Saturday, May 23, 2009

Visit by Bangladeshi MP

Yesterday Mr Shofiqur Rahman Chowdhury MP called on me, and here he is presenting me with a plaque commemorating the martyrdom of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

We discussed the AL government's intention to update the 1973 war crimes Act to bring it into conformity with the principles of international law, embodied in the rules of the International Criminal Court, and Mr Chowdhury said they would be looking for advice from experts, so that the world could see that scrupulous observance of international norms is being observed.

JW won our last game of ping-pong 2-0 so he's now ahead of me 111-108. Am I losing my touch, or is he improving? He's now left for a holiday in Spain, so I'll have to keep you in suspense. Next week also, the House is in recess, starting again June 1.

The Daily Telegraph continues to dripfeed the scandals of fiddles by MPs every day, and tomorrow one of the Sunday papers turns attention to the Lords. Probably our system of allowances isn't quite so vulnerable to abuse, because a Member can only claim 'overnight subsistence' if s(he) lives outside Greater London and has to stay somewhere in London when attending the House. In 2007-08 the maximum that could be claimed was £165.50 for each day of attendance. One way a peer can bend the rules on this allowance is to say that his country mansion - or cottage - is his main residence, and the place where he lives in London is just for overnight stays when he's attending the House. Our system of financial support for Members will have to be scrutinised closely, too. If anybody wants to look up the amounts paid to peers in 2007-08, the can be found at Mine came to £26,392 for attendance on 146 sitting days.

When (not if) the Tories come to power at the next general election, they will no doubt want at least 50 new peers, as Labour have done, to beef up the talent available for Ministerial posts, and to push through their legislation with minimum hassle. But there are already 750 peers, a far larger number than a reformed House needs to do the job, and that is another problem.

When I entered the Commons in 1962, the salary was £1,750, and I paid my Secretary £750. We had to pay for everything except travel to and from the constituency out of the money that was left, and it would never have crossed my mind that I needed somewhere to stay the night in central London rather than travel back to Orpington when the House rose at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night.

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