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The Commons Speaker survives (for now), Liz Truss takes on the ‘Deep State’, plus how do we detoxify politics? (Parliament Matters: Episode 23)

27 Feb 2024
The Rt Hon Liz Truss MP giving a speech, 7 October 2020. © Number 10 [Flickr] / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED
The Rt Hon Liz Truss MP giving a speech, 7 October 2020. © Number 10 [Flickr] / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

There was no let up for Mr Speaker as the fall-out continued from last week’s Commons chaos over the Opposition Day debate on Gaza. But is his position now safe? And why has the government pulled a vote on a scheme to exclude MPs accused of sexual harassment or assault from Parliament?

Liz Truss MP was interviewed at the Conservative Political Action Conference in America by a man convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the Select Committee investigating the January 6th 2021 insurrection in Washington. What is a British parliamentarian – and former Prime Minister – doing consorting with people associated with the overthrow of the American legislature?

It is widely recognised that the range and scale of threats facing MPs has escalated in recent years. But what can be done to stop abuse and intimidation in our politics? We talk to Baroness Bertin and Lord Coaker, the co-chairs of the cross-party Jo Cox Civility Commission, about their call to action.

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.

00:00:00:00 - 00:00:31:13 You are listening to Parliament Matters, a Hansard Society Production supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn More at hansardsociety.org.uk/pm. Welcome to Parliament Matters, the podcast about the institution at the heart of our democracy. Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox. And I'm Mark D’Arcy. Coming up, there was no let-up for Mr Speaker as the fallout continues from last week's Commons chaos. 00:00:31:15 - 00:00:55:00 The government pulls a vote on precautionary exclusions, the controversial scheme to stop employees who've been accused of sexual harassment or assault from coming to parliament. And the battle to stop abusive and inflammatory politics. We talked to two peers who co-chaired the Jo Cox Commission on Civility in Politics. 00:00:55:02 - 00:01:31:09 But first, let's talk about the continuing fallout from last week's chaotic events in parliament. A quick catch up here for those who weren't following them on your show, The speaker controversially allowed Labour to put down an amendment to a motion. The SNP had put forward on one of their opposition days on Gaza, and the result was a furious backlash both from the SNP and from conservative MPs because the effect of that decision was to get Labour off a very nasty political hook which had threatened to cause a split in the party just at a time when Keir Starmer felt he was getting a bit of traction. 00:01:31:11 - 00:01:55:18 And this week the fallout has continued. There are now 93 names as we record on an early day motion calling for the Speaker to step down. And that's a pretty uncomfortable total for any speaker to contemplate. Isn't that right? Yes. I mean, and it's also across three parties. So we've got 46 as we speak Conservative MPs, 42 from the Scottish National Party, three from Plaid Cymru and one Independent. 00:01:55:19 - 00:02:23:07 So if you don't count the deputy speakers, you don't count Sinn Fein MPs. You're looking at sort of about 14% of the overall total of the number of MPs in the House. And of course, of course that's higher than is required for recall of MPs. Yeah. So hooch, you might say, and the effect of that was beginning to be rather visible in Parliament this week when presiding over Prime Minister's Question Time, Lindsay Hoyle was uncharacteristically silent. 00:02:23:08 - 00:02:52:08 Normally he's up and down telling MPs to pipe down, to behave themselves, threatening to send them for an early cup of tea or whatever. And this time, despite the fact it was a very rowdy and indeed occasionally venomous PMQs, Mr. Speaker was silent. Yeah. I mean, we've talked in previous weeks about the state of PMQs and we've talked about him intervening two, three times, sometimes in each session, instructing both the backbenchers and the frontbenchers telling them he's going to send them out for that cup of tea. 00:02:52:10 - 00:03:12:01 Doesn't do it. But this week, nothing. He was completely, completely quiet in the chair. There were no interventions at all. I'm wondering what though the sequel is. An early day motion is a motion for debate on an early day. But that early day never actually comes for all of these motions. There's nothing that says that at some point they get debated. 