How productive are MPs?

Several correspondents of this blog, and others in the public debate, have rushed to raise the issue of how productive are MPs in response to any of us who highlight the general issue of public sector productivity. It is a fair question. MPs who want a more productive- and better paid – public sector do need to consider their own contribution. The total cost of MPs is tiny in relation to public sector output, but those who would lead must expect more scrutiny and should be expected to lead by example.

It was this issue which led David Cameron to make the cost of politics an issue in government. It led to the decision to back a reduction in the number of MPs. The current plan is to remove 50 out of 650, offering a 7.7% increase in labour productivity. The question for this Parliament is will the other parties now agree to this, as Conservatives still want to put through this reform.

Those of us who want England to be better represented can also do this in a way which does not add to the bills for political government. The twin hatted MP who is both a UK and an English MPs would be a lower cost more productive model than the one adopted in Scotland.

It is true that in recent years the number of peers has continued to expand. Peers are only paid if they turn up, so it is not quite as bad as it looks, but few can deny the Upper House is now overmanned. There are various proposals for dealing with this. A few are now in effect. Peers can now retire and are encouraged to do so. We need to consider more steps to limit numbers. It is mainly up to the Lords to decide what they think is best. Options include a use it or lose it rule, a fixed single term of appointment, or a high overall retirement age. It is easiest to bring in these changes by giving newly appointed peers different contracts with retirement built in at an appropriate future date in the light of each individual’s circumstances. More retirements could be encouraged by letting people keep their courtesy titles without rights to sit in the Lords and vote.

The other main way political government can raise its productivity is by controlling numbers and costs in MPs offices. I choose to do all my own research, article and blog writing and speech making myself without researchers and writers working for me. Other MPs have other ways of limiting their demands on additional staff and costs. All MPs interested in raising public sector productivity should of course review what they can do within their own very small part of the public sector by way of example.

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74 Comments

  1. sm
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Good morning John. You mention that you do not employ researchers or writers, which is fine, but might be more difficult for those of your colleagues who may represent a constituency much farther from Westminster than Wokingham, and/or have a young family who make understandable demands on their free time.

    The current size of the HoL is of course ludicrous and must be curtailed in some way VERY soon.

    • Hope
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      JR, it is a part time unqualified job. Overpaid, lack of standards. In 2009 we thought there would be change based on the lies by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg. There wa cross party agreement. Alas all untrue.

      Today we face the betrayal by the Tory govt of Brexit. How does this transitional deal dove tail with the manifesto pledge of cutting immigration? Again, all lies by Teresa May. Not surprising as she had the worse record in history for immigration and making us unsafe. Rudd has taken over the mantel in a similar vein, lie to say immigration being cut to tens of thousands when we had three terrible atrocities as result of not having secure borders. Terrorists allowed to walk in and out. If either had any conscience or dignity they would have resigned for the loss of life and injury to citizens for their failures. Alas the lack of standards pervade at Westminster. Still no one has come forward to take responsibility for the terrible loss of life for the unarmed police officer at Westminster. Someone made the decision he should not be armed. Go to New York and you will see armed police at every tourist or iconic building. JR, there is simply no need for so many MPs or Lords, the caliber exceedingly low, the Foucault point remains it is about self serving greed and position of power. Public service should be first and last purpose of an MP a pillar of society and local leader. Nothing of the sort exists at Westminster.

    • NickC
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      SM, A couple of hundred people in the HoL should be elected by proportional representation. Those would be called Ealdormen, must have held (a) non-political job(s) for at least 10 years, and be a minimum of 40 years old. They would be the only HoL incumbents who could vote. All the existing peers, hereditary or otherwise could continue to contribute, speak and work but not vote.

    • Hope
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Your question links to ability to perform or think through the consequences of decisions. Today we hear Gove announce no more petrol or diesel cars by 2040. This coincides with other EU countries, I thought we were leaving. Before announcing this should Gove have thought where the electric will come from with an increased demand from the Govt’ mass immigration policy? The stupidity of the Climate Change Act has brought us to the point the govt uses STOR to back up useless wind farms and the like, diesel powered generators! Two thirds of fuel costs is tax, sixty six percent. Where are these billions going to come from thereafter? Perhaps this should be thought through in the first place and save time and money.

      • Hope
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        More talk of transitional deal and that maderins accept a £50 billion divorce bill! I truly hope not. If the transitional deal is to disguise that vast waste of taxpayers money to the EU then a few cabinet ministers need to walk ASAP. Look at the state of our public services. The Tory party are walking over the electorate cliff edge the remainers talk about. It is incredible that a month ago your party nearly lost the election and within a month behave in way to lose far more votes!

        Grayling recently declined to electrify a railway and chose diesel hybrid instead and today announce the end of petrol and diesel cars when there is not an energy policy in place to provide sufficient electricity! Paying vast sums to leave the EU when there is no need, is the EU asking Russia for a contribution to build Eastern European infrastructure? Do other countries impose their judicial system or courts on us if we want to trade with them! It is so ridiculous. Trump announces today no transgender in the military. A totally common sense approach, Greening on the other hand wants self identifying gender! Productivity, writing on the hoof, u turns all cost money.

