Posts Tagged ‘Maria Miller’

Miller’s gone but expenses are still toxic. What’s Labour’s plan?

09/04/2014, 11:18:59 AM

by Atul Hatwal

So Maria Miller has resigned and Sajid Javid has replaced her, meh. Contrary to some of the over-heated reports, Miller’s particular passing will have little lasting impact.

True, there’s one less woman in the cabinet, but Javid is from a minority community, an area where the Tories and Liberals are even less representative of Britain – let’s not forget that while there were previously 4 women in the full cabinet of 22 Ministers, there was no-one from a minority community.

The circus will soon  move on and there will be another crisis over which politicians and media can hyper-ventilate.

However, while Maria Miller’s political demise is ultimately unremarkable, there is a legacy from the affair; one that will persist regardless of whether she had stayed, resigned, or did the hokey-cokey daily on College Green.

The expenses issue is back as a fixture in British politics.

It won’t be as toxic as in 2009 (how could it be?), but as Andrew Lansley suggested on Newsnight last night, there are likely to be other Miller-type transgressions which come to light, that predate the new expenses regime.

And just as with Miller, each time the parliamentary standards committee (which is dominated by MPs) waters down or even changes the punctuation in a ruling by the parliamentary standards commissioner, the same battle-lines pitching media against politicians will be drawn.

The press will be in full cry and the most resonant soundbite to emerge in the past week will be repeatedly trotted out: “politicians should not be allowed to mark their own homework.”

The outrage of the fourth estate is understandable: a variant on this line was central to defining the public’s perception of the Leveson debate. In that case, it was the media who were not to be allowed to mark their own homework. 

Then, as now on expenses, the line also happens to be true.

Self-regulation doesn’t work. The experience across financial services, politics, media and schools everywhere is quite clear: teacher needs to mark the homework.

So politicians from all parties face a quandry.


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Revealed: How the Tories watered down their original Leveson proposals under pressure from the press barons

15/02/2013, 09:54:43 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s taken an age. The Tories’ proposals for establishing a press regulator through a royal charter have been mooted for months but were only published earlier this week. After David Cameron’s commitment to swift action in the Commons debate, following the publication of the Leveson report last November, they had been expected at the start of January. But weeks passed and nothing emerged. Why the delay? What took so long?

Uncut can exclusively reveal that the Conservatives were in fact ready to publish proposals several weeks ago. A team operating under cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin prepared a draft setting out how the royal charter would operate, in December. This draft was personally authorised by Letwin and cleared at the highest levels in Number 10. It represented the Conservatives’ view of what was needed to establish an effective regulator without statute.

But even this proved to be too much for the press barons and under private pressure from the industry, the Tories have further watered down their proposals. The result has left the cross-party negotiations on Leveson in chaos.

Two changes have been made to the Tories original proposal, weakening regulation beyond the levels even David Cameron and Oliver Letwin felt necessary.

In the December draft of the proposals, seen by Uncut, Letwin’s team enshrined the independence of the recognition body that underpins the press regulator, to protect it from interference by government.

The body could only have its terms of reference altered if backed by a  two-thirds “super-majority” in the House of Commons and it could only be dissolved by an act of parliament. A whole section of the draft document was devoted to this topic:

The Recognition Panel

(1) (An amendment of the Recognition Panel’s Charter has no effect until each House of Parliament has by resolution by the required majority directed that the amendment is to have effect.

(2) The Recognition Panel may not be dissolved otherwise than by way of Act of Parliament.

(3) The reference to an amendment of the Recognition Panel’s Charter is a reference to —

(a) the addition of a provision to the Charter,

(b) the variation of a provision in the Charter, or

(c) the omission of the whole or part of a provision from the Charter.

(4) A resolution under this section is to be regarded as being by the required majority if at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion for the resolution do so in support of it.

(5) A motion for a resolution under this section may be made by any member of the House in question.

(6) “The Recognition Panel’s Charter” means the Royal Charter dated [ ] 2013 under which the Recognition Panel was incorporated.

Sources within the newspaper industry have suggested that publishers were panicked about safeguarding the remit of the recognition body in this way because it effectively removed their ability to pressure  future governments to amend the terms of reference.

The feedback to the Tories from the press camp was robust and unequivocal: preserving the independence of the recognition panel with these protections was unacceptable.


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