown wins again it will be the Year Zero Parliament. '1984' was not written as a manual, but some treat it like that.

  18. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Cromwell had the Rump Parliament. I think that we should call this one the Rumpy Pumpy Parliament, in honour of the nonentity to whom we have surrendered the last vestiges of our sovereignty.

  19. Mike Fowle
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    It will probably be known as the Expenses Parliament, a little unfair on many MPs who merely followed the rules but actually a deadly criticism of the government who elected to be purer than pure and clean up "Tory sleaze" (sic) actually presided over a regime of arrogant, help yourself, we are the masters now Parliament.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      I have to say Mike, I am really liking your posts

    • Henry
      Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Remember the rugby song? 'The working class can kiss my a**, I've got the foreman's job at last! They're out of work and on the dole, the working class can kiss my h*le!'

      • Mike Fowle
        Posted April 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Stuart, for your comment. And funnily enough, Henry, that song was very much in the back of my mind when I posted.

  20. A T
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    "I and a few others opposed the government’s Motion"

    Is it not within the Opposition's power to block legislation under "wash up" ? [ Genuine question, I know little t nothing about Parliamentary procedures ]

    Reply: No, there is no absolute right to stop something. If the Lords vote something down then it is difficult for the Commons to insist on it, and time runs out before the matter is resolved.

  21. James
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    John on the radio this morning (BBC 5 live) this bill was presented as a joint labour-tory effort with only the lib dems against.

    My questions are as follows:

    1) What was the whip position in all 3 parties (pretty sure the govt whipped the labour party) ?

    2) What were the numbers of your colleagues in the conservatives for and against this bill.

    3) http://twitter.com/mark4ceredigion Check his twitter on the DE bill.

    Reply: We forced a division against rushing all this legislation through, which we lost by a wide margin.

  22. Stuart Fairney
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I know you are something of the historian JR, what about calling in the Committee of Public Safety a la 1793 and all that?

  23. Bob
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Why didn't the Tories vote against it then?

  24. Robert George
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    "The last Parliament."

    I hope it is not this but if Labour is re-elected it will be. Parliament has lost all of its power, the cabinet has become largely meaningless. The Prime Ministers office calls all the shots, the fact that it does not work will not stop the Labour Apparatchiks.

    In the event of a hung election some say Brown might have to share power with the Lib Dems… he's not even capable of sharing power with the man next door!

    Therefore although Cameron is far too much of a social democrat for my taste he has to be voted for because a continuation of the alternative will bankrupt the nation, financially, institutionally and morally.

    • Simon
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      You should be declared the winner of this naming contest .

      Another term of office and this lot will have tied everything down so tight that it will be irreversible .

      Our National Identity will have been diluted and destroyed to facilitate total absorption into the EU .

      The media will be completely under elitest control and any serious opposition which cannot be stifled will be dealt with by dark forces .

      Free speech will have gone the same way as habeus corpus and your wealth will be expropriated as neccessary to make the EU machine unchallengable .

      Agree with you about Cameron , he is far from ideal but the alternative is truly terrifying .

      All it takes is for good men to do nothing .

  25. Andy Hoff
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    How can you sum up the worst government and parliament in British history in one word? Impossible. So here's a list –
    incompetent, inept, incredible, arrogant,(worse ones left out) morally bankrupt, financially bankrupt, out of touch,….., stupid,……., guilty of supporting an ally that tortures and imprisons without trial, guilty of giving away British sovereignty without reference to the citizens, guilty of ruining Britain's reputation and standing, guilty of taking away our rights, guilty of lack of foresight and guilty of failing the people of this country in every single way it is possible to.

  26. Ian Jones
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Is there any wonder people cannot be bothered to vote, we dont have a democracy whichever party wins. Big changes need to happen and quickly. I'm not holding my breath.

  27. John Q
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Actually John, I don’t think the word ‘Parliament’ should be allowed in the description. It’s an insult to any of the previous ones. I would go with something like “The Disgraceful One” – or perhaps “The Pathetic One”. Yeah, the Pathetic One sums up that last five years in westminster pretty well.

