Thursday, 21 July 2016

A new approach to politics

I am seeking to start a debate about the future of politics - not just in the UK (where I made this video) but in other democracies.

Please submit any comments - either on this blog - or directly to me at washminster@me.com

Monday, 18 July 2016

Today in The Lords

Last week turned out to be a little busier than expected. So no predictions rom me - but you might be Interested in the first three questions in the Lords this afternoon -

Baroness Mobarik to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to bring together all communities following the result of the European Union referendum.
*Baroness Deech to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to clarify the conditions for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative.
*Lord Tyler to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the stage, or stages, at which Parliament’s authority should be sought as part of the negotiation for leaving the European Union. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

This week in the Lords

As employers (and employees) have known down the centuries - job security enhances independence. This also applies to the House of Lords. There's no de-selection if a Peer speaks his or her mind - upsetting the party hierarchy. As a result the House of Lords is harder to manage - and questions can be direct and embarrassing, especially for the Government.

The full business for this week can be found on the parliamentary website - www.parliament.uk but I'd like to highlight some matters which will be coming up.

Today, in the 30 minutes of oral questions - subjects relevant to my home city of Milton Keynes come up. One is about continuing the centuries old practice of printing master copies of Acts of Parliament on vellum. This is done in Newport Pagnell. The other question concerns when the Government can terminate a rail franchise where it has failed to provide the service required. This is about Southern Railway - which used to provide a service through west London onto Croydon from Milton Keynes.

Tomorrow a question will be put by Lord Roberts of Llandudno about how the government intends to fulfill its promise to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020.

On Wednesday Lord McKenzie of Luton will ask how the government intends "to address the causes of the increase in the number of council tenants in receipt of Universal Credit who are in rent arrears"

Thursday will see a debate on the case for tackling the causes of poverty in the UK.

The Investigatory Powers Bill will be considered in Committee (of the whole House) today and on Wednesday

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Crossing the Atlantic

I've just returned from a stimulating conference in Plymouth. It began on Independence Day, in the city where the Pilgrim Fathers last left the British Isles as they headed for America.

The conference was organised by the Transatlantic Studies Association - and it was their 15th Annual Conference. The Association brings together many disciplines - so we had a wide menu of workshops - which ranged from literature to history, through International Relations and on to politics. There were also keynote lectures each day. We began with a roundtable involving representatives from sister organisations (I took part on behalf of the American Politics Group). I found the whole conference incredibly stimulating. The conference programme is available here. Recent events - the Brexit vote - dominated discussions and conversations around the conference, as did the upcoming elections in the USA. Delegates came from across Europe and from Canada and the USA.

We also had a dinner at the National Marine Aquarium - which had a fantastic backdrop with fish swimming around as we ate and listened.

Details of the Transatlantic Studies Association can be found at http://www.transatlanticstudies.com

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Lords Leaving Early

Once there was only one way out of the House of Lords - in a box (Not literally - as part of the Palace of Westminster there is a practice that no one is pronounced dead within the building - and of course most people actually die outside. But membership of the House ended only with death - the exception being the Bishops, who retired from the House when they retired from their Church position.)

Due to the legislation named above, members can now retire. They can also be removed if convicted of a serious criminal offence, or completely fail to attend. Details of the legislation - and how it has been used is set out in a House of Commons Library Paper. To date 48 have retired, and 4 ceased to be members due to non-attendance.

The paper is available here.

(The picture shown is that of the House at work - rather than the usual picture of the House in ceremonial dress - which ONLY occurs at the State Opening. The House is actually a very hard working institution!)