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All change on the Committee corridor and regulating the conduct and standards of MPs (Parliament Matters: Episode 2)

10 Nov 2023
Transport Select Committee Chair Iain Stewart MP questioning Transport Secretary Mark Harper MP. ©UK Parliament
©UK Parliament

Four new Chairs of Select Committees have been elected but how much can they achieve in what is likely to be the final parliamentary Session before the General Election?

30 MPs have lost the Whip in this Parliament and a recall petition has just opened in the constituency of Wellingborough after former Conservative MP Peter Bone was excluded from Parliament for six weeks. So, Mark and Ruth discuss how the recall system works, why the Standards Committee is looking at how this and other aspects of the regulation of MP’s conduct and standards could be improved, and why it’s so difficult to exclude MPs from Parliament after they are accused of very serious offences.

  • What issues is the Defence Committee investigating?

  • Which bodies police MP's behaviour and conduct?

  • How does the recall of MPs work?

  • Why are there so many independent MPs in this Parliament?

  • Why is it so difficult to exclude MPs from the parliamentary estate?

Hansard Society

House of Commons

Please note, this transcript is automatically generated. There are consequently minor errors and the text is not formatted according to our style guide. If you wish to reference or cite the transcript copy below, please first check against the audio version above. Timestamps are provided above each paragraph.

00:00:02:18 - 00:00:34:00

You are listening to Parliament Matters, a Hansard Society Production supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn More at hansardsociety.org.uk/pm. Hello and welcome to Parliament Matters, the new podcast from the Hansard Society about the institution at the heart of our democracy - Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox and I'm Mark D'Arcy. Every week we're going to be analysing what's going on behind the Gothic facade of Westminster.

00:00:34:02 - 00:00:58:20

We'll be explaining how the system works and hearing about the latest research on the workings of Parliament from politics and looking back at key moments of parliamentary history. In our first episode, we were taking a look at The King's Speech, the program of new laws that will keep Parliament chewing productively away right up to the next general election.

00:00:58:22 - 00:01:18:06

But that's not the only thing that goes on in Parliament. There's also plenty of action up on the committee corridor where MP scrutinize in detail the workings of different government departments and the unfolding of government policy. And if it's been all change then. Yes. So the reshuffle that Keir Starmer did for his frontbench has resulted in three select committee changes.

00:01:18:06 - 00:01:42:23

So we'll talk about those in a minute. But first the Defence Committee. We saw the the Conservative chair of that committee has been ousted. The former chair, Tobias Ellwood, was effectively given the push by his members. They lost confidence in him. He concluded it wasn't possible for him to continue in the chair of that Committee, and that was really quite a startling example of someone losing control of their committee in the first time.

00:01:42:23 - 00:02:11:03

That's all. It's actually been pushed out in these circumstances, Ruth. Yes. So Tobias went to Afghanistan and seemed to have made a statement indicating that he thought the security situation had improved under the Taliban. So you can imagine the reaction of M.P.s generally, but particularly his committee members were pretty outraged. And it became clear when he got back that he'd lost the confidence of his colleagues and once you're in that position as a committee chair, you've really no option but to go.

00:02:11:05 - 00:02:31:11

This wasn't a one off incident. This was, if you like, the last straw and several other incidences where he had said stuff with the authority of the committee chair, but without the authority of the actual committee. And he had upset his committee members one time. Too many. And that meant there was an organized attempt to remove him that didn't actually have to be pushed to a final vote.

00:02:31:17 - 00:02:52:18

Yeah, I mean, he clearly tested their patience beyond which they you know, they decided that was it. A line was drawn. So we've now got Robert Courts. He won the the election to take over from Tobias as chair of the committee and obviously given the state the world situation in Ukraine situation in the Middle East, it's a really important committee and we've got some interesting inquiries coming up.

00:02:52:20 - 00:03:13:02

Yes, indeed. They've already, in fact, swung into action. The defense committee has had a hearing with generals from the defense staff talking about, amongst other things, the shortage of ammunition and their fears that the stockpiles aren't great enough. If we actually got involved in a shooting war of some kind at the moment. And that's quite an alarming thing for the committee to hear, is this sort of building on the work the committee's been doing before.

