Standards and Privileges Committee

24 Jun 2009 08:16:51

Gordon Brown's standards quango will end parliamentary sovereignty

Unusually for these pages this is not a report from Parliament but a very important article about Parliament from Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. Here is the key section:

"Ever since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (when a Catholic King was toppled in favour of parliamentary democracy), Britain has enjoyed a system of parliamentary sovereignty. This has meant that Parliament has been acknowledged as the ultimate source of power in Britain, and the highest court in the land. But Gordon Brown’s Bill signals the creation of a new and omnipotent body to which Parliament must defer — provisionally called the Parliamentary Standards Authority. Initially, it will be charged with managing the Commons expenses system. It will also have exemplary powers to sack and punish MPs and ministers. In order to operate effectively, it will stand above Parliament. Even Speaker Bercow himself will defer to it.

Although Brown conceded that this was the ‘biggest reform you have ever seen in any period of the history of Parliament’, his judgment is a gross understatement. The reform marks a historic change in the regulation of British democracy — and a giant constitutional step into the unknown. What’s more, it has the frightening potential to cause great damage because it will hand vast powers to a new class of men and women who are not accountable to the electorate. At the heart of this lies a vital question first posed by the Greek philosopher Plato some 2,500 years ago: ‘Who guards the guardians?’"

With MPs held in such low esteem this is a tricky time to defend the idea that they should govern themselves (and The Sun welcomes it) but we voters can get rid of MPs when they fail.  We can't get rid of the quango that Brown is constructing to oversee MPs.

Tim Montgomerie

26 Feb 2009 12:21:43

Gordon Brown breaks Commons rules on office sub-lets

Greg_hands_mpIn February 2008 Hammersmith & Fulham MP Greg Hands (now a Shadow Treasury Minister) filed a complaint with Standards Commissioner John Lyon about Gordon Brown. Today the Prime Minister has been found by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee to have inadvertently broken the rules relating to the sub-letting of taxpayer funded constituency offices.

The Prime Minister and MSP Marilyn Livingstone rented part of their office to the Labour Party. The Committee says:

"We conclude that Mr Brown should not have sub-let part of his accommodation paid for from Parliamentary allowances. However, neither Mr Brown nor the Labour Party derived any financial benefit from this arrangement and there was no intention to deceive. We accept that Mr Brown's breach of the rules of the House was inadvertent and that he took steps to rectify it as soon as it was drawn to his attention. Mr Brown has apologised and in our view no further action is necessary."

Mr Hands has commented too:

“I welcome the Committee's report and accept Gordon Brown's apology for breaking Commons rules on office sub-lets. It does not appear that the Prime Minister has personally profited from the breach, and he did quickly rectify the situation when it was brought to his attention by my complaint and by the media.

It is ironic that the rules breached were those introduced after the resignation in shame of Henry McLeish as First Minister of Scotland, who was found to be subletting his Parliamentary office ('a muddle not a fiddle'). Brown's case is different in that there has been no suggestion of personal gain, but nevertheless the case is a reminder that the Prime Minister and all members of the Government that they are also Members of Parliament, and they need to obey important parliamentary rules like these."