Frank Field MP
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Dead in the Water

Another day, another mess. Yesterday it was the Government's turn to bugger up Parliament.

Under the guise of bringing necessary reform to the payment of MPs' allowances - which is necessary and could have been quite a short Bill - the Government has introduced a whopping ill-thought-through constitutional landmine of a Bill. It would be serious if one thought such a measure would last any time at all on the statue book.

I along with Richard Shepherd divided the House on the second reading - and these votes show whether we agree with the principle of a Bill.

The Government emphasised to the point of tedium that this measure had all Party support. While we only gained a single vote in opposition to the measure, what was devastating for the Government were their numbers. They had only 290 odd.

Given that the Liberals seem to be voting with the Government, and the Government has 349 MPs, they ought to, on that score alone, have registered 412 votes.

Of most significance however was that not a single Tory voted for the measure. If there is a change of Government at the next election this absurd measure will be quickly on the exit chute.

The measure is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Parliamentary Committee that judges these matters has not even had a chance to sit on the Bill, which was published only last Thursday.

New categories of crimes are created for MPs and yet as the Tory spokesperson Dominic Grieve so effectively pointed out, the attempt of the Government to appear extra tough with MPs turns out to be nothing of the kind - although I'm sure that was not the intention.

Currently we have a fraud measure going through Parliament with sentences of up to 10 years. Why in this measure do we create a new offence for MPs but have only a one year maximum sentence?

I centred on the absurdity of insisting that MPs not only declare their part-time earnings - I'm all in favour of that - but having to give an account of the hours worked for these earning is not only demeaning, it is unpractical.

Start the clock . . . egg timers soon to become vital equipment for MPs to measure the time spent on second jobs

This impracticality was brought home to me just before the debate.

A banker asked to see me. He was anxious to discuss the feasibility of whether his village could collectively bid for Gas, Electricity and the other utility supplies thereby pushing down prices.

I immediately saw this was an idea relevant to the mutual of which I am a non-executive director in Liverpool - Medicash. After our meeting I wrote to the Chief Executive to see whether this might give Medicash an additional lease of life.

How do I time that activity? When was I carrying out my MP role and giving advice and at what point should I have clocked on for Medicash?

Of course I could make a return, but would it be honest and accurate? And should we have rules which discourage honesty, we have too many of them in the welfare state and we all know the consequences there.

More importantly, if moonlighting is to be dubbed an offence, why aren't the biggest offenders - Ministers - having to set out how much time they spend on their job as opposed to their duties as an MP?

I suggested we would all have to be given hourglasses so that we could give accurate estimates. But when would I start the hourglass when writing an article? When do the first thoughts come into my head?

The real aim of this measure of course is to drive out of the Commons MPs with other interests. We have no serious trade union leader, business leader, entrepreneur, musician and the only IT innovator - Adam Afriyie - has had to give up this role while he is on the opposition front bench.

This nasty little measure will change what we mean by being a representative in this country, converting it into membership of a very tightly drawn and declining political class.

To help dislodge the whole measure I will refuse to put in the hours worked for my part-time earnings, although I shall attempt to make an estimate for my website.

This will land me with a fine of up to £5,000, which I won't pay. I shall resist the bailiffs taking goods to that effect so finally I will be landed in prison.

I would prefer to spend time honourably with inmates in prison than with a Parliament cowered into submission by a Government that has given up any appearance of knowing the difference between its ear and its elbow.
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Showing comments 1 to 5 of 6

We have the first experience of a lame duck PM, lots of sound and fury to no purpose. We await the US style pardons for corrupt friends. Whatever happened to the party set up to represent the ordinary citizen, now it works to ensure unrealistic bonuses are paid to bankers who wreck our economy. It was the subject of a hostile takeover. No wonder you are tired Frank. Thanks for your courage and tenacity.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
I agree - Frank,if there were more Labour MPs like you, I'd still be voting for the LP. You are the only Labour MP who could have sorted out the mess that the benefits system is in, yet you were denied the opportunity to do so. An MP with principles and integrity such as yourself is rare these days, keep up the good work
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Please Frank walk across the floor with other sensible Labour MP's to sit with the Independents and help get rid of this incompetent PM and cabinet. You and your honourable colleagues will almost certainly then get a return to a more honest parliament, following the removal of every rotten Labour, Conservative, Liberal and Independent MP at the next election. (if the dictator Brown allows an election).Russ
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Frank,Superb logic and well informed argument. I can see why the present Government do not like you, you are far too honest for their liking, experienced and talk/write a great deal of common sence
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
I hope it doesn't come to that Frank - you'd lose your seat would you not? In any case, it'll never get on to the books since the peers will halt it and the Commons will run out of time before the election. I'm afraid it looks like another of those awful Brown Specials: grab a headline, make a fuss, forget about it except as a stick with which to beat people in the future. There is nothing dignified in a governing party filling its remaining days with wheezes to trip up and embarrass its opponents.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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