00:03:13:02 - 00:03:34:12

Under Tobias Ellwood, they produced a whole stream of reports about the state of our defenses with titles like We Need a Bigger Navy, which doesn't exactly bury the lede. So, you know, that's a campaign the committee's continuing on. And as you say, given the state of the world at the moment, it's a matter of concern. I mentioned we are attracting quite a lot of parliamentary attention.

00:03:34:14 - 00:04:03:08

Yeah. I mean, they had a big report in the summer about procurement and procurement across government. It's difficult, complex and there's all sorts of issues with it, but particularly the media, you know, it's notorious and they've had lots of reviews, lots of committee inquiries over the years. But the committee produced a pretty damning report in the summer. And of course, one of the big issues that the committee are concerned about, you know, you see generals turning up to the committee and sort of talking about this is we're giving a lot of kit material equipment to Ukraine.

00:04:03:10 - 00:04:29:01

How quickly is that being replenished? And in the event that, you know, we were facing difficulties, would we have enough on the stocks to defend ourselves? And so, you know, in terms of the future, that's going to be quite critical. And the other underlying concern here is, if you like, the pattern of some exciting new piece of defense kit is he's ordered years later, it's very late, it's wildly overbudget and it doesn't actually work yet.

00:04:29:02 - 00:04:49:20

And there have been any number of weapons systems that have been ordered by the MOD that have fitted that description. In the case of the Ajax armored fighting vehicle sort of infantry carrier, that at one point was so noisy that it pose a risk to the hearing of the crew inside. It too couldn't go very fast and all sorts of other problems with it.

00:04:49:22 - 00:05:09:05

Those are, we're told, being resolved now. But that's not a typical example of what seems to happen rather too often. And people are looking to why can other countries manage this? Israel's site is a case in point. It's a country with a much more efficient system of defense procurement than we have that doesn't see these wild cost overruns.

00:05:09:07 - 00:05:33:19

Yeah. The other issue that the committee has started looking at is is the accommodation for service personnel, which I mean, I don't know much about it, but I certainly know some people who have been on some of the bases and say it's it's not not the best condition. Now they've got this sort of inquiry looming. And one of the interesting things in the summer was that the committee was told by the Armed Services personnel couldn't submit evidence to it.

00:05:33:21 - 00:05:54:09

Needless to say, the committee were not that impressed with that, because who better to tell them about the state service accommodation than the the inmates themselves, as it were? And they've now wrote back on that. The defense secretary said no. Okay, you know, you've heard what the committee's got to say about this. Okay, fine. The service personnel can submit written evidence, certain conditions attached to that.

00:05:54:11 - 00:06:13:11

So it'll be interesting to see what kind of evidence they get. Well, you can understand why they might have chain of command worries about that sort of thing. No, no. Armed forces anywhere, I think, would be keen on their personnel going over their heads to elected politicians. But I think in this case, as you say, it is not as if they're questioning tactical decisions or something.

00:06:13:16 - 00:06:31:03

I'll be watching with some interest myself because, you know, I spent a large chunk of my early life in an array of married quarters in all sorts of places across the world. So I don't remember them being exactly palatial then. So having only knows what they're like now, we will see now the next committee that we want to look.

00:06:31:05 - 00:06:57:13

There are in fact three committees other than defense that also changed hands, but it's slightly different circumstances. In each case, the existing chair has been sort of called to Glory by Sir Keir Starmer, who has put the incumbent chairs on the front bench. The business committee is perhaps the most striking one where the previous chair, Darren Jones, has been promoted straight in to the shadow cabinet, where he'll be Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury after a pretty impressive stint chairing that committee.

00:06:57:13 - 00:07:16:02

Now this is the second economic Committee, the big one, the Treasury committees in chances of grand economic policy about interest rates and money supply and that kind of thing. The business committee's much more kind of granular. We'll look at individual industries, what's going on in the steel industry, why it has collapsed, that kind of thing. And it looks at them in some detail.

