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Ken Clarke does not want Lord Mandelson to have to answer questions in the Commons

Ken Clarke and Lord Mandelson Lord Mandelson is the most powerful Cabinet minister in a generation to sit in the House of Lords whilst holding a position usually held by an MP in recent decades.

Furthermore, the Business Secretary has no fewer than three fellow peers in his ministerial team, meaning that peers in fact outnumber MPs in the Department for Business, leaving three underlings to be accountable for the actions of Lords Mandleson, Carter, Davies and Baroness Vadera in the Commons.

Back in March, since Lord Mandelson had thus far refused to debate with his opposite number, Ken Clarke, in television studios, I suggested that there was an alternative way to get the pair of them to debate the issues: by changing the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to allow for peers who were ministers to have to answer questions at the Despatch Box in the Commons and be held to account by MPs for their actions.

I put it to David Cameron at a press conference and he said it was "an intriguing idea" and that since Ken Clarke had chaired the party's constitutional task force, perhaps it was something he could examine.

Ken Clarke's spokesman has now got back to me and alas the shadow business secretary is not minded to take my suggestion on board. He says:

"Ken's view is that this is an interesting constitutional suggestion, but not one that he would support. Whilst it's important to hold ministers to account, one unintended consequence of changing Commons standing orders to bring Ministers from the Lords to the government despatch box could be the creation of even more ministers in the Lords, which would not be desirable."

Perhaps I should suggest to Messrs Hannan and Carswell that it be included in one of their subsequent volumes on constitutional reform...

Jonathan Isaby


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