Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich & Clacton, reviews the week that was in the House of Commons chamber.
And so it goes on. Another week of Parliamentary pretence; Ministers
pretend to be making the big decisions and we MPs pretend to hold them
Tuesday’s performance of the European Scrutiny Committee demonstrated
this rather well. Foreign Secretary David Miliband was grilled by MPs
wanting to know why people will not get a say on the EU Constitutional
Treaty through a referendum. Mr Miliband is no more able to justify
this grotesque fact than you or me because it is no more his decision
than it is ours. Miliband’s biggest decisions at the Foreign Office
are on the wine list.
Like a long line of MPs in the role of Foreign Secretary, he is little
other than the department’s mouthpiece, expected to justify Sir
Humphry’s actions in Parliament and on the Today programme. Indeed
several times during the committee session, Miliband had to turn to the
Sir Humphry-types sitting beside him to clarify his lines. Normally
departmental mouthpieces (sorry, Ministers) have learnt what to say
about "red lines" et al fully before going through the charade of
appearing before MPs.
The phoneyness of the government position prompted the irrepressible
Bill Cash to table an Early Day Motion demanding a referendum "before
or after ratification". Three cheers, Bill!
Even if this fag-end of a government signs us up to this technocratic
treaty, the Conservatives must insist on a referendum. That is called
consistency, and like its close relation authenticity, it is a rare and
precious commodity in politics today.
Indeed, we must go further and recognise we will never get the
enlightened foreign policy Britain so desperately needs as long as vile
Sir Humphry at the Foreign Office remains beyond meaningful democratic
accountability. Parliament alone no longer provides that – as this
week has again shown.
Peter Bone (Wellingborough) introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill to make
it compulsory for under 14 year olds to wear cycle helmets. I am
assuming this is only when they are on a bike?
While not a classic liberal position, Peter argued his points well. Of
course, this Bill stands little chance of becoming law. It is not
those we elect to Parliament who make our laws and more, but a myriad
of quangos and officials. If Sir Humphrey wanted this measure
introduced, it would be done in ten minutes, not a Ten Minute Rule Bill.
Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) cut to the chase with excellent questions
during the defence debate. Are we spending enough on defence (and
spending it the right way), given the massive tasks we have set for our
armed forces? As the debate showed, it will take more than wee Des
Browne, Defence Ministry mouthpiece, to answer.
Also on the ball was Philip Davies (Shipley). He asked Parmjit Dhanda,
during Local Government questions, about the impact of immigration on
housing. Mr Dhanda, despite being one of the more able Labour
frontbenchers tried to brush Davies aside, as if he had been
impertinent. Always a mistake with Davies, one of the most cheerful
and determined MPs in Westminster.
As MPs headed off to their constituencies on Friday, news emerges that
next year MPs will sit for even fewer days. Perhaps some might be
forgiven for asking what Parliament is for. I instinctively dislike the
idea of politicians sitting in Westminster looking for new ways to tax
and regulate us. Yet, so much is rotten with the way our country is
run. So much is wrong with the direction we are moving in. But
Parliament seems incapable of holding those with executive power to
account for any of it.
We don’t just need a change of government; we need to change how we are governed as well.