Troughers Vote Against Recall Bill

Zac Goldsmith’s bill proposing to allow constituents to recall corrupt MPs passed its first reading by 127 votes to 17 this afternoon. Worth looking at a few of the names who voted against.

There is Labour’s Frank Dobson, who lives in £1 million council flat despite earning three times the average wage.

What about Brian Donohoe, who put through a £2,575 expense claim for one three-seat and two double-seater sofas.

Tom Harris with his three iPads at the taxpayers’ expense.

Not to mention John Baron, who bought a three-bedroom house £153,500, claimed expenses on the mortgage repayments, and then sold the property for £250,000.

And finally Paul Beresford, who through his second job as a dentist, designated his west London property, which includes his surgery, as his second home on expenses.

What possible reason could they have for voting against?

That Tory Opposition to Lords Reform in Full

Guido cannot help but notice the irony of the very same Tory MPs who voted against Lords reform now complaining that peers should not be allowed to derail the EU referendum bill because they are unelected and unaccountable. Not only has the Tories destroying Lords reform resulted in the death of the boundary review, severely hindering their chances in 2015, but it also damages their chances of actually getting an EU referendum as well. Slow clap.

LISTEN: Clegg’s Recall Flip Flop

The Tory manifesto for 2010 was crystal clear: “Conservatives will empower local people to cast a vote of no confidence in their elected representative and bring an end to the concept of the ‘safe seat’.” As was the LibDem promise to “give people the power to sack corrupt MPs”. And, above all, the power of recall is enshrined in the Coalition Agreement:

“We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.”

And still nothing. A point Zac Goldsmith made on Call Clegg this morning:

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Clegg feebly “assures” us he will seek assurances that a debate will be had. No time frame, no realistic prospect of the public being given the power of recall any time soon. In the meantime, our MPs know we can’t touch them until 2015…

See also:

Scrounging Lords Take Break Until October

Fresh from having the debate on their survival kicked into the long grass, the 765 peers sitting in the House of Lords will celebrate by taking a 10-week summer holiday this evening.

The House rises until October 8th, meaning that its members will have to wait to enjoy the £175,000 of taxpayers’ money they have just spent on revamping the decor in their parliamentary offices. Our dosh has been spent on dozens of new pieces of art and statues, including a bust of Prince Philip and a painting of the Jubilee procession. Come back Nick, all is forgiven…

The Eight Tories Who Chickened Out on Lords Reform

There is one interesting side note from the Tory Lords rebellion that has yet to receive much attention in the bubble. Of the 70 Tory MPs who signed the letter opposing the government’s Lords reform proposals, eight went on to have cold feet by merely abstaining when it came to the crunch. The Conservative chickens are: James Arbuthnot, Paul Beresford, Robert Buckland, Aidan Burley, Oliver Heald, Pauline Latham, Neil Parish and Priti Patel. Perhaps those soon-to-be-vacant PPS posts provided too much of a temptation…

UPDATE: The other side of the coin apparently being that once the programme motion vote was cancelled there was no point in sticking about. Guido is sceptical…

The Delusion of Nick Clegg

This was sent out to LibDem members last night:

Dear Guido,

This evening we overwhelmingly won an historic vote on the Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill – a Bill that will finish something our party started a century ago.

This is a huge triumph for our party, and a clear mandate to deliver much needed reforms to the House of Lords.

As David Cameron and I have both repeatedly made clear – in the Queen’s speech, in May 2011 in the White Paper and in May 2010 in the Coalition Agreement – the Coalition Government is committed to reforming the House of Lords. And we have every intention of delivering it.

The Liberal Democrats have worked closely with our Conservative partners to bring forward a Bill they could support. We have been reasonable and looked at acceptable compromises at every stage. That is why we agreed to withdraw today’s timetabling motion, to allow the Conservative team in Government take more time over the summer to talk to their backbench colleagues.

When we return in the autumn to vote on this again, we fully expect the Conservatives to deliver this crucial part of the coalition deal – as we have delivered other coalition policies. At the same time, we will increase the pressure on Labour to, as the Guardian put it this morning, ‘simply stand up and do the right thing’ and support these reforms in votes in Parliament when it really counts.

We have been waiting for Lords Reform for 100 years. Today we took a huge step towards delivering it. There will be many more tests ahead, but with your help we will continue to make and win the case for reform.

