I favour the Leader of the House‘s proposals for more topical debates and questions. But before we get muddled up about regional accountability—with which some of us do not agree—could we have some national accountability? One of the frustrations that many of my electors have about this place is that when MPs ask perfectly sensible, intelligent but tough questions of Ministers, there are no answers. We then have “Groundhog Day” with the recital of idiotic banalities of a political kind, instead of Ministers actually trying to answer the question. If they answer the question the first time, we will have rather more accountability.
The right hon. Gentleman will have to come and see me to explain further what he is talking about, as I do not recognise his description. I try to ensure that I give as clear and full answers as possible.
Although I welcome the Government’s willingness to provide for more topical debates and public interest debates, I am concerned that the character of the process is rather top-down. It appears that the intention is that these matters should be determined principally by the Government Whips, probably with a bit of consultation with my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House, but not much more. Given that the Select Committee inquiry was into the role of the Back Bencher, may I exhort the Leader of the House to consider the merits of
the evidence given by the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter), who, supported by the Hansard Society, argued that there should be a Back-Bench trigger in the form of a number of signatories of an early-day motion automatically resulting in a debate taking place, whether the Government and Opposition Front Benches liked it or not?
I need to press on with my speech. Some of the answers are set out in a deliberated form further on.
The government must rethink some aspects of control orders imposed on terrorism suspects, the law lords said today, while ruling that the overall system can remain in place.
In a complex and lengthy series of decisions, Britain’s most senior judges said that the most restrictive aspect of the regime, an 18-hour home curfew, breached the human right to liberty. However, they held that shorter curfews, possibly up to 16 hours, were acceptable.
The law lords stopped short of condemning the entire control orders system, which restricts the movements and actions of suspected terrorists without the need for a trial.
They also ruled that control orders must be subject to the same fairness procedures as a civil trial, something that had been breached in certain cases. These cases were referred back to the high court for reconsideration.
[Home Secretary Jacqui Smith] added: “I am disappointed that they have found against control orders containing 18-hour curfews, which I feel was required to protect national security.
“I believe that today’s ruling could allow us to impose curfews of up to 16 hours, which I will now consider.”
At a hearing in July, Ian Burnett QC, representing the home secretary, told the law lords that a government’s first duty was “to protect its citizens from attack”.
The judgements (from three appeals held together):
(worth noting: Home Secretary “identified (para 7 of the Court of Appeal judgment) five errors of principle : that the judge had identified liberty too broadly, as freedom to do as one wishes…”)
Ah, a marvellous example of the sort of people running our country:
My Lords, what damage can be done by 105 millilitres of liquid that cannot be done by 100 millilitres of liquid?
My Lords, my briefing does not extend to that extra 50 millilitres, but I suspect that this is based on science. I know that that is an inadequacy in the brief, for which I apologise to your Lordships’ House.
Clearly he didn’t do very well at maths or science at school.
(hat-tip: The Register)
Talks on funding political parties have effectively broken down after 18 months of negotiations.
The Conservatives and Labour have been unable to agree on setting limits on campaign spending and on donations.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw accused Tory leader David Cameron of being “unwilling to negotiate”.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said Labour had refused to move on union funding. The Lib Dems accused the Conservatives of “walking away”.
The Tories said trade union donations should be included within a £50,000 limit on donations from individuals and organisations. …
And then there are a load of recriminations.
The draft agreement
Some key points:
- Eventual £50,000 cap from individuals and organisations (except for unions, see below). Initially set at £500,000 in 2009, £250,000 in 2010, £100,000 in 2011, finally to £50,000 from 1 January 2012.
- Unless it’s a ‘commercial loan’!
- “Affiliation fees paid by trade unions will be treated for the purposes of the cap as individual donations of the members” – in other words (if I understand correctly), a union may in effect donate multiples of up to £50,000, rather than it being treated as a single donation. This is why the Conservatives walked away, but I doubt Labour will budge on this.
- Spending controls – £150m for full term of next Parliament, including £20m premium for general election.
- Tightened controls on targetted direct mail and ‘phone bank activity’, or telesales.
- Matched funding from taxpayer -£10 for every donation of £10 or more from individuals on electoral register, initially capped at £10m.
- 40p each year for every vote cast in most recent general election, and 20p for every vote in the most recent elections for Scottish Parliament, National Assembly of Wales, and European Parliament.
- Policy Development Grant to be abolished.
- Public funding to help meet compliance with new regulations, capped at £1.5m.
Of course, there will also be sanctions against those who don’t follow the rules. And we all know how those end up, don’t we boys and girls?
Let’s have a quick look at what the three main parties could have won just from the General Election 2005, had the 40p per vote rule been in place.
Bear in mind that’s every year until the next General Election. Not too shabby a sum.
No public funding for the minnows
The smaller parties – that is, ones with less than two elected representatives to Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, or the European Parliament – won’t receive the 40p/20p per vote, or the £10 matched public funding.
Again, had the rules been in place since the General Election 2005, Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, for example, which got its candidate (Richard Taylor) into Parliament with 18,739 votes, but would have not been given £7,495 it might otherwise have enjoyed from the 40p per vote.
I have no idea what the rationale is here. After all, the party fielded a candidate, won fair and square, but won’t be entitled to the same funding as other parties with two or more elected representatives?
Is it just that it’s based on the Short Money rule, whereby at the moment Opposition parties must have two or more elected representatives in order to receive Short Money?
(From 2006, £12,793 for every seat won at the last election plus £25.55 for every 200 votes gained by the party).
On the face of it, it doesn’t seem fair.
What I still fail to understand
Is why the parties don’t live within their means!
I mean, it is possible (see page 37 Interim Assessment): Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic & Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, Respect, the Democratic Unionist Party, and the Scottish Green Party, all had less outgoings than incomings in 2005.
But apparently I am missing “the underlying challenge to party financing”, and certainly missing “the public interest in financially healthy political parties, and what parties can do in the public interest”…
Yes, we really do want financially inept parties running the country, and we do want to keep giving them money even though we don’t support them…