By Matthew Barrett
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Following on from the last few days' rolling blogs, I have below a final list of the MPs (and Baroness Warsi) appointed as Ministers for each department. I have put new appointments in bold.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Communities and Local Government
By Joseph Willits
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Proposals to give Parliament the power to take action on ministers who leak announcements to the media, before informing the Commons, have failed. The motion tabled by Phillip Hollobone MP (Kettering), aimed to be as "non-partisan as possible", was defeated by 228 votes to 119. Hollobone accused all three major parties of mistreating the House of Commons:
"All Governments, whether this Government, the previous Government or the one before that, have leaked information, and that is not how our great House of Commons ought to be treated".
On Sunday, Tim outlined the Speaker's exasperation, after last week's Autumn Statement was the latest example of policy being leaked to the press beforehand. Naturally, Hollobone expressed the same sentiment as the Speaker, saying that Parliament "should be the first place to hear of major new Government policy initiatives". He continued:
"Should it be “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday, the “Today” programme on Radio 4 in the morning or ITV’s “Daybreak”; or should it be the Chamber of the House of Commons?"
By Matthew Barrett
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One of the moments of excitement from today's Prime Minister's Questions was a clash between John Bercow and Childrens Minister Tim Loughton, which appears to be a further installment in an ongoing series of exchanges between the two .
As can be seen from the video above, an angry and ruffled Speaker Bercow singled out Loughton, telling him to "calm down" and "behave like an adult". Bercow then said if Loughton couldn't comply, he should "leave the Chamber, get out, we'll manage without you."
Very shortly after, the Speaker stopped proceedings again, telling Loughton "No, it's not funny, only in your mind, Mr Loughton, is it funny. It's not funny at all, it's disgraceful."
Mr Loughton has since tweeted:
Yesterday Michael Howard made a point of order in the Commons:
"On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You responded yesterday to the letter written to you last week, signed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and me. In that letter, we asked you to give precedence to our complaint of breach of privilege in respect of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). You have declined that request, which means the House does not have the opportunity to consider whether the matter should be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether you will be prepared to give the House this afternoon your reasons for declining that request?
It is right that MPs treat the Speaker with respect in the House of Commons. He holds a great office, and it is vital that MPs defer to that office. It is one of Mr Howard's many qualities that he has considerable reverence for Parliament. But Michael Martin should not expect to be free from criticism elsewhere. And he can afford to show a little more humility without losing face.
Sadly, he has never looked like he is up to his job. His predecessor Betty Boothroyd was superb. Contrastingly, Speaker Martin has frequently given the impression that he doesn't understand procedure and is unwilling to set aside partisan feelings. He won't fool anyone that is on top of things by trying to belittle a senior MP like Michael Howard.
We can also dismiss the notion that all of Michael Martin's critics are snobs. He has demonstrably failed to perform adequately - and that has precisely nothing to do with being Glaswegian.
Hansard has the full report of the Speaker's statement on Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green and subsequent contributions from MPs here. There will be a debate on the issue on Monday.
Some highlights from yesterday are reproduced below.
The Speaker is to be commended for one thing: offering no public comment before addressing Parliament:
"In the past few days there has been much pressure on me to make public comment about these matters, but I felt that it was right and fitting that I should make no comment until Parliament reconvenes, because it is this House and this House alone that I serve, as well as being accountable for the actions of its Officers. I should emphasise from the start that it is not for me to comment on the allegations that have been made against the hon. Member or on the disposal of those allegations in the judicial process."
After making the point that Parliament is not a "haven from the law", Speaker Martin gave an outline of events:
"On Wednesday last, the Metropolitan police informed the Serjeant at Arms that an arrest was contemplated, but did not disclose the identity of the Member. I was told in the strictest confidence by her that a Member might be arrested and charged, but no further details were given to me. I was told that they might be forthcoming the next morning.
At 7 am on Thursday, police called upon the Serjeant at Arms and explained the background to the case, and disclosed to the Serjeant the identity of the Member. The Serjeant at Arms called me, told me the Member’s name and said that a search might take place of his offices in the House. I was not told that the police did not have a warrant. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Order. I have been told that the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the Serjeant was not obliged to consent, or that a warrant could have been insisted upon. [ Interruption. ] Order. Let me make the statement. I regret that a consent form was then signed by the Serjeant at Arms, without consulting the Clerk of the House.
I must make it clear to the House— [ Interruption. ] Order. I must make it clear to the House that I was not asked the question of whether consent should be given, or whether a warrant should have been insisted on. I did not personally authorise the search. It was later that evening that I was told that the search had gone ahead only on the basis of a consent form. I further regret that I was formally told by the police only yesterday, by letter from Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick, that the hon. Member was arrested on 27 November on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office."
Sadiq Khan is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government. During oral questions yesterday, he made an unfair attack on James Paice, Shadow Minister for Agriculture.
"Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Does the Minister agree that the rules and laws of this country should apply to everybody equally? If so, does he understand how my constituents in the villages of Wilburton and Haddenham feel at the prospect of another 14 Traveller pitches being granted permission? That permission is being granted not because those sites are wanted there and not because the district council wants them, but because the council is being forced to grant permission on land for which it would not otherwise do so, because of pressure from the Government and from the regional planning policy. One of the two sites has already been rejected for use in building conventional housing. The other is a greenfield site. If anybody else applied to carry out normal development, they would not have a prayer.
Mr. Khan: Gypsies and Travellers are bound by the same planning laws and human rights legislation as everyone else, which means that they should apply for planning permission before moving on to or developing land that they own. In the same way as everyone else, they are subject to enforcement action if the proper planning processes are not complied with. Local authorities, rather than the Government, should decide what happens in local communities."
Mr Paice's question did not betray a prejudice against Gypsy and Traveller sites. He did not indicate a blanket opposition to them, but was talking about the prospect of an additional fourteen pitches. He did assert that planning permission was being granted in unique circumstances, but he backed up his assertion with evidence - i.e. that one of the two sites has been rejected for conventional use.
The minister was entitled to rebut that claim, and to question Mr Paice's assertion that this is an unpopular decision. But accusing him of being prejudiced against Gypsy and Traveller sites was inelegant and unfair. The Speaker was right to rule the minister's remarks in order - but they were bang out of order in a non-Parliamentary sense.
The Opposition and individual MPs (Mr Paice was raising this matter on behalf of his constituents) must be able to raise difficult matters without the Government resorting to insupportable accusations of bigotry. Not being prejudiced against Gypsies or Travellers does not necessitate supporting every planning application for a site. It is also perfectly reasonable to be concerned about the number of sites in a given area.
Nor is it implausible that certain interest groups might be given an unfair advantage on certain occasions. Mr Khan was entitled to dispute Mr Paice's assertion that this has happened in Cambridgeshire. The minister was quite wrong to respond as he did.
He owes Mr Paice an apology. Seeing as the offence took place in the chamber, that is where he should make amends.
In a debate in Westminster Hall (about Internet fraud) yesterday, Dr Richard Taylor - Independent MP for Wyre Forest - and Bob Spink - formerly Tory but now UKIP MP for Castle Point - referred to each other as "my honourable Friend":
"Bob Spink (Castle Point) (UKIP): My hon. Friend is a wise, sincere and caring Member of Parliament, and he is right to bring this important matter to our attention. He will elucidate a specific case, but there is a general problem as well, and that is what I want to address. Not everything in Nigeria is working well, as we all know, but the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is well focused. It is the best bet to tackle the source of the great proportion of internet crime, fraud and scams, which particularly target and hurt vulnerable British people. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should target the source of fraud by giving even more support than they currently do to the EFCC?
Dr. Taylor: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I would rather leave it to the Minister to tell us what is being done and what can be done, but I take the point. Crucially, this is a cross-party matter, and I do not see a place anywhere for party point scoring."
Assuming that they weren't just being affectionate, does this indicate that it is the practice for Independent MPs to address each other as honourable Friends? If so, in want sense is Bob Spink an Independent MP (other than in the sense that his party has the word "Independence" in its title?!).
Can anyone shed some light on this matter?
On Tuesday I wrote that "Parliament isn't just a place to score political points". Yet some Labour MPs obviously disagree. One might have hoped that during a financial crisis members would want to use Treasury Questions as an opportunity to represent the concerns of their constituents, but apparently not.
To his credit, the Speaker was having none of it, and George Osborne was reportedly moved to thank him.
In the spirit of political balance (sort of) I have accompanied each of the following passages with a little bit of light-hearted, good-natured personal abuse. I have no doubt that these MPs will appreciate it.
Lyn Brown got the ball rolling:
"Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): I congratulate the Chancellor on the recapitalisation of banks, which has been admired and copied throughout the world, but was that task helped by the leaking of confidential documents by the Bank of England and by the hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench on “The Andrew Marr Show”? What does the Chancellor think of his opposite number’s judgment? [Interruption.]
What does the Chancellor think of you Lyn? I bet he thinks you're stupid. 'Stupid Lynne Browne' he probably calls you, deliberately spelling your name incorrectly in his head.
Karen Buck was positively menacing:
"Ms Buck: Mr Speaker, I wonder whether it might be possible for you to accept a note signed by everyone on the Labour Benches, because for the next 18 months we all intend to do little else other than attack the shadow Chancellor. [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. A genuine attack is one thing, but a personal attack on anyone’s integrity will be stopped. I just put that on the record, but I know that the hon. Lady will not indulge in any personal attacks on anyone.
Do you really have a note to that effect, signed by all Labour MPs Karen? Or did you lie in Parliament? Or was it all a hilarious joke? P.S. I bet Alistair Darling thinks you're stupid too.