Thursday, 27 January 2011

Parliament Should Grow Up

Because of a resolution passed on 2 March 1623, it is technically impossible for MPs to resign their seats. Unlike hereditary peers, life peers may not disclaim their titles.

Under the Representation of the People Act 1981 MPs can be disqualified if sentenced to twelve months or longer in prison. Unless they are found guilty of treason or a special Act of Attainder is passed, life peers retain the right to sit in the House of Lords.

To leave the House of Commons an MP must apply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an office of profit under the Crown because that is forbidden by the Act of Settlement 1701. Two are available: either the Steward and Bailliff of the Manor of Northstead or the Crown Steward and Bailliff of the Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham. As they are sinecures, MPs are eminently qualified. The posts are awarded in rotation and the appointee holds the office until another MP bails out.

At the moment Gerard Adams is the SBMN and Iris Robinson the CSBCH.

What a load of nonsense. If MPs wish to resign, let them. If life peers wish to disclaim their titles (they'll regret it when they're in a queue), let them. If a life peer is sentenced to a year or more, his or her peerage must be revoked.

Actually, life peerages should be abolished and replaced immediately with single parliament peerages, just as was the practice 500 odd years ago. For the next parliament, ie from 2015, the House of Lords should be reduced to 100 members all elected for terms of five years starting from two years after the Commons Election.

To compensate for the reduced recruitment pool (puddle) of potential Ministers from Parliament, why not appoint properly qualified candidates as temporary Privy Counsellors accountable to either House? Committees would investigate all ministerial appointments. Parliament would be refocused as an instrument to hold the government to account instead of a greasy pole to the Cabinet.

Although I consider parliament must be reformed and modernised, I disagree with the present Squeaker's prep school master's self-chosen garb. A clown should dress like a clown.

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