Burning down the house

I appreciate tonight’s resumption of blogging has been rather on the trivial side… Been watching Question Time (good show from Ed Balls) and This Week (why do I bother?) So just a quick update on some things that have been happening since June 13th when  last blogged.

We’ve been having votes for membership of Select Committees. Unlike the election of Select Committee chairs, which was across the whole House, the rest of the members were decided on a party basis, i.e. Labour get five members on most committees, and it’s only Labour MPs who vote for them. Some were hotly-contested, others not so. I had a policy when voting, that if I was aware of a long-serving member’s contribution to the Committee’s work or on related issues over past years, I’d vote for them. If not, I’d vote to give some of the new intake a chance. So, for example, Tom Watson easily got one of my votes for the DCMS committee and Tom Harris for Transport. My votes for the BIS committee included Jack Dromey, Chi Onwurah and Rachel Reeves, who will all be excellent. The Treasury Committee members are a mixture of the old guard – Andy Love, George Mudie and John Mann – and two new MPs, Chuka Umunna and John Cryer, who will shake things up a bit!

We also elected the chair of the Backbench Committee. This is a new thing, introduced to give backbenchers more influence over parliamentary business, e.g. we get a certain number of ‘backbench’ days when backbenchers rather than the Government choose the topics for debate. It came down to a contest between Sir Alan Haselhurst, the former Deputy Speaker, and Labour’s Natascha Engel. There’s something of a tendency in Parliament to say that X ‘has to be found a job’, and I suspect that once Sir Alan stood down as Chairman of Ways and Means – ie the most senior Deputy Speaker, which now has to be a Labour person – some people felt that he had to be found something else. Which isn’t really the right way of going about filling such positions. Anyway, I was backing Natascha all the way – she’s great, really passionate about the need to reform Parliament – but we thought we’d lost when, contrary to what we’d been led to believe, the Conservative and Lib Dem frontbenchers all flocked into the division lobbies to vote. There weren’t any rules as such, but the understanding was that members of the Government, includings PPSs, and our Shadow Cabinet wouldn’t vote – because it’s a backbench committee. And the Government reneged on this. Still, Natascha won handsomely.

We elect the other members of the backbench committee soon, but a row has broken out because the membership has been allocated as follows: 4 Tories, 1 Lib Dem, 2 Labour (plus the Labour chair). The minority parties are furious, as they’re completely unrepresented, and raised lots of points of order on this. The SNP’s Pete Wishart has emailed round asking people to nominate him anyway, even though his nomination will be invalid, just to make the point.

Apart from the Budget – which I’m not sure I can blog about without writing a huge essay, but I will try to do it in chunks over the next few days – there hasn’t been much else happening at all in Parliament. We have questions each day, and then general debates on random issues, without votes. It’s remarkable that the new Government has so far only managed to produce one Bill – the repeal of ID Cards, which was a one clause Bill – for debate in the Commons. The Academies Bill – a mere 16 clauses – has been introduced in the Lords. (I’m not sure why. Obviously some Bills have to start in the Lords, because we have a bicameral system and the Commons doesn’t have time to do everything, so we get some Bills after the very detailed scrutiny has already happened. Which doesn’t mean we don’t get to scrutinise. We do. But in this case I don’t really see why the Academies Bill, which the Government says it wants to become law, wasn’t introduced in the Commons first because, quite frankly, we have nothing else to do and it’s an important topic on which many MPs will have very strong views.) So we’re still waiting for all the Bills that were promised in the Queen’s Speech. Cameron has said Parliament needs to come back in September, because we have so much to get through; I hope he has something for us to debate by then!

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  • sirrontail  On June 25, 2010 at 1:19 am

    Do you support the SNP (and other such parties) in their attempt to get on the backbench committee?

  • The Squeeze  On June 25, 2010 at 1:40 am

    I’m heartened you want to write a huge essay about the budget. I managed to break it down into six quick points and a brief conclusion on my blog.

    I could brak it down into one word (the same word I was saying in 2006/7 at the peak of the housing bubble) – JAPAN!

  • Alasdair  On June 25, 2010 at 9:06 am

    I’ve got to say it seems fair that the parties who aren’t in government, nor the main opposition should be represented…


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