00:07:16:07 - 00:07:34:10

And it's typically the one that the opposition gets while the government continues to hold onto the chair of the Treasury Committee. But it was a highly sought after post where Liam Byrne, the former Treasury minister, just scraped in in the election. Yeah, I thought this was interesting because I thought Angela Eagle, who was the other candidate, might win that one.

00:07:34:11 - 00:07:51:10

She lost by two votes. But I think it's an interesting one because, Liam, there are some issues around sort of Liam's sort of political background. So, you know, he's been sanctioned for, you know, some some issues around conduct in the Commons. So, you know, that's a hot potato issue. And I thought MPs might not favor him as a result of that.

00:07:51:12 - 00:08:12:19

Of course, he's also the author of that famous note that was left in the Treasury in 2010 after the 2010 election. There's no money left, which the conservative Party chairman has been sort of merrily using 13 years later to remind everybody about the inheritance that the Conservative government got in 2010. I think I don't think he's getting much traction 13 years on, but his Labor colleagues have finally forgiven him for it.

00:08:12:21 - 00:08:34:24

Yeah, so I was surprised. I said Angela lost by two votes, which I thought was interesting because there were ten votes that were found to be invalid in that election. Which begs the question, what were MPs doing? Were they trying to write in an alternative candidate? But you think, you know, the pretty core skill amongst employees is casting their votes for ten of them to get it wrong suggests that something was afoot.

00:08:35:02 - 00:08:52:22

Well, they weren't happy with either candidate and decided to try and put somebody else's name on the ballot. But anyway, Angela lost by two votes on that one. So watch this space. See what Liam does with the with the committee and the Petitions Committee where Catherine McKinnell has also been called onto the Labor frontbench to be succeeded by another Labour MP, Cat Smith.

00:08:53:01 - 00:09:08:23

And incidentally, remember with this, the committees are kind of divvied up between the parties. So Labor has the chair of certain committees, the Conservatives have the chair of some of the others, the SNP gets a couple as well. But Cat Smith was the Labour MP who won that election and petitions. It's kind of the new kid on the committee corridor.

00:09:09:04 - 00:09:33:23

It's set up to kind of oversee the working of the petitioning system where you can go online, you can petition Parliament over something. Sometimes it's someone should be sacked or some change to the law should be made or whatever it is. And if you get 100,000 signatures on my petition, it automatically gets a debate. And these debates are actually a much bigger deal than perhaps a lot of the inmates of Westminster realize.

00:09:34:00 - 00:09:59:16

Yeah, I mean, you know, from your time at the BBC, short of Prime Minister's Questions that the most watched element of parliamentary activity in the Commons chamber and signing a petition, the most popular form of political participation after voting. So very popular. If you're an MP and you're wanting to capture an audience or you've got irksome issues of campaigning interest, linking in with a petition campaign is a great way to get some profile.

00:09:59:18 - 00:10:18:12

I'm always surprised by how few MPs have actually cottoned onto this point that this is this is somewhere where the public are genuinely watching, not least because a lot of these petitions are driven by hashtag social media campaigns. And if you're signing up to that, you can get an email saying this is going to be debated at such and such a time, tune in.

00:10:18:14 - 00:10:43:04

And a surprising number of people do. They're not sort of meeting massive policy changes that are happening. We've seen a huge social and economic implications, but if you've got a niche policy issue that might not require legislation to fix it, then being able to get a minister to a debate, having to answer questions, getting it on their radar, demonstrating that there's a campaign behind it, can sometimes bring about some some useful change.

00:10:43:04 - 00:11:00:19

And indeed that and that point about getting it on a minister's radar and the minister seeing that there are people, you know, both parliamentary colleagues and in the wider public concerned about an issue can sometimes sort of cattle prod them into action on something and you suddenly find that there's a clause in a forthcoming bill that addresses that issue, whatever it is.

