Mr Redwood’s contribution to the debate on the Backbench Business Committee

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): This debate is about power and those on the Front Benches are misguided in thinking that it will enhance ministerial power to seek to influence the way in which Back-Bench business is conducted against the interests of all the Back Benchers who have turned up and spoken in today’s debate. It is wrong of those on the two Front Benches to impose a Whip on Ministers and shadow Ministers—[ Interruption. ] I accept, then, that there is no such Whip on shadow Ministers, but we will see. We will study the Division results with great interest to see the view that shadow Ministers take. It is wrong for Front Benchers to seek to stop Back Benchers continuing with their arrangements in a timely way.

I share a common cause with my Front Benchers as I happen to think, as they seem to, that Ministers do not have enough power. I think that there is a danger that under any Government we could have Ministers in office but not in power, but the reason is not our powerful Backbench Business Committee and the fact that it makes them come to this House to discuss things that they do not wish to discuss. If Ministers do that well, it enhances their stature. The reason is that too many decisions are taken by the European Union, overridden by the European Court of Human Rights or taken by independent quangos. We have the Environment Agency, the Bank of England and United Kingdom Financial Investments; Ministers are very limited in what they can do. I would happily make common cause with those on my Front Bench in getting Ministers more power and think that many of my colleagues would take the same view. We would be cheering them if they came to this House and said that Ministers needed more power to settle our borders, sort out the problems with prisoners, deal with taxation or money supply and so on. We want it to be accountable power, however, which is why we want Ministers to have more power but think that they should come to the House of Commons to answer for how they exercise it.

Ministers should get real. They are in danger of being in office but not in power because they will not take the accountable power they need to improve our country and to make the necessary changes. Their problem is not the Backbench Business Committee; their problem lies elsewhere. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to wake up and smell the coffee, as the phrase goes these days, and to understand that people want a strong, proud and independent Parliament and that people want their Ministers to come here to talk about the difficult issues on any day. They want Ministers to talk about the issue that they do not want to talk about today, because that is what matters and that is what is topical. A strong and confident Government can debate anything at any time about their conduct, their views and their policies and the more we make them debate it, the stronger their case should be. I want the Opposition to challenge them, I want the Backbench Business Committee to challenge them and, above all, I want the decisions that matter for our country to be made here by accountable Ministers.

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  1. Ben Kelly
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    How did the Shadow minister vote if I may ask?

  2. Sir Richard Richard
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    And we’re complaining of a lack of democracy in Russia…

  3. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Nice speech John. However the PM believes most decisions should be made in Brussels. What are you going to do about it?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      It’s more like the PM believes that most decision should be taken by the cabinet and everyone else should vote accordingly. Of course in the cabinet decisions are made by the PM and everyone else votes accordingly.

      I hear they’re trying to extend this to the electorate but aren’t having much success.

  4. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Agreed, and well said.

  5. Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I also kind of agree with phil .

  6. David F-A
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    The phrase “accountable democratic power” is a powerful one and should be repeated out loud as often as possible.
    Parliament, the ‘cradle of democracy’, must strain every sinew at every opportunity to embody this vital responsibility – warts and all..
    The will of the people is paramount and that which does not bend to it will break!

  7. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    If I lived in your constituency, I would be really proud of the way my representative stood up for my rights in the elected House.
    This took courage and was a fine selfless act of service of which you should be very proud.

  8. Frances Matta
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Jolly well put but if 80% of all the laws and the ensuing paperwork emanates from the EU, rather than getting rid of 80% of M.P.’s, why don’t we just stop paying 80% of our daily contribution of £50 million to the EU.
    “A not inconsiderable amount” even in “Major” speak

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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