        JR, your govt is not fit for purpose. Vast sums of taxpayers money wasted on utter rubbish because of a lack of vision, strategy or common sense. The negotiation with the EU could be cut down dramatically. Hammond should be walking after his budget and stupid comments about a transitional period to keep us in the EU. We voted leave why has it not happened? It does not take this long. All remarked about being complicated are utter rubbish to disguise the purpose to delay and change our minds.

        Seven years in office, deficit still not eliminated as promised, mass immigration at record numbers when we were promised tens of thousands, we are an island FFS, safety and security still a mess and we are still vulnerable because of May and Rudd. They should walk. Productivity my arse.

      • David L
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        And simultaneously we get told that much rail electrification is being cancelled ensuring diesel power will be used well into the future.

      • NickC
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        The announcement by Michael Gove beggars belief. Has he not done the simple maths to realise that we will have to DOUBLE UK electricity generating capacity?

        310 billion vehicle miles (source: Dept of Transport)
        One UK gallon of petrol is equivalent to 44 kWh (source: internet)
        Average vehicle fuel efficiency = 30 mpg (source: assumption)

        Therefore consumption = (310 x 10**9)/30 = 10.333 x 10**9 gallons
        therefore transport energy use = 10.333 x 10**9 x 44 kWh = 454,000 gWh

        Current total annual demand = 401,811 gWh (source: Ofgem).

        This government is a shambles: they are beyond saving.

      • Turboterrier.
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        @ Hope

        where the electric will come from with an increased demand from the Govt’ mass immigration policy? The stupidity of the Climate Change Act

        As Jeppe Giervig Gram the author of “Follow the Money” wrote in the Guardian on March 17th 2016:

        If I were a swindler, if I were committed to committing fraud, I would be in green energy. If you want to trick someone into giving you a lot of money, you have to give them something they really believe in – you have to promise them the future.

        The same could be applied to the mayhem that all electric vehicles infrastructure will cause.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    The real problems is that MP and ministers are the only people who have any interest at all in ensuring that the state sector does things the public actually want doing. They very rarely do this at all however. MP are generally far more concerned about staying in with their party group think than doing anything to actually benefit the public.

    So we have a dire state sector delivering little of real value while spending nearly half of GDP to do it. The tax and “free” at the point of use, ensures dire virtual monopolies continue in health & education, absurd misguided state interference in housing, restrictive planning, energy, CAP, greencrap, employment laws and so many other areas. The damage the state does to the economy and standards of living is huge.

    Just cut them down to size and get them out of the damn way please. But only yesterday daft interventionist May anounced more interference in free contracts in leasehold housing.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      People are not forced to buy leashold they have choosen to, and they have the right to buy the freehold later anyway. The main problem is excessive legal costs and delays in doing this. A poor inefficient, slow and very expensive monopoly legal system better to address that.

      • agricola
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Difficult when Parliament is full of lawyers.

        • agricola
          Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

          Having just investigated my wild statement there are 119 out of the 650 who have trained as or practised law. As in our education system we need engineers, scientists, medics, entrepreneurs, and any others with experience of life at the creative end. 119 is too many leeches with a vested interest.

  3. eeyore
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    My humble proposal for reducing the size of the Lords is to remove all political life peers. In time hereditaries, sitting by chance, appointed as it were by God Almighty, would form a true cross-section of the nation in all its diversity.

    Ideally, only the descendants of newly-ennobled peers would sit, as the new appointee would not possess that random quality which would make him truly representative.

    Bigger brains than mine have pressed this argument in all seriousness, most lately the philosopher Roger Scruton, whose powerful intellect I am grateful to hide behind.

    • libertarian
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      eeyore

      Or as a practical and realistic alternative scrap the HoL all together. Have an English parliament and together the parliaments and assemblies form the second chamber

      But then that would be democracy and we seem to be moving away from democracy in the UK now

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      The nation in all its diversity would not have voted 451 – 58 to join the EEC, which is what the mainly hereditary peers did in 1972.

  4. Mark B
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    For me it is a question of quality. We need better MP’s and not just voting fodder.

    We have to stop this tinkering around the edges and go for radical reform.

    Abolish the Upper House and replace it with and elected UK Senate.

    A Parliament for England.

    Remove all non-English MP’s. They can be elevated to the new UK Senate.

    Separate the Executive from the Legislator. You cannot be an MP and a Secretary of State or PM / First Minister at the same time.

    More power to local authorities but spending controlled via referendums. ie I get to vote on my Council Tax and other charges.

    National Referendums on all non-defence projects costing over £1 Billion pounds. That should put an end to all those White Elephants.

    Better paid MP’s. No Public Sector worker can ever earn more than the PM.

    • A Briton
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Mark B: wow did you just nail this or what! Problem is getting the MPs to be ‘courageous’ enough to come out in force to (1) acknowledge the point (2) run with it (3) push it through. Many are frightened of New Vision and those that aren’t aint going to do it. One day yes probably.

  5. David Murfin
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    @Productivity’ is an odd word to apply to MPs. What do they ‘produce’? More unnecessary legislation? Longer debates, talking out more important matters? Should they not spend more time scrutinising the work of government departments, and questioning the productivity of ministers? Should not parliament be in session longer?

    • Turboterrier.
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      @ David Murfin

      What do they ‘produce’? More unnecessary legislation? Longer debates, talking out more important matters?

      See that you have been monitoring the performance of the SNP representatives

  6. stred
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    It would be a lot more efficient if the whole House of Cronies was got rid of and replaced by 100 technical experts from non-political backgrounds and perhaps 100 with political records in proportion to polls. Then restrict to 5 years and perhaps some elected Advisors.

    The present shower stinks.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      @Stred. You have just banged the nail on the head! What a sensible suggestion. This is our problem now. Too many people seeking advice from ‘experts’ which are often charities who know nothing in real terms about what they are legislating on. Energy being a great example. The HOL is a joke. What the hell does Michel whatever her name is (expert in bras) know about some of the important things being voted on? Let’s get in the real world.

      • a-tracy
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Michelle Mone, is a British entrepreneur born in Glasgow, I admire her a lot, she left school at 15 and had a brother with Spina bifida who she helped her parents to look after, she worked her way up in Marketing and one thing the UK needs plenty of is good sales and marketing professionals at the top. She spotted an opening in the market for a decent bra and built up a business that she exited after 17 years.

        She has had three children I don’t know if they were born in NHS hospitals and had NHS doctors or if her children used State schools, I hope she did because that experience adds a lot of experience.

        The House of Lords can’t just be filled full of STEM graduates although I’m sure Lifelogic would approve. We need people with a full range of abilities, skills and experiences to form a group of our peers, including working class kids that have made good, because one thing they are collectively is fast learners.

    • NickC
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Stred, That sounds like the EU to me!!

    • Timaction
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. Also need to regulate who MP’s employ as the gravy train still exists where they employ wives and other family members or cronies. They could all be externally interviewed and appointed by external and independent body. How’s that public sector MP pay and pensions reform coming along to match all others within the private sector? Still a part time job with no qualifications needed at all. When are they buying a cheap hotel for the 600 to stop the other exorbitant expenses no one else could claim?

      Reply The new rules do stop family employment

      • Timaction
        Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        Above should read public sector as that’s what you are. With fptp our choices are very limited and leaves many of us with high taxation and NO representation. Everyone out here knows what the reforms should be on our voting systems, your pay and pension, rules of malfeasance in public office and other similar legislation extended to Westminster so you can be held account to the same standards as other public sector employees. One law for all. A bit like stopping Sharia law as two systems shouldn’t be allowed and integration should be encouraged. This supposedly Britain after all.
        Far too many of you and Lords should be cut to 100 at most. We just don’t need that many navel gazing public funded politicos thinking up rules to get in our way making money and profits for the Country.
        I read the backsliding has started with the EU “transitional” arrangements. What’s next, we’ll have to pay the divorce bill at it’s highest figures as we’re technically in it? Mass migration and therefore the collapse of our health, education and so called housing crisis will continue. If your Government can’t be effective you should get out of the way and appoint Farage as our negotiator. They’d take him seriously!

  7. Lifelogic
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    How productive are MPs? The real question is surely are they producing the right thinks.

    What is needed (for the maximum good of the people) is a system that lets people get on with their lives without much interference, but with go defence, sound law and order with real deterrrents, sensible incentives to be responsible (and not to be feckless), strong property rights and low taxation.

    What we get is so often the complete opposite. They fund essentially propaganda, attempt to buy votes with other people’s money, interfere with property rights. intorduce daft job destroying employment laws and remove all moral hazzard to augment the feckless.

    Before we make them more efficient we need to get them to do the right things.

  8. Lifelogic
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Much talk of electric cars again. Clearly the government do not understand the physics or engineering and just want PR and spin.

    Oxford steet is endlessly mentioned by the BBC. The dirty air here is mainly due to diesel taxis, trucks and buses. Just sort out the vehicles that are on these roads all day every day first. Convert these to cleaner gas, petrol or electric wherever possible. Electric buses with some charge points and (an engine back up range extender) is perfectly possible now and has been for some time.

    • NickC
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Transition deals, danegeld payments, next will be ECJ continuation. Where is the Leave in this government? What’s so bloody difficult for only 10% of UK GDP? A messy exit is the worst of both worlds.

      We could be out in 12 months if the government wanted to. Announcing this would concentrate the EU’s collective mind. So why not?

      Instead we have announcements about banning petrol and diesel cars by 2040 presumably for the Man-made Global Warming Catastrophe hoax that is falling apart as we speak.

      The Conservative party is determined to fail at Leave, and be unelectable for a generation.

    • Chris S
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      The best way to power buses and taxis in major cities would be via Hydrogen Fuel Cells.

      Refuelling at a depot means no massive infrastructure is required and the vehicles then run entirely on electricity. There are zero emissions and, unlike battery-powered cars, there is no range issue so they don’t need a back up diesel engine.

      The technology exists today : Honda have upwards of 100 cars on the road in the UK undergoing long term testing and Mercedes and BMW have ongoing research programmes in Europe The only hold up with Fuel Cell cars is the distance between fuel points but, with buses that would not be an problem.

    • Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been doing some calculations based on the figures given for the Mercedes B Type in Autocar. We would need to build several new power stations just to cope with the load. As usual no-one seems to have considered the knock-on consequences. Detailed calculations are on my own blog.

  9. Ian Wragg
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    The most productive things MPs could do is get us out of the EU quickly and without payment. No ECJ interference in our affairs whatsoever.
    The people won’t stand for betrayal.

  10. Iain Moore
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    ” twin hatted MP who is both a UK and an English MPs would be a lower cost more productive model ”

    An obvious and simple proposal that many of us have been making. The objections to which are not the result of any problems with the proposal, but that those making the objections are opposed to any sort of English representation .

  11. Old Albion
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Raise political productivity and create a democratic UK in one hit.
    Remove the 120 Scottish/Welsh/N.I MP’s from Westminster. Let their own national parliaments deal with all devolved issues.
    This creates an English parliament in Westminster. Eventually reduce the English seats to around 400.
    Scrap the H of L. Replace it with a senate made of equal numbers of ‘senators’ representing each of the four home nations. This body to deal with reserved matters.
    Massive financial savings and a return of democracy to England. Simples.

    • DaveM
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Mr Redwood is utterly opposed to an English Parliament even though he agrees that the the current system doesn’t represent England fairly.

      I have a question for our host today, as he has bravely raised constitutional issues:

      If the current arrangement regarding EVEL is satisfactory, thereby making the Westminster government the English AND the UK government, what happens when/if Ruth Davidson or Liam Fox become PM?

  12. Turboterrier.
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Reduce the number of MPs but raise the requirements on the application form.

    Get people with the right qualifications to meet the needs of the country and not just a blanket degree in anything. People with real and proven business skills and experience.

    As for the HoL to slash the numbers pay only travelling expenses. To lot of us it would be an honour to serve our country by being elevated into the upper house and we wouldn’t want paying to do it just the covering of getting there.

    Lords are in place for 5 years and then apply for re selection based upon what they have actually achieved. How many would pass their performance review I ask myself? Keep the title but with no powers.

  13. Lifelogic
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Many MP think their role is to look after certain vested interests in, for example, the rent seeking “renewables” industry, looking after the large mainly state sector union’s interests, the interests of largely parasitic laywers, (in the past) the hip pack providers, people in the health and safety industry and many others, the banks, the EU’s interest. This in not helped by the fact that so many are actually paid at “consultants” or otherwise by these vested interests. The interest of the public are way down the list of priorities for many MPs. They are just people to be “cast iron”, or “£1M IHT thresholds” or “student loan” lied to before elections then ratted on and forgotten again for 5 years.

    If they are mainly doing these damaging things, then last thing we want is for them to be more efficient at it.

  14. agricola
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Labour likes the bias it gives them under the present system, so do not expect any help from them. Hit them with it post Brexit.

    The USA has 435 Representatives (MP’s) for a population of 323 million. We have 650 MP’s for a population of 66 million which suggests to me that our people are over represented. Possibly it is the quality of life in the UK that produces more problems for it’s citizens that need addressing by an MP.

    They survive in the USA with 100 Senators (MH o Ls). Any comment would not pass moderation.

    Perhaps the real problem is the way Parliament operates. In this electronic age, half an hour to get a vote processed in the H o C seems ridiculous. This is one of the things the general public can see every time the Speaker shouts “Clear the house”. You as an MP must be aware of numerous possible efficiency savings that could be implemented, so why not audit the place in a value analysis sense. It needs to be done and implemented quickly because post Brexit there will be a reversion to UK legislation, no more nodding through EU product.

  15. Norman
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid I do not agree with all these ‘get rid of’ suggestions. What has developed since Cromwell’s time has a hidden dimension that speaks to me of Divine wisdom. As in the days of Solomon, it isn’t the system that’s wrong, but those who are abusing and misrepresenting it, and now to such a degree that ‘Ichabod’ (the glory has departed) is ever more clearly written over it. I suspect this is as sad to some within the system, such as our kind host, as it is to many outside it.
    We should note one more thing, however: though our rulers are answerable for their failures, to a very large extent, they also reflect the malaise in the Church of England, and thereby, the country at large. Solomon was given the key – national repentance – but there is currently little sign of it dawning on anyone, or even being countenanced by those who should be in the lead: hence, more decline and misery is inevitable. The role of Jeremiah was not a comfortable one.

  16. alan jutson
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the insight JR.

    Can understand Ministers having help with research (does not the HOC have its own fully manned research department available to MP’s) and speechwriting, but surely not back bench MP’s.

    Certainly agree the HOL needs drastic reform, although not sure which form this should take for best outcome, although I would ban political appointments by politicians, as this is simply political manipulation of so called democracy.

  17. RodC
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    What we need is a revolution, with a small “r” then declare a republic and with the new system probably have only 500 MPs which would do to give a critical mass. As for the upper house abolish the lords and create a smaller senate of elected members.

    Problem at the moment is that there are too many getting through to the top that have only their own interests, and not the countries interests, at heart. These are people who in a different life might be boot boys and thugs, albeit very well educated but sorry to say

  18. Peter
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Abolish the House of Lords and start again.

    Far less of them are needed.

    The second chamber should also be elected.

  19. alan jutson
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Off Topic

    I see the newspapers are full of reporting political debate about diesel and petrol powered vehicles yet again today.

