LibLink: Lord Paul Tyler: Quality v Quantity

The Houses Of ParliamentOur Paul Tyler has been writing about the Queen’s Speech over at the Lords of the Blog. He tackles the accusation that the Government has run out of steam because it’s only produced one piece of legislation per month and suggests that the Labour habit of expecting Parliament to consider 30 bills in a session did not do much for scrutiny.

Goldilocks looked at Tony Blair’s Queen’s Speeches, with 30+ bills announced each time, and pronounced, ‘that’s far too much legislation’.  Then Goldilocks looked at the Coalition’s final Queen’s Speech and lamented, ‘this is far too little legislation.’  She looked at a perfect, fantasy government of the future and said, ‘that legislative programme will be just right’.

The Goldilocks press seems to have swallowed whole Labour’s line that a Queen’s Speech with eleven bills means the government is “a zombie”.

He says that when he was campaigning for a fixed term 5 year Parliament, he had though that the final year could be used to scrutinise laws that the Government had been enacted with nothing new at all.

I gently suggested to some of the pundit Peers who were opining that the final session would be a waste of time that they over-rated the importance of introducing yet more new laws.  I deplored the tendency of introducing Bills as if they were Ministerial virility symbols. I was supported by none other than ex-Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell. With some notable exceptions, this Parliament has largely been better than its predecessors at pre-legislative scrutiny: a big step forward. Yet we seldom go back to examine at how laws we have put on the statute book actually operate, and if they might be improved – post-legislative scrutiny. Lord O’Donnell and I agreed that the Fixed Term Parliament Act (for which I campaigned so vociferously immediately after the 2010 Election, to achieve much needed stability) would produce another benefit if Parliament used the final year to review the adequacy of existing laws.

You can read the whole article here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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7 Comments

  • We shouldn’t overlook that in addition to the 11 bills announced in the Queen’s speech, there are a further 6 being carried over.

    I think Paul Tyler is right, we don’t really need a constant roll out of new legislation, but better quality legislation. Additionally, as the Lib-Lab pact demonstrated, whilst the government was unable to do very much, the economy benefited from the stability. I like the idea of the fifth year being more for government to reflect and review and for the wider economy to get on with doing stuff.

  • A few things will always crop up or be left to finish, but a chance to review “what we’ve done recently” or have a look at a couple of Law Commission recommendations for tidying up the old stuff would be valuable.

  • Gus O’Donnell and Paul Tyler would appear to have been in mutual back-slapping mode. All jolly good fun for the boys in Westminster I expect. But what has it got to do with Liberal Democrat priorities or the wishes of the voters, those people who cannot call either Gus or Paul to account.

    One might have thought that with so much of The Coalition Agreement not yet delivered that Cameron and Clegg might feel some obligation to get on and do a bit more in the last 20% of this parliament.
    What happened to the greatest government of constitutional reform since 1832 ?
    What happened to the greenest government ever?

    Even if Cameron is happy to ditch all those commitments which were in The Coalition Agreement — Isn’t Clegg under an obligation to Liberal Democrats to deliver? Did he not present the Agreement to the FE and to a Special Conference for them to vote on. Has he forgotten? Or was it like his pledge on tuition fees — something he thought he could ditch once he had become a Deputy Prime Minister?

    I do not remember a clause in the Coalition Agreement which said we will only deliver in the first 4 years, but in the 5th year we will put our feet up and do a bit of reviewing of previous legislation.
    Paul and Gus might well have agreed that between themselves, but who elected them ?

    Paul Tyler’s fairy tale style of references to Goldilocks might be thought jolly witty amongst the chaps in Westminster but voters in the real world might look on it as a bit pathetic.

  • John Tilley –
    ” What happened to the greatest government of constitutional reform since 1832 ?” The Tories buggered it up. Are you suggesting that we should have a re-run of the AV debate? Try and get HoL reform back on the agenda? Revisit constituency boundaries? What a brilliant plan for the run up to the next election!

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Jun '14 - 1:47pm

    constituency boundaries will not now be changed in time for the next election, therefore there is no value in the tories trading anything away to get this on the statute book before the election.

    if the tories win in 2015 they can sort it out by 2018, ready for a 2020 election.

    if labour win the election there will be an enormous moral imperative for them to do exactly the same, with no tory political capital expended.

    i’d like to see constituencies equalised and i’d like it to have been done in time for 2015, it is an absolute requirement for the proper functioning of FPTP, but there is no deal to be cut with the tories on that score as a last act of a elected parliament.

  • I know, jedibeeftrix – when I said it was a brilliant plan I had my tongue in my cheek.

    For the record, I have no interest in ‘a proper functioning FPTP’.

  • Steve Comer 9th Jun '14 - 12:06am

    There is no such thing as a ‘a proper functioning FPTP’ its an oxymoron!
    However, I think one big blind spot has been the lack of attention to the electoral system in local government. Where there are all up elections in 3-seat wards (as in many seats in London) what you end up with is a form of FPTP on steroids! A small swing in a marginal ward can mean a net gain of +6 for the winning party which is crazy, and the end result in London has been to create Boroughs which are one-party states, not just unrepresentative but unhealthy in any democracy.

    We also have the unsatisfactory supplementary vote system in Mayoral elections. That may work OK in London where its a dead cert who the first and second candidates will be, but everywhere else it becomes a lottery, and full AV would be much better and easier for voters to understand than the “two “‘ system. So how about a compromise? Trial STV for Council and AV for Mayor in Councils with a Mayoral system, then review it for the rest of local government in 5 years or so?

    The voting system for local government should have been part of the coalition negotiations, but I’m told they weren’t even considered, such was the obsession with Westminster. The House of Commons was always going to be the last place we got electoral reform, so why not tackle local government and get that right first?

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