The week in Westminster…

This week I am based almost wholly in Westminster, a combination of parliamentary business and the fact that students still working on projects are my students  in Westminster.   The teaching semester has finished in Hull.

On Monday, it was a case of getting to the House in time for the debate on the report of the Leader’s Group on the Working Practices of the House.  Because of the number of speakers – over forty – there was an advisory time limit of 5 minutes.  I edited my speech and kept within the time.  I focused on the recommendations on legislation.  I argued that pre-legislative scrutiny needs to be the norm and not the exception; Bills – especially if introduced in the Lords – should go to an evidence-taking committee; and we should establish a committee for post-legislative scrutiny.  You can read the speech here (at column 1579).  The debate was constructive, with clear support for a range of reforms to how we do business.

Tuesday was an opportunity to catch up on work.  In the afternoon, it was committee business – a meeting of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee – and then the hustings for the Lord Speakership.  Five of the six candidates spoke and, as a result, the outome is now uncertain.  The presumed front runners did not live up to expectations and the others – well, all bar one – exceeded expectations.  I had to leave during the question session in order to chair a meeting of the Conservative Academic Group.  The speaker was Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, who gave an excellent account of his policies.

This morning was taken up with the meeting of the Constitution Committee: we agreed our report on the process of constitutional change.  Immediately after lunch, it was a meeting of the executive of the Association of Conservative Peers, followed by the meeting of the Association.  It was then off to Buckingham Palace for a garden party.  This year the weather was ideal.  (I was there a couple of years ago when there was torrential rain – everyone got soaked – and it had to be abandoned.)  I have to leave early to get back to the Palace – Westminster that is – for an ACP meeting addressed by the Prime Minister.  No sooner has that concluded than there is a vote.  I then go into a conclave with fellow peers to discuss current issues. 

Tomorrow is busy but less hectic, principally a meeting of the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber and seeing students.   It is then back to Hull on Friday for academic meetings.  I need to get on with research at the weekend.  As my earlier post indicated, there are chapters to be written.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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1 Response to The week in Westminster…

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,

    I was drawn to this language:
    “On pre-legislative scrutiny, I commend the recommendations of the group. The group endorsed the Constitution Committee’s view that pre-legislative scrutiny should be the norm and not, as now, the exception. Many of the reasons given by government for avoiding pre-legislative scrutiny do not hold water. I have made the point in the House before that, if a Bill is not to be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, the Minister in charge of the Bill should be required to make a Statement to the House explaining why not. Even if we cannot compel pre-legislative scrutiny, we can at least ensure that Ministers justify their actions. We need to work on government to get Ministers away from the mindset that they must rush to legislate. There is a culture of legislating almost for the sake of it. We need more rigorous mechanisms in place to limit the urge to legislate.”

    In the US, several states have a monthly tlevision show titled “_______ Public Square” and I watch Louisiana Public Square whenever possible. It is, in my view, rather excellent and part of what makes it excellent is that it allows the unsophisticated to air their views directly in disciplined conversation with legislators, experts and media facilitators. I rarely criticize the views of the untrained publicly and will probably regret doing so here — but here i go…

    A faction of a few representing the public were insisting that we need new state laws to address ilegal immigration because this is a society of laws and these aliens are violating the laws with impunity, They continued on to suggest that the new laws must emphasize the idea that we are pounishing people for defying the old laws or not enforcing them. I do actually favor new laws in this area (whether State or Federal) but the sense that more laws are needed to insist that we obey laws which we admit are ignored and even unknown in large part was a revelation. I know Westminster is not next door but I have a feeling some large scale malaise affects your polity and mine which your ministers are largely typical of and derivative from rather than instigating through small political means and causes….

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