Making a stronger Parliament

The UK Parliament is continuously evolving. The battle to have power and to use it wisely is a daily one. Constitutional theory may still say Parliament is sovereign, but that is only true if Parliament retains the political will to assert itself.

Parliament gained its supremacy by limiting the power of Kings and then taking over power from the monarch. It retained it by making the institutions of the country bend to its will, reshaping the aristocracy through taxes and changes to the Lords, fashioning regulation and tax for business and the professions, and undertaking a large redistribution of income through the public sector.

In more recent years Parliament has had to rein in the large government it created and sponsored. Even though most government Ministers are also MPs, the Commons has had to use its voices, votes and abilities to prevent the executive using power to excess or taking Parliament for granted under a majoritarian system.

By far and away the largest and as yet unbridled challenge to Parliament’s power has come from the EU. It is true that all the powers the EU possesses were powers that Parliament has granted. A single Act of Parliament could still take back this jurisdiction. However, the longer Parliament leaves a new settlement of powers with the EU the more danger that these powers will eventually be beyond the political power of Parliament to wrestle back. Treaty law is in conflict with Acts of Parliament.

Meanwhile, Parliament has had some successes in recent months and years reminding the executive of its role and supremacy. Ministers’ careers can be broken as well as made in Parliament. The Select Committee system provides a further check on departmental actions and decisions. This Parliament has played a major part in issues like the Syrian war. When no single party has a majority government has to work harder to ensure it has the votes for any measure it wishes to introduce.

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72 Comments

  1. Arschloch
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    We could end up with a stronger parliament if a better class of person put themselves forward to stand as for it. Cameron just about personifies everything that is wrong with many MPs these days. In that he has never had a proper job and for some strange reason we are not allowed to question him on how he conducted himself before he entered politics. The House of Commons also seems to be transforming itself into some sort of self selecting elite. Look how many of them are either the spouses or children of sitting or former MPs. Also despite the “expenses scandal” still too many of them see politics as being the road to self enrichment. At the next election do not just follow your party allegiance look at bit more closer at the character of the candidate before you cast your vote.

    Reply A reference to a named MP has been removed as he denies any wrongdoing and is considering a libel action.

    • Hope
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Well said. Root and branch reform is required to regain public confidence in the institution. Those fanatics who continue to wish to give away UK sovereignty and independence to the EU will bring destitution and serious unrest. All arguments can be defeated by looking at Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal etc. The same fanatics who wanted the UK to lose its currency for the Euro (CBI included).

      After nearly four years in office and a commitment to clean up politics by both parties no substantial action to date, even on the lobbying scandal Cameron warned us about. Indeed bad behaviour condoned by promotion to cabinet. As normal, grab a headline, full of hot air and no action. The clock is ticking and the Tories will be in opposition for a very long time. Achievement to date by the strategist Osborne- half the Tory vote. That’s modernisation for you.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Agreed. The public will continue to regard politics as unhelpful to the country unless we get dramatically better candidate selection for parliamentary seats. There are far too many safe seats where the political class can and do parachute one of their favoured drones in. Far too much politically correct supposed equality which in practise is active discrimination against large sections of the population. It needs to change. The current way the vast majority of candidates end up being candidates is hardly better than the old hereditary system.

    • formula57
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      We could end up with a stronger parliament if a better class of voter put themselves out to properly scrutinize the credentials of those who stand for it.

      • peter davies
        Posted November 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        v true – too many people are drawn by headlines these days

    • REPay
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      I think the calibre of MPs is pretty high, few would think politics a way to enrich themselves though some were cavalier with expenses. You have a point about lack of experience, and unfortunately it is the young researchers who seem to get safe seats and become party grandees, never having left the political world! These people seem to be really cavalier with large amounts of taxpayer money, prepared to blow millions for a press release that might get a headline.

