Archive for May, 2009

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Time for Constitutional Reform

May 23, 2009

The recent expose of MPs expenses has brought out into the open the disdain and lack of respect that most people in the UK today have for elected politicians.  I believe that this has always been the case to some extent, but since the days of Margaret Thatcher and accelerated under Tony Blair we have now moved to the point that that lack of respect is justified. Parliament plays no effective role in scrutinising or introducing legislation.  Individual MPs and select committees are the stooges of the party whips, and the government can effectively exercise untrammelled power free from scrutiny by parliament. Only the judiciary occasionally raises its head against the government.

We used to have an unwritten constitutional settlement (well we still do).  The executive and judiciary were all bound in with the legislature-the executive with the house of commons and the judiciary with the house of lords.  Although not an ideal arrangement constitutionally, it used to work effectively because of the respect that members of each of the three elements had  for each other and for the freedoms whiuch were preserved by the complex interactions such a constitutional arrangement engendered.

No More. Successive prime ministers have emasculated the house of commons, taken over the house of lords and filled it with stooges, and shown scant regard for the judiciary.  This current crisis of confidence is in fact the greatest opportunity to correct all this.  What we need is now:

1) A wholly elected house of Lords.   I would favour election by FPTP of 100-200 members geographically based around English local authority or county boundaries. This would be the “English Parliament”.  Devolved matters would be referred to the local parliaments or assemblies of Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland, and matters affecting only England would have to pass this house

2) The house of Commons reduced to between 400 and 500 members.To be elected by PR with STV system

3) The Prime minister to be directly elected and to serve a maximum of 2 parliaments

4) Government ministers not to sit in the commons.  If an MP is appointed to the government there should be a bye-election

5) The houses of parliament, not the government to control the business of the commons-both the timetable and the composition of  select committees

6) Fixed term4 year parliaments

I believe this would give power back to parliament, solve the West Lothian question, Reduce the size of our government by 50% and restore self-respect and, eventually, public faith in MPs. 

Only one person has the power tomake this reality.David Cameron.  I hope he has the courage to do so

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