Best Wishes,

Nick Clegg

Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

Nevermind the ninety Tories and twenty odd Labour rebels who consigned the bill to the dustbin…

Conor Burns Ready to Resign as PPS Over Lords Reform Burns' Letter to Chief Whip In Full

Tory rebel Conor Burns is ready to resign as Owen Paterson’s PPS after informing his chief whip that he will vote against the government on Lords reform. Burns has left the final decision up to Dave, it appears he could be out of a job tomorrow evening: “It would seem that my position is incompatible with membership of the Government. I deeply regret the government have put us in a position where a long-held and mainstream view means I cannot continue to serve as a PPS“. Guido is sure it won’t be the least we hear from Conor.

Sky’s Sophie Ridge confirms:

Guido has just asked Conor if he had; proffered his resignation if asked or simply thrown himself at the mercy of the Prime Minister? To which he replied: “Sort of both!” Burns is now leading the heckling of Nick Clegg and co. in the Commons. They said it would be bloody…

UPDATE: Here is Burns’ letter in full:

Patrick,

Further to our conversation in your office I wanted to formally write to put my position as PPS to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at yours and the Prime Minister’s disposal. I have long held views on reform of the House of Lords and cannot support the Bill tomorrow or the programme motion. It would appear that my position is incompatible with membership of the Government. I am a keen supporter of the Government and deeply regret that the Government have put us in the position where a long held and mainstream view within the Conservative Party means that I cannot continue to serve as Owen’s PPS. If by voting against the Bill tomorrow means I have to resign I will of course continue to support the Government and the Prime Minister from the backbenches.

Conor

Via @SophyRidge

Exclusive: That Letter Signed by MPs Opposing Lords Reform Named Signatories Includes Not Usual Suspects

Gobby Saved by Twitter, Serjeant at Arms Humiliated

Good news for the BBC’s Paul Lambert following the ridiculous decision by the Serjeant at Arms to ban him after he filmed her embarrassing failure to prevent the breach of security during the testimony of the Murdochs. Gobby’s pass has been restored after Louise Mensch raised a point of order regarding the banning of the BBC’s Gobby and a Twitter campaign to #SaveGobby took off. Why on earth was he banned in the first place? This is a public building, paid for at great expense by the public. You would have thought after the battle for opening up MPs’ expenses they would have learnt. Parliamentarians are our servants, they work for us and the Serjent at Arms would do well to remember who is the boss…

Exclusive: IPSA Makes Thousands of False Tax Declarations

The pen-pushers at IPSA are meant to restore confidence in the expenses system and avoid the pitfalls of paperwork cock-ups, deliberate or not, that have blighted Parliament for so long. Red faces all round then as it seems thousands of MPs staff will get a bit of a shock when they open their annual P60 certificate.

When IPSA was founded, they  hammered home the fact that Members would remain the legal employer of their staff. Their contracts make this very clear:

Staff pay-slips back this up. However, the P60 end of year tax certificates, sent to every staffer, state that the employer is “IPSA 7th floor, Portland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5BH”:

Simply not the case.

A P60 is proof that tax has been paid and the details are meant to be watertight. Guido understands this is what is known technically as “a massive cock-up” rather than a deliberate shift in the employment rules. IPSA have made clear they will replace the P60 with a correct one if staff complain, but it seems they weren’t going to announce the blunder publicly. MPs will be chortling into their subsidised pints that IPSA has messed up their own paperwork. The fact that IPSA can’t get something as basic  as Parliament’s P60’s right, doesn’t bode well for the rest of their duties…

How Do You Solve a Problem Like IPSA?

Before Parliament has even resumed for the year, the battle between IPSA and the MPs has flared up again, with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority attempting to use the public as a human shield against aggrieved members. IPSA clearly isn’t working, but the MPs prove time and again that they cannot be trusted to be their own expenses regulator. This morning IPSA have opened up a public consultation for six weeks on how to fix the problems. The PM has warned they have until April to sort it out…

Guido has said it before, and will submit the idea formally, that a House of Commons debit card is the best way to regulate legitimate expenses. The transactions would as normal be electronically recorded automatically and could thus be published online automatically, the spending limits would be automatic and bureaucracy would be minimal. The idea was proposed in Disinfecting Parliament, a 2009 report from the Sunlight Centre that recommended a number of measures based on best practice in the private sector that could easily be transferred to IPSA. MPs have called for a fairer and simpler system, what could be easier than the debit card plan?

Selecting the Checks and Balances

The post-election jamboree roles on. Despite the flurry of activity over the close of Labour leadership nominations, today’s Select Committee Chairman elections are not to be ignored. ConHome has the most comprehensive coverage.