      • arschloch
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        When did you last hear of an MP dying poor? Have a careful listen to some parliamentary debates and you will find that all of the parties contain quite a few mediocrities. It makes me wonder as to whether or not they would they able to pass a basic literacy test. However before your mention their usually impressive Oxbridge degrees, remember a couple of German ministers have recently been found to have lied about their PhDs

  2. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Rather than just seeking its sovereignty outside the EU, the UK could join initiatives by the Dutch parliament to increase the role of national parliaments within the EU, with e.g. a “green card”and a “late card”procedure. These were strongly supported by your eurosceptic lobby group / thinktank OpenEurope. Apart from that, there are many more ideas being floated about an enhanced role in the EU for (cooperating) national parliaments.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Peter,
      Who told you that Open Europe was a “eurosceptic lobby group / thinktank “?
      On their website you will see that “Open Europe is an independent think tank, with offices in London and Brussels, set up by leading UK business people to contribute positive new thinking to the debate about the future direction of the European Union.” That isn’t my definition of eurosceptic but I don’t want to be governed by a foreign organisation called the EU and you do.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        @Brian Tomkinson: Even wikipedia categorizes Open Europe as “Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom”
        Furthermore, I haven’t forgotten how they cooked the books when counting the EU workforce: anybody who worked for say 5 days for the EC as an invited expert, was counted as a full time employee in this sham. After questions from (then) MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk this was uncovered.

        Reply EU staff numbers are kept down by requiring the memebr states to employ many people to implement EU policies – as with the CAP.

        • Brian Tomkinson
          Posted November 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          I prefer to make my own judgement based on the website of the organisation not someone else’s view posted on wikipedia. However, I know that you regard anyone not uncritically worshipping the EU as you do as a eurosceptic.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      “increase the role of national parliaments within the EU”

      I’m not interested in any of that twaddle, Peter; I’m not interested in any attempts to gradually erode the status of our Parliament as a sovereign national institution to something like the status of an EU institution, just one among twenty-eight plus national parliaments playing their subordinate role within the EU through another form of transnational majority voting; the role of our sovereign Parliament should always be to operate in the interests of those it is supposed to represent, and part of that role should be to decide when our government should refuse to accept any external proposal, including any proposal from the EU.

      Maybe you’ve already seen my comment on the Open Europe article about this:

      http://www.openeuropeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/green-card-late-card-dutch-parliament.html

      but to repeat it:

      “”Since the Lisbon Treaty introduced the yellow card, it has only been triggered twice – most recently this week.”

      And a yellow card having been triggered last week, the Commission promptly said that they intended to ignore it:

      http://euobserver.com/justice/121959

      “National parliaments opposed to creating an EU-wide prosecutor want the European Commission to rework its flagship proposal, but EU officials say it is likely to go ahead.

      Chambers in 11 national parliaments got enough votes to trigger a so-called “yellow card” procedure when they filed their complaints to Brussels earlier this week.”

      “An EU official told this website that: “Formally, the number of votes was reached to trigger the yellow card procedure.”

      But they added: “It is the commission that decides if there has been a yellow card or not and what would be the consequences.””

      What we need is a national veto on each and every EU proposal, and nothing less than that will do.”

      That was, after all, what we were promised by the government at the time of the 1975 referendum.

      • forthurst
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        We are living in a socialist republic by ordinance and consent of the majority of the elected members of our parliament. Those activities which take place under our constitution are pure flummery and the rivalry between the parties, pure theatre so long we have proponents of the EU opposing other proponents of the EU whilst those who wish to re-establish us as an independent kingdom are strong armed to the periphery of politics and put under continuous assault by propagandists of well funded pressure groups with absolutely no constitutional role, such as the BBC and the CBI.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        @Denis Cooper: Neither Euobserver nor Denis Cooper speak for the Commission, you give too colored an interpretation. The Commission mentioned the possibility of enhanced cooperation among some EU members. Why object against the procedure of enhanced cooperation among member states that do like a joint public prosecutor for certain aspects? It looks similar to your total rejection of the seriousness of “subsidiarity”, which almost leads me to think that living on an island has led to isolated thinking, cut off from what serious people on the continent will actually achieve in reforming the EU. Has this prolonged period of EU frustration, where up to now you have always been on the losing side, led to any radicalization on your part? The “true religion”of taking the UK out of the EU that you so bravely fight for, is according to many important players that you should not ignore, erroneous.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          You’re right, Peter; yes, I do totally reject the sop of “subsidiarity”, both the principle and the practice; it was a worthless sop when it was talked about two decades ago by Major and Hurd and other treacherous British politicians at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, and it has gained no merit over the intervening years.

          I will remind you what the British people were promised in the official government pamphlet delivered to every household at the time of the 1975 referendum:

          http://www.harvard-digital.co.uk/euro/pamphlet.htm

          “The Minister representing Britain can veto any proposal for a new law or a new tax if he considers it to be against British interests.”