00:11:00:21 - 00:11:36:03

So it is a useful way of bringing a bit of real life non S.W. one Experian. It's into the whacky world of Parliament. Yeah. So with that returned to Standards Committee, I asked the Standards Committee of MPs ethics watchdog, the committee that deals with detailed complaints about an MP's behavior, whether it's the sort of violation of parliamentary ethics or whatever it is really, and that was chaired by Chris Bryant, the long serving Labor MP, who again has been called up onto Sir Keir Starmer's frontbench and he's succeeded by one of Labor's real veterans.

00:11:36:03 - 00:12:01:21

Harriet Harman, the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, has taken over this job. Incidentally, this is a post that has to be held by a member of the Opposition, the Standards Committee, by long standing events and can't be an instrument of government to be turned against Opposition MPs when they get inconvenient. So it's always chaired by an Opposition MP, Harriet Harman, of course was very prominently the MP who presided over the inquiry into Boris Johnson.

00:12:02:01 - 00:12:23:23

Now this this was not actually quite by the Standards Committee, this is by a kind of offshoot committee of the Standards Committee called the Privileges Committee, which investigates kind of affronts to the Commons. Like, for example, did Boris Johnson mislead MPs over those COVID era parties in Downing Street? So Harriet Harman presided over those she's now taking over for real, across the whole committee.

00:12:23:23 - 00:12:49:14

And again, it's one of these moments where you're at the end of a Parliament and it's not clear that she'll have much chance to make any real impact before the election is called and the music stops. Yeah. The issue with this committee, of course, is that to a certain extent it is reactive rather than proactive because it has to deal with the reports that come from the parliamentary commissioner for standards cases, whether it's, you know, bullying, harassment, whatever it is.

00:12:49:16 - 00:13:15:01

But the commissioner has investigated. She will have to continue to sort of, you know, committee members will have to sort of continue to look at those cases as and when the flow of reports comes through. But they have started an inquiry on a sort of more strategic basis, looking at the regulatory landscape, if you like, the standards for MPs, this is sort of an alphabet soup of bodies and processes that regulate MPs.

00:13:15:01 - 00:13:33:01

Now in terms of their conduct. And the feeling is that this has gotten a bit potentially a bit too complicated and that they need to have a sort of a bit of a bit of a rethink and simplify it. Yeah, this has been a thing for a while now where every time there's a sort of exciting new species of complaints against MPs has evolved.

00:13:33:03 - 00:14:00:10

The Commons has come up with a new body to deal with it. So when you have the expenses scandal, which you know is disturbingly long time again as 15, 16 years, when the expenses scandal came along, they invented IPSA the independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to police MPs expenses and make sure the system wasn't being milked by unscrupulous honorable members when there was a rash of complaints about bullying and harassment and even sexual abuse of Commons staff.

00:14:00:12 - 00:14:27:12

They invented the independent complaints and grievance service, which was headed by an independent expert panel so that MPs themselves were not adjudicating on complaints that came from MP staff. So some sort of collective solidarity of employees wouldn't undermine the complaints process that. So, as you say, more and more of these bodies appear every time there's something there and there's a certain feeling that there's too many different processes and it all gets rather confusing and messy.

00:14:27:12 - 00:14:43:02

Yeah, And I think the interesting thing is if they can report, obviously a lot depends on the timing of the general election. But if they can, they can do the inquiry and report before the election and sort of they can set out an agenda that they might not be able to get it in place before the general election takes place.

00:14:43:02 - 00:15:06:10

But if they can sort of set that out in their report, they can sort of hand it over as a sort of legacy report to the next Parliament with a view to implementing it and providing a sort of a new foundation for the for the regulation in the future. Nobody is, I think, suggesting that the basic and significant changes to the requirements on employees, but just sort of the reporting structure and the relationships between those bodies can be improved.

00:15:06:14 - 00:15:28:22

And on the principle of strike, while the iron is hot, a commons full of wide eyed innocent, idealistic members of Parliament is perhaps more ready to pass this kind of thing into the rules than a sort of hard eyed, cynical. Been there, done it all, experienced House of Commons later on. So maybe the moment just after an election is the moment when you can get this stuff through.

