Friday, April 09, 2010

It was the last week of the Parliament, and the election is now under way. The 'wash-up' was a stitch up, with bargains made between the Government and the Tories, to the exclusion of any input from the Liberal Democrats. 'That's the way its always been done', say the Labservatives, and in the next breath they shamelessly pretend to by about to make real change. The Constitutional Reform Bill was emasculated, with the proposals for House of Lords reform taken out altogether. If the Tories win the election, probably 100 new peers will be created, taking the House of Lords to an obese 800 Members, instead of reducing it to around 350, the number that are required to do the job of scrutinising legislation effectively. So the cost of operating the Lords will shoot up, at a time when as everybody agrees, a squeeze on public spending greater even than Mrs Thatcher's is needed. How is it going to look if the House of Lords is just about the only institution to get a lot more expensive when savage cuts are being made everywhere else?

Tuesday I initiated a debate on the Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules ( Normally these changes are introduced after at least 12 weeks consultation, but on this occasion nobody got more than 10 days to comment, and in the case of Universities UK, it was 24 hours! Unusually, there was no analysis of the responses, and the Impact Assessment was published 3 hours before the debate began. The Code of Conduct on consultations was completely ignored, on the basis that it was not a 'formal' consultation. And since the Order had already come into effect, nothing said in the debate could affect the changes already made. For the Conservatives, Viscount Bridgman was also critical of the lack of genuine consultation, and he said the changes were

"yet another quick fix, an ill thought-out policy direction that will do more damage than good in the long run".

Earlier, William Wallace asked a Private Notice Question about the Government's decision, taken during the Easter recess, to declare the whole of the Chagos Archipelago a no-take 'marine protection area'. The people who were summarily evicted from the islands to make way for a US military base on the main island, Diego Garcia, had objected strenuously to this proposal, because if they are allowed to return when their case is heard at the European Court of Human Rights, fishing would be the main source of livelihood for them, As usual, the Government has simply ridden roughshod over the islanders, this time cocking a snook at the European Court as well.

Wednesday, the first day of the 'washup', the House sat until 02.50, a very rare occurrence nowadays. I suppose the reason why the Government had embarked on far more legislation than it was ever going to be possible to debate properly in the Session was to have plenty of stuff to put in the shop window at the election.

Thursday was a much lighter day, with the debate ending at 16.46, followed by prorogation at 17.15. This is an occasion when a few of the bigwigs of the House dress up in robes and funny hats and one of them, described as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is actually the Leader of the House, our normally unpretentious Jan Royall, reads out a speech said to be the words of Her Majesty the Queen who, 'not thinking fit personally to be present here at this time, has been pleased to cause a Commission to be issued under the Great Seal', had given Jan the task of delivering it. Surely this sort of flummery will have to be eliminated when the House is reformed, because it distances Parliament from the public.

No comments: