10 MIN RULE BILL - PAY AND RESPONSIBILITIES

- Wednesday, 21st May 2008

 

10 MIN RULE BILL – PAY AND RESPONSIBILITIES

MR SPEAKER. I BEG LEAVE TO INTRODUCE A BILL TO REQUIRE THE SENIOR SALARIES REVIEW BODY TO TAKE ACCOUNT OF TRANSFERS OF POWERS BETWEEN PARLIAMENT AND EUROPEAN UNION INSTITUTIONS WHEN MAKING RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE PAY OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT; AND FOR CONNECTED PURPOSES.

IN VIRTUALLY EVERY OCCUPATION IT IS RECOGNISED THAT PAY SHOULD REFLECT RESPONSIBILITIES.

THE SAME SHOULD BE TRUE OF PARLIAMENT.

IF, AS IS CONTEMPLATED UNDER THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY BILL, THIS HOUSE HANDS OVER MORE OF ITS POWERS TO EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS THEN MPS’ REMUNERATION SHOULD REFLECT THAT DIMINUTION OF THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES.

ON THE OTHER HAND, IF – AS MY RIGHT HONOURABLE FRIEND THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION HAS PROMISED – PARLIAMENT REGAINS SOME POWERS E.G. THOSE OVER SOCIAL AND EMPLOYMENT POLICIES CONCEDED IN THE AMSTERDAM TREATY, THAT SHOULD BE REFLECTED POSITIVELY IN ASSESSING MPS’ PAY.

THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE PARLIAMENT IS CURRENTLY CONSIDERING TRANSFERRING A SIGNIFICANT SLICE OF ITS POWERS [OVER ENERGY, FOREIGN POLICY, IMMIGRATION, AND SEVERAL OTHER AREAS] TO EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS UNDER THE LISBON TREATY.

THERE HAS ALREADY BEEN A SUBSTANTIAL TRANSFER OF POWERS UNDER PREVIOUS TREATIES. AND THIS HOUSE HAS ALSO CEDED POWERS ON A LESSER SCALE TO DEVOLVED PARLIAMENTS AND TO THE JUDICIARY, UNDER THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT.

THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT ESTIMATES THAT OVER 80% OF LAWS AND REGULATIONS ARE NOW DECIDED AT A EUROPEAN LEVEL.

OUR OWN TRADE AND INDUSTRY MINISTER IN ANOTHER PLACE ADMITTED THAT “AROUND HALF OF ALL [UK] LEGISLATION WITH AN IMPACT ON BUSINESS, CHARITIES AND THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR STEMS FROM LEGISLATION AGREED BY MINISTERS IN BRUSSELS”.

I HAVE HEARD MEMBERS CLAIM THAT ONLY 10% OF OUR LAWS ARE MADE IN BRUSSELS: A FIGURE THEY ATTRIBUTE TO A HOUSE OF COMMONS LIBRARY PAPER.

IN FACT THAT PAPER SAYS NO SUCH THING. IT REMARKS THAT THE NUMBER OF STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS LAID UNDER THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES ACT 1972 AMOUNTS TO ABOUT 10% OF ALL STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS PASSED BY THE HOUSE. BUT IT POINTS OUT THAT EU STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS TYPICALLY ENACT A WHOLE DIRECTIVE – OFTEN THE EQUIVALENT OF AN ACT OF PRIMARY LEGISLATION – WHEREAS DOMESTIC STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS IMPLEMENT REGULATIONS. SO TO COMPARE THE TWO IS LIKE COMPARING APPLES AND PEARS, OR RATHER PUMPKINS AND PEARS GIVEN THE DISPARITY IN THEIR SIZE.

IT ALSO IGNORES BY FAR THE MOST PLENTIFUL FRUIT COMING FROM THE EUROPEAN ORCHARD WHICH ARE REGULATIONS MOST OF WHICH NEVER CONSIDERED BY THIS HOUSE.

THE TOTAL SCALE OF EU LEGISLATION IS ENORMOUS.

LAST YEAR THE EU PASSED 177 DIRECTIVES AND 2033 REGULATIONS – NOT TO MENTION 1045 DECISIONS.

EVEN THAT HUGE TALLY IGNORES THE FULL EXTENT TO WHICH PARLIAMENT’S POWER IS DIMINISHED SINCE IT IS PREVENTED FROM LEGISLATING AS IT WOULD WISH.

WHEN I WAS A MINISTER IT WAS A FREQUENT OCCURRENCE THAT OFFICIALS WOULD SAY – “NO MINISTER, YOU CAN’T DO THAT”, BECAUSE IT IS WITHIN THE EXCLUSIVE COMPETENCE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION.

IF THE LISBON TREATY BILL GOES THROUGH A FURTHER SALAMI SLICE OF POWERS WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO EU.

THE HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR BIRMINGHAM EDGBASTON – WHO SERVED ON THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION AND KNOWS MORE THAN ALMOST ANYONE ELSE IN THIS HOUSE ABOUT ITS IMPLICATIONS RECENTLY TOLD THE FABIAN SOCIETY:

“IF THE TREATY OF LISBON IS RATIFIED AND DEVOLUTION … CONTINUES APACE, IN FIFTEEN TO TWENTY YEARS THIS HOUSE OF COMMONS WILL HAVE ONLY TWO FUNCTIONS - … TO RAISE TAXES AND … TO AUTHORISE WAR …. WE ARE MAKING FEWER AND FEWER DECISIONS THAT MATTER [TO PEOPLE’S DAILY LIVES]… I CAN’T TELL MY CONSTITUENTS WHERE THE BUCK STOPS.”

ADMITTEDLY, UNDER THE LAST PRIME MINISTER DECLARING WARS KEPT PARLIAMENT PRETTY BUSY, AS DOES RAISING TAXES UNDER THE CURRENT INCUMBENT OF NO 10.

BUT OUR CONSTITUENTS WANT PARLIAMENT TO WAGE FEWER WARS AND RAISE FEWER TAXES AND TO FOCUS ON THE HUGE RANGE OF ISSUES AFFECTING THEIR DAILY LIVES OVER WHICH THEY ASSUME WE STILL RETAIN POWERS AND WHICH THEY PAY US TO EXERCISE ON THEIR BEHALF.

FEW VOTERS OR EVEN MEMBERS OF THIS HOUSE FULLY REALISE HOW MANY POWERS HAVE BEEN, OR ARE ABOUT TO BE, TRANSFERRED ELSEWHERE. FOR THREE REASONS:

FIRST, BECAUSE GOVERNMENTS OF ALL PERSUASIONS DENY THAT ANY SIGNIFICANT POWERS ARE BEING TRANSFERRED.

SECOND, BECAUSE ONCE POWERS HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED MINISTERS ENGAGE IN A CHARADE OF PRETENCE THAT THEY STILL RETAIN THOSE POWERS. EVEN WHEN INTRODUCING MEASURES WHICH THEY ARE OBLIGED TO DO AS A RESULT OF AN EU DIRECTIVE THEY BEHAVE AS IF IT IS THEIR OWN INITIATIVE.

INDEED MINISTERS OFTEN END UP NOBLY ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR LAWS WHICH THEY ACTUALLY OPPOSED IN BRUSSELS.

THEY TOOK THE RAP FOR COSTLY AND TROUBLESOME HOME IMPROVEMENT PACKS WHICH HAVE ADDED TO THE WOES OF THE HOUSING MARKET – THOUGH ACTUALLY THESE WERE MANDATED BY A BRUSSELS DIRECTIVE.

LIKEWISE THEY TOOK THE BLAME FOR FORTNIGHTLY BIN COLLECTIONS, HOSPITAL RECONFIGURATIONS AND A HOST OF OTHER UNPOPULAR MEASURES WHICH WERE ALL TRIGGERED BY EU DIRECTIVES,

AT FIRST SIGHT IT IS ODD THAT MINISTERS IN THIS GOVERNMENT, WHO ARE NOT NORMALLY SLOW TO BLAME OTHERS, SHOULD NOBLY DEFEND AND ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR BRUSSELS’ LEGISLATIVE PROGENY IN WHOSE CONCEPTION THEY OFTEN PLAYED LITTLE PART. BUT, THEY PREFER TO CLAIM PATERNITY RATHER THAN ADMIT IMPOTENCE, - THE FATE OF THE CUCKOLD ACROSS THE AGES - TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT OTHERS BEGOT.

THIRD, BECAUSE THE TRANSFER OF POWER OCCURS, NOT ALL IN ONE GO, BUT BY A PROCESS OF SALAMI SLICING IT IS EASY TO CLOSE OUR EYES TO WHAT IS HAPPENING. AS A RESULT THERE IS A DANGER OF PARLIAMENT SLEEP WALKING INTO BECOMING LITTLE MORE THAN A PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY.

IF SO, WE SHOULD BE PAID ACCORDINGLY - JUST AS DISTRICT COUNCILLORS GET LESS THAN COUNTY COUNCILLORS AND COUNTY COUNCILLORS GET LESS THAN MEMBERS OF DEVOLVED ASSEMBLIES.

I DO NOT HAVE A MASOCHISTIC DESIRE TO SEE MPS' PAY CUT - BUT STILL LESS DO I WANT TO SEE OUR POWERS DIMINISH. THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT THE LATTER MAY BE TO LINK PAY TO RESPONSIBILITIES.

I DON’T KNOW ANY MP WHO ENTERED PARLIAMENT TO BECOME FINANCIALLY BETTER OFF. NONETHELESS, JUST AS THE PROSPECT OF BEING HUNG IN THE MORNING CONCENTRATES THE MIND WONDERFULLY, SO THE PROSPECT OF FINDING OUR POCKETS A BIT EMPTIER AT THE END OF THE MONTH MAY WAKE UP THOSE WHO HAVE SHUT THEIR EYES TO WHAT IS HAPPENING.

IF WE DON’T FACE UP TO WHAT IS HAPPENING WE WILL FIND THAT WE ARE PROGRESSIVELY RELEGATED TO WHAT BAGEHOT CALLED THE DIGNIFIED PART OF THE CONSTITUTION.

AS TONY BENN ONCE RHETORICALLY ASKED: I WONDER HOW LONG IT TOOK FOR THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD TO REALISE THAT THEY WERE NO LONGER PART OF THE REGULAR ARMY?

SO MY BILL IS DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A WAKE UP CALL WHENEVER WE RISK GOING FURTHER DOWN THAT ROUTE.

OF COURSE THIS BILL HAS LITTLE CHANCE OF BECOMING LAW IN THIS PARLIAMENT. THOSE WHO SUPPORT THE TRANSFER OF POWER FROM HERE TO SUPERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS SHOULD LOGICALLY ACCEPT THAT OUR PAY SHOULD REFLECT THE DIMINUTION OF OUR RESPONSIBILITIES. BUT, STRANGELY, ALL THE EURO-ENTHUSIASTS I ASKED TO SPONSOR THE BILL DECLINED TO DO SO WITHOUT EXPLAINING WHY. THERE ARE TOO MANY MEMBERS WHO ARE HAPPY TO AVERT THEIR EYES FROM WHAT IS HAPPENING AS LONG AS THEY RETAIN THE PRESTIGE AND EMOLUMENTS WHICH WERE APPROPRIATE TO A FULLY SOVEREIGN PARLIAMENT.

TURKEYS DON’T VOTE FOR CHRISTMAS.

BUT IF THERE ARE MEMBERS WHO OPPOSE THIS BILL I HOPE THEY WILL COME OUT AND OBJECT TO IT HERE AND NOW RATHER THAN DISPOSING OF IT BY SUBTERFUGE ONE FRIDAY MORNING.

I LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING THEM ARGUE FOR HAVING THEIR CAKE AND EATING IT. I DOUBT IF THEY WILL CONVINCE MANY OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS THAT UNLIKE ANY IN OTHER OCCUPATION MP’S PAY SHOULD BE DIVORCED FROM OUR RESPONSIBILITES.

I BEG LEAVE TO BRING IN THIS BILL.

 

 

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