Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Had That Ken Clarke in the Back of My Cab Once...

Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force has issued its interim report today. It's not the most exciting report I have ever seen but it does set out the parameters for a return to proper Cabinet government and a respect for Parliament. He wants to strengthen the Ministerial Code and also ensure that Parliament would always vote before the armed forces were ordered into action. Crucially he also wants to see the number of Special Advirsors halved, something we should all welcome. Here's his chat with WebCameron from the back of a cab...



The report makes the following recommendations...

* A system to entrench a process of collective Cabinet government. This will require a new and strengthened Ministerial Code, covering the required procedures for approval of policies by Cabinet
* To give the new Ministerial Code authority it must be approved by a Parliamentary resolution
* The responsibility for monitoring the Code should be taken out of the hands of the Prime Minister and placed in the hands of a body with powers comparable to those of the National Audit Office, reporting to a Parliamentary Committee
* The Committee on Standards in Public Life to establish a code of conduct for government publications and advertising campaigns
* Decisions to go to war or to commit troops to areas of conflict should require Parliamentary approval. Decisions on war making should no longer rest solely on the unfettered use of the Royal Prerogative by the Prime Minister
* Treaties with financial, legal or territorial implications for the United Kingdom or its citizens should require Parliamentary approval before ratification and should no longer involve the use of the Royal Prerogative

40 comments:

Helen said...

Respect for Parliament, eh? What of all that legislation (about 75 or 80 per cent) that either bypasses Parliament completely or cannot be rejected by it? Hint: it comes from Brussels. Second hint: Clarke has never been known to oppose the idea.

Anonymous said...

It's a step diagonally rather than forward. More power to Ministers to favour party rather than the public interest, subject to greater scrutiny by MPs in hock to the party Whips? Doesn't sound much like progress to me. Perhaps the Tories should consider

1. No more honours for party or political service. If people want a gong they should have to do something for the greater good.

2. Ministers to hand over decision-making on many technical issues to independent experts who would be accountable to Select Committees. Ministers could "opt in" in clearly defined circumstances.

3. Internal evidence and advice to Ministers, and not just Cabinet papers as proposed by Clarke, should be published unless an independent tribunal rules that security and commercial confidentiality concerns should prevail.

Colin D said...

With the exception of europe, Ken Clarke is probably the best PM, we never had. He likes a smoke, a drink and a giggle. Much better than the mind changing alternatives of recent years. IDS, The yorkie fella et hoc.

Mike Kingscott said...

Try this: All MPs to be paid £100k a year BUT can have no other job or source of income AT ALL (no seats on boards, etc). No travel perks for rank-and-file MPs, i.e. they must drive, take the train or bus, etc. MPs in the cabinet should have experience in the area they are responsible for. Do away with the 24-hour bars with no duty and VAT in Westminster. In other words, make the job of an MP just like any other job - then perhaps we will get people in those jobs who are genuinely interested in improving the country.

Alastair said...

Decisions to go to war or to commit troops to areas of conflict should require Parliamentary approval. Decisions on war making should no longer rest solely on the unfettered use of the Royal Prerogative by the Prime Minister

Imagine we can hit a terrorist cell responsible for the death of say, 500 UK citizens - just inside the border of Syria. MilInt knows they're there, due to a unmanned aircraft's video feed. The military can strike, but they have to do it fast, say within 20 minutes.

We have to wait for Parliament to vote on it first?

Shortsighted.

Helen said...

"In other words, make the job of an MP just like any other job - then perhaps we will get people in those jobs who are genuinely interested in improving the country."

Shouldn't think so, Mike. After all, it is not a job like any other job. What you will get is people who know even less about the world outside the political bubble than they do now. What use is that to anyone? Why not go the other way and stop paying them altogether?

Chris Paul said...

This is a good sensible package of common sense ideas. Hardly rocket science. I cannot believe it is any different from government proposals which are floating round the house. I therefore find Ken's challenge to Brown to nick "his" ideas as a very amusing jape, though Dizzy has been taking my attitude to task, rather unfairly IMHO. I have had to explain myself several times!

Chris Paul said...

Mike's suggestion is not bad at all. Could also have a requirement of X years WORK before going into parliament and to sit FoC on some charity boards to keep their hand in real world wise.

And it's not just the Tories who are at it. Blunkett gets £3000 a week to write trite column in Sun. It would take a hack paid £15 an hour 2 hours or less. Possibly one hour. So Blunk is getting 10-20 times the going rate for the job.

He should get a blog and tell us for free what he thinks about all sorts of things he doesn't really know that much about.

Chris Paul said...

Sorry - reading this in backward order - anon 2:49pm is right on 1 on 2 and yes on 3.

Tomorrow's Casino debate is a case in point yet MPs - I think politically opportunist MPs - are planning to scupper the whole thing for the fun of it. My city - Manchester - to lose out.

