Very frustrating at the moment
THE House of Commons is very frustrating at the moment. It's full of MPs with only two things on their minds. They're either banging on about Europe, or they're grumbling
THE House of Commons is very frustrating at the moment. It's full of MPs with only two things on their minds. They're either banging on about Europe, or they're grumbling about MPs' pay and allowances.It's not that these aren't important issues. They are. The Government has just signed Britain up to the new EU Constitutional Treaty which transfers lots more power to Brussels, so obviously Parliament should be debating if it's right. And the scandals of Peter Hain forgetting to declare donations, and Derek Conway employing his sons, mean that even the crustiest old MPs realise the rules on allowances have to be much stronger and more modern.So the problem isn't the subjects themselves. It's the odd way Parliament is approaching them. Both issues attract their share of obsessives who won't talk about anything else, like the peculiar old uncle who everyone avoids at family reunions. But odder still is the double standard that MPs apply to these subjects. On MPs' allowances the old guard are saying that Parliament is sovereign, so letting an independent regulator check MPs' spending would erode Parliament's ability to govern. But on Europe they seem perfectly happy to reduce Parliament's sovereignty by signing it away to Brussels. This isn't just inconsistent, it's self-serving too. Why is Parliament's sovereignty so much more important when MPs' pay and allowances are under threat, but not when we're handing powers to unelected eurocrats in Brussels?I think both approaches are wrong. Parliament shouldn't be sovereign; the people are. MPs should be willing to have their pay set externally, and their allowances audited, to show the electorate that their tax money is being spent properly. And we shouldn't hand democratic powers to Brussels without asking the people in a referendum first. The problem is persuading the old guard to agree.