Given any LibDem with an ounce of talent, and plenty lacking even that, are now in government, it came as no surprise that the two committees allocated to them were uncontested and two old timers Beith and Bruce are now running the hugely significant International Development and Justice Committees.

On the Labour side some old faces are still refusing to retire with any dignity they might have left. Slimey Keith Vaz is up for re-election as Home Affairs Chairman and absurdly received backing from Tim Montgomerie and Will Straw. Vaz has shamefully abused his position on that committee. There are some fairly underwhelming candidates for the other posts. The most significant committees and tight races are on the blue side.

A combination of a some fiercely independent candidates, a right-wing troublemakers slate and frankly some appalling nominations will make for an intriguing fight today. Carswell at Defence will put the fear of God in to the MOD and can only liven things up.  The defence manfacturers have let down the armed forces (and taxpayers) for decades. Carswell is the man with a mission to put that right.

Nadine has an outside shot at Health and is attempting to convince the Labour MPs that her views on abortion do not outweigh her NHS experience. She has got an impressive range on cross-party support for such a Marmite-figure. She would liven things up considerably.

Guido has made his views perfectly clear on why Tim Yeo’s financial interests render him completely unsuitable for the Energy job and thankfully he has a challenger in the cheapest MP, staff-less Philip Hollobone. Whether MPs will side with the parties and all those investment opportunities or the more humble man remains to be seen.

IPSA Bureaucracy Control Made Easy

There is a lot of grumbling around parliament about the new expenses regime and the IPSA bureaucracy established to implement the new system.  Some of it is unjustified, some of it is justified.

In Disinfecting Parliament, a report published last year, the Sunlight Centre recommended a number of measures based on best practice in the private sector. Foremost among the recommendations made was that MPs should be issued with a House of Commons debit card to be used for their legitimate expenses. Simples.

The transactions would as normal be electronically recorded automatically and could thus be published online automatically, the spending limits would be automatic and bureaucracy would be minimal. Instead for every transaction we now have invoices being received, authorised, paid by MPs, sent to IPSA where invoices are then re-checked, approved and reimbursed by IPSA with lots of manpower required. Crazy and expensive.

Speaker Should Demand Darling Explain Peston "Confirmation"

Peston is at it again, the cocky hack claims he has “confirmed” matters thus:

“It has been confirmed that the Chancellor Alistair Darling will impose a one-off super-tax on city bonuses when he unveils his Pre-Budget Report today”.

Shouldn’t the Speaker demand of the Chancellor why Peston and not parliament was the first to know of his plans? The PBR is important and may contain market sensitive information.  Peston has previous on this, causing mayhem with share prices and arguably creating a false market.  Bercow made a big thing of insisting on the primacy of parliament when he was running for office. Prove it today.

Clean Hands in Parliament

wash-dry
Is this what they mean by cleaning up parliament?  This poster has gone up in all the loos on the parliamentary estate.  For MPs too stupid to understand the correct procedure…

Harman Bill : Not Independent, Not Credible

Parliamentary Standards Bill 2009

The government’s Bill introduced by Harriet Harman yesterday proposes establishing a body to be known as the “Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority” and an officer known as the “Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations”.

The five members of the IPSA will be

“appointed by the Queen upon an Address of the House of Commons. A motion may only be made only with the agreement of the Speaker for a candidate selected on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and approved by a Speaker’s Committee. Members will be removable only in response to an Address of both Houses. There will be requirements that one member of the IPSA should have accountancy experience, that one member should have Parliamentary experience, and that one member be a holder of or have held high judicial office.”

The Commissioner will be appointed the same way.  There will, according to the Bill

“be a Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority charged with exercising the functions given to it under the Bill – in particular, approving the selection of persons to be members of the IPSA and the Commissioner.”

Do you see the flaw in this “independent” Comissioner and Authority?  Members will be drawn from the establishment and their selection approved by the Speaker’s appointees.  Would we permit criminals to choose their own judge and jury?

This is a stitch up, we don’t need more rules and self-selected regulators, we need reform of the expenses system,  together with clarity, transparency and enforcement of the rules.  The voters will kick out MPs if they can identify crooks, in this sense in a democracy voters are the ultimate regulator of politicians.  This whole idea is ill-founded, we don’t need to intermediate democracy with another quango or committee, this approach has already failed.

We need only to empower voters with enough information so that they can determine the truth about those who seek to represent them.  The truth is all we need, not redactions, not more quangocrats.



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