Policy Exchange has been busy recently. Last week, it published "Coming Clean", a pamphlet about drugs in prisons. Today, it issues "Who do we want our MPs to be?" - by Conservative Home's Paul Goodman (MP for Wycombe until May).
Paul's case is that the Commons has a choice: MPs can either be citizen legislators, free to work and earn outside the Commons, or professional politicians, who aren't - but that if they're to be the latter, it follows that they can't represent different interests, which is what the Commons should be for in the first place.
He therefore recommends making MPs less dependent on the taxpayer - by scrapping some of Register of Members' Interests' requirements and, in the medium term, cutting MPs pay and perks (for example, by closing the pension scheme to new entrants).
Click here to download the whole report.
In an article for yesterday's Sunday Times, Anthony Browne, Boris Johnson's chief policy adviser, called for the government to set up and fund a new body to evaluate the success of policy innovations:
"We do too many projects, with too few that are evidence-based. We should do more of what we know works and less of what we are guessing works. Even those projects that are evidence-based often aren’t implemented effectively and if they are implemented effectively it is usually locally rather than nationally. To guide our thinking we should set up a national institute of policy evaluation, answerable to parliament, which would analyse the cost and benefits of each policy and guide government on where to spend its money to have the desired outcome."
He cites the Washington State Institute for Public Policy as a possible model.
The idea of a impartial expert class is deceptively attractive but the recent differences over drugs policy between Professor David Nutt and the Home Secretary illustrate the political dangers of trusting experts.
Tory MP Douglas Carswell blogs as to why he opposes the idea:
"Anthony makes the mistake that many very intelligent people make when contemplating public policy; if only expert policy-makers used evidence-based research to ascertain what works, we'd have good public policy. The trouble is, who decides "what works"? Who determines what evidence to apply to the evidence base? Why would experts be any better at deciding public policy than they were once supposed to be at running the economy? ...Over the past generation - and under both parties - a vast alphabet sea of national bodies have sprung up, overseeing public policy on the basis of what they tell us is the evidence; the “evidence-based” NICE, MPC, PCTs, both FSAs, the CSA, EA, HA et al. It is they that are responsible for so much of the waste and public policy failure that Anthony rightly recognises."
Douglas Carswell says the people who need to do the evaulation of public policy are the MPs.
Author: Gerry Frost
Publication date: November 2009
The author claims that David Cameron's decision to rule out a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was not a surprise and will only increase the level of cynicism with which the British public view the European Union and politics in general.
Authors: Tim Ambler & Keith Boyfield.
Publication Date: October 2009
This paper calls for the UK Parliament to re-assert its role as the UK's primary legislative body in order to reduce the influence of both Brussels and Whitehall. The paper argues that Parliament should challenge excessive regulation and that Legislative Statutory Instruments should be scrutinised in greater detail.
Authors: Tom Shakespeare (Editor), Matthew Groves, Kevin Lavery and Roger Gough
Publication date: 22 October 2009
The authors advocate a localist agenda for local government which allows councils to be free from central government intereference, regulation and funding. The paper supports devolving many functions of central government down to councils and increasingly the accountability of local government.
Author: John Strafford
Publication date: September 2009
The author argues that the EU is profoundly undemocratic with the European Parliament being little more than a sham and the real power resting in the hands of unelected and unaccountable political elites. The paper notes that as an estimated 65% of UK legislation emanates from Brussels it is time the British people had their say on our continued membership of the EU.
Author: Open Europe
Publication date: 4 September 2009
The report details the failure of the Irish Government to dilute the Lisbon Treaty following the initial "No" vote. The report states that the Irish Government objected to some of the key elements of the Lisbon Treaty such as the appointment of a permanent EU President, the loss of a national veto in many important areas of policy and the creation of a European Public Prosecutor. Of a proposed 149 amendments from the Irish Government only 36 were accepted and since this report was published the Irish have voted to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.
Author: Matthew Sinclair
Publication date: August 2009
This report exposes the £37million of taxpayers' money which was spent on funding lobbying and political campaigning in 2007-8. This amount is spent by both national and local government and think tanks and public affairs companies have been among the beneficiaries. Whilst this is an unnecessary waste of taxpayers' money, the author also criticises the fact that people are being forced to pay for views they may seriously disagree with. The report also claims that this money is designed to distort decision making in favour of the interests and ideological pre-occupations of a narrow elite. A future Conservative Government has pledged to scrap this funding and in the eyes of the author of this report such a move can't come soon enough.
Author: The Taxpayers' Alliance
Publication date: August 2009
This report rebuts the commonly held view that the recent scandal over parliamentary allowances to MPs is caused by their basic salary remaining low. The report suggests that even taking into account the basic salary for a backbench MP they receive a wage which puts them in the top 3% of earners in the UK. Furthermore the report notes that many MPs who hold frontbench positions receive considerably more than this and the report details the generous pension arrangements and the golden farewells which MPs are entitled to. It is also reported that UK MPs receive a higher basic salary than MPs in all EU countries with the exception of Austria, Ireland and Italy.