          Nothing less than a national veto on each and every EU proposal would do; twaddle about “subsidiarity”, with just another form of transnational majority voting, even when it is observed, will not do.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

            @Denis Cooper: if this veto on each and any EU proposal were demanded, that would certainly not succeed, leaving you no other option than to leave the EU. Better an EU without the UK than an EU which would be unworkable. The UK parliament does have a veto in principle (and thus is sovereign) but only by repealing this 1972 act (forgotten the exact name at this moment). Anyway, I happened to watch part of this filibuster debate today, and it seems that many MPs do know the pro-EU facts and arguments. That gives me some confidence, for the eventuality of a referendum, if at least it will be based on a well-informed debate instead of a tabloid driven our campaign.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted November 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

            Then the UK must leave the EU, Peter.

            People in your own country can do as they please; if they are like you and no longer care about their national sovereignty and democracy then so be it; legal subjugation in a European federation awaits them; certainly if that is what they want and probably if they don’t really want it but lack the patriotism to resist it.

            Why you, a foreigner, should care whether or not the UK is in the EU, and should even think that you have some kind of compelling duty to make your impudent interventions in our national debate, remains a mystery.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Blighty giving certitude to Continentals ? – could never countenance that !

    • peter davies
      Posted November 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      I think the whole thing has gone past that now – its time to leave the sinking ship

  3. Mark B
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Parliament is no longer Sovereign. The moment, and some may argue before, we signed the Maastricht Treaty, and The Head of State became a mere Citizen of the EU, we lost all right to be called a free and independent nation. Even the EU refers to countries such as ours as, “Regions of the EU.” That is the measure of how far we have sunk, a mere ‘Region’.

    What is so often forgotten by those in the Westminster Bubble is, people much like themselves actually fought and died to gain those powers so, that the people, in their eyes, could be governed fairly. What was fought for has been given away by weak people who think a mark on a bit of paper represents democracy and a mandate to do the bloody hell what they like.

    Evolution of our so called democracy and the emancipation of both working men and women was never a smooth affair. Everything we had, and in turn given away, was fought for by ordinary people wanting a fair say in their affairs.

    Parliament does need to change. In fact, I would go as far to say our whole democratic process needs to be revamped. That is never going to come from within. Why change something that has worked so well, for so long – well, at least for them.

    I believe change can only come from within. If you know, instinctively or otherwise, that something is fundamentally wrong, you have made the first and the most important step of all. The problem for many as I see it, is the ‘after’. What do you do after that initial first thought ? Do you turn away in disgust ? Vote for another party that isn’t the LibLabCON ? Or think outside the box and look around for alternative forms of democracy ?

    Whatever people decide, going on as we are simply isn’t working, and in no way shape or form is it going to get any better.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Constitutional theory may still say Parliament is sovereign, but that is only true if Parliament retains the political will to assert itself.

    Indeed and with Cameron/Clegg around Parliament just never does, even barmy things like gender neutral insurance are pushed through on the nod. One hundred (at best it seems) sensible MPs is simply not enough. Most MPs are clearly not representing the voters at all but themselves, their consultancies and their careers.

    Reply Paid advocacy is banned so they do not represent any consultancies.

    • Timaction
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      When large parts of our sovereignty have been given away incrementally by stealthy Treaty we longer feel represented in Parliament. Mr Redwood readily admits that most MP’s are federalist whilst most people out here are totally opposed to the EU.
      Whilst we see more and more spin by the politicians in the lead up to the European Elections our experiences out here in the real world are not being addressed.
      There is a need for root and branch reform of Parliament and the people who more and more represent themselves and NOT Britain and its indigenous peoples.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Well fiddling expenses was banned too was it not.

      It is very hard to believe that the very many advocates of quack renewable energy do it because they actually believe in it. They surely cannot really be that stupid or out of touch with engineering or economics of it can they? Many seem to have a great deal of “consultancies”.

    • Bob
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      If gay marriage was so important to the LibLabCon, then why was it not mentioned prior to the election in any of their manifestos?

      This was slipped through the back door just because of the high number of homosexuals within Parliament, especially within the Tory Party.

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    “A single Act of Parliament could still take back this jurisdiction. ”
    Actually, no.
    Of course, the Parliament can pass any law which it likes.
    The EU however, under Section 50, will not, in effect, allow us to leave. The problem is that in order to leave legally we have to be allowed to leave by a vote of the EU Hemicycle. This has to be proposed by the Commission and M. Barroso, for one, is in no way going to allow that.
    “2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, AFTER OBTAINING THE CONSENT OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT.”
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Consolidated_version_of_the_Treaty_on_European_Union/Title_VI:_Final_Provisions#Article_50

    Allow me to remind you that both the Nigerian and the US Civil Wars were triggered by some states withdrawing from the Union.