Blackpool would not be 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice and this is discernible from the report.

Anonymous said...

Actually, this is a really stupid idea. The Prime Minister should be accountable for his ministry's actions to parliament, it's not a matter for some committee of the unelected great and the good.

All this would do is weaken parliament by taking away its responsibilities. But, yes, it probably would have forced Major's own resignation when he lied to parliament about talks with the IRA.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 2.49 - why not dispense with that nonsense of an election while we are at it?

Anonymous said...

Ken's Favourite Pastime - sitting in the back of car, being chauffeured from one large building to another.

That man could Sit for England. Oh, sorry, he already has, at Maastricht. What a success he made of that.

Tom said...

Anonymongs and astroturfers are against it so it must be a good idea.

Roger Thornhill said...

Anon 2.49
2. Ministers to hand over decision-making on many technical issues to independent experts who would be accountable to Select Committees. Ministers could "opt in" in clearly defined circumstances.


Problem with this is we end up with an unelected technocracy. We have enough unaccountable "experts" fiddling with education etc as it is.

What we need are ministers who actually know about the department they head up or at least have the mental capacity to grasp it.

Who do we have now? Harmann, Hodge, Blears, Mili, Reid, Hewitt. What a bunch of low energy bulbs!

verity said...

Re the ad-link to Conservatives Overseas on your site, Iain, just for the benefit of others living overseas, they don't bother to answer their emails. And their phone is an answer-phone. It doesn't seem to be worth the effort of trying to get in touch with them.

Chris Paul said...

Er, sorry Blunkett getting 100 to 200 times rate for scribbling job. Not 10 to 20. Abbot likewise. Cameron likewise etc etc.

What about the casino debate and the prospect of MPs who have handed a task to an independent body that has picked Manchester tearing up their report, and in the process delaying greenwich, Blackpool etc possibly getting theirs in a couple of years' time?

hatfield girl said...

Mr Clarke suggests,
'* Treaties with financial, legal or territorial implications for the United Kingdom or its citizens should require Parliamentary approval before ratification and should no longer involve the use of the Royal Prerogative'

But what is the status of the following assurance (on the ratification of the EU constitution by the current Labour administration) now that the Berlin Declaration has been signed?

"The Treaty must be approved according to the constitutional requirements of each Member State before it can come into force. In the UK, this process will consist of a number of stages. The Government will first introduce a Bill to Parliament which will give effect to the Treaty in UK law subject to a referendum, and create provision for that referendum to take place. Once Parliament has debated the major issues and after an extensive public debate, the British people will have their say on the Treaty in the referendum. If all Member States, including the UK, have approved it by then, the Treaty will come into force on 1 November 2006."

May we still expect the same ratification procedure and a referendum on the new European Constitution or did these assurances fall by the wayside when Blair declared there was no point in a referendum after its rejection by those of France and the Netherlands?

Will the slimmed-down EU constitution be ratified in the UK under royal prerogative in the dog days of a failed Blair and unelected Brown premiership?

Blairs Batchelor Drinking Buddy said...

This post made me think of Blair's tenure and I remembered this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxrd_jZJxkg
Pretty much sums him up.

Miles said...

Some decent points on democracy by Pink Ken - but if your lot were in power they'd give it short shrift.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Anon 2.49
2. Ministers to hand over decision-making on many technical issues to independent experts who would be accountable to Select Committees. Ministers could "opt in" in clearly defined circumstances.

That's more or less how Europe works. It assumes the experts/bureaucrats do a better job than politicians. But they don't.

tom_r said...

Seems sensible enough, but I thought the idea of the policy groups was to capture the imagination of the British public and show that the Conservative Party has got real substance?

Not sure that's been achieved here.

garypowell said...

I have an answer to both the cash for peerages and the funding of political parties problems.

Let all political parties that get over 3% of the vote sell at least one peerage, for say 1 million each. With an extra one 'freely convertable peerage' for every 3% extra of the vote.

Any individual smart enough to have an, HONEST tax paid, spare million to throw around, has to be worth their place in the Lords for that reason alone.

No SO CALLED free peerages should ever exsist for any reason, unless directly selected and elected by the people. As all sane experienced people should know, there is no such thing as an honest free lunch, anywhere in the entire universe.

Mr Hush Puppies please take note.

Anonymous said...

This is the guy who could have given you a sporting chance of winning the last election,why did you not make him your leader? Too late for poor old Ken now unfortunately, and the fact that he sells cigarettes is a great pity not only for what folks will think of him, but for the folk who buy his product.His time has been and gone much like the people who once listened to what he had to say.

Anonymous said...

Tom said...

Anonymongs and astroturfers are against it so it must be a good idea.