  28. Jabez
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    The Brown Parliament says it all.

    Well done for trying, anyway, Mr Redwood. You deserve to be somewhere on the Front Bench in a few weeks' time.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      He deserves number 11 as anyone who has ever read this blog fully understands ~ I am not holding my breath because as I have said before, it takes a very big man* to appoint someone more capable than himself to a position of significance.

      (* I imagine a 'Rhett Butler' triple-alpha type being the only one who could)

  29. Derek Buxton
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    But as I posted on another thread a few days ago, parliament does not in effect exist, and hasn't done since 1997. Yes, Nu-labour was the direct cause but they had no opposition especially since Cameron took over the leadership of the party. Who gave Blair a standing ovation? I am afraid your party were complicit in all that has occured, and yes you were in a minority but previous oppositions have made a nuisance of themselves to gain traction, your party I am sorry to say, ignored what was happening because you wanted to be nice. It does not work. The trouble with that approach is that we, the people are the ones who suffer, the politicians don't.

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    There is a quote from Asquith, originally used about Yes Minister style civil servants. However, it is tailor made to describe the use of statistics by Gordon Brown and his inner circle.

    'They insist on using three sets of figures about the same event:
    one to mislead the public, another to mislead the Cabinet and the third to mislead themselves.'

  31. Demetrius
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    The Horrible Parliament?

  32. barry o' barma
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    The Brown Parliament.
    Brown-nosing MPs.
    Browned-out economy
    In the Brown Stuff
    Brow(n)-beaten populace
    …..

  33. David Price
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    How about the disenfranchised Parliament.

    Despite the efforts of yourself and others, this government seems to have held the Parliamentary process and the citizens represented by Parliament in utter contempt.

    Not quite hopless, yet though. I have some hope if Cameron & co get in, but I have to say it is diminishing based on events such as the Digital Economy Bill. The simplest, clearest demonstration of intent would be for the bulk of Labours laws to be repealed en-masse, but I suspect that would be too simple.

  34. Tim Almond
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    So why didn't you vote against it?

    Reply: I voted against their attempt to rush it through and lost by a wide margin

  35. The Great Ignored
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Bad (damage), bankrupt, failed …

    How about sinister, malevolent, spiteful, cowardly, corrupt ?

    Let's be under no illusions. Many Parliamentarians set out to do great harm to Britain and her people and succeeded. Many more Parliamentarian's silence was bought on expenses whilst this damage was done.

    The contempt with which politicians are held shouldn't really be the subject of a caption contest – it is far too grave a matter for that. People are bitter that collars weren't felt. Resignations should have been forced at the very least. The expenses scandal is not dead and will be dealt with in some measure at the election.

    The country has been destabilised economically and demographically and the people of Britain are going to be paying a heavy price for all of this for generations to come.

  36. Roger360
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Is it not odd that constitutional reform is now Gordon's big new idea – at a time when Parliament has been neutered by Government I do not get the impression that giving power to the people means the same to Gordon as it does to me.

    On a different topic, the passing of a major Finance Act without proper scrutiny is quite amazing. I find it extraordinary that anything other than the bare essentials such as tax rates and allowances should be legislated.

  37. ManicBeancounter
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    How about the Golden Liability Parliament?

    This parliament will bequeath more financial liabilities than all the rest in history,
    – through the running of structural deficits as a result of the Golden Rule (borrowing only to invest, forgetting that this only applies to investment with direct financial returns and not to acquired liabilities with social benefits).
    – Through the hidden liabilities of the PFI contracts.
    – Through the promise of winimills and electric cars that will greatly increase our costs.
    – Through undemining the principle private sector means of funding old age. By implication this increases the implied liability of the state.
    – Through making the home of liberal-democracy and the mother of all parliaments a liability in the eyes of the people.

    (P.S. – for the American readers. The term "golden" is not just a play with the Golden Rule, but is used in an ironic statement.)

  38. Cardinal Richelieu&#
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    It is the Troughing Parliament – waxing fat on the taxpayer with snouts so far in the trough its members failed to notice the country going to hell.

  39. Ian B
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    I was going to suggest, "The Last Parliament", but I see someone already has.

One Trackback

  • 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.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page