    Reply The EU will not take military action if the UK through Parliament withdraws from membership! I agree it is best done after negotiation, as we will still need agreements on a multitude of issues with the nieghbours.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Mike, the EU Parliament could certainly impede the process of withdrawal by a member state, but not actually prevent it.

      You have quoted correctly from one part of Article 50 TEU, which starts on page 43 here:

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2010:083:0013:0046:EN:PDF

      But the next paragraph states:

      “3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

      So, yes, if a majority of its members wanted to be really stupid the EU Parliament could prevent any withdrawal agreement being concluded, in which case the state would have to leave the EU without any such agreement having been put in place.

      Would a majority of MEPs be so stupid that they would do that, given that any adverse consequences of not having a withdrawal agreement would impact on their own countries as well as on the country that was leaving?

      Well, if we believe that they would be that stupid, why on earth are we staying in the EU and allowing them to interfere with the government of our country?

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

        The inclusion agreement is gradually evolving and swallowing up powers, so why should we think that any withdrawal agreement should be any different?

    • Normandee
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Negotiate and make agreements from a position of strength, ie outside the EU it will give us a much stronger position. Especially as Barroso has already said there will be no renegotiatioins, where do you go from there as a start point?

    • Mark B
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      The EU does not need to take military action. All it has to do is enforce trade rules and agreements which will cut us off from the rest of the world. Remember, we have been member for over forty years. The EU have signed for and on our behalf numerous trade agreements. Leaving the EU without first invoking Art.50 and a successful completion of negotiations will result in the above.

      I am surprised that a gentleman of your standing and history cannot see this.

  6. Andyvan
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Yes the Syria vote was a success for Parliament but what about all the craven agreements for other unjust wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya to name just the recent ones? What about Parliament voting continually in favour of giving away sovereignty to Brussels? What about it’s utter failure to restrict bureaucracy? What about it’s long history of expenses and consultancy scandals?
    All these questions do not point to a successful institution but more to one that exists to further the interests of it’s members at the expense of everyone else. If Parliament wants respect and trust then it should act like the representative body it purports to be. Vote for freedom over control, repeal stupid laws, stand up for human values over warmongering propaganda, stop acting like a bunch of low life profiteers.
    PS None of the above will ever happen.

    • oldtimer
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      I think your description of the failings of MPs could be levelled at all the various systems of government experienced in this country over the centuries. Power corrupts.

      The best protections against this are, first, the ability to elect someone else at the next general election, and preferably before then by instituting the power of recall (an idea that seems to have been quietly buried). That power has been greatly diluted by the extent of the transfer of powers to EU institutions which are, effectively, beyond and out of control,

      The second is a free press, able to expose, dissect and criticise the activities of the law makers. This is directly threatened by the new Royal Charter. Without this there will be more and more instances of the corruption of public life through the unaccountability with power.

  7. The PrangWizard
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    It is time for more change so that we have a parliament that can truly represent the people. The devolution plans were implemented deliberately excluding England. It is causing strains which must be addressed, indeed yesterday we had yet another disgraceful episode when a decision was taken to end naval shipbuilding in England to please the Scots, in the hope it will stave off a vote there for independence. Appeasement of the worst kind. We in England have had enough of this. No-one speaks for England, where even are those who refer to ‘the people of England’? And just in case anyone wishes to deliberately misunderstand me, I mean the whole of England, not just pieces of it.

    We must first have a Minister for England, followed by a true elected parliament. After that we too in England must have independence, after all why should I feel under any obligation to defend the Union when it does nothing to defend me and my nation. There is a growing demand for democratic justice for England and for the people of England.

    Who will be the first MP, of any party declaring for an English parliament? If there any that believe in it, now is your time to demonstrate your courage and belief.

    • behindthefrogs
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      While I do not see it as necessary for England to have its own parliament there is a need for parliament to have sessions where English only matters are debated and voting is limited to MPs with English constituencies. Why noy reserve Mondays for such debates and bills for example.

      This would also reduce the expense of having the other MPs in London on that day. However we also need a reduction in the number of MPs.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        Why is it not necessary for England to have its own elected assembly?

        The Scots have one.

        The Welsh have one.

        The Northern Irish have one.

        So why should the English not have one?

        Is it, in fact, because we’re English, and loathed and despised as such by most of the British political class?