00:15:28:24 - 00:15:55:02

Yeah. And one of the issues that they're going to have to consider in this inquiry is what do they do with the recall act? Did they want to reform that? Now that's sort of topical at the moment because of course Peter Bone, the Conservative MP for Wellingborough, is being recalled. I mean, the the recall petition has now started in his constituency and the Standards Committee sort of that's part of its regulatory sort of landscape inquiry, all the changes that we need to make to that.

00:15:55:08 - 00:16:30:24

Yeah, just, just to explain that point a little bit, in the Coalition era, they set up this system where if an MP was suspended for more than ten sitting days of Parliament, that triggered a process where their constituent could in effect feel that collar. And if 10% of their voters in their constituency voted to recall the MP, then a by election was held that MP was effectively unseated, that the MP could perhaps run in that byelection if they could get the backing to do so from their constituency association or enough people to nominate them and run as an independent, whatever.

00:16:31:01 - 00:17:01:11

But the MP loses their seat and may or may not then recontest it. And that's a system that's been used a number of times, frequently to some effect, although at least one MP has survived the process. Yeah, we're not sure the first time the recall petition was run. So North Antrim, the DUP MP Ian Paisley, survived, but we've had recalls that have succeeded in Peterborough, Brecon and Radnorshire and of course most recently in in Scotland in the seat, Rutherglen, Rutherglen and Hamilton, I think.

00:17:01:13 - 00:17:25:24

Margaret Ferrier of course got done under the COVID regulations and she was recalled earlier, earlier this summer. So Peter Bone's sanctioned for six weeks. The independent expert panel found that his appeal against the sanctions or terms of bullying and harassment, that he was found guilty of, he they rejected his appeal. They said, no, the six week suspension was appropriate.

00:17:26:01 - 00:17:47:21

That obviously engages the terms of the recall. So that recall petition is now open to the constituents in Wellingborough. And recall has become quite a big deal in terms of the number of by elections it's causing. Now, you know, the Grim Reaper has been somewhat eclipsed by the sort of disciplinary process where people are either recalled or have to resign their seats in anticipation that they might be recalled.

00:17:47:21 - 00:18:12:15

So it's suddenly changing things and the government's majority has actually come down quite sharply as a result of a series of by elections of one sort or another over this time. And I don't know if the people who are writing the recall lines back in the coalition years quite anticipated how deeply it might bite. Yeah, I mean, there's only been three MPs so far that have been recalled, so we might have four if the Wellingborough constituency supports it.

00:18:12:17 - 00:18:40:17

But there are MPs who would rather not go through that process and resigned before it. So you can see how the embarrassment, the scale of sanctions now that apply is forcing some resignations. It will be interesting to see there are 30 MPs in this Parliament who have lost the whip, which is pretty extraordinary. And indeed, and that includes in their number, for example, Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour Party, Nick Brown, the former Labour Chief Whip.

00:18:40:19 - 00:19:03:03

These are these are not necessarily incidentally, anyone who's an independent is not necessarily for, if you like, ethics reasons in a number of cases, it's political differences. They've had some kind of falling out with their their party leadership, and that has precipitated it. So, for example, Angus Brendon McNeil, the SNP MP, has had a big falling out with the SNP leadership and decided to move away from the SNP whip.

00:19:03:03 - 00:19:23:05

He hasn't actually joined the ALBA party, which does have a parliamentary presence of two SNP defectors, but he's sort of sitting away now from the main bloc of SNP people, which is quite startling given that he was one of the handful of SNP MPs who had seats in Parliament before their big landslide in 2015. Yeah, and of course Andy McDonald is one of the most recent ones.

00:19:23:05 - 00:19:42:18

The Labour MP who's lost the whip while they investigate his comments on Gaza. And of course Matt Hancock. You know, you'll be sort of up in front of the COVID inquiry, but he lost the whip for going on I'm a celebrity, so there are lots of different reasons why people have lost the whip. And of course some get the whip back.

