As I said in the House….

In the event, I spoke on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill on Monday evening – or, strictly speaking, Tuesday morning – at 12.10 a.m.  Anyone interested in my pearls of wisdom can find them here at col. 654.   Not surprisingly, I had an audience in the chamber that was characterised more by its quality than its quantity. 

I was, though, pleasantly surprised by how many peers approached me yesterday to comment on it, having either read it or watched the speech on screen.  Given that I opened my speech with reference to my early-morning travel plans, several also wanted to know what time I had been teaching and whether I had managed to get back and forth as planned.  I began to become a little concerned that their interest in my teaching arrangements was starting to outweigh their interest in the content of my contribution!

I intervened in the closing speech yesterday of the minister, Lord McNally.  He was in danger of not addressing the point about the need to reduce the number of ministers if the number of MPs was reduced.  He was rather dismissive in response, implying that as it was only an 8 per cent reduction in the number of MPs there didn’t seem to be a big issue in respect of the number of ministers.   I didn’t quite follow his argument.  Why is reducing the number of MPs by 8 per cent really important, but reducing the number of ministers by 8 per cent isn’t?

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to As I said in the House….

  1. Croft says:

    I can’t tell, was Lord Whitty being droll?

    “Ever since the late Earl of Leicester, otherwise known as Simon de Montfort”

    I know the use of late is customary for the recently deceased but isn’t ~750 years stretching things 🙂

  2. Carl.H says:

    Of course an 8% reduction should be reflected by the same in Ministers, anything else would be inconceivable.

    Regards numbers in the Commons, I`m not sure at present. The public, me in this instance, all too often tend tohear from MP`s that their Surgeries and the problems of their constituents take up too much valueable time and often we also hear derisory remarks about constituents too. If we reduce the number of MP`s it will mean more constituents per MP, an extra workload. MP`s maybe away from Parliament more often or should be. Constituents would also have to travel further and being as I believe most problems MP`s hear are of financial hardship, I wonder if the extra travel can be afforded ?

    I am not putting my vote on boundaries one way or the other merely calling it as I see it. I understand more from hearsay than fact that Labour at present have an unfair advantage, of course this needs addressing as do others. The only sensible way ahead is for there to be an Independent Committee to look at this issue all elsewill be subject to calls of bias, quite rightly.

    On the subject of AV and other I should like to leave that to answer in the forthcoming Baroness D`Souza`s promised blog on the Salisbury-Addison Convention where I will put the view from where I am, manifesto`s and the working classes I think I should call it. Although there maybe some other bits thrown in for free. Hopefully it should be an interesting and enlightening blog.

  3. Croft says:

    “Constituents would also have to travel further and being as I believe most problems MP`s hear are of financial hardship, I wonder if the extra travel can be afforded ?”

    For the majority of seats, being urban/suburban the increase in the geographic size – and therefore distance – would be very marginal. On rural seats even the largest UK seats are but a fraction of the size of those in the US/Canada/Australia/NZ among others. They seem to manage so I’m not sure this is a real obstacle.

  4. Carl.H says:

    “And therefore distance – would be very marginal.”

    All very easy to you and I, just jump in the car for 5 mins down the road but not true of those at the poverty end of the scale. Public transport is not altogether cheap now and if you`ve a pram, buggy and baby in tow it makes life quite difficult. My daughter is diabetic therefore doesn`t drive and is a single parent, I know how long these things take and how difficult they can be. Between committments at the job centre, job interviews, daily shopping, housework and school runs it not only doesn`t leave a lot of time to travel but financially the few quid can be a few quid too much.

  5. Lord Norton says:

    Carl.H: I agree with Croft. The average constituency size would not be greater than that presently enjoyed by some MPs, who cope with a large constituency. Andrew Turner, the MP for the Isle of Wight, has an electorate in excess of 100,000 and the people of the Isle of Wight apparently wish it remain that way rather than splitting up the constituency. Fewer MPs with more resources could make for a more efficient House of Commons.

    • Carl.H says:

      I`m afraid I haven`t enough factual evidence to disagree, I really haven`t looked into this in any degree. Just a few concerns. Not that having less MP`s doesn`t seem inviting but let me think of a number that maybe more inviting…-think-think- Nothing comes to mind at the moment. 😉

    • Croft says:

      If MPs dropped to 400 as some plans envisage you could probably justify multiple constituency offices so the distances travelled would drop for all but the MP. However a drop in MPs would hopefully force them to rationalise their workload and make councillors deal with the work that is properly theirs and not leave it with MPs who have no proper role in that area.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Croft: Exactly so. MPs have a large workload which in many respects is because they take on casework that could be better handled by other grievance-chasing agencies, which may have greater professional expertise for dealing with the issue at hand. It can also be more efficient for a constituent to contact a public body direct rather than going through the MP.

      • ladytizzy says:

        The comment on getting councillors on the case is well made. If they were given the blocked drain cases they might find out what is happening locally and we might be more inclined to vote for them. Heavens, then they might return phone calls…

  6. Alice Stretch says:

    “If we reduce the number of MP`s it will mean more constituents per MP, an extra workload.”

    If the number of MPs is reduced and the ratio of constituents to MPs increased, it will only be in some cases as at the moment the sizes of constituencies vary incredibly. Some with 100,000 to one MP and others with 50,000.
    Surely it would be better to set a standard number and work from that to cut the numbers of MPs. If you can have 598 (8%) all with a reasonable size constituency then that would be better than what we have now with one MP being in more demand then others. To have a democracy everyone should have an equal opportunity to speak to their MP and with the size of some constituencies democracy is not being met.

    • Lord Norton says:

      The Bill itself stipulates there will be 600 constituencies and that the electorate in each should not deviate from the electoal by more than + or – 5%, largely to address the problem you identify.

  7. ladytizzy says:

    Though I have benefited from visits to a couple of constituency offices I met neither, nor was it necessary. Perhaps their high profile meant their staff were more capable of dealing with quite complex cases.

    Are the numbers of ex-pat’s (approx. 5-6 million) too low to be of concern? On this point, would this be an appropriate time to review the disenfranchisement of British citizens? Currently, 15 years after leaving Blighty, our brethren lose their right to vote in national elections though may be in receipt of winter fuel allowances.

  8. Classic Lord Norton:

    I have problems with the premise that underpins the proposals for change. Like my noble friend Lord Lamont of Lerwick, I do not accept that our political system is broken. There has been a crisis of confidence, but it has been in politicians rather than the political system. Electing the same people by somewhat different means will not restore confidence. The answer lies in behaviour and not in institutional change. I regard what we are engaged in here as a form of displacement activity.

    Hear! Hear!

  9. Croft says:

    Just caught some of the latter part of the debate. It’s often said the Romans threw Christians to the lions but even they would have sent in a rescue party for Lord McNally!

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: Indeed, I was surprised he wasn’t better briefed, not least on the issue of thresholds.

      • Croft says:

        LN, I rather pulled my punches on that point – I had though of saying exactly what you imply that he seemed poorly served by the briefing he had been given and did himself no favours by evading giving a real answer to the reasoning behind a referendum on AV but not Lords reform.

  10. Carl.H says:

    My Lord can we reduce the HoL by at least one ?

    Fraud is fraud, there is no place for deciet in Parliament. I signed it after I knew I was in trouble in error is not an excuse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s