00:03:12:03 - 00:03:30:02 I'm thinking back to the scenes in I think it was 2008, 2009 when there was an early day motion against Speaker Martin and there were calls for it to be debated. And I think it was Douglas Carswell, then Conservative MP then UKIP, who got up and said, When are we going to have a debate on this? And really pressed the speaker. 00:03:30:02 - 00:04:01:00 And that was pretty much the moment that Speaker Martin's position teetered over into being untenable. I don't know if anybody's going to get up and ask Lindsay Hoyle when he can facilitate a debate on his own future in the chamber. But the SNP are still sufficiently riled that they might well have a go. Yeah, I mean, I think his position with the SNP wasn't helped by the fact that last week he offered or intimated that they could perhaps have an emergency debate so that they would get their opportunity to have the debate on the motion that they wanted. 00:04:01:02 - 00:04:20:07 But it's a pretty unsatisfactory form of debate because it's a kind of neutral motion that this House has considered. It. This is what's called an SO24 debate, a standing order no. 24 debate, which would allow for an emergency discussion of something, but which wouldn't end up in kind of directive action, where the government is therefore told to do X, Y and Z. 00:04:20:09 - 00:04:45:15 So it wouldn't have been anything like a satisfactory for the SNP. No, it wouldn't. But it got worse because the Speaker denied them that request. And, you know, much to their surprise, obviously they were sort of taking the direction from him that he he'd suggested it, they'd proceed it and then he turned around and said no. Now there were grounds for that. But he was kind of gazumped because the government then made a statement also, which meant that there had been a discussion. 00:04:45:15 - 00:05:07:17 So it didn't fall under the terms of the standing order. Yeah. So the provisions are that it must be about the administrative responsibilities of ministers of the Crown. Well you know, discussion of goals or policy towards that and the ceasefire and supply of arms to Israel and so on falls under that rule. But then there's a second qualification that is it going to be discussed by other means in the near future. 00:05:07:17 - 00:05:26:10 Is it anticipated that there'll be future debate on it? And yet the Government had indicated that there was going to be a ministerial statement. Now, interestingly, the Speaker said that he had consulted his deputies on this about the approach that he was taking and also the fact that he gave an explanation of why he was denying the SNP's request. 00:05:26:10 - 00:05:54:18 Because the normal practice is that the chair doesn't explain their decisions. It’s the Duke of Wellington rule. Never apologize, never explain. In the last week, Speaker Hoyle has both apologized and explained his decisions and in neither cases has it gone down all that well, I fear. Yeah, and it's worth bearing in mind it is and should be very difficult to remove a speaker because otherwise they become the subject of sort of political game playing and that way madness. 00:05:55:00 - 00:06:16:20 Yeah, and yes, there was a motion of no confidence against Speaker Martin, but he had lost support pretty much across the House. That's clearly not true of Lindsay Hoyle. There were some quite strong statements of support for him from backbenchers on the conservative side, people like Charles Walker, people like Ben Wallace. The Labour Party is not making any moves. 00:06:16:20 - 00:06:38:05 Why would they? And therefore the Government sort of almost metaphorically putting an arm around him. Penny Mordaunt appears to be supportive, so his position I think is okay. As we stand, you, the signatories on the motion of no confidence have increased, but not, I think to a level that's looking at the moment like it's going to be critical for him. 00:06:38:07 - 00:07:05:12 I mean, the last speaker to lose office after a vote of no confidence was 1695. And as you say, quite rightly, I think he took bribes. It shouldn't be easy to remove a speaker. But there's a flip side to this question, which is is Speaker Hoyle now in the position where he doesn't feel he can afford to offend anybody, which may mean that he isn't able to, for example, get up a question time and tell people to pipe down. 00:07:05:14 - 00:07:30:10 Time will tell. I mean, we'll have to see how things play out in the coming weeks. You know, there is talk of an appeal to the privileges committee to do an inquiry into what happened behind the scenes and whether Labour or Keir Starmer put undue pressure on him. I don't think that will probably go anywhere. But if it does lead to some further activity, then that'll be a line of inquiry that will attract attention. 