Parliamentary Standards – could do better

Parliamentary standards

Parliamentary standards

We had a tremendous amount of breast beating by Politicians, as the scandal over their expenses broke, just a few months ago. Yet, the process of promised change, is grinding to an inevitable halt.

The political spin doctors are already hard at work, attempting to concentrate minds on, ‘far more important issues’, after all, as Jack Straw stated: Westminster is very clean and transparent compared to many other countries and that politicians in other countries looked on in amazement at the controversy caused by sums of a few thousand pounds. Adding that Winston Churchill would not have survived the scrutiny to which MPs are now exposed.

The Parliamentary Standards Bill being rushed through Parliament is becoming so watered down it is likely to be as effective as the previous system of control in Parliamentary Standards.

Brown in his new persona, as a listening and communicative Prime Minister, decided that the Parliamentary Standards Bill, setting up a new independent regulator for MPs cleared the House of Commons in three days, without any consultation.

Politicians are keen to pass the legislation prior to disappearing for their three month summer holiday, so that some token of ‘change’ can be proudly flown above the Palace of Westminster, as they soak up the sun at a friend of a friends summer home in the Algarve.

The proposed Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which will, we are assured, be made up of five good, honest and upright citizens, appointed and funded by…..  a committee of MPs chaired by the Speaker. Independent? The Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly has stated that it may not accept the creation of the IPSA, which would make this yet another interim measure.

It had been proposed in the Bill that a would be an offence to fail to comply with the register of financial interests, but Peers really didn’t like the idea of criminalising MPs who didn’t declare their financial interests, hardly a surprise when those in the House of Lords were found to be taking cash for passing legislation, were sanctioned by having to undertake the demeaning task of apologising. Interesting that Peers feel that making an apology is more of a sanction than serving time in Prison, or being disbarred from Public Office. Oh no, not the dreaded apology….

The element in the Bill proposing that the IPSA would have a role in enforcing the allowances or financial conduct regime and the offence of paid advocacy has already been removed.

The House of Lords also tried to force the removal of the proposal in the Bill of creating an offence of an MP making a claim for an allowance using ‘false or misleading’ information.

The Parliamentary Standards Bill, is expected to be passed on Tuesday 20th July.

That the Bill is being undertaken without proper scrutiny is laughable, that it is being so diluted is pitiful, that it was even proposed is scandalous.

The fundamental flaw, is Politicians scrutinizing politicians and being in any way responsible for the appointment of their regulators demonstrates quite clearly Politicians do not understand the gravity of the situation.

Without a credible Government and political body, the power vacuum in this country will become highly volatile.

We already have the military criticising the Government, we have the General Public criticising the Government and increasingly the groundswell of opinion is that the Military are right and the Government are wrong, what does this sign post?

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  1. [...] views on the real independence of The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority prior to the legislation passed on the 20th July 2009 were expressed at the time as my derisive comments of the real independence [...]

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