    So called legislation now seems possible with regards to charging in certain towns, certain roads, certain routes, certain times of the day, depending upon age of vehicle and what type of power source is used.

    I will need to replace my present 18 year old vehicle in due course (passed its MOT again yesterday), and am now totally and utterly bemused at where I stand, or may stand in a few years time.
    I tend to purchase either pre registered or 2 year old vehicles, and keep them for a significant time, so that depreciation is a minimal amount per year, over total vehicle life.

    Any news on when this fiasco is going to be resolved, as I would not want to purchase new transport only to find I will be fined/charged or even banned from using it in certain areas.

    Why not simply scrap all charges (vehicle excise duty included) and put the cost on the fuel used.
    Then you pay as you go, knowing what the costs will be before you start, with no restriction on travel.
    Is this principle really too simple for MP’s to get behind.

  20. Duncan
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    It’s a pointless debate. I prefer to debate issues that remain open to reform and change.

    The State will not reform nor will it become more efficient. To do more with less spending. Of course the tedious, vacuous narrative of the vested interest that is the State is that more ‘activity’ demands more spending. Of course more spending means higher taxes for those non-State workers who are constantly abused and made to feel immoral for wanting to keep more of their own money for themselves rather than handing over to a parasitic entity which is what the State has become

    I refuse to be the victim of moral sanctimony from the usual groups employed by the State who richly benefit from my and other efforts in the private sector.

    We are asked to pay more ad infinitum, get less while the protected State sector takes and takes and takes. A tipping point will be reached

    Things will not change even under the Tories. More State spending is nothing more than a ‘power grab’. The more the State has to spend the more power it possesses and less income we have to protect ourselves

    The State is now a scam

  21. Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Productivity: good. Idleness bad.
    No. the politicians are doing far too much at the moment: trying to improve the people who live in this country.
    They ought to stop being so arrogant.
    We urgently need some radical pruning of the following: House of Lords, NHS, BBC, House of Commons, Local government (why do we need a County Council, a District Council, a Town Council and a Parish Council, for instance all paid for except the last one?), the Cabinet (30 people is far too big for a decent conversation).
    If we really want more doctors, teachers, nurses and so on, we simply have to cut back of the restrictive bureaucracy and allow them to be professionals, who trust their professional judgement.
    And then, of course, the tax can be cut back to make life more pleasant for them so they do not move abroad (like all my children except for one).

  22. JoolsB
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Less MPs is good. Pity Cameron didn’t and May doesn’t have the guts to cut the number of 117 part time MPs. i.e. UK MPs with Scots, Welsh & NI constituencies where a large proportion of their workload is done for them by MSPs and AMs in their national parliaments. If they couldn’t meddle in and vote on matters which affect England only, they would be sitting around twiddling their thumbs for a large part of the day.

    Two hatted MPs is an absolute insult John. Do you propose the smaller nations of this so called union do away with their parliaments and make do with two hatted MPs also? No, I thought not. So why should the largest part of the dis-UK be denied what they have already been enjoying for nearly twenty years now? i.e. their own parliament, their own First Minister and their own Secretary of State.

    Not only do two hatted MPs not offer England anything like equality with the other nations but it is impossible for the same person to represent the UK one day and England the next. The two roles would conflict with one another. And why should England, the only net contributor to this union, have to make do with a much inferior model to the smaller nations of the dis UK. It’s absurd that the much smaller nations should have their own parliaments and England does not.

    The cost is a red herring. The real reason our self serving UK MPs want to deny England it’s own parliament is because not only would it dilute their powers, but it would also mean a huge cull in their numbers. For the few remaining reserved matters, a UK Parliament would need no more than say 200 MPs. English Parliament representatives numbers would be around the same number as those UK MPs who had been given their P45s. The Building is already there, the H of C and the H of L could become the new UK Parliament and 850 Lords and Ladies could be given their P45s also. So if anything an English Parliament would save money. But even if it didn’t, it is outrageous that UK politicians are using this excuse. If that is the case, why don’t they propose shutting down the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments. How much are they costing the taxpayer, no doubt the English taxpayer at that.

    The Conservative party have made a big mistake John in deliberately ignoring the English Question, the West Lothian Question and the skewed Barnett Formula as you are now beginning to find out at the ballot box. I have voted Tory all my life but I will never vote for them again until they stop picking on England’s young, sick and elderly knowing full well their policies amount to discrimination against the English. That is why England needs it’s own PARLIAMENT, nothing less, so those elected in England, and England only can start standing up for England for a change unlike now and demand an end to this discrimination, something our supine UK MPs squatting in English seats have consistently failed to do. They can’t even say the word England, let alone stand up for it!

    (No doubt, this won’t be shown or not until sometime tomorrow anyway)

    • a-tracy
      Posted July 26, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps this can be resolved after we Brexit.

      The HoC could be the English Parliament as the rest of the UK always complain about its location. What with HS2 the New National Chamber could be sited in Birmingham with just 210 legislators negotiating on national matters. They could be elected as the MEPs are now. How many of the current MPs would want that job sited in the Midlands rather than London though!

  23. A.Sedgwick
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    As I have written on many occasions the situation with the HoL is disgraceful, the malaise or inactivity in sorting it out is a clear indication, along with the refusal to accept the EU referendum as polled, that the Establishment and vested interest still has a major influence in the governance of this country, just as it did pre 1939. I have never voted Labour but I do recognise the positive impact Mr. Atlee’s Government had, which has only been matched in the C20 by Mrs. Thatcher.

    The “Alice in Wonderland” situation is going to be compounded if the Palace of Westminster is rebuilt to accommodate 800 or maybe the 1000 peers to enact a minority government’s legislation. 12 Libdem MPs, 108? peers! Had Mr. Corbyn manifested to abolish the Lords I think he would have won the election.

    Since devolution to me the blindingly obvious solution is to have a Senate for the four countries (+maybe Gibraltar) on PR, the Commons becomes the English Parliament. This will not happen because power will be spread more to the people with the Treasury and the four primary office state holders’ responsibilities diminished.

  24. Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Whilst we are in the EU, the bulk of our legislation comes from Brussels and all our MPs seem to do is to rubber stamp it.
    No doubt, when (or if) we leave the EU, they will want a pay rise because of all the extra work.

  25. Peter
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Nigel Farage quite rightly points out this government is backtracking on Brexit.

    ‘Even the most hawkish’ cabinet minister – Fox – is now talking about transition, Nigel points out. May is on holiday for three weeks while people are softened up to accept this and true and consistent leavers like Rees Mogg don’t get a look in on shaping our negotiation strategy.

  26. Epikouros
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The public sector by it’s nature (access to large sums of other peoples money) tends toward creating an environment that encourages gaming. Politicians and bureaucrats being part of this system it is no surprise that they have created conditions that serves their interests better than it does the public’s. Resulting in a plethora of institutions most of which are not fit for purpose being bloated, inefficient and wasteful.

    Our two chambers of parliament suffer from this but in the scheme of things are less bad than many other public sector organisations. However they have reached a point where they need reforming as we have seen from the expenses scandal MPs milking the system and evidence suggesting that some Lords are doing the same. The primary answer to this is of course is to reduce numbers so there are less of those who can put their fingers in the till. It brings other benefits of course in terms of productivity and if handled correctly a parliament that is more accountable and governs more efficiently. Although as we know democracy is the best political system as yet devised but it is very flawed so we are not in it’s present form ever going to be governed that well.

  27. libertarian
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I really really really want my MP’s to be far LESS productive . In fact I’d pay them more to do nothing. Stop interfering, stop passing hundreds of pointless regulations, stop micro managing. Just STOP

    Banning the sale of petrol/ diesel cars by 2040 ….. They really haven’t got a brain cell between them have they , all those electric vehicles powered by…………..

  28. Peter
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    “The old alliance of Tory government and big business is booming again.

    Daily, we are spoon-fed arguments about the need for a transitional period after leaving the EU, allegedly in the interests of the economy. In reality, this is just a re-run of an argument advanced by the Remain side last year, which was dramatically rejected by the electorate.”

    Nigel Farage

    I did not vote for a ‘transition’. I voted Leave along with millions of others.

    We are getting sold down the river.

  29. alastair
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    We have seen a lot of “improvements” to politics in recent years. Do you really want to be the part of the cohort that cocked up gender so badly. That killed people with so much misguided law about energy, dressed up as climate change? The Commons ceased being an effective debating chamber under Blair. And continued under Cameron. It has become a big virtue signalling pod. And it produces bad law. The number of MPs who are worthy of the title numbers in the tens, not hundreds. On that basis I would prefer parliament to be less productive!

  30. Christine
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Here’s a radical idea for selecting House of Lords representatives. Let the ordinary people put themselves forward then treat it like a jury selection where a couple of hundred are randomly chosen to serve their country for a set period of time. It can’t be worse than the process that is in place at the moment. I see far more common sense and good ideas from people writing in John’s diary than I’ve ever seen in the current HoLs.

  31. Anna
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Many peers just turn up at the House of Lords and claim expenses. Some peers have been creative to the point of crookery over expenses and have been convicted or reprimanded as a result. Many peers accept the honour for the kudos and to give their wives the title ‘Lady’ but don’t attend the HoL at all.

    We need urgent reforms. Let’s have two classes of peer: one class that enjoys the title for kudos and who therefore has no access to the HoL except for ceremonial occasions and another, let’s call them Parliamentary Peers, who are expected to do more than turn up, sign the attendance register and pocket the expenses. They must be appointed because of their expertise and knowledge be it in science, business, education, academia or whatever and they must be seen to make a positive contribution by attending debates. Pay them a salary and avoid the jiggery-pokery with expenses.

  32. Dreadnought
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Impossible for most of us to know the productivity levels of MPs, even our own MP.

    In the case of my own MP, it is the person’s lack of basic knowledge sets necessary for dealing with ordinary everyday concerns, and unwillingness either through laziness or arrogance to learn, which is a problem. The MP makes infrequent cameo appearances in Parliament and asks a question often put and easily answered, which then transmutes into “Our MP battles the PM ” in the local rag. We have several likewise MPs in the area. Their constituencies should be merged with just one of them as MP and their office staffs kept employed.

  33. Bert Young
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Well done John . Explaining where you stand on the issue of Parliamentary standards is something of an example to all the others who do virtually nothing . I commend your output .

    The House of Lords is now a completely surplus body . Recent events have shown just how unrepresentative it is and why the public want it abolished ; no-one in any form of public office should be there without a public affirmation . It is unwieldy , costly , has been open to abuse and has no practical significance in the making and passing of our laws .

    The HoC also has far too many individuals ; 650 is a ridiculously high number . I would contend that the number of MPs should be more like 450 . Many of the debates are long winded and full of repetitive points of view ; equally the overhead staffing costs are disproportionate and some of the expenditures involved are nothing short of scandalous . There are bags of room for all sorts of economies .

    Regional Governments are also a huge mistake and , in my book , should be abolished . We are – or should be , a country of union . Since they were created dissent of all sorts has been the order of the day and have now reached a point of embarrassment . If they are to continue then England must have one as well . The cost of them existing is unacceptable .

  34. Harry the Hare
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    In the case of JR, I feel many of us would wish him our MP whether we normally vote Tory or Labour.
    It is irrelevant in my region the party of the MPs and whether they work or not. For various reasons they are not fit to serve. They are like having a plumber when you need an electrician.

  35. Shiny toothed grin
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    While there are “rock solid seats” it is unlikely talented hardworking people will become MPs. My local MP spends much time posing for photos. Fantastically productive if you’re a model.

  36. graham1946
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    You say that the Tories want to reduce the number of MP’s but wonder if the other parties will agree. Why? You have a cobbled together majority now, so if you really want it what are you waiting for? As I understand it, such a move will benefit the Labour Party, so even if the DUP stooges don’t want it, it should go through. If that’s wrong, you could always offer them even more of our taxpayers money to buy their votes.

  37. a-tracy
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Presenteeism is one of the biggest banes of life. People who show up every day they need to in order to get paid but do little else and add little value. People who do the bare minimum, quite often they’re the most well liked, always ready for a gossip or a shoulder for people to cry on. If they’re in a team they can often bring the productivity down of the whole group who then use each other to persuade the boss their target failures aren’t in their control.

    Just like some of those Lords we read about who clock in and fall asleep or sneak back out again. Others will research, make thoughtful contributions, listen and debate, research some more, ask questions of MP’s, take on useful projects for the public. Just what do we value, just what are the expectations of a Lord/Lady?

    In business, you sometimes discover due to an extended period of holiday or sickness leave that someone who you bring in to cover can do the job in less than half the time, more efficiently and is willing to develop and make suggestions.

    Lords/Ladies could retain their title when they retire if that’s what is encouraging those to stay in position when they don’t want to make any effort to research and vote. Those serving a certain number of agreed periods and voting in x votes could have the title Hon Lord the Hon bit they lose when they retire.

    John, perhaps you should have your allocated researcher to increase your personal free time to add even more productive work than you already do. Your hands wouldn’t be idle I’m sure!

    When Scotland got their MSP’s what duties to their Scottish MPs take up to make up the missing workload? Do they have to give up their researchers as they have more time to do their own research- perhaps they should, this would make taxpayers money more productive immediately.

    Reply I need to know the research findings. No good if someone else knows it and goes home at 5 pm

  38. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    As far as the House of Lords is concerned I would not get bogged down in debates over its composition but rather home in on its powers. These are unelected legislators-for-life, some of whom have a grossly inflated idea of their own importance compared to that of the British people as a whole who own the Parliament of which they are members. I would wait to see how they conduct themselves when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill arrives in their chamber; they should be told now that if it seems that they will carry out the threat to delay or block that Bill then it will be immediately followed by a simple new Parliament Bill to cut their power to delay Bills from the present thirteen months to just one month, as in fact is already the case with Money Bills. It is utterly intolerable that some of them are prepared to defy the will of the people as expressed not just indirectly by a general election but directly by a national referendum; if they refuse to yield then they must certainly be stripped of their effective power to defy the people.

  39. Bryan Harris
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink


    As regards the HoL’s – it really is time to step away from the modernisation theme that so enthralls labour, and look back to a time when that place was more effective as a second chamber and comprised of more intelligent people who could tackle legal questions without having to refer back to some external party.

    When you see the likes of 2-jags Prescott in the Lords you can only wonder at the quality of the rest. As mentioned above, it is quality we need not quantity in the Lords.

    Too many seem to want an elected HoL’s – This would be a grave mistake, and would simply immitate the Commons and make the second chamber worthless as chances are you would get the same mix of parties in both houses.

    Ideally the Lords should be above petty politics. It should house professional people who have shown their worth to the country by use of their expertise. It shouldn’t be so difficult to create criteria for people to be selected for the Lords – it certainly shouldn’t be a political appointment, but perhaps it should be the queen who makes the decision, based on the agreed criteria.
    .

  40. Cary
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    One way markets become more productive is by the removal of the least productive elements through competitive pressure. Many MPs do not experience this as they represent constituencies where the proverbial broomstick would be elected if wearing the right rosette. A good counter to this would be the introduction of a recall power to allow voters to signal their support of a political party but not the person currently representing it.