00:07:30:12 - 00:07:58:13 He may just feel slightly battered and bruised by the last the last few days. I'm sort of just trying to take the heat out of the situation, so we'll have to see if he can pick himself up and dust himself down. And by the time you get past the next election, if he's still in the chair at the end of this parliament, he could probably expect fairly confidently to be reelected to the chair as the first act of the new parliament that will take office after the next general election. 00:07:58:15 - 00:08:29:22 And I think it was presumably pretty much always the game plan that he would go on until at least the halfway point of the next Parliament. So sometime around 2026 there might of then have been an election for a new speaker and he would head off to the House of Lords because the difficulty about electing a completely new speaker, the beginning of a completely new Parliament where an awful lot of MPs have gone and there's a lot of new faces who perhaps aren't all that familiar with how the Commons works is that you end up with people who don't really know what a speaker does. 00:08:29:22 - 00:08:49:20 Choosing a new speaker. They don't know them. They neither know the personalities, nor actually the details of the role, so it's almost the wrong moment to make a choice. The midpoint or a late point of a parliament are far better moments when people are fully sort of marinated in the ways of the commons to make that kind of choice. 00:08:49:20 - 00:09:11:13 So it would be a bit awks to change the speaker right at the start of a new parliament with lots of glowing new faces having to sort of seek advice from the old lags. Yeah, absolutely. Shall we talk about PMQs in a bit more detail, if we must? Well, it's my standard line, isn't it? Every time I watch PMQs, a little bit of my soul dies and a little bit of it died this time as well. 00:09:11:13 - 00:09:30:24 I mean, it was venomous and vacuous in equal part. Yeah. It wasn't very enlightening. If you wanted to know what either side thoughts on policy matters. I don't think you could really call it scrutiny. It was sort of a ritualized form of verbal abuse, really. It was pretty appalling. I asked a family member, actually, he watches it religiously every week and said, What did you think? 00:09:30:24 - 00:09:54:01 And there was an expletive that I won't repeat on air, on a family podcast, but I think that summed it up really. Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak had very nasty things to say about each other, this spineless, hopeless and utterly shameless. The truth is, these are no longer the Tories your parents voted for and the public can see it. 00:09:54:03 - 00:10:29:09 The Prime Minister has lost control of his party to the hordes of redcoats and malcontents. The tinfoil hat brigade over there, the extremists who wrecked the economy all lining up to undermine him, humiliate him, and eventually to get rid of him. And I don't think at the end of it anyone was really any the wiser. Although that final parting shot from Keir Starmer about the Conservative Party not being the Conservative Party people used to vote for strikes me as quite a significant political line of attack. Part of 00:10:29:09 - 00:10:56:20 I think Labour's attack line on the Government now is that the Conservative Party is essentially being taken over by the Faragists, and the One Nation Tories, Keir Starmer will say, are being increasingly marginalized. The truth of that will doubtless be tested at the next general election, but it's an attack he can make at least partly because of the behavior of Lee Anderson and indeed of the former Prime Minister Liz Truss, and her adventures that she was talking about at PMQs. 00:10:56:22 - 00:11:25:12 Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference in America, where all sorts of interesting things went down that I think must have made a number of conservatives pretty uncomfortable. Yeah, well, come to that in a moment. But younger members of my team told me that the whole sort of line about the Conservative Party not being the party that your parents would have voted for apparently is a bit of a pop culture reference because it's what Taylor Swift, the pop star, said about Trump and the Republican Party some months ago, and it went viral. 00:11:25:14 - 00:11:49:17 It's a very good take. Taylor Swift, I come to understand this is a popular singer, much enjoyed by young people. I can't say that she's particularly crossed my horizons, which, you know, pretty much stop with Bruce Springsteen. All the same, I can remember that attack being made that, you know, Margaret Thatcher is not the same as the good old One Nation conservative politics of Rