Category Archives: Unit 2

How important are backbenchers?

Backbenchers are Members of Parliament who do not have ministerial roles, be this in the Government or as part of the Shadow Cabinet. Their importance is highly debatable, with their potential for impact upon the legislative cycle being weighed up against the significant impact party politics, patronage and discipline has on mediating these powers. Ultimately, this essay shall conclude that backbenchers only have any real or significant importance beyond their constituency roles where they band together to produce certain outcomes, such as in backbench rebellions. Continue reading

To what extent has the power of the Prime Minister increased in recent years?

In the last 50 years of British politics, a series of Prime Ministers have been seen to utilise prime ministerial powers in as increasingly independent and arguably presidential way. However, have the powers of the Prime Minister actually increased, or have a number of recent Prime Ministers simply been more bold in harnessing the powers in place and more smart in managing and tackling the political environment of the United Kingdom? The latter currently seems far more tenable for reasons that will further be discussed. Continue reading

Does Parliament still remain sovereign?

Parliament is seen as the sovereign body because it has absolute and unlimited legal authority, reflected in its ability to make, amend and repeal any laws it wishes. However, there are doubts about the accuracy and continuing relevance of parliamentary sovereignty to reasons such as the joining to the EU, devolution and the implantation of the Human Rights Act. Continue reading

Is the UK constitution no longer fit for its purpose?

The constitution is a set of rules by which a country is run, it establishes the distribution of power within a political system, relationships between political institutions, the limits of government jurisdiction and the rights of citizens. However, these functions have been criticised and it could now be said that the UK constitution specifically is no longer fit for its purpose. Continue reading

To what extent has the powers of the Prime Minister grown in recent years?

In recent years, it has been noticed that various Prime ministers have attempted to reduce the amount of formal powers they have, largely due to public and political pressure. Whilst formal powers derived from the Prime Minister’s prerogative have decreased, there has been a growth in prime ministers exercising their use of informal powers that give the PM undefined authority. This was particularly the case in the Blair years when he was accused of manipulating government through the use of informal powers to suit his own interests. However, these powers are subject to the limitations that appear in government at any one time, with each prime minister facing different challenges, such as growing  back bench activism, in Cameron’s case, or decreasing popularity in the case of Brown.  Continue reading

Corbyn’s Labour Shadow Cabinet

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is one like we’ve never seen before, comprising of MP’s from diverging ends of the left wing spectrum of politics. He has appointed a cabinet that to some extent can be viewed as a milestone for gender equality in British politics with female ministers outnumbering male ministers 16 to 15 but at the same time it has been denounced for assigning women to mediocre or ‘junior’ positions. However, despite the new found egalitarianism on the grounds of gender there remains a significant under-representation of ethnic minorities with only 3 of the 31 shadow ministers coming from black or Asian backgrounds. Corbyn’s cabinet is also far older than its predecessors, with an average age of 53 as well as consisting of more previously rebellious MPs, with Corbyn himself having defied the party whip over 500 times and John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, having done so 469 times since 1997.

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Video: How effective is Prime Minister’s Question Time?

Go behind the scenes to see how Prime Minister’s Questions really works. With unprecedented access, cameras have been allowed to film in the House of Commons chamber to show what happens at the most high profile event in Parliament each week. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, tells us about his nerves before the event. We learn how an MP gets to ask a question. One way is by a ballot. Another way is by ‘bobbing’, standing up in the chamber to try and be called by the Speaker. Backbench MPs reveal how their parties try to control proceedings, including an email sent out suggesting ‘helpful’ questions. The value of Prime Minister’s Questions divides opinion inside and outside the House of Commons; is it an effective way to scrutinise the government?

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Why is the power of the whips in decline?

The whips are a group of MPs who are in charge of party discipline. It is their job to make sure MPs on their side all vote with the party line. They are notoriously secretive about the way they work and have a reputation for using torture and blackmail against MPs. But here, whips from all three major parties tell us about their role and how it is changing. Labour Chief Whip Rosie Winterton tells us how they try to convince MPs of the merits of the argument. We learn through Conservative Whip Desmond Swayne that they are in charge of what office an MP gets, which can be used to persuade them. Under the coalition government, MPs in this parliament have voted against their party in record numbers. Don Foster, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, tells us how difficult it is as a whip in a coalition, where there is a natural split between the two governing parties. As their job becomes more difficult, is the power of the whips in decline? Continue reading

How has the UK constitution been challenged since 2010?

How does the House of Commons respond when there is a challenge to Britain’s uncodified constitution? First we look at the prospect of Scottish Independence in September 2014. With the real chance of Scottish people voting to leave the United Kingdom, the way that the House of Commons functions might have to change. Politicians and officials throughout Westminster brace themselves for one of the biggest constitutional shifts the country has seen. The next example is a new law proposed by the government called the ‘Recall Bill’. It allows for MPs to be sacked by their constituents for serious wrongdoing. Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith thinks it doesn’t go far enough and we follow him as he tries to get enough support to challenge the government. What do his proposals mean for democracy? Does it give voters more direct influence on their MP? Or does it make MPs vulnerable to business and lobbying interests? We follow the story right up to the crucial vote in the House of Commons. Continue reading

Have attempts at constitutional reforms in recent years been driven more by political considerations?

Over the recent years many attempts to reform Britain’s uncodified constitution has been motivated by political reasons, what could be termed low politics. While previous reforms can be, arguably, more aimed at creating a more democratic and codified constitution, most reforms have been nothing more than political tactics to win votes and solidify power. Blair’s Human Rights Act, judicial reform and Freedom of Information Act can be used as examples of constitutional reform aimed at creating a clearer codified constitution that outlines British citizen’s rights, creates a more independent judiciary as well as improving civil liberties. However, these reforms did not go far enough and Cameron’s proposal for boundary changes and further devolution to Northern cities are no more than political strategies to consolidate power. Therefore, attempts at constitutional reform in recent years have been driven more by political considerations than a want for genuine reform. Continue reading

To what extent have government proposals to reform the constitution been controversial?

In 2011 the coalition introduced the fixed term parliament act as a result of the Coalition agreement,  which in effect meant UK elections are now fixed to the first week in May every five years. This was welcomed by the LibDems, Labour and some Conservatives as the previous system was seen as giving an advantage to the Prime Minister who could call an election at the most advantageous time for them (as was the case under Blair where he called elections in 2001 and 2005, four years into his first and second terms and famously in 2007 when Brown flinched from calling an early election which he would probably have won). The old system would also mean there was always a period of uncertainty as to when an election would be called, this was seen to be bad for economic decision making. However there has also been criticisms to the new reform, some have argued that knowing the date a long time in advance will lead to longer election campaigns, a lack of flexibility and the possibility of a ‘lame duck’ government limping on longer than it should. The last Coalition seemed to have run out of steam in 2014, leaving a year were no real substantial pieces of legislation were presented to parliament. Clegg disputed this, believing that five years was “going with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution”. Despite some disputes against the Act support was given by most parties, with little opposition or disagreement, aside from Conservative back benchers. Continue reading

How effective are Backbenchers in the House of Commons

Backbenchers form the majority of MPs on both sides in the House of Commons, but the extent of their effectiveness is questionable given the power of the executive

One way in which they are not effective is that they are mainly controlled and curtailed by the whips system, meaning despite revolts on 37% of divisions between 2010 and the present, the government has only been defeated 7 times in the Commons. The rebellions rarely exceed a dozen of the most radical Tory MPS, and the governments working majority of over 70 means they are rarely effective at forming a resistance to the power of the executive. However the few defeats there have been are often significant- for example the 2013 Syrian civil war motion was defeated by 30 Tory rebel MPS and this in turn stopped the US going to war- seriously affecting global geopolitics in the Middle East.

Backbenchers introducing private members bills are also constrained by lack of time. If the executive does not grant a private members bill adequate time for debate it will rarely get through the many stages of the legislative process. For example in 2012 Douglas Carswell, who was a Conservative MP at the time, proposed a private members bill to repeal the 1972 European communities act. It did not pass the first reading. The executive is solely in control over private members bill and very few will ever pass unless they support it at which point it ceases to be a private members bill in all but official title. According to the Guardian between 2009-2010 of the 77 private members bills tabled, only 7 received Royal Assent. However private members bills are often effective at making a point, the previously mentioned example proving Douglas Carswells euroscepticism.

Select Committees are a relevantly recent innovation of the House of Commons, and they allow backbenchers to hold inquires far more intelligent and probing than the spectacle debates in the Commons debate chamber. Often these committees are very effective, for example an inquiry into the preparedness of the government for the 2010 Icelandic volcano by the Science Select committee likely influenced the executive to be more prepared in the future. However findings of select committees are rarely as publicly known as debate chamber sound bites, so few know of the work they do and thus politicians are at liberty to ignore them as they see fit.

Finally a post 2010 reform of the House of Commons introduced the Backbench Business Committee, which is a forum for backbenchers to debate topical issues of the day. A prominent example was when on November 20th 2014 Conservative MP Steve Baker conducted the first debate in the Commons on money creation for over 150 years, a debate supported by prominent backbench MPS Michael Meecher (Labour), Douglas Carswell (UKIP) and Caroline Lucas (Green). The debate was widely watched on Youtube and educated many on the flaws of current monetary policy in a way not hindered by party whips or political correctness. However again due to limited time, and many debate motions wishing to be discussed, the Backbench Business Committee is limited in their ability to serve the interests of all backbench MPs, let alone the large number of e-petitions

In conclusion, while backbenchers are having more of an influence in recent years, the executive still has a strong stranglehold over them and their activities, and thus they are really limited in their effectiveness in shaping world events.

The Snoopers Charter- Supporters and detractors

The Draft Communications Data Bill (nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter) is draft legislation proposed by the Home Secretary Theresa May which would require Internet service providers and mobile phone companies such as BT, Virgin and Sky to maintain records (but not the content) of each user’s internet browsing activity (including social media), email correspondence, voice calls, internet gaming, and mobile phone messaging services and store the records for 12 months.

 

 

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Arguments against an elected Lords

One argument against an elected second chamber is the danger that it could become a ‘mirror image’ of the Commons. People would be likely to vote along their usual party lines, meaning that Lords would have to focus on political tactics to get elected, such as charisma, rather than expertise. Many current Lords are human rights experts (which has been very significant in relation to the Human Rights Act) or other examples of the growing ‘professionalism’ of the chamber, but these people would be less likely to stand for election or be successful. However, the fact that unelected people can decide on fundamental principles like human rights undermines Britain’s claim to be a modern democracy. Continue reading

How effective is the House of Commons?

The Commons could be argued to be effective in scrutinising the government through questions. Although main questions require advance warning to ministers, supplementary ones do not, and ministers are expected to regularly appear to be ‘interrogated’. ‘Urgent Questions’ can be particularly effective – in 2012, Education Secretary Michael Gove had to seriously consider GCSE reforms after they were met with opposition in the Commons. This showed that questions can help in the function of holding the government to account. However, the scripted nature of rituals like PMQ’s means that it can be more of a media contest between leaders than an actual way to find out details of government policy. Continue reading

Maria Miller’s Mortgage Misconduct

Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke resigned on Wednesday as the Conservative Culture Secretary. She was accused of claiming £90,000 in expenses towards mortgage payments for her second home in south London for four years. This was published in the Daily Telegraph in 2010 with the Telegraph claiming that Mrs Miller’s actions were breaching the rules for parliamentary allowances. These rules were implemented in 2010 after the wake of the MPs expenses scandal where MPs were banned from claiming mortgage interest on second homes, with tax-payer’s money. The MPs expenses scandal was made public in 2009 after a campaign by freedom campaigners using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that allowed citizens to enquire about the expenses of MPs. Continue reading

The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record

The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record

 

The NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden to Glen Greenwald (former Guardian journalist) from June 2013 exposed the extent of international surveillance by, supposedly democratic governments, across the world. The leaks found Britain’s intelligence agency (GCHQ) working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA) to bypass each other’s national laws for the sake of internet and communications surveillance. The leaks revealed that not only under the Coalition but under Labour, governments had been acting without any consent, collecting ‘meta data’ on mass, without even cabinet ministers’ knowledge.

Many feel that the NSA and GCHQ have gone too far and that collecting hundreds of billions of international internet and telephone data items is a threat to their civil liberties. Edward Snowden, a self-proclaimed libertarian, perhaps with similar views to the conservative party on migration and welfare, did not intend to harm people’s safety; he also insists that he has not leaked information to Chinese or Russian officials. On an internet forum he once stated that leakers of classified information should be “shot in the balls”.  But after being revealed the extent of the surveillance; he knew that citizens should be properly informed.

After looking at the government’s failure to implement surveillance law in the past, it is clear why this information was kept secret.  Under Labour, the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), a government initiative which meant internet and telephone providers are to store email and telephone contacts for twelve months received strong criticism from the Conservatives . And yet, while in government Theresa May proposed furthering the IMP under the Communications Data Bill (nicknamed the snoopers charter) which would require Internet and mobile providers to keep records of each user’s internet browsing, voice calls, emails, mobile phone messages and even internet gaming for twelve months.

This legislation has not been enacted into law, as even the deputy PM Nick Clegg withdrew his support April last year. He stated that, he had a number of serious criticisms – not least on scope, proportionality, cost (estimated £1.8 billion), checks and balances, and the need for much wider consultation” . A survey on YouGov found that 71% of Britons “did not trust that the data will be kept secure”, and half described the proposal as “bad value for the money.” Therefore the bill was dropped.

However the NSA leaks, revealed after the Communications Data Bill, are much more widespread and intrusive than the Data Bill would have been. Many have criticised the Conservative’s reaction to the leaks,  70 leading human rights organisations have written an open letter to Cameron in anger of the government’s minimal reaction. Also they criticised the detention of David Miranda another Guardian Journalist under the Terrorism Act 2000 . Nick Clegg has been critical of the government in light of the NSA leaks, and Ed Miliband states thatLabour will make substantial changes to the oversight of British Intelligence agencies.”

The leaks show that the UK government has acted irresponsibly with no accountability. They say ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’; maybe this should be said to our government.

 

Luke Williams

Tories plan to scrap the Human Rights Act

The Conservatives plan to scrap the Human rights Act

After World War Two the European Convention of Human Rights was created to prohibit any breach of our basic human rights. This was a convention signed by European countries, so in order for it to be enforced you had to take the long road to Strasbourg for a decision to be made. The Human Rights Act was passed in 1998 so the UK could clarify and safeguard the rights of its people through bringing the ECHR on UK statute. Examples of these rights include the right to life and the right to a fair trial.

Theresa May vowed to scrap the Human Rights Act back in September should the Tories win the next general election. The Home Secretary also spoke of a new Immigration Bill that would allow an easier deportation if there was no risk of serious harm to the deportee. It is understood that this is a reaction to the extensive effort to deport hate preacher Abu Qatada. Considering the consequences, Theresa May confirmed the Conservative Party are also prepared to leave the European Convention of Human Rights if necessary. In 2011, David Cameron suggested the repeal of the Human Rights Act. Cameron proposed the UK should have its own British Bill of Rights similar to the United States that would result in an entrenched law in our seemingly uncodified constitution, however it seems those plans are now on the back burner. The Conservatives were never particularly in favour of the Act and it is probably the Liberal Democrats that have been their major obstacle in trying to remove it.

The Labour Party has completely supported the Human Rights Act since its inception in 1998. Labour MP Sadiq Khan has been very open in defending The Human Rights Act as well as criticising the “myths” (as he describes) surrounding it. The Liberal Democrats share the same view to Labour.  In March 2007, Lord Lester (Lib Dem peer) was quoted in the House of Lords that the act has “strong Lib Dem support”. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also defended The Human Rights Act claiming it protects the vulnerable.

Should Labour or the Lib Dems (highly unlikely) gain a majority in 2015 then we can expect little or no change to the Human Rights Act. However, if the Conservatives win with a majority we could see a drastic change in the way our rights are defined in this country.

 

Harry Camci

Cameron VS the Liberal Democrats: The Green Tax Promise

 

David Cameron is said to be going back on his word about green taxes despite obligations from Lib Dems.

 

David Cameron has come under fire for his statement on reviewing energy bills. The Prime Minister said that the green taxes had helped push up household bills to “unacceptable” prices, but a source close to the prime minister said his message in private was blunter than that. He is claimed to have said, “We’ve got to get rid of all this green crap.” Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in December will set out new plans to reduce the impact of environmental impacts on fuel bills. The changes have set out to cause disruptions in the coalition government because the Lib Dems vowed to prevent in any falls in levies during this parliament.

 

The Lib Dems are also keen to keep the green taxes, arguing they are essential to creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply for the UK. Cameron wants to scrap most of the charges, which help subsidise wind farms and pay for home insulation. But Nick Clegg is insisting they must stay despite Cameron stating “We need to roll back some of the green regulations and charges,”  during Prime Minister’s Questions. His decision to review energy levies came after three of the “big six” energy firms announced price rises of between 8% and 10%, as well as pressure from Labour leader Ed Miliband who is vowing to freeze energy prices if he comes to power in 2015. Cameron once pledged back in 2010 that he would lead the “greenest government ever” and even travelled, in 2006, to the Arctic Circle with a pack of huskies to highlight his concern about climate change. He applied to put a wind turbine on the roof of his family home and was repeatedly pictured cycling to the Commons – though this backfired when it emerged his shoes and papers followed in a car.

 

Yet, his stance on government ideologies about the environment seemed to have changed when faced with pressure in the House of Commons. Tory high command has also privately abandoned Mr Cameron’s pre-election mantra ‘vote blue, go green’. To defend his decision on regulating green taxes after promising to be the “greenest government ever”, he answered, ‘we have got the world’s first green investment bank, we have got great support for our green technology industries and we have got the first nuclear power station since 1995’. ‘This is a government investing in important green technologies’, Cameron defiantly states, when asked by journalists whether he still believed in the environmental agenda.

 

According to Government figures, the green levies add £112 to a typical household bill. The money is then used to pay for loft insulation schemes and subsidies for renewable energy projects, under the Coalition’s rules. Downing Street sources said that, if there was no policy change, green levies could rise from the current £112 to £194 – or 14 per cent of the typical household bill – by 2020. Mr Cameron wants action to reduce the impact of the levies, the source said.

 

But, rather than trying to dictate prices or influence the global cost of energy, he said the government’s focus was on dealing with the aspects of energy bills it could control. After the review is held, there will be a competition test for the energy market to see how it is functioning. He said that he wants more energy companies so that consumers have greater choice. ‘I want more companies, I want better regulation, I want better deals for customers, but yes we need to roll back the charges that Mr Miliband put in place as energy secretary’. The reaction from some Lib Dem members hasn’t been too positive with a source accusing the Conservatives of a “panicky U-turn”.

 

“Everybody knows the Tories are getting cold feet on the environment” the source said.

 

“The Tories have put no properly worked up policies in front of us. But we will not allow a panicky U-turn during PMQs to dictate Government policy. However where the similarities ended between the Lib Dem party was when Nick Clegg said green levies are not ‘all crap’ and added that Mr Cameron agrees with him. A Conservative MP and environmentalist Zac Goldsmith criticised both Cameron and Miliband on twitter “In 2010, leaders fought to prove they were the greenest. Three years on, they’re desperately blaming their own policies on the other. Muppets.” This came after Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron were seen arguing with each other during Prime Minister’s Question Time, when Miliband said that 60% of green taxes had been introduced by the current government and reminded the Prime Minister of his stated ambition to lead the “greenest government” ever.

 

“He really is changing his policy every day of the week. His energy secretary says it is nothing to do with green taxes. And who is the man who said ‘Vote blue to go green’? It was him.” To which Mr Cameron made a statement in response to a question from Conservative MP Brian Binley, he said:  “It simply is the politics of the con man to pretend that you can freeze prices when you’re not in control of global energy prices, but the proper approach is to look at what’s driving up bills and deal with it.”

 

Abigail Owusu

The Timeline of the UK’s Uncodified Constitution

Timeline of the UK’s constitutional changes

The role of a constitution is to organise, distribute and regulate state power. By doing so, the constitution creates the structure of the state and sets out the principles of governing for the state’s citizens, whilst also outlining the role of government. Britain is unusual in that it has an ‘unwritten’ constitution. Unlike the great majority of countries, such as the USA, there is no single legal document which sets out in one place the fundamental laws outlining how the state works. Thus, Britain’s lack of a ‘written’ constitution is often explained via its history. In other countries, many of whom have experienced revolution (E.G. France) or regime change, it has been necessary to start from scratch or begin from first principles, constructing new state institutions and defining in detail their relations with each other and their citizens.

The British Constitution has evolved over a long period of time, reflecting the relative stability of the British Government. Britain has never truly been close to a written constitution, although the Liberal Democrats portray their great interest as shown in their wish for a political reform whereby Britain becomes codified. The Lib Dem’s pledge that they  “will involve the people in producing a written constitution” evidently indicates they are oblivious to the fact that Britain is not susceptible to change, particularly when it is mostly producing a strong government. Of course, there is the other matter that parties and politicians are infamous for failing to keep their promises made before the elections, lets see, tuition fees, tax cut for millionaires, mansion tax – hence, another major reason citizens may lack faith in the Liberal Democrat’s desire for a codified constitution.

 

Presently, what Britain obtains is an accumulation of various statutes, conventions, judicial decisions and treaties which collectively can be referred to as the British Constitution. Today we now refer to Britain’s constitution as an ‘uncodified’ constitution, rather than an ‘unwritten’ one. By accurate definition, an uncodified constitution means there is no single document which explains how we are governed. Instead constitutional experts point to a number of treaties, laws and conventions (another word for ‘habits’) which together make up the constitution. These include: Continue reading

The Split Coalition

Coalition United? I think not

When the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition in the aftermath of the general election of 2010, it was uncharted territory for the UK. Not only was it the first ever Coalition government between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in history but  was also the first time the Lib Dems gained some real political power in decades – poor Lib  Dems. So the people of Great Britain were naturally curious to see whether the new government would last. Leading members of the Coalition David Cameron and Nick Clegg have continuously said that they support the Coalition and that it is ‘getting things done’, but today, the cracks are appearing within this partnership of parties.

 

Firstly, one of the big cracks is this issue about the European Union. Now this causes a huge divide already within the Conservatives as they are naturally sceptical about the European Union. The fact that Tory backbenchers want to leave the EU is quite drastic compared to the leading Tory MPs such as the Rt Honourable and PM David Cameron who wants not to leave the EU. Instead, Cameron wishes to change the terms and conditions of the relationship Britain has with the EU, such as the matter of clashing with Brussels over a EU-China Trade and implementing a referendum in 2017, concerning whether Britain should stay in the EU. This is proposed of course,  if a Conservative government is re-elected. The Lib Dems on the other hand, are the most pro-EU party of the three main political parties. An example of this is Nick Clegg attacking UKIP calling them “unpatriotic” and Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary for the Treasury saying that “If you are anti-Europe, you are anti-business, anti-growth”.

 

Secondly, another difference within the coalition is the issue of same-sex marriage. The Lib Dems were completely for it, as Nick Clegg said “I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another”. Whereas on the other hand, the Conservatives were divided between some Tories who felt that gay marriage should be legalised such as David Cameron and others such as Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who rejected the notion and voted against it. It was such a divide within the Conservative party that David Cameron had to get the support of the Labour party to make sure that the bill would go through. Arguably, traditional conservatism was overruled by the popularity of the liberal approach.

 

Finally, the issue of the environment splits the two parties. Originally, David Cameron had rebranded the Conservatives as an eco-conscious party, using the slogan running up to the general election Vote Blue, Go Green’. But now he has distanced himself from green policies even as far saying ‘Get rid of the green crap’ according to the Sun. The Lib Dems on the other hand love the environment, and have made it hard for the Conservatives, resisting Tory plans to remove green taxes as Danny Alexander Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that they ‘are vital to Britain’s long-term commitments to funding renewable energy’.

 

To conclude, there are always cracks in a relationship, regardless if you can see them or not. But this Coalition has problems on the surface which could break the strength of relationship between the two parties. The question of whether we’ll have another coalition formed in the next general election is very much on the mind of the public and politicians. I suppose party leaders will have to contemplate sacrificing policies if there is to be a hung parliament, and they may indeed need to bear in mind this saying; ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’.

 

See the Independent for Alistair Campbell’s prediction of a Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition 2015

 

Kevin Augustine

Audio: ‘ECHR chief warns UK government on rights convention’

The President of the European Court of Human Rights, Dean Spielmann, has told the British government it would be difficult for Britain to remain in the EU if it were to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
His warning follows criticism of the court by some British judges, who say its rulings are making rather than interpreting the law. But Judge Spielmann told the Today programme’s Mike Thomson that even the highest British courts must take account of European judgements; failure to do so might require withdrawal from the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, and put at risk Britain’s EU membership. Continue reading

Audio: TPims ‘a necessary evil’

BBC Radio 4 Today discussion on TPims – the Coalition replacement to control orders

The usefulness of restrictions put on terror suspects by the home secretary may be “withering on the vine”, a group of MPs and peers has warned.
They said the next government in 2015 must “urgently address” the role and effectiveness of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPims).
David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, discusses. Continue reading

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th January 2014

Parliament Roundup – 13/01/14-19/01/14

 

Labour Speech

This week, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his shadow ministers will make speeches for the electorate in order to announce Labour’s upcoming plans. The speeches are designed to broaden the debate away from spending and the deficit. Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds made a speech on Tuesday reemphasising on Labour’s plans to build more than 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next Parliament in 2020 by stressing that we need to increase social housing. However, this might prove tricky for Labour as they will have to allow more borrowing in order to reach this ambitious goal. This goal in particular might be seen as Ed Miliband’s way of proving that Labour is not just about short term goals such as his established energy price freeze.

Euro sceptics unsatisfied

 

95 of Conservative backbenchers have recently signed a vote for the law to be changed for the House of Commons to veto new EU regulations. There has been much recent disagreement with this vote and William Hague recently said that it’s unrealistic to give every country a veto on EU law. The main issue is that the euro sceptics will never be satisfied by any of Cameron’s actions towards the European Union. It is very obvious that our relationship with Europe isn’t working but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should back out when we feel like it and tie the House Commons down with every EU law that is put in place. We can’t join an international treaty and then simply pick and choose what we like and what we don’t like, the whole point of being in union with Europe is to work together and compromise on some issues.  We also need to trust that Cameron is doing the best he can and we should simply let the people decide in 2017 in Cameron’s referendum promise whether or not they want to stay in the EU. Making the House of Commons veto every single EU regulation will not solve the deep underlying issues which Britain need to sort out with the EU.

PMQs

Ed Miliband and other members of his party have realised that there have been a slight decline in the number of people watching PMQs due to the programme becoming too much like a ‘Punch and Judy Show’ (starring himself and David Cameron). Therefore Miliband is attempting to act more civilized and ordered. So as to doing this, he is trying to find some areas where he and Cameron agree on certain issues. This was visible on Wednesday’s PMQs where Miliband, instead of beginning his questions rather loudly and impatiently towards Cameron, acted in a more ‘professional’ manner. We will see how long it will all last before his tantrums about the Cost of Living Crisis begins again

Miliband questioned Cameron about The Royal Bank of Scotland asking the government to approve bonuses to 100% on multi million pound salaries. It seemed like he was willing to talk about this issue in an orderly manner whereas Cameron resulted to attacking him again about the failures of the labour government to handle the issues with RBS. David Cameron even went as far as stating that Miliband should be apologising of the mess that they made of RBS in the first place.

Other News

– David Cameron will announce that the government will give new incentives to allow shale gas/fracking development .Councils will get more than 1.7 million pounds a year for these sites. See the Guardian for more detail

 

Gloria Ganda

The Coalition Welfare Reforms Explained

Coalition Welfare reforms

Job Seekers Allowance (JSA): The Department for Work and Pensions have set up schemes aimed at getting unemployed people back to work, it has caused much controversy Critics have dubbed the programmes as “Workfare”, likening them to unpaid labour, or forcing people to work for their benefits. To get people back to work by either Work Experience (November 2011, 34,200 people had started a Work Experience placement), Sector-based work academies, Mandatory Work Activity, Community Activity Programme and the Work Programme. JSA has been cut to at least £56.80 a week, varying on an individual’s situation.

Universal Credit: A new in- and out-of-work credit, which integrates six of the main out-of-work benefits. The aim is to increase incentives to work for the unemployed and to encourage longer hours for those working part-time. “The main differences between Universal Credit and the current welfare system are:

  • Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work
  • most people will apply online and manage their claim through an online account
  • Universal Credit will be responsive – as people on low incomes move in and out of work, they’ll get ongoing support, giving people more incentive to work for any period of time that is available
  • most claimants on low incomes will still be paid Universal Credit when they first start a new job or increase their part-time hours
  • claimants will receive just 1 monthly payment, paid into a bank account in the same way as a monthly salary
  • support with housing costs will go direct to the claimant as part of their monthly payment”

Many feel the policy has been a total failure is in serious trouble. The national rollout, originally intended for this October, has been delayed until next spring and will reach fewer towns. Many observers believe this disaster to be inevitable. Why? Because to work efficiently, benefits must, by necessity, be complicated.  Combining the distribution of benefits and collection of tax requires a gargantuan IT system, a system which is reportedly the problem here, just as it was with the ambitious, disastrous and ultimately – abandoned, NHS IT system, which cost £12.7bn. Universal credit also rolls out in a complex world. People could ruin a perfectly fine idea with their lack of online access and IT skills, which is causing further difficulties. The scale and cost will unnerve ministers, who are struggling to roll out the beleaguered £2.4bn universal credit system, and have admitted that they have already written off £34m on failed IT systems for the project, though departmental estimates suggest the total figure for write-offs could reach at least £140m.

Housing Benefit: Benefit for low income families to help pay for rent, controversial policy includes the ‘Bedroom Tax’ a reduction in housing benefit if the user has spare bedrooms. The government wants to cap housing benefit at £400-a-week for the largest homes or £290-a-week for two-bed flats. It will also cut the amount of the allowance so that it was pegged to the bottom third of rents in any borough. It is also agreed by many that the changes to housing benefit will increase homelessness, which has been the trend in recent years. The aim of the Bedroom tax is to tackle overcrowding and encourage a more efficient use of social housing. Working age housing benefit and unemployment claimants deemed to have one spare bedroom in social housing will lose 14% of their housing benefit and those with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25%. An estimated 1m households with extra bedrooms are paid housing benefit. Critics say it is an inefficient policy as in the north of England, families with a spare rooms outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands will be hit with the tax when there is no local need for them to move. Two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled. Saving £465m a year, as many as 660,000 people in social housing will lose an average of £728 a year.

Old Age Pensions (OAPs): Pensioners are to receive a flat-rate universal retirement payment of £140 a week The Work and Pensions Secretary will pledge to sweep away a host of complex rules and “fundamentally simplify” the basic state pension. Mr. Duncan’s Smith’s intervention represents the start of a Coalition drive to replace the existing state pension regime with a “single tier” retirement payment. Advocates of a single-tier pension say the higher cost could be funded by abolishing a range of secondary retirement measures, including means-tested pension credits, which cost taxpayers £6 billion year.  Pension age risen to 65 men 60 for women, due to rise again soon. These propose changes are challenged by critics saying the rise in pension age has happened too quickly and hits women in their late 50’s the hardest.

Weekly Parliament Roundup:4th-11th December 2013

Parliament Roundup: 4/12/13-11/12/13

MPs to receive 11% pay rise:

Click for a video explanation

IPSA(Independent Parliament Standards Authority) have recently proposed to provide MPs with a pay rise of 11% which will increase their salary to £74,000. They have stated that there will be changes to the pension scheme which will save tax payer 2.5 billion pounds if the rise is to take place. Even though this might be seen as a great thing for the MPs, lots of them are scared to state publicly that they think it is a good idea. The main issue with this proposal is that it might be the wrong time to make such high rises in MP’s salaries when other public sectors are facing difficult freezes. However, of this proposal is to go ahead, it will take legislation in 2015 to stop this from occurring.

The public might not like the sound of the proposal at first because many might feel that the MPs don’t deserve such a high pay rise as they have failed to improve costs of living. Despite this, the huge worry for IPSA and for several MPs is that the public won’t fully understand the fact that this will not affect them in any major way. This money will not be taken out of the tax payer’s pockets and in fact, it might even aid them. This proposal will also mean that there might be tougher regulations on expenses.

Shadow Red Ed

Following George Osborne’s autumn statement stating that ‘Britain’s economic plan is working’ and that ‘The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts’, Ed Balls made one of the most disastrous responses which led him to be mocked by Osborne and the rest of the opposition. In his response, he stated that Labour was winning the economic argument despite being contradicted by recent polls. Despite this, he has recently stated that he’s not bothered at all about the gossip about his performance in House of Commons and he also refuses to accept the fact that his response was weak. David Cameron also attempted to throw an attack at him again in this week’s PMQs by saying that ‘He can dish it out but he can’t take it.’ 

Click here for more detail on Cameron’s argument

 

Tributes to Mandela

After the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Parliament paid tribute to the iconic figure on Monday. All parties stressed upon the fact that he’s legacy will stay imminent in our lives. David Cameron also talked about Mandela’s strength of character and mentioned the fact that progress is not won by people accept the way things are but dreaming of what it can be. Cameron,Clegg and Miliband went to Johannesburg for Mandela’s memorial service on earlier on this week and Prince Charles will be attending the funeral on Sunday.

PMQs

This week’s PMQs saw the return of Cameron Vs Miliband on another round of Cost of living, only this time the debate was dominated by the 11% proposed pay rise for MPs which Ed Miliband used to strengthen his argument of course. Mr Miliband asked Cameron that if given the current living standards issues among families should MPs receive a pay rise. Surprisingly, the two men agreed on the fact that these proposals were in fact unacceptable and Cameron reemphasized the fact that these decision weren’t finally. After a few seconds of agreement, Cameron once again played the blame game and replied to Miliband’s request to work together on the issue by saying that the Conservatives are still left with the mess that Labour has left behind.

 

Gloria Ganda

 

Labour Leader Ed Miliband – Does he have what it takes?

 Does Ed Miliband have what it takes to be Prime Minister?

 

 

The views of the public depict conflict when addressing Ed Miliband as a leader, not only concerning his strength and influence within the Labour Party but whether he is indeed, too “weak” to act as Prime Minister. With those who are in favour of Miliband such as the likes of  political thinker Anthony Barnett who argues provocatively that “Ed Miliband is an exceptionally effective opposition leader, brave and an adroit party manager” and present PM David Cameron often highlighting his disproval of Miliband  and asserting his leadership as poor by stating “We know Labour’s approach, you go in with your hands up and a white flag” , the public are found torn between choosing Labour for their policies or abandoning the idea of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister out of uncertainty and scepticism.

Following the conclusion of the Miliband brothers’ pyscho-drama in the battle to become leader of the Labour party, the aftermath of Ed’s victory seemed strangely anticlimactic.

It didn’t seem to make sense; surely if Ed had managed to win the battle to become leader he had earned the respect of his colleagues and surely they must have thought that he was the person certain to win them the election in 2015? However, many Labour politicians seemed to barely tolerate Miliband and the party famous for its divisions has since become even more disparate. Some even say Miliband won the party election because of the support of trade unions; which is something he is currently desperately clinging onto. Moreover, the general public – the people who will ultimately decide whether Labour regains power – seem to have little faith in Ed. After three years of his leadership, a poll found that 52% of Labour voters are dissatisfied with his performance and his personal ratings have “sunk to levels” as bad as those of IDS and his predecessor as Tory leader, William Hague.

A common criticism is that of Miliband’s policies. His sympathy towards the ‘Squeezed Middle’ when he first became leader was met with confusion due to his failure to clearly define the concept and hostility when it was thought that he was abandoning traditional Labour heartlands. It resulted in the middle-class reaffirming their faith in the Tories, and the working-class becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Labour Party.

Squeezed middle: they believe deficit reduction measures are treating them unfairly

Image: The Squeezed Middle

However, three years on, Ed’s ideas have received a more positive response: his claims concerning ‘Crony Capitalism’ got the public thinking and, equally importantly, they got the Tories worrying. David Cameron was forced to respond with assurances that he was creating a climate of ‘Responsible Capitalism’ and it could be considered an indisputable achievement for Ed, but it did pose questions about Labour’s loyalties. ‘Crony Capitalism’ describes ‘an economy wherein success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials’ – Miliband expanded on it by attacking bank deregulation and big bonuses. The right labelled Milliband a ‘socialist’, however the approach resonated with some voters.

If the problem isn’t his policies, maybe it’s simply the fact people can’t see him as Prime Minister. In August, 63% of a poll of the general public said that they did not like him. Although ideas such as the Energy Freeze are popular, the fixation on his nervous grin and ‘crazy’ eyes – features that have earned over 8,000 Google results comparing him with the cartoon character Wallace – express a widespread anxiety about his ability and strength as a leader. Slip ups on camera, including the infamous ‘These Strikes Are Wrong’ speech yet refusal to elaborate when asked further questions portray an unconvincing leadership image.

Ever since he became party leader, Miliband has been battered with complaints that he’s too Right, too Left, too Old, too New; too downright strange. This is the problem.  The Living Wage tax break sounds like a step forwards – or at least a starting point for other solutions to the Cost of Living Crisis. The Energy Freeze is also an option for dealing with a problem that needs to be solved, and 63% of voters polled in September supported freezing gas and electricity prices for 20 months.

However, the recent YouGov poll shows Labour are ahead in Public opinion at 39%, therefore, perhaps we should stop focusing on family dramas and insults from the Daily Mail, and even his awkwardness when faced with a camera. Instead, we should concentrate on whether or not Ed Miliband, being an anti-politician Politician will make the best leader for Britain and give his upmost attention to how he can ensure his “pledges” and promises will work.

Maya Tikly-Young

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-20th November

Weekly Parliament Roundup – 13/11/13-20/11/13

Geneva II Conference November 2013

 

Over the last few weeks, the Geneva conference has taken centre stage in the news, in regards to Iran’s nuclear projects. The conference was postponed to the 20th and has resumed over the past few days. Even though definite decisions have not yet been made, following his visit to Geneva, Foreign Secretary William Hague states that Britain’s aim is to create a “Interim first step agreement with Iran that can then create the confidence and the space to then create a comprehensive and final agreement”. The main question is however, is it too late for Britain to step in and try to give Iran guidance on the decision that it should make? The country seems set on making the brave choice to go ahead with their plans without the restrictions from America. Hopefully, Hague will make an influential effort to try and impose financial and energy sanctions against Iran, with the help of other countries such as France and Germany.

Increase in Tax Thresholds

Nick Clegg has made recent proposal plans to raise the income tax threshold to £10,500 and wishes for this to be done by April 2015. The Lib Dem leader already succeeded in getting the Conservatives to increase the tax threshold to £10,000 but he claims that by raising the threshold to a further £10,500, it would mean a tax cut of around £100 a year. Mr Clegg has suggested that part of this increase might be funded by the Mansion Tax but David Cameron has not shown any support of this proposal thus far. The main reason why this might be is because there is no clarity as to where this increase will be funded and a big criticism of this proposal is that it’s an extremely expensive way to deliver a positive outcome for the poorest.

Prime Minister’s controversial trip to Sri Lanka

The Prime Minister recently returned from his trip to Sri Lanka and on Monday, he told MPs in Parliament about the outcomes of his trip. In his speech, he emphasized the fact that it was an extremely difficult trip but it had various achievements. In addition, he announced that there will be a time limit to set up an enquiry on the human rights violation allegations and if Sri Lanka’s president doesn’t set up an enquiry by next year March, Cameron will use his way with the UN to get an International enquiry set up regarding the issue. Read up on Sri Lanka’s response to Cameron’s visit

Left Wing Unity Party

There have been recent talks about the setting up of a new Left Wing Unity Party. The proposed party will differ to other left wing parties by appealing to individuals who are not involved in any kind of politics. In other words, the party will try to attract those who feel dissatisfied with current left wing parties and their policies but yet don’t want to vote right wing. For now, these plans have not been finalised and there will be more information on this topic once any Parliamentary action has been taken.

Ed Miliband’s Childcare Cost talks and PMQs

Labour Leader Ed Miliband has been stressing upon the issue of the dramatic increase of problems with child care costs.  He has even gone as far as stating that parents in England are facing a ‘childcare crunch’ and he believes that these issues need to be immediately addressed in order to reduce financial burden on parents. The main reason why there have been rises in childcare costs, he claims, is due to ‘broken coalition promises’ and he made this issue pretty clear as he intensely grilled  David Cameron during this week’s PMQs where he also mentioned about closures of Sure Start services for disabled children. The PM hit back stating that when it comes to childcare, the Conservatives have provided 15 hours childcare for every 3 and 4 year old, 3 hours of free child care for disadvantaged 2 year old children and upgraded child tax credit by £420 which is something the Labour party never managed to do.  Overall, the PMQs highlighted the growing tension between the two leaders. Click to read about how Ed Miliband vows to tackle ‘childcare crunch’

 

Gloria Ganda

Who’s Who – The Shadow Cabinet

Who’s Who – Shadow Cabinet

The Shadow Cabinet consists of only Labour MPs. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s job to criticise and challenge the policies and actions of the leading government, including the likes of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron. Here’s a list of the members and their roles. Why not check the links for recent news updates, it may just help you to learn about their past history and present position in politics…

 

David Miliband MP (Labour)

Role: Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party.

Education: Studied PPE at Oxford and at the London School of Economics.

Political Career: Elected MP for Doncaster North since 2005. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2008 to 2010.  Leader of the Labour Party since 2010 having won against his brother.

Extra Information: Click for the Miliband fact file 


Harriet Harman MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Education: Studied Politics at the University of York.

Political Career: Elected MP for for Camberwell and Peckham in 1982. She was Secretary of State for Social Security and was Minister of State in the Department for Constitutional Affairs. Also she was Leader of the House of Commons in Brown’s Cabinet.

Extra Information: Click for Harman’s Background and history in politics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Balls MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Education:Studied PPE at Oxford as well as Harvard in Economics.

Political Career: Elected MP for Morley and Outwood, West Yorkshire in 2005. He was the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families from 2005 to 2010.

Extra Information: Click for Ed Ball’s in the NEWS

 

Douglas Alexander MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Foreign Secretary and Chair of General Election Strategy.

Education: Studied Politics and Modern History at the University of Edinburgh

Political Career: Elected MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in 1997. He was Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State of Scotland from 2006 to 2007. He then became Secretary of State for International Development from 2007 to 2010.

Extra Information: Alexander in the NEWS

 

Yvette Cooper MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Home Secretary

Education: Studied PPE at Oxford and studied at Harvard.

Political Career: Elected MP for Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford  in 1997. She was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2008 and then became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Extra Information: Cooper News Update

 

Sadiq Khan MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Minister for London.

Education: Studied Law at the University of North London

Political Career: Elected MP for Tooting in 2005. He was Minister of State for Transport in 2005 before becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in 2010.

Extra Information: Who is Sadiq Khan?

 

Andy Burnham MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Health.

Education: Studied English at Cambridge.

Political Career: Elected MP for Leigh since 2001. He was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2007 before he became Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in 2008 and then became Secretary of State for Health in 2009.

Extra Information: What’s Burnham saying about health?

 

Chuka Umunna MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Business, innovation and Skills.

Education: Studied Law at the University of Manchester.

Political Career: Elected MP for Streatham in 2010.

Extra Information: More background on Umunna 

 

Rachel Reeves MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Education: Studied PPE at Oxford.

Political Career: Elected MP for Leeds in 2010. Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2011.

Extra Information: Recent news and background history

 

Tristram Hunt MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Education.

Education: Studied History at Cambridge.

Political Career: Elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent central in 2010.

Extra Information: Check Hunt’s profile for recent stories in the news

 

Vernon Coaker MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State of Defence.

Education: Studied Politics and Economics at Warwick.

Political Career: Elected MP for Gedling since 1997 (safe seat, evidently).  Minister of State for the Home Office from 2008 to 2009 before becoming Minister of State for Schools and Learning between 2009 and 2010.

Extra Information: Wiki

 

Hilary Benn MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Education: Studied Eastern European Studies and Russia at University of Sussex.

Political Career: Elected MP in 1999. Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007 as well as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs.

Extra Information: Benn’s Background

 

Caroline Flint MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Education: Studied American Literature, History and Film Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Political Career: Elected MP in 1997. She was Minister for Public Health  from 2005 to 2007, the Minister for Employment from 2007 to 2008, the Minister for housing and planning in 2008, and as the Minister for Europe from 2008 to 2009. She also became Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Extra Information: Profile and most recent news

 

Mary Creagh MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

Education: Studied Modern Languages at Oxford and European Studies at the London School of Economics.

Political Career: Elected MP in 2005. Appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Extra Information: Creagh’s news updates

 

Ivan Lewis MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Education: Studied at Bury College.

Political Career: Elected MP for in 1997. Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Sports and Media in 2010 and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Extra Information: Lewis in the news

 

Jim Murphy MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Education: Studied Politics and European Law at the University of Strathclyde.

Political Career: Elected MP for Renfrewshire East in 1997. Secretary of State for Scotland in 2008, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence since 2010.

Extra Information: Murphy Update

 

Margeret Curran MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

Education:  Studied at the University of Strathclyde.

Political Career: Elected MP for Glasgow East in 2010.

Extra Information: Electoral history

 

Maria Eagle MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow secretary of Setae for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Education: Studied  PPE at Oxford.

Political Career: Elected MP for Wallasey since 1997.  Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in 2010.

Extra Information: Recent news and fact file 

 

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 6th-13th November 2013

Weekly Parliament review – 6th -13th November 2013

Commonwealth Summit

Prime Minister David Cameron will still attend the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka despite India and Canada boycotting the event. There have been calls for the PM to boycott the event, especially from Labour members who proposed that they would strongly support the Prime Minister if reversed his decision to attend. On the other hand, Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that if the Prime Minister decided not to attend the summit, it would damage the commonwealth without making any positive change in Sri Lanka. The summit will concern the country’s Human Rights records and Cameron has pledged to put ‘serious questions’ to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda  Rajapaksa  about his regime’s widely condemned Human Rights records and allegations of war crimes against the Tamil minority.

Concerns over rise in personal debt in the UK

The Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee Mark Garnier has raised concerns over the level of personal debt in the UK. He recently stated on The World This Weekend on BBC Radio 4 over the issue:

“I think we’ve, as a society have got ourselves into a pretty terrible mess quite frankly. If you look at household debt as a percentage of household income, then you cast your mind back to the 1980s during the Lawson-boom; we saw household debt as a percentage of household income go from 70% to 80%, and that fuelled what was quite an exciting time for people, such as myself, who were starting their careers.

There are some real pressures on households, and certainly with energy prices. Obviously we’re having this huge debate at the moment in the House of Commons about energy prices, and we’ve got to come up with a proper answer to this, that households are under a certain pressure. But having said that, we have seen in the economy an extra one and a quarter million people in jobs, we’ve got more people in jobs than ever before. So actually what that has meant is that there’s more money collectively around.”

Help to buy scheme

It’s been a month since the Help to buy scheme has been introduced and on 11th November, Cameron will talk to the individuals who have already benefited from the scheme and make a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. There have been various criticisms from the opposition in regards to the type of people who are applying, but the scheme seems to be getting off to a good start as recent polls this week has shown that over 2,000 people have put forward offers to enter into the scheme. Additionally, recent polls also show that the majority of those who are placing offers for the scheme are in their early thirties and are also first time buyers-these are the type of individuals which The Tories would like to attract for the next General Elections.

Ed Miliband and Cost of living argument

Ed Miliband has pledged to ban payday lenders to stop advertising on children’s TV channels . On Tuesday  12th November, Miliband took part in an apposition debate where he pledged for the bedroom tax of what the ministers call the ‘spare room subsidy’. The cost of living has been an issue which Miliband has been determined to highlight in Parliament. 54% of people agree that if people are living in a house that is subsidised by the tax payer and they have a spare room, they should receive less housing benefits.

Summary

Overall, the week in Parliament heavily consisted of talks about whether or not the Prime Minister should boycott the Commonwealth conference and the benefits and progress of the Rights to buy scheme. Ed Miliband’s “cost of living crisis” campaign which was raised 12th November in the opposition debate has left Nick Clegg wanting to “fightback”, says the Independent. In next week’s review, we will look more closely and in full about this week’s Geneva Conference and William Hague’s proposals regarding the Iraq Nuclear programme.

 

Gloria Ganda