00:19:42:20 - 00:20:01:15

But at the moment, the sort of what's 18 nothing campaigns now are sitting as independents, which makes them the third party because they are bigger than the Lib Dems. And some of those MPs are there because there have been allegations made against them that are in the process of being investigated. But again, we hit one of the big sort of messy factors.

00:20:01:15 - 00:20:25:21

That is why the Standards Committee's taking such a big look at this whole issue, which is that M.P.s can be left in limbo for a disturbingly long time while stuff is going on. And it may be that it's not just sort of one process. It's not even double jeopardy. Sometimes it's triple jeopardy. Sometimes there's a party investigation, a parliamentary investigation and a police investigation into the same set of allegations.

00:20:25:23 - 00:20:50:03

And everybody's waiting on those processes to unfold. And it can take a very long time to clear the decks. And in the meantime, you may have a situation where an MP has agreed not to come into parliament because of safeguarding concerns that they accused of sexual harassment or some offense or a violent offense or something like that. And they don't want staff to be exposed to risk by their presence.

00:20:50:05 - 00:21:09:22

To go back to your point about these being issues of long standing, I mean, that's the context of the Peter Bone case. The allegations about him date back ten years. And one of the issues is that complainant went first to the conservative Party to complain about it, and somehow that did not get resolved. I sort of got kicked into the long grass.

00:21:09:24 - 00:21:29:09

The complainant then went through the parliamentary process that stalled because they were waiting for the party to resolve it and the complainant got fed up. I think of waiting, withdrew his complaint from the party and then the parliamentary process took its course. And we are now in a situation where we'll have to see what happens in his constituency.

00:21:29:09 - 00:22:01:16

But yeah, I'm one of the one of the issues and it's a really difficult one because I don't want to imply at all that I think the, you know, the bar on standards for MP should be lowered. I absolutely don't. But we have to deal with also the other side of the discussion, which is we're facing a situation where employees who have been elected are not coming onto the parliamentary estate quite rightly, I think, because, you know, the trade unions and staff and so on have real concerns about some incredibly serious allegations that have been made against them.

00:22:01:18 - 00:22:22:22

We don't know much detail. There are a number of cases where MPs, the complaints are obviously with the party, not the parliamentary process. We don't know anything about what's happening with those. So MPs are not performing their parliamentary duties because they are not coming on to the to the post. Their constituents can't be properly represented. So there's a democratic deficit for their constituents.

00:22:22:22 - 00:22:41:23

And the problem here is how do you balance the needs of the constituency, the constituents, to be represented properly? You know, at the moment those MPs are effectively are able to operate as a sort of like a glorified postman for them, but they can't go on and into the estate and ask questions. They can't participate in debates. So there's a problem there.

00:22:41:23 - 00:23:01:08

But equally, if there are really serious allegations, as they seem to be against these MPs, then you can understand completely the concerns of the staff and the trade union. Well, they shouldn't be let loose on the estate until matters are resolved. The scenario is what if you find yourself in a commons left with someone who is accused of sexual harassment?

00:23:01:10 - 00:23:22:04

And that clearly is not that clearly what's happening over the years. I mean, the most spectacular example and very current example is some of the allegations that have emerged in the new book by Nadine Dorries about the removal of Boris Johnson. She's talking about an MP who who basically is being described, an unnamed MP, I should say, who's basically been described as a serial rapist.

00:23:22:06 - 00:23:44:21

And there's been huge concern about who that might be and what the risk might be to people on the parliamentary estate and the prospect of the unions involved in the Palace of Westminster and the First Division Association have written to the parliamentary authorities about that, wanting to get some kind of reassurance. Yeah, I mean, the latest letters to direct to the Prime Minister saying, you know, there's a real problem here.

00:23:44:21 - 00:23:59:16

When the complaints are made to the parties, how seriously do they take it? What steps do they take? Do they report it to the police? I mean, the allegation is that the party didn't report it to the police initially, and the party chairman found out about it when he new chairman was appointed and he reported it to the police.

