It is interesting to see the flurry of proposals for constitutional reform cropping up now.
I have been part of discussions in parliament about how to reduce the power of the executive/government/king and increase the ability of the representatives of the people to hold the executive to account.
We may end up with some important improvements to the machinery of government through this process. I would, of course, wish to see the introduction of STV. That would allow voters the ability to chose between the candidates of a party.
I don't think as yet we have managed to get support for this from other front benches. However, there are positive noises being made.
What we have in this particular case is the challenge of the interface between medical certainty (it probably is) and legal certainty (on the balance of probabilities). One is far less certain than the other.
Rutland CC, Cottesmore Con 389 (68.1; +1.1) LD Joanna Mary Burrows 182 (31.9; +31.9) [UKIP (0.0; -33.0)] Majority 207 Turnout 26.4% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007
Barton on Humber TC, Bridge Con 746 (62.6) Lab 445 (37.4) Majority 301 Turnout not known Con hold
North Lincolnshire UA, Barton Con 1576 (64.4; +15.6) Lab 653 (26.7; +6.2) LD Richard Alan Nixon 220 (9.0; -5.9) [Others (0.0; -16.0)] Majority 923 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007
Salford City, Irwell Riverside Lab 606 (37.6; -13.3) LD Steven Ian Middleton 293 (18.2; -1.1) BNP 276 (17.1; +3.8) Con 189 (11.7; -4.7) Green 125 (7.8; +7.8) UKIP 123 (7.6; +7.6) Majority 313 Turnout 17.5% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2008
City of London, Bishopsgate 4 Candidates, all Ind 78 / 66 / 53 / 47 Majority 12 Turnout 21% Ind hold
Cause: due to insufficient nominations in the full council elections on 16th March 2009.
That EDM relates to opposing the attempts to exempt MPs expenses from FoI.
That this House notes the Third Reading of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill on 18th May; believes that it is inconsistent and unprincipled to seek to exempt the affairs of the House of Commons and House of Lords from the obligations of the Freedom of Information legislation, which applies to all other public authorities and only took effect in 2005; believes that the passage into law of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill would fundamentally undermine respect for both Houses of Parliament, all the Houses' hon. Members and officers, and most importantly Parliament's ability to have any authority or set any example on issues of accountability, openness or transparency in Government and public life; and believes that the argument that more laws are needed to protect confidentiality of correspondence between hon. Members and those whom they represent is not made out on the evidence, should…
I have had a constant position in respect to MPs expenses and salary. That position is that they should be determined independently of MPs. I have, therefore, generally not voted on these issues.
I managed recently (with the support of colleagues) to persuade my own party to take this position and subsequently the House of Commons has now agreed that the Committee on Standards in Public Life should work out the answer and then MPs stick to it.
In the mean time I have avoided charging the maximum and tried to be cost effective with tax payers money.
It is, therefore, a bit irritating to be criticised because my wife cleaned the flat and we didn't claim for a cleaner, but instead claimed for cleaning materials.
That, however, is par for the course in politics. Once there has been a complete trawl through the expenses I will do a final response to all criticism.
I have already dealt with the oddity that the fees office rejected a request for equipment to help me deal with constituents…
One other comparison that can be made is between my claims for personal expenses of £19,687 per year and those of Estelle Morris MP my predecessor who charged £5,040 more at £24,907 during the last year she was MP for Yardley.
Realistically the government are not going to have an election immediately. Hence following the speaker's announcement we need to work on fixing the problems in parliament.
Parliament's role is as the voice of the people. Hence people should not be threatened for talking to MPs. Furthermore Ministers should answer questions. We need to look at how we can make the operation of parliament more transparent, not only as far as expenses are concerned, but also as far as how legislation is written.
There is a lot of work to be done. Ideally we would also have an early general election. However, it is obvious that Gordon Brown will not have an election until he is forced to (or he thinks he might win).