I fail to see why an anonymous posting should be treated with contempt when the only information you choose to supply is the fact you are male and live in Wiltshire ?!?

Anonymous said...

Miles said...

Some decent points on democracy by Pink Ken - but if your lot were in power they'd give it short shrift.

Got to agree with Miles just look at the old cobblers the Labour Party told to get into power.

Anonymous said...

If politicians are so much better than independent experts at making technical decisions, let's put them back in charge of setting interest rates, competition cases, constituency boundaries and the Immigration and Nationality Department. While we're at it, let's give them a say in all court judgements.

Whether they are fair and reasonable or not, their party politicking has lost them the trust of most people, and with that goes trust in the policy process as a whole. Some may regard reading a brief at the Despatch Box as accountability, but there is no reason why members of the Competition Commission, MPC or CAA can't be made just as liable as Ministers to true parliamentary scrutiny by committees.

If the Tories want people to trust them, they will have to address the perception that politicians make decisions for party first and for the country second. Some elevation from run of the mill issues (after setting parameters and deciding on resources)could help them.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

anonymous 2.49 - why not dispense with that nonsense of an election while we are at it?

And don't think Tony has not given that some thought,if only I could ............

Anonymous said...

Like the bit at the end about territory. Hey, didn't that old bag (Mrs T, as if you didn't know) give away Hong Kong with the Royal perogative?

judith said...

I had to listen to Ken Clarke's windbag waffle at the London Hustings when he was trying for Leadership against IDS. He bored everyone rigid, and although I tried to take notes on what he was saying, in order to report back, I found it was like trying to knit fog.

Just because he is fat and faux jolly doesn't and didn't mean he would make a good Party Leader or PM.

Laurence Boyce said...

“Mr Hush Puppies please take note.”

Ken Clarke does not wear Hush Puppies – this is an all too common misrepresentation. He wears Church’s shoes.

Anonymous said...

Who the fuck is this Chris 'never mind the quality feel the quantity of posts' Paul ? He isn't a politician is he ? Saints preserve us...

Ross F said...

Ken's proposals don't appear to contain any suggestions for curtailing the transfer of power from local government to national government (let alone to the EU), a practice which is far more damaging to accountable government than anything else in my view.

Mike Kingscott said- { Try this: All MPs to be paid £100k a year BUT can have no other job or source of income AT ALL}

Won't this make MPs extremely dependent on their parties and less inclined to take stands which may result in deselection? It would reinforce the tendancy of politicians to become lobby fodder for the party whips.

Sir Francis Walsingham said...

If MPs become totally dependent on their salary, they you will have to ban them from having jobs afterwards. Standard proceedure is for a politican to finish their career with a number of non-executive directorships... for companies they were involved with during their parlimentry career

gammarama.co.uk said...

Yes yes yes, all very good in theory... but its hard not to be cynical, once (if?!) the tories get back in power, this will all be forgotten, and will not be put in place in the way that it is being put forward so sincerely by Mr Clarke.

Anonymous said...

Yeah - thanks to Ken and his ilk, we are in fact governed by a cabinet, but it sits in Brussels and it's called the European Commission.

Hush Puppies said...

Oh I remember Ken Clarke!

Popular in the country, successful record as Chancellor. Independent, thoughtful and principled.

Kind of bloke who'd have been perfect as Leader if he'd ever stood.

What? He did?

Oh, we ended up with Hague, Duncan-Smith, Howard and Cameron?

Well, I'm sure we made the right choice.

Mike Kingscott said...

@Helen: "Shouldn't think so, Mike. After all, it is not a job like any other job. What you will get is people who know even less about the world outside the political bubble than they do now. What use is that to anyone?"

That's a fair point (it's a not a job like any other); I was just trying to make a point that people should be in politics for the right reason, not because of the perks, contacts, contracts, etc. (see Blunkett's £3k for a Sun column for example). I guess I'm just an idealist...

Tear said...

I think that Ken Clarke's ideas are not necessarily bad! It's just that it wont work so long as MP's act like nodding toy dogs sitting on the rear parcel shelf of a car. The "whip" system would have to be withdrawn for this to work. In fact, it should be withdrawn anyway to make parliament more democratic. Maybe then our MP's would pay heed to their consituents instead of some gormless twit's idiotic idea-of-the-week!

bing crosby's stunt double said...

This almost (but not quiiiite) recognises the problems caused by misused of the Statutory Instrument, and of using Select Committees to squish debate on key issues.

What's that, Flipper? Ken Clarke's the chappie who tried to squish debate on ERM II through leaning on the Select Committee? Oh well, never mind.

what is still buried? said...

Its gone beyond self-regulation, nobody will believe it unless it comes from outside.

We need a full inquiry into the sleaze of this government, the only credible route is to have an amnesty for all whistle blowers so we find out how bad it is. This should be done as soon as blair steps down.