Sunday, June 28, 2009

Developing a spine

Perhaps there is hope for us yet. The Sunday Times is reporting that Gordon Brown's plans to create a legally enforceable "code of conduct" for MPs are in turmoil.

It appears that four senior MPs are to table amendments to water down or remove the proposals from the Parliamentary Standards Bill, which is going through the Commons this week. They include Sir Stuart Bell, the Labour MP on the Commons Commission; Sir George Young, who chairs the committee on standards and privileges; and Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the Commons. The House of Lords has also threatened to throw out the scheme.

Reinforcing our fears about rushed law, it has also emerged that neither Jack Straw, the justice secretary, who is charged with pushing through the legislation, nor Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons, who unveiled the bill last week, actually knew about the plans for a code of conduct until they were announced by No 10.

Whitehall officials drew up new clauses to "fit the press release", a classic example of law "on the hoof" which should never see the light of day. It will be a good day if the Commons has the spine to throw out the Bill in its entirety.