I have linked to The Independent's proposals in respect of food.
The new flat-rate allowance should cover only utility bills and rent or mortgage interest. A new subsistence allowance of £40 a day, to cover food and drink, should be made available, but only when Parliament is sitting. There is no reason why the taxpayer should fund MPs' Christmas turkeys or summer lunches.
In a sense it shows in the flurry of what others consider really acceptable proposals that the fact that the old subsistence allowance of £32 a day (actually slightly less) which was then reduced to £25 was not that massive.
There are a number of issues that have been raised over the past week in respect to the expenses charged by Members of Parliament.
These do deserve some form of commentary. It is generally accepted that the system by which MPs charge for the costs of being in London is unacceptable. It was intentionally set up as a cash cow to be milked by MPs in preference to facing up to giving MPs a salary increase. MPs were encouraged to milk the system, but some of the abuses go much beyond this.
There are some really silly criticisms being made about some things which are really not wrong which conceal the fact that other things are wrong.
However, I feel that I should explain some of the points about my own claim for a second home. I took the view on being elected that I would not just try to claim the maximum.
The first point is that my priority in how I structured things was to try to get reasonably good value for the tax payer. I am a director of two companies and responsible for almost …
Gateshead MBC, Chopwell and Rowlands Gill date: 14/05/2009 Lab 1221 (53.2; -3.9) LD Ray Callender 898 (39.1; +12.5) Con 177 (7.7; -8.6) Majority 323 Turnout 32.15% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2008
Anglesey UA, Llanbadrig date: 14/05/2009 Ind 255 / 201 (100.0; +0.0) Majority 54 Turnout not known Ind hold Ind unopposed in May 2008
Now parliament has decided that more information needs to be declared and that some of the income that MPs receive other than for being an MP needs to be declared it will be interesting to see what comes of this.
It is a bit odd that only part of the external income is to be declared. An MP who rents out a flat has income from this, that MP also has to spend some time managing the tenancy even it it is merely to appoint a managing agent. However, it appears that this income does not have to be declared.
We will need to look at whether the whole of an MPs tax return needs to be declared.
I am one of the MPs with a larger extra parliamentary income than most. That mainly comes from John Hemming & Co now known as JHC LLP which is a parthership that I continue to be a partner in and chair the monthly partners meetings. This is a company I founded in 1983.
Chairing the meeting takes me on the Jubilee line over to London Bridge at about 10am and I return before 2pm. Hence it takes ab…
Harlow DC, Staple Tye LD John Strachan 604 (39.1; +6.0) Con 544 (35.3; -15.3) Lab 329 (21.3; +5.1) UKIP 66 (4.3; +4.3) Majority 60 Turnout 30% LD gain from Con Percentage change is since May 2008
Party defending seat: (Elected as a Conservative but subsequently sat as Independent). Cause: Disqualification.
Stirling UA, Bannockburn First Preference Votes Lab 1131 (39.9; -11.1) SNP 1067 (37.6; +4.4) Ind 229/89/28 (12.2; +7.3) Con 173 (6.1; -1.2) LD Ethne Brown 82 (2.9; -0.8) Green 36 (1.3; +1.3) Turnout 34.7% Lab hold (Lab elected at sixth stage) Percentage change is since May 2007
Party defending seat: Lab. Cause: Disqualification.
Sheffield City MBC, East Ecclesfield LD Colin Taylor 2239 (44.3; +1.3) Lab 1420 (28.1; -2.0) BNP 719 (14.2; +1.6) Con 564 (11.2; +0.3) Green 107 (2.1; -1.2) Majority 819 Turnout 36% LD hold Percentage change is since May 2008
Party defending seat: LD. Cause: Resignation.
Reigate and Banstead BC, Tadworth and Walton Con 925 (64.3; -7.1) UKIP 350 (24.3; +15.3) Lab 163 (11.3; +5.0) [LD (0.0; -13.2…