00:23:59:16 - 00:24:28:17

But it appeared to have been sort of sat on previously. So some really, really difficult issues. And the Commons commission, which is sort of the the sort of the top management group, the speaker and sort of the leader of the House of Commons, shadow leader of the Commons, have been looking at this. You know, on what basis can you exclude MPs from the parliamentary estate because of course there's a constitutional right that an MP cannot be impeded from doing their duties as a parliamentarian at Westminster.

00:24:28:19 - 00:24:54:20

And that dates back to sort of, you know, the Bill of Rights, while on the other hand, there is this issue about if if a member has been arrested, perhaps not charged yet, may indeed be found not not guilty or may not ever be charged. But if they're arrested and there are serious allegations, should at that point the MP be excluded from the estate or to the principles of natural justice, they know they should only be excluded from the estate if they're charged.

00:24:54:22 - 00:25:11:08

There is no right answer to this one as far as I can see. There's a very difficult balancing act at the moment. It's resolved by the Speaker asking an MP to agree not to come in and presumably if they did come in, in defiance of that, the speaker just wouldn't call them to speak. It's it's an unsatisfactory situation.

00:25:11:08 - 00:25:36:14

And as you say, the constitutional issues are very high powered. I mean, I've never thought it should be easy to remove an elected MPs because if it's easy to remove them, sooner or later the process gets weaponised against someone who's just plain inconvenient to a government or inconvenient to their party. And then we're off to the races where people are being sort of knocked off by spurious complaints which keep them out of parliamentary circulation and it never ends.

00:25:36:17 - 00:26:03:06

Yeah, I mean, we've had, you know, tales of various M.P.s themselves describing this as, you know, the sort of the worst parliament ever. And, you know, this this this issue about the level of misbehavior, the number of MPs have lost the whip, the number of employees that have had to resign because of misconduct. Mm. But the other point, I think that really has to be underlined is that the system is exposing these cases in a way that may not have happened before.

00:26:03:06 - 00:26:29:10

That's not to say that everybody who's done anything bad is, is getting their collar felt by the parliamentary authorities, but the system is bringing more people out there. And I think in previous eras, people might have been quietly allowed to slink away or might even just have had their behavior tolerated as well. Boys will be boys. Yeah. And I think the the big test is for the political parties at this coming election, because, you know, they've known the election is coming.

00:26:29:10 - 00:26:51:03

This is not a snap election like 2017 and 2019. The selection processes have been in train for a while. There is it's incumbent upon them to be doing the screening at the selection process level, to be doing the due diligence to ensure that if candidates there are any suspicions of candidates, you know, in terms of misbehavior, in terms of their ethics and so on, that they're weeded out.

00:26:51:04 - 00:27:26:23

Now, you don't want that to tip over into scenarios where, you know, you get identikit politicians. That's what we're talking, not what we're talking about. But some politicians who got through recent previous elections, I think got through because the screening wasn't in place and people thought that they wouldn't win those seats. And next time that the true test I think, of these new systems that are in place is whether in the next parliament, we actually having dealt with a lot of these legacy cases in the next parliament, you know, we don't we don't have this situation where you've got you've got 30 MP leading the way.

00:27:27:00 - 00:27:49:21

You've got to have a situation where the parties look at individuals and not just at their own party credentials and whether they're long serving counsels or whatever, but also look at their behavior patterns, look at what they've got to contribute. It's about caliber and it's about ethics. And it's really a responsibility if you're selecting someone who you think might get into parliament or even has an outside chance of getting into parliament, make sure they're not a wrong.

00:27:49:21 - 00:28:14:02

And yeah, and I'm sure we're going to return to this theme quite a few times before the election. You bet. Okay. So that's all from us for this episode of Parliament Matters. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you get the next episode. Do you share your thoughts by reviewing us on Apple or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts?

00:28:14:04 - 00:28:45:21

And if you've got any questions you'd like us to talk about in our special Urgent Questions episodes, go to hansardsociety.org.uk/pm. You can put your questions there or you can follow us across social media accounts @HansardSociety. Thanks for joining us. See you soon.

00:28:45:23 - 00:28:56:19

Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. For more information, visit hansardsociety.org.uk/pm and you can find us on social media @Hansard Society.

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