  41. Dennis Zoff
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    No disrespect implied John, but replying to your question is simply a waste of time! You and we know, nothing emanating from the Governmental bubble, which is worthwhile, will change in our lifetime…too much-vested interest…borne out of long standing self-serving individuals!

  42. Terry
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    How productive are our MPs in the House of Commons?
    Well, the US equivalents, the House of Representatives , has a total 435 for the whole country.
    Considering the population of the USA is six times that of the UK, I have to ask why the UK has 650 Members of Parliament and not just 73 in proportion with the US. Similarly the Lords with around 1000 members against the US Senate of just 100.

    Now that’s what I call good productivity, so why aren’t we cutting down the numbers of our representatives in the interests of efficiency?

  43. Michael
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    A good case could be made that politicians destroy value. They do not create anything other than controversy. A necessary evil maybe?

  44. Proudhon
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    My MP’s productivity of being proud is much diminished. He used to comment at every turn he was “proud of the town, proud of the cricket team, proud the footballl team, proud 0f this school,and proud of that school. Even a letter in the local paper from a voter saying he was sick of the MP saying he was proud even when ” a dickie-bird alights in the middle of the road the MP says he is proud of it”still didn’t stop his production of “proud” He even started a hashtag on twitter “Proud of( Name of Town ) so people would tweet how they were proud of this and proud of the bumps on their earlobes etc.
    Not heard him say he is proud of anything now. His production of prouds is zero. Failed.

  45. ian
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Only time they are working hard is when parliament is dissolved for a election, and in that window of a few weeks you have democracy, when the election is over you go back to a dictatorial, and have to take what you get for next 5 years.
    The corporate media control the election by who they interview and by spin they want to put on the interview or write about, which usually the main two parties with the lib dems in england so that everybody else is shut out, like ukip and the greens or all independents who want to be MPs for their areas.
    There are ways of getting round this, but as the parties know, most people are lazy or to busy to bother, and just like to sit back moan about it while paying through the noise for everything.
    I could put ideas forward hear but i have already done that before, anyway it easy to work out what to do. give a clue momentum, but in different way to suit yourselves.

  46. hefner
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Two good books on these questions by Peter Oborne, The Rise of the Political Lying, 2005, and The Triumph of the Political Class, 2007. Funnily enough, although written during the Blair years, there are so many topics still very relevant nowadays: what about The Leaders Club where anybody with £50k to give the CUP will ensure a few annual meetings with some CUP ministers. To be fair, The Thousand Club was the equivalent for Labour.
    What can explain the ever growing HoL is the “sale” of honours when loans/donations to parties is not so very later transformed into a seat in the HoL.
    There was a law in 1925 proscribing such behaviour from governments, but it appears completely forgotten.

  47. Brit
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    The public usually despise MPs even if they vote for them.I have found that is because no matter how honest, straightforward, sincere an MP, Mr Public judges him by his own standards of behaviour and values which are rotten to the core. Therefore, Mr Public cannot see an MP as honest because he himself is not honest. He sees himself as the norm, the natural human being. He knows that if he himself were in the postion of a Member of Parliament he would act dishonestly if he were convinced he could get away with it. So the very worst MP for Mr Public is someone who is better than himself on every possible level and shows it.
    The British are very lucky they do not have very much worse MPs. It is what they deserve. Such MPs would be more at one with them. They would be infinitely more representative.

  48. Brit
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    If an MP gave to charity regularly and openly the Voter would say one or more of the fiollowing
    1/ He can afford it on his salary
    2/ He is virtue-signalling to get votes
    3/He is a religious extremist maniac
    4/ He has feelings of guilt about his wealth
    5/ If he paid more tax he wouldn’t need to give to charity
    6/ He probably has his relations employed in the Charity in key lucrative positions
    7/ He is irresponsible with money and could have given to a better Cause.
    8/ I wonder what his poor children think of him spending their heritage
    9/ It is probably a tax dodge.
    10/ He thinks he’ll get into the Masons by doing that.
    11/As a tax payer, paying his salary, it is my money he is giving away.

  49. British Spy
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    For all I know, every MP is working productively in at least their own terms. Local Councillors are not. There are far too many. I have been privy to their work output. No signs of exhaustion just yet.

  50. Turboterrier.
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Thankfully for the members of the house of Westminster their productivity has never been assessed against their ability to tackle once and for all the national debt:

    For the last thirty years spending has kept going up.

    In the last seven years the national debt has almost doubled.

    Our interest payments nearly cover the complete armed forces budget for our three services.

    The country spends around £50bn more than we raise in taxes.

    All the above are surely due to such cheap interest rates

    A 5% rise in interest rates would surely all but bankrupt the country and the economy.

    It doesn’t help that it is estimated that the “super rich” have an estimated £30 trillion hidden away in off shore deposits and accounts.

    All the members should look back into the history of the house and remember the words of a James Callahan in 1976 when he said “Too much state spending is dangerous”. It is strange that the main opposition party wants to borrow so much more.

    It would be rather frightening if the government were made to publish the national debt including pensions and state payments in a similar manner as to how the BBC was forced to publish their high earners wages. The exact amount would I am sure be fast approaching double figures.

    Is it not time for all the members to pull as one and stop the downward spiral before this country ends up worse than Greece?

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    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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