        So what do we have to do to get fair treatment?

        (take tougher action? ed)

  8. Roy Grainger
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    “The Select Committee system provides a further check on departmental actions and decisions”.

    That system has gone way beyond that. Some of these committees are grandstanding media-hungry kangaroo courts whose interest is in boosting the profile of their members. Is it really a good use of their time to bring in and attempt to humiliate CEO’s of major companies ? Or individual policemen involved in a single case ? Or celebrities like Steve Coogan who have no standing at all ? I’ve just listened to Maragret Hodge using her position on a committee to comprehensively rubbish the universal credit system as if she were an impartial judge. It is essentially an undemocratic and increasingly powerful system that is being abused.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      The fact that Select Committees can only be selected from among the available MPs is bound to affect the calibre of their members. In some of the committee proceedings certain people have behaved in ways which might suggest that they are unfit to be MPs whether or not they are on a Select Committee.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 8, 2013 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      Given that the Universal Credit system has current wasted £140 million it’s reasonable for MPs to criticise its implementation. Especially when it’s unclear how Universal Credit is performing because the DWP hasn’t released any data for several months.

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    You obviously can feel the growing vulnerability of collective power against previous institutional/ constitutional power. I have felt this for a long time as we prima facia become more qualified in caring for the health of our nation and lose the power to act in the best interests of our patients due to outside influence gaining more power in our country.

  10. Narrow shoulders
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Parliament’s power will continue to be limited as long as parties have first call on their MPs’ loyalty. The Republican movement in the USA has started to be bent by voters’ wishes rather than ignoring them like the party leaderships in this country. Voters need candidates who will represent them not the party. I recognise there are notable exceptions to this trend.

    Voters in the UK must be educated that their vote is their voice, they are not voting for a winner but registering their opinion and desire. To aid this transformation it should be made easier for single issue local candidates to enter the fray.

    The EU’s primacy in many matters needs to be addressed as does the dillution of the indigenous vote which will only get worse in the future.

    • Acorn
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Primary elections where the candidate chooses the party he/she prefers, if any, not the parties choosing the candidates that we will be allowed to vote for. Maximum of two four year terms as a MP, half of them elected every two years. That will concentrate their minds on voter wishes.

      BTW. Google “Sustainable Governance Indicators 2011: SGI”. (If I put the link in, it will get deleted as usual; can’t risk being off message eh.) Naturally the Scandinavian countries always win with bloody Sweden in the gold medal position. The mother of parliaments has got left behind somewhat in the accountability stakes. Apathy rules OK, but no mistake, we are getting the governments we deserve nowadays. More Primark than M&S.

      • forthurst
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        “Naturally the Scandinavian countries always win with bloody Sweden in the gold medal position.”

        It rather depends how the relative performance is qualified and quantified. e.g. under the rule of law, there appears to be no category for freedom of speech and freedom from thoughcrime laws including those concerning the equivalence of those that aren’t and those of historical interpretation; nor is there a category for freedom from crimes of violence or predation; in truth, the more ‘inclusive’ a country is, the more it will be be pray to the depredations of ‘minorities’. Of course, there is a whole load of guff about ‘democracy’, when in fact there are only two possible classifications, a pretend state in the EU or a real state etc.

  11. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I don’t detect very much will among MPs in general to assert the sovereignty of our Parliament, and whatever commitment to our national sovereignty and democracy a particular MP may appear to have as a backbencher often seems to evaporate if he moves into government.

    In fact I detect more will among members of the EU Parliament to assert a sovereignty that it does not even possess under the EU treaties, and similarly with members of the Scottish Parliament.

    And when the judges on the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg set out to assert their legal supremacy over our Parliament, our Attorney-General Dominic Grieve advises capitulation:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10431504/Dominic-Grieve-Every-prisoner-in-Britain-could-sue-for-damages-over-voting-ban.html

    For the British people there is no point electing MPs who do not believe in the sovereignty of their Parliament and who are therefore prepared to submit to whatever orders may come from external institutions.

  12. Roger Farmer
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Laudable though Parliaments control of the executive was on the subject of Syria, it is not something to dine out on. It was a rare glimmer of what Parliament is there for. To balance it, as you intimate, Parliament has fallen over backwards to conform to every whim that flows from the EU. You would think they would get the message coming from the voting public, but they do not or in their arrogant mummy knows best, choose to ignore it.
    Parliament needs to find reverse gear and roll back on legislation, taxation and interfering in the day to day lives of the people and business. There is just too much government. It is expensive and not required. It also acts as a damp wet cloth on the fire of enterprise. The entrepreneurs of the industrial revolution would think us totally mad to tolerate so much interference for so long. Government is there to deal with the excesses not to put the fire out.

  13. Normandee
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    This is nonsense, as things are without some firm action Parliament will become the same as Buckingham Palace, old and full of people with no actual power. Parliament is deliberately conspiring to destroy itself, to reduce itself to a house of noise whose prime purpose will be to nod through European law that we will have had very little say in controlling the laws having been suggested and past by representatives of former communist states and other socialist riff raff, most of whome envy and hote our history of freedom. We will be lied to and treated as fools until we can do nothing about it.
    Cameron is helped in this confidence trickery by the so called Eurosceptics in parliament who whilst talking a lot are actually prepared to do very little of any consequence to challenge Cameron. There are enough of them to raise a strong bid to unseat Cameron but they will not do it, because it will disrupt the party close to an election and at the heart of their lives is the “party”, they will not threaten the “party” no matter what it plans to do with the country. They are cowards and liers, and sadly will feel no shame.

    • outsider
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Dear Normandie, I don’t think you can say, or imply, that Mr Redwood is a political coward. Remember that he alone called John Major’s bluff in 1995, when Major’s government was rightly seen as useless, duly lost by more than two to one and has been exiled from government ever since. Other MPs would have learnt from that. It is hard to unseat a sitting prime minister and would be virtually impossible in coalition when the coalition partner is on the opposite side of the argument.
      I note also from elsewhere that Mr Redwood was one of only 12 MPs to vote against regulatory control of the Press by the liberal establishment, nearly all of them eurosceptics. Lack of success does not mean people are not trying. It is true, however, that most of those in government put office before principle.

      • Normandee
        Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        OK “outsider” if I withdraw the accusation of cowardice, is anything else I said wrong? Yes it’s difficult to remove a sitting prime minister, but not impossible, and the LibDems mp’s, if not the leaders,would revel in causing more problems and not help Cameron at all.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    JR: “By far and away the largest and as yet unbridled challenge to Parliament’s power has come from the EU.”
    This “unbridled challenge” is progressing under the guise of Cameron’s promise of renegotiation and a referendum. In relation to the Government’s decision to opt back in to a number of criminal justice measures, the Telegraph reports today: “Europe will get more influence over British affairs – to the detriment of Parlaiment and British courts – if the Government proceeds with controversial ‘opt in’ plans, warn MPs “. What is Parliament going to do about this apart from issuing a warning?
    It seems to me that many MPs like to exercise their consciences, shrug their shoulders and let the EU directed executive proceed. Cameron told the CBI this week he was confident he could win the argument to keep the UK in the EU – the true voice of Conservative Euroscepticism? Most MPs are just lobby fodder for their party whips.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      As one of Theresa May’s constituents I am utterly disgusted that she would not be in the least bothered if I was carted off to rot in a foreign prison for many months without the slightest evidence that I had ever been in that country let alone that I had done anything wrong.

      If that is her level of loyalty to me and her other constituents, zero, then obviously the level of my support for her will be the same.

  15. Bert Young
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Removing the UK from any possible link to the EU bureaucracy is a step in the right direction . There are many other steps that can be taken to improve the efficiency and smooth working of Parliament e.g. there are far too many MPs ( a reduction of 20% would be a good start ) , every MP must have at least 12 years successful experience outside of the political arena before selection as a candidate , the minimum age for selection should be 38 years , every candidate must have resided in the UK for at least 10 years prior to selection . Bringing outside experience and extra maturity into the HoP would do a lot in restoring the respect of the electorate . I want our Parliament to be independent of outside interests and a place of wisdom . Greenhorns and grafters must be a thing of the past .

  16. English Pensioner
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I believe that parliament should have confirmation hearings before ministers and senior civil servants are appointed, in a similar manner to that in the USA. It also needs to examine the budgets and administration of all government departments before select committees.

  17. Neil craig
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Whatever the legalities Parliament only has such power when it represents the people (eg they had to be able to go to the country and get re-elected to pass Lloyd George’s Parliament Act).

    Does anybody think they do? Does anybody think, considering the way the Tory election campaign slogan is going to be “you know UKIP has far better policies than us but because we promote a corrupt electoral system they are disenfranchised and we are marginally better than Labour” (well ok the real slogan will be snappier) and the way all the parties break their manifesto policies, that they are even making an attempt to represent us?

