WATCH: Liberal Democrat MPs slam Government’s contemptuous approach to Parliament

This afternoon, Alistair Carmichael led an emergency debate, which he had secured, to raise the many ways in which the Government is marginalising Parliament. From ignoring Opposition Day debates to curtailing debate on legislation to the Henry VIII powers.

His speech introducing the debate was excellent. Watch it here.

My favourite bits are this:

The best Governments—and if ever there was a time in our country’s history when we needed the best possible Government, this is surely it—are those that are tested by Parliament, by the Opposition parties and by their own Back Benchers. Time and again, our system fails when the Government and the Opposition agree and arguments remain untested. How different might the debates on the case for going to war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 have been if the then Opposition had been prepared to take a more questioning approach to Tony Blair’s case? I am sad to say that this Government, however, do not welcome scrutiny by Parliament, but rather seek to avoid it.

and the bit where he challenged MPs to get assertive:

In one sense, the Government have done us a favour by bringing this issue to a head, because it forces us as a House to decide what our role in the future of this country is going to be. Is it to be an active participant, with a strong voice and a decisive say, or is it to be a supine bystander as the Government continue to do as they wish, regardless of their lack of a mandate and, as is increasingly obvious, their lack of authority.

I have been a member of many debating societies over the years. They have all been fine organisations that provided entertainment and mental stimulation in equal measure. I mean them therefore no disrespect when I say that I stood for Parliament believing I was doing something more significant than signing up for a debating society. The difference is that in Parliament—in this House—we can actually effect change. Whether we choose to do so is in our own hands.

I loved the fact that the Tories responded by slagging off the Liberal Democrats in the most immature way as they clearly had no defence.

Christine Jardine said that MPs were there to serve the electorate, not to play games. She talked about seeing Parliament as others see it and the impression it gives to people outside who were not involved in politics.

There was excellent stuff from Tom Brake, (aka Rebel Without a Tie) reminding us all that it was not the Tories who introduced the Backbench Business Committee but the Coalition.

He also reminded us how the Government is covering up the 50 report on the impact of Brexit.

The opposition did work pretty effectively together on this. Predictably the Tories behaved like brats, but it was worth getting all this stuff on the parliamentary record. The Liberal Democrats proved that the group may be small in number but is an effective voice.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Parliament.


  • Peter Hirst 13th Oct '17 - 1:22pm

    The issue is that we don’t have a codified constitution detailing the rights and responsibilities of all the different components and layers of government and the judiciary. Without it,, it is a free for all that the government usually wins. We also need to put the people in control in designing it though it would need parliamentary approval and judicial oversight.

  • David Pearce 18th Oct '17 - 6:19pm

    The conservatives position is currently very precarious. They do not behave as if they think Brexit will succeed. If they did, then all they have to do is lay out a clear plan and go for it. Instead they are stalling and refusing to put a negotiating position to the EU. Because whatever they do, will alienate one group of voters or another, even betwen one leave faction and another. There is no win solution.

    So what can they do in such a situation? They cannot simply resign. They need to be defeated and put into opposition. They need it. They need to be defeated by parliament. They need negotiating stalemate. And then they will have the excuse for an election they can lose. So my take is, they want the libs to defeat them, and the more thoroughly the better.

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