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Monday, 26 January 2009


Woe indeed is the Labour Party when our members of the Upper House sell their integrity for money. If the allegations against Lords Taylor, Truscott, Moonie and Snape turn out to be true, they will all have breached House of Lords rules. But it goes further than that. In an interview on the Andrew Marr show yesterday morning, Tory returnee Kenneth Clarke, Cameron’s newly appointed Shadow on the BERR portfolio, called the allegations against the four tantamount to corruption. I agree with this. Peers, MPs and MEPs are not to be bought.

There is little appreciation in the UK about the extent of lobbying which takes place in the European Parliament. The EU system resembles the set up in the United States and other European countries, including France, in that the European Parliament is the legislative body, scrutinising and amending legislative proposals put forward by the European Commission. Given that there needs to be agreement between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers (Member State Governments) before the proposals pass into legislation, MEPs have considerable power. Those affected by European legislation, particularly the big business interests, are only too aware of this. Hence the lobbying. I have been contacted by all kinds of organisations from the Ford Motor Company to the Women’s Institute regarding every piece of legislation on which I have worked.

When I do meet lobbyists I do so in my offices in Brussels and Strasbourg. Very occasionally I accept a free lunch or dinner, though usually for rather matters such as the one I recently blogged on when I heard a speech by Mr Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey. Sadly not all my colleagues, especially some Tories and UKIP MEPs, do not take the same view.

Every MEP has had the same experience. We therefore know what we are talking about. I am absolutely clear that it is totally wrong to accept payment from lobbyists. It is even worse to ask for money for facilitating the submitting of amendments. Elected representatives and legislators in the House of Lords are not, and never should be, up for sale.Baroness Jan Royall has handled this sad and sorry matter quickly and decisively. It is to be looked at by the Sub-Committee on the Committee on Privileges, whose verdict I hope will be known sooner rather than later.


Chris Gale said...

Hi Mary

Why do we need a House of Lords at all? I find it an insult to democracy that people who have no democratic mandate can amend or frustrate the laws passed by our elected representatives.
It is a throwback to feudalism.

The Filthy Engineer said...


I find it quite frightening that you think that there should only be one house.

The point of having a second house is to prevent a government from turning the country into a dictatorship. If the lower house has an overwhelming majority, then what is to stop it suspending all freedoms.

I personally liked the old house of lords that was not filled with placemen. The old peers, who did not rely on patronage, could digest and check the laws to be passed, they had no allegiance to any party, and could use their commonsense.

Mind you, referring to para 2 of this post, I think we are there.

Chris Gale said...

If there is to be another chamber then it should be elected.
It is anti democratic for unelected people to frustrate the will of the people.

Martin Meenagh said...

Hi Chris. 22% of the voters elected the UK government in 2005. The subsequent Parliament contained far less diversity than the Lords, and far fewer people who had distinguished themselves in careers outside politics. So when you wrote, 'the will of the people', which of the people were you thinking of?

Mary Honeyball said...

Thanks for the comments. I have been a long standing supporter of an elected House of Lords on a proprotional representation basis. I think a second revising chamber is a necessary check and balance, especially as it would not have the same majority as the Commons.

Martin Meenagh said...

I genuinely don't mean to be disputatious, but surely the best people to review legislation are people who are not members of the political class? We don't elect juries. How could you get a neurosurgeon, or a teacher, or an economics professor, or a QC into a proportional legislation chamber? Why should you? It would be like electing a jury, or a judge.

The better thing to do would be to vary the present system--people appointed for life by an independent committee, with non-membership of the political and media classes an added bonus. We already have too many MPs, too many councillors and--this is, for once, not a political dig--far too many MEPs.

In addition, as you've noted in political magazines, Mary, and as I've gone on at you about, being appointed by a PR system and claiming an electoral mandate because you've done your time in London as a researcher or an intern and then going off to play at being in Parliament is a sort of death ray for legitimacy. It gives the appearance of democracy but strips it of meaning.

It also leads to a process, of course, where the prejudices of the political class are imposed on everyone else. We lose intellectual diversity and become monocultures, and monocultures then rot.

I urge you to understand that that was not a backhanded swipe at you, by the way.

Chris Gale said...

Hi Martin

I think when it comes to passing laws and governing then there is no legitimacy in a group of people who are elected by nobody and accountable to nobody. We elect our MPs and the government to govern and they are accountable to us. Lord and Lady such and such are not accountable. The Americans get by pretty well with two elected chambers, why not us?
All our system with the House of Lords does is keep us trapped in the past like some museum.

Mary Honeyball said...

I welcome your comments whether we agree or not. On proportional representation I think that the current system could be improved. The South East constituency is the size and population of Austria approximately. Do people in Milton Keyes have a regional identity they share with those in Maidstone? I do not think so. Smaller seats would help. We could also look at systems like Germany's where candiadtes are elected in seats but then there is a top up list to ensure proportionality. In Sweden there is an "open list" so that people can vote for whichever candidate of the Party they support they prefer rather than being forced to vote in an order determined by a Party.

On your proposals I do not support life appointments, what happens when people's health deteriorates? Do we have people wheeld in when seriously ill to vote as happened in 1978/9?

I do not accept there is a political class you assert, but then you would expect me to say that wouldn't you.

To future debating.