Sunday, May 17, 2009

Never Mind Expenses, What About The Main Job?

Amidst the plethora of Sunday comment - uniformly damning - about the current state of parliament, Henry Porter in the Observer looks convincingly at the need for wider parliamentary reform, to enable the wretched place to actually do its primary job a little better.

In the current session, Parliament will spend 143 days in recess. MPs took 24 days holiday at Christmas, 10 days in February, 17 at Easter and now they have the prospect of 10 days at Whitsun plus a summer break of 82 days. Not bad for basic pay and allowances of £180,000 a year.

Set against this is the time allowed by the insufferable leader of the house, Harriet Harman, for the debate of yet another criminal justice bill - the Policing and Crime Bill 2008-09. The Lib Dem MP Evan Harris pointed out at the Manifesto Club last week that the bill has been given just six-and-a-half hours for debate. During that time, MPs will be expected to scrutinise measures that will create a new offence of paying for sex, modify the law on soliciting, tighten regulations on lap-dancing clubs, introduce powers to allow police to deal with young people drinking in public, introduce new codes for the sale of alcohol, amend criminal asset recovery schemes and change airport security and policing laws.

All of which essentially means, says Porter, that ministers like Harman hate scrutiny, and parliament is too inadequate in trying to provide any.

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