  18. uanime5
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I’d say the main problem with the current Parliament is that there’s too many safe seats and too many wasted votes. Moving to a more proportional voting system, such as the one used in Scotland, would help make political parties more accountable to the electorate.

    Speaking of Parliamentary controls the Public Accounts Committee has criticised Ian Duncan Smith for squandering £140 million on Universal credit. Of course if the Committee is unable demand changes to prevent a minister wasting more money on a project then the committee’s ability to hold a minister to account is somewhat limited.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/universal-credit-scheme-faces-withering-criticism-from-mps-8925364.html

    • Edward2
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      I know you like PR Uni, as many do, but recently we had a vote on a reasonable form of PR voting, ie AV, and even this was turned down by the people.

      One your last point, it is possible that there maybe civil servants who are doing their best to derail IDS’s efforts to reduce the complexities and numbers of welfare benefits.
      This committee which now regularly acts like a star chamber and pontificates on all sorts of topics, perhaps has an axe to grind in these pronouncements, many of them being political opponents of IDS.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 8, 2013 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        AV and PR are different voting systems. Just because the public rejected one doesn’t mean they will reject the other.

        IDS’s reforms are failing because of his failure to develop a comprehensive plan. Despite attempting to combine 6 means tested benefits together there’s no clear plan as to how they will be assessed; there’s a lack of financial controls resulting in supplier being paid even when there’s no evidence any work has been done; and the trials before it was rolled out nationally had to be scaled back massively because the IT system couldn’t handle more than one town. The whole project is a complete shambles.

        Your attempts to blame all IDS’s criticism on conspiracy theories is laughable. £425m has been spent on Universal Credit, of which at least £140 million has been wasted. IDS is clearly failing to managing these reforms.

    • narrow shoulders
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Seats are safe as much due to the dearth of alternative candidates as the voting system. Making it easier for single issue local parties to participate and compete would lead to fewer safe seats. I like being represented by an actual MP for my area and voters like simple voting systems

  19. Antisthenes
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    You can point to some successes of parliament and even public opinion holding government to account and shaping policy but to me it is not enough. More often than not though the people and politicians get it all wrong because what they want involves short term gain without considering the long term consequences or any consequences at all which all to often turns into loss. If democracy is to evolve along the right path then how parliament, the political process and government works has to radically change. The ultimate objective has to be for the people to have the last say in the decision making process. This can only be done if the people are drawn closer and closer into the political process because currently the majority are ignorant of the true facts, irrational and extremely biased (in my view many politicians are too) and become involved in political debate(the opposite is currently happening). By doing so the interaction will begin to dissolve these deficiencies and politicians will have to be more honest with the people and themselves and democracy will make another beneficial step forward and government will be much better for it.

  20. Horatio McSherry
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Many congratulations for being one of the Parliamentarian of the Year.

    Well deserved indeed.

  21. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Influence is the name of the game. Sharing your sovereignty with the sovereignty of other EU nations doesn’t make you less influential but more influential.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Peter,
      The political “elite” might share your view but individuals are severely disadvantaged as they have lost their recourse to remove those who govern them from office.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        @Brian Tomkinson: I believe that in the UK you usually remove a government through your elected representatives (MPs). In the EU, the European Parliament (your representatives) have already removed European Commissions before, which proves that such would be possible again.

        • Brian Tomkinson
          Posted November 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          Peter,
          From your favourite reference source (wikipedia) I note that “the European Parliament has the power at any time to force the entire Commission to resign through a vote of no confidence. This requires a vote that makes up at least two-thirds of those voting and a majority of the total membership of the Parliament.” The odds seem pretty heavily stacked in favour of the Commission to me. I don’t regard this as giving me any influence whatsoever.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

            And when it happened in 1999 the Commission felt it should carry on regardless to ensure the continuity of government.

            Just as it carried on regardless to ensure the continuity of government in the autumn of 2009 when the five year terms of all its members except the President had expired and not been renewed.

            http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/power-drains-away-from-lame-duck-commission/66256.aspx

            “Power drains away from lame-duck Commission

            By Simon Taylor – 29.10.2009 / 05:20 CET

            Uncertainty over legal powers means Commission will be in a state of limbo from Sunday.

            The European Commission will be in a state of limbo from Sunday (1 November), unable to launch legislative proposals or initiatives because of uncertainty over its legal powers.

            The five-year mandate of José Manuel Barroso’s first administration will expire on 31 October, but because a successor Commission has not yet been approved, the existing team of commissioners is obliged by EU treaty rules to carry on in a caretaker capacity. The caretaker regime will last for at least two months, possibly more, depending on the fate of the Lisbon treaty.”

            Actually they were not obliged to do that by EU treaty rules, but as the MEP Roger Helmer wrote to a correspondent at that time:

            “Of course you are right, but challenging the EU project on legal grounds is like banging your head against a brick wall. They don’t really care.”

            And they don’t; under the veneer of respect for the rule of law, which law that they will always to try to interpret as they see fit for their convenience, they don’t really care.

            And I suspect that Peter doesn’t really care either.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      Countries cannot “share” their sovereignty without each of them losing it; and how does a country become more “influential” when others know that they disregard its wishes and impose their will through transnational majority voting?

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        @Denis Cooper: It’s actually simple enough: what you gain is more than what you lose.

        Let me give you an example from a small country, The Netherlands: The joke made about our DNB president Mr. Duisenberg (like BOE president, but then in the Netherlands) in the early eighties (a period in which EEC countries tended to fluctuate their exchange rates for national advantage) was that, after the Bundesbank would change its interest, he had about 45 minutes of “sovereignty”, after which he would follow the Bundesbank. Compare it to Switzerland or Denmark practically having pegged their currency to the euro. After The Netherlands joined the euro, it had a seat on the ECB council, and therefore an actual say in rate decisions. (It also provided an ECB president, it now provides a Eurogroup president, but that is just luck)
        This kind of reasoning also counts for our EU membership. In the European Council or the European Parliament we have, together with other countries, a say over measures which might affect Spain or the UK (gain of influence). Other countries have some say over measures which may affect the Netherlands (loss of influence). On balance we have more influence to do what is best for our country than outside the EU. My argument therefore is that you have to look into what will give your country maximum leverage to achieve what is best for Britain. Don’t take it from me, Japanese industrialists, the US, the City, the EEF, the CBI, even the governments of Australia and Canada if I got this right, they all believe that insode the EU you will be stronger and more influential as UK.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I know these stories about how each of the smaller and weaker states has gained more “influence” by being in the EU; and indeed it’s true that they do have more “influence”, but only for as long as they agree with what the larger and more powerful states want, and in particular of course what Germany wants.

          I’ve read it again and again in the Irish press, in fact Irish politicians were apparently so concerned about the possible loss of “influence” within the EU that they openly offered it as strong reason why the Irish people should submit to what Merkel wanted and vote for her Lisbon Treaty.

          But on the second time round only because she had agreed that Ireland could keep “its” EU Commissioner, for the time being, to exert some of that all-important “influence”, and even though he would have to take an oath to serve the EU and not Ireland.

          I’ve even read it in the Maltese press, with their politicians publicly preening themselves on the “influence” that tiny Malta could exert within the EU; but of course only if they carried on doing what they were told by the larger states, particularly Germany, because any show of defiance could undermine that “influence”.

          It’s a load of bollocks, Peter; you may well be content for your country to be a kind of vassal state, enjoying the favours of the Germans through the sycophancy of your politicians; (through fears about German power ed)
          And I have some sympathy for the Irish, as well, because once Heath had betrayed his country the Irish politicians were left with little choice but to follow suit and betray their country.

  22. Bazman
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    £139 for three months water on a meter this week, so summer mainly. Gardening, baths for a child once a week and showers every day for two adults plus the usual washing and wastage. Would anyone say this is good value and everyone can afford this? A tenner a week or five hundred quid last year in total. Come out from under your stones and say.

    • Edward2
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Value compared to what Baz?
      The price it was decades ago in the UK, or the costs other countries charge their citizens?
      Why don’t you have a look under your stone for some figures and get back to us.

      • Bazman
        Posted November 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        Would you say a tenner a week for water via a meter is acceptable? Say compared to SKY TV or energy bills? Never mind what your granny paid of what some other countries pay. Does not help anyone or mean anything to anyone in the UK today.

        • Edward2
          Posted November 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

          Yes.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

            For you or everyone?

          • Bazman
            Posted November 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

            For him and thats the belief of many of the fanatsists views. Did you notice how bad the cutlery became on Concord towards the end? This was the main reason for it’s demise. Fly Beautiful bird fly!

  23. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Is it not the case that three quarters of our laws and regulations are effectively under the control of the EU / EC? If this is the case, are we surprised that our young are so apathetic about politics?

  • 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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