Cameron's Democracy at Work

  morddwyd 07:36 04 Feb 2014
Locked

IDS has told MPs they cannot run his department

click here sorry, I thought that's why we elected them.

I'm

  Forum Editor 08:02 04 Feb 2014

"sorry, I thought that's why we elected them."

Then you thought wrongly.You elected your MP to represent your interests in the House of Commons.

Some MPs are appointed to parliametary select committees, and when the committee is sitting it acts (or should act) in the public interest. Parliamentary committees do not have the power to compel a government Minister to give evidence, and in fact they don't have the power to compel members of either house to give evidence. That Ministers and MPs do appear before the committees is a purely voluntary thing, and in the main they do it because they believe in the principle of open government.

From time to time some members of some committees seem to get a false impression of their power, and they push things. It's ridiculous to expect a Secretary of State to provide detailed information about the day to day business of a government department. What the committee can do, and should do, is ask a Minister to justify policy decisions after the event - in other words, to account for the consequences of his or her actions, if revealing such information would be in the public interest.

We elect people to run the country on our behalf, and the assumption has always been that they will act in our interests as they do so. We shouldn't expect to be informed about absolutely everything they do, unless it goes wrong, in which case we can reasonably expect to be able to hold them to account. That's what we have opposition parties for - their job is to harry the government and expose its flaws.

  morddwyd 08:26 04 Feb 2014

Thank you for the lecture.

Yes, I elect an MP to look after me interests, but that includes running the country.

Ministers and other individuals are appointed to look after the way government policies are implemented in individual departments, but they are always responsible to Parliament, particularly to the House of Commons, elected by us.

While appearance before such committees a may be voluntary, any minister who thinks he is above such matters needs a wake up call.

  fourm member 09:59 04 Feb 2014

And what is your evidence for saying ministers think they are 'above such matters'?

The Select Committee system offers a good way of examining government policy in more detail that debates or questions in the house.

But, it is a part of politics. That means that committees chairs know how to get themselves publicity, especially the sort of publicity that will appear in their local press and give the impression they are doing a good job.

Take the politics away and it is about how you provide oversight without trying to micro-manage.

In any case, that BBC story is wrong. It says 'Iain Duncan Smith has told MPs they "cannot run" his department'. It should say 'Iain Duncan Smith has told the MPs who serve on a select committee they "cannot run" his department'. Of course, that change makes it a non-story and means people looking for any feeble chance to have a pop will be disappointed.

  Forum Editor 16:20 04 Feb 2014

"Yes, I elect an MP to look after me interests, but that includes running the country."

No, it doesn't.

MPs are not there to 'run the country', that's the job of the government. The House of Commons is a legislative body, not an executive one. Day to day decisions on running the country are made by Ministers and their Civil Servants, not by your MP.

Perhaps you needed the lecture.

  morddwyd 20:57 04 Feb 2014

"Day to day decisions on running the country are made by Ministers and their Civil Servants, not by your MP."

Ministers, not civil servants, who simply implement government policy, as instructed by their ministerialo heads.

Those ministers are selected/ appointed by the Prime Minister, who is selected/ appointed broadly speaking, by the MPs of the parliamentary party in majority, who are selected/ appointed by us, the electorate.

We, the people, are in charge, it's called democracy, and ministers lose sight of it at their peril.

  Forum Editor 23:54 04 Feb 2014

"Those ministers are selected/ appointed by the Prime Minister, who is selected/ appointed broadly speaking, by the MPs of the parliamentary party in majority, who are selected/ appointed by us, the electorate."

I can see that you're determined to plough on with this.

As far as the Conservative party is concerned, MPs do select the party leader, you're right about that.

If the party achieves a majority in a General Election the MPs do not then run the country however, as you seem to think. The Prime Minister appoints members of the government, and together they run the country on a day to day basis, assisted by the Civil Service. MPs in the house have no part in that - their job is to represent the interests of their constituents in the House, and in their constituency offices, and to vote on legislative matters in the house. If you voted for an opposition MP he or she will generally vote against the government.

Opposition MPs can certainly influence the way the government runs the country, as can those who sit on the government side of the house, but they play no part in the day to day administration of government, unless they are members of it.

As far as the Labour party is concerned, MPs do not even elect the leader - that is done by the members of the party, each member having one vote.

None of which stops you from disagreeing with Ian Duncan Smith when he told the Commons committee that "I don't have to tell the committee everything that is happening in the department....."

He was right - technically he doesn't, although he has it within his discretion if he wishes to do so.

  morddwyd 05:52 05 Feb 2014

"As far as the Labour party is concerned, MPs do not even elect the leader - that is done by the members of the party, each member having one vote. "

Which is why I said "broadly speaking".

I am well aware that the current leader was elected by the voting power of the trade unions. Even so, his position would be untenable if he did not have the broad support of the parliamentary party.

You are also not really accurate in saying "each member having one vote".

That is a reform which Milliband is trying to introduce. I currently have a vote in who becomes leader of the Labour party, but I am not, in the true sense, a member of the party (God forbid!).

  oresome 11:17 05 Feb 2014

I don't pretend to fully understand the internal voting mechanisms of the various parties or have any great interest, but note that in one or two cases recently, activists have managed to enrol new voting members in an attempt to sway the result of a ballot their way.

I expect this goes on all the time, some cases being more subtle than others with lots of horse trading thrown in.

I'm reminded of the quotation:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

The end result is that the candidates put forward from the parties for our vote have been selected by an unrepresentative group with narrow interests. The candidates speak with a forked tongue, one to suit the selection committee and another sanitised one to garner votes from the general public.

It may be one man one vote, but some votes count for more than others especially where the seats aren't marginal.

  john bunyan 13:32 05 Feb 2014

The "democracy" issue is a bit hollow. Few truly independent candidates succeed - most of us who are not affiliated to a party are given the choice, in effect, of candidates who are "elected" by local party activists. We tend to vote for the person representing the party whose manifesto is preferable to us. The fact is that we elect a person who, in turn, has been selected by a few others. Expensive as it might be, why cannot there be "primaries", so the electorate could have a choice of a few candidates from each party? Secondly, in my experience, MP's, when asked by constituents to take up issues (not personal ones) such as road schemes or national issues , merely state the governments view, and are unwilling or unable to truly put the views of their constituents.

  Pine Man 13:59 05 Feb 2014

'when asked by constituents to take up issues (not personal ones) such as road schemes or national issues , merely state the governments view, and are unwilling or unable to truly put the views of their constituents.'

Not all MPs are the same.

Last time I contacted mine I had a phone call from his PA followed by a letter (hand written) from the MP himself followed by a letter from the relevant government department. All respondents couldn't have been more helpful.

I know it's not relevant but the MP was a Tory.

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