Posts Tagged ‘House of Lords’

They don’t know what they’re doing

25/06/2012, 07:00:05 AM

by Steve Bassam

So this week we finally get to see the Nick Clegg version of Lords reform. Regardless of the merits of progress with this Bill, the  government’s programme of legislation has already suffered because of it. Ambitions have been limited by what ministers can get through in the current session with Lords reform in place. Competing with other Bills for time, Lords reform threatens to dictate the speed at which other measures make it onto the statute book.

The House of Lords currently has six government Bills in play, two of which are described as ‘Lords starters’: Crime & Courts, and Justice & Security.

These two Bills would never have been on my list to start in the Lords. Any amendments we pass will be hard for the government to undo as they can’t use the Parliament Act on either Bill and what emerges from the Lords should as a rule stay. It is also harder for the Commons to claim financial privilege with Lords starters.

Both of the Crime & Courts and Justice & Security Bills have few friends. The likelihood is that both will suffer setbacks and have a round of ping pong with no guarantees. How ensnared they get with Lords reform and other emerging problems is hard to predict.

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The truth about the thinnest Queen’s Speech in modern times

21/05/2012, 06:00:57 AM

by Steve Bassam

Much commentary has already been made about the government’s wafer thin agenda for the 2012-13 parliamentary session. The thing is, it is actually far worse than most observers have noticed, not least because of the uncertainty created by putting Lords reform at the heart of the programme.

The recent Queen’s Speech identified just 15 bills in a programme designed to accommodate the LibDems’ pet obsession. Yet ministers are likely to press through even less legislation, as 5 of these bills have already been identified for carry over until the next session. We are not talking minor matters here, but big issues such as energy, banking reform, children and families, and pensions, as well as an EU Accession Bill for Croatia.

This amounts to third of the government’s new legislative programme to be subject to carry over motions. None of these bills will have been drafted yet, and some may even need a white paper to launch them.

We also know that despite the best efforts of the joint committees on Lords reform, that bill is currently being re-drafted to try and make it more acceptable – the question is for whom?

So, for much of the rest of this calendar year we, we will have just 9 bills in play in the Lords. At this stage in most parliaments, governments are just getting into their stride.

Our analysis of the period since the late 1970s suggests a government in its third year of power can expect to push up to 40 to 45 bills, 30 of which will be part of a core programme.

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Labour should lead on constitutional reform

04/06/2011, 01:00:43 PM

The first few years of the last Labour government were radical in a number of ways, and particularly in the way we tried to reform our constitution. We (mostly) swept away the hereditary peers in the House of Lords, threw open a lot of doors and windows onto the workings of government with the freedom of information act and devolved power to Scotland and Wales. This led – not as critics predicted at the time to the formation of a pair of jumped-up local councils – but two thriving institutions that have helped to foster new political systems, a process given expression in spectacular fashion in Scotland a few weeks ago.

As with other areas of policy, we began to lose our radicalism the longer we were in government and our enthusiasm for constitutional reform petered out almost to nothing. We set up a commission to examine electoral reform and then rejected Jenkins’ sensible, moderate proposals for entirely political reasons.· Lords reform was voted on innumerable times and the last proposal – when MPs finally stopped rejecting all of the permutations put to them – got nowhere.

Had we pressed ahead with our plans for a mostly or wholly elected Lords there would have been a second chamber election mid-way though this parliamentary term, giving us a chance to put a new Labour agenda to the public and – in the event of a win – prove to ourselves and to the country that we can be election winners again. A Labour win would have inflicted a mortal wound on the government and provided the perfect springboard from which to launch a general election campaign.

In the end, we didn’t go ahead and now Cameron has assured himself a strong position in the Lords by stuffing the upper house with Tory and Lib Dem apparatchiks. Had we gone ahead with Jenkins’ AV+, then the progressive majority that exists in the country would have been translated into the election results and the progressive rainbow coalition touted last May that was a nice-but-impossible idea would have been entirely workable.

Ed Miliband shouldn’t let his recent unhappy dalliance with electoral reform blunt his aspirations for changes in the way we conduct public affairs, nor convince him that the British public have no appetite for changes to the way we do politics. As a result of the way it was conceived – a Liberal Democrat demand for entering into coalition – the referendum was seen by most through an entirely party political lens and became a referendum on the deputy prime minister and not on the change he was proposing. (more…)

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Sunday News Review

24/10/2010, 08:30:08 AM

Plan, what plan?

We could have had a different spending review. We could have ensured that we raised more money from the banks that caused the crisis than from cuts in child benefit. With a more measured pace of deficit reduction, there would still have been difficult decisions and cuts. But we would have done more to support the economy, defend frontline services and protect those in need.

Will they get away with the gamble? I don’t believe people are up for a dangerous and reckless gamble with our economic future. It is up to people of all political persuasions who fear for Britain’s society and our economy to stand up and commit to protect not just our values and ideals but the basics of our social and economic fabric. – Ed Miliband, The Guardian

As Cameron patronisingly told him in the warm-up for the spending review: “If you have not got a plan, you cannot attack a plan.” Labour politicians are being knocked about in the Commons, and in every broadcast studio into which they go, because their answer to the obvious question, “What would you do?”, starts off with “Not this”, before moving quickly on to: “We are in opposition.” Miliband does not have long to settle the doubts. Is he indecisive? Does he have a plan? – John Rentoul, The Independent

Did I really promise that?

Government spending cuts may become a matter of life and death, it was claimed last night, as it emerged that almost two million people could wait longer for cancer tests and up to 10,000 firefighters face the axe.
The highly charged claims appear to contradict pre-election promises made by David Cameron to protect frontline services.
John Healey, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Ministers have ignored official warnings and axed planned improvements in cancer care. Waiting times will rise for people desperate to find out if they’ve got cancer and get the treatment they need.” – The Independent

He has a conscience?

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described how he wrestled with his conscience over the coalition’s spending cuts. The Liberal Democrat leader said that he found administering the biggest financial retrenchment in living memory “morally difficult”. But appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, he insisted there were no “pain-free alternatives” to the measures set out in Chancellor George Osborne’s spending review.

“I have certainly searched long and hard into my own conscience about whether what we are doing is for the right reasons. I am not going to hide the fact that a lot of this is difficult. I find it morally difficult. It is difficult for the country.” – Press Association

First throw of the Union dice

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Bob Crow told a London rally collective action was needed to fight the cuts. It comes after the TUC said a national demonstration will be held on 26 March next year in London’s Hyde Park. Demonstrators gathered outside the RMT head office to hear speeches from Mr Crow and Matt Wrack, leader of the Fire Brigades Union, which is also holding a strike in London. – BBC News

Organisers of today’s There is a Better Way demonstration claimed 20,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh in a march against government spending cuts. Buses from all across Scotland brought people to the city centre for a rally between East Market Street and Princes Street Gardens.

The march, organised by the STUC, gathered members of workers’ unions together in a protest against the spending cuts announced by chancellor George Osborne this week. Local politicians at the march included the justice minister Kenny MacAskill, SNP MSP for Edinburgh east, Green MSP Patrick Harvie, Labour’s Ian Murray MP, Sheila Gilmore MP, Mark Lazarowicz MP, Iain Gray MSP, Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP. – The Guardian

Lordy, Lord

David Cameron and Nick Clegg plan to flood the Lords with another 44 new Coalition peers to stop Labour sabotaging their policies in the Upper House, it was claimed last night. Mr Cameron reportedly intends to award 29 peerages to Tory donors and other political allies, with 15 for Mr Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. By contrast, Ed Miliband will get just ten new Labour peers. – The Daily Mail

Labour edge ahead

Labour back ahead of the Coalition in today’s Mail on Sunday/BPIX poll. The poll shows support for Labour at 37 per cent, with the Tories at 35 and Lib Dems at a lowly ten. It puts Mr Miliband ahead of Mr Cameron for the first time since the lead he enjoyed in the afterglow of his Labour ¬leadership victory last month. – The Daily Mail

Mixed messages from Scotland

Forty-one per cent of Scots believe Alex Salmond would make a better First Minister than his main rival Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader. The SNP leader remains ahead of Gray in the popularity stakes, according to Scotland on Sunday’s exclusive YouGov poll. When the sample of 1,405 Scottish adults was asked who of the two men would make the “better” First Minister, 41 per cent replied Salmond, 24 per cent said Gray and 35 per cent said they did not know.

The poll also shows that Labour’s lead over the SNP remains solid. Voting intention figures put Labour at 40 per cent on the Holyrood constituency vote and 36 per cent on the regional list. The SNP lags behind on 34 per cent in the constituency vote and 31 per cent on the list. – The Scotsman

It’s alright for some

David Cameron will escape the cold by taking his family to Thailand over Parliament’s three-week Christmas break. The PM’s allies denied speculation that his host would be Thai leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The trip is likely to be controversial because Mr Cameron will be flying off to a paradise hotspot just as the impact of his spending cuts starts to bite. Downing Street last night would not confirm the PM’s plans but sources close to the Camerons confirmed Thailand was pencilled in for “a well-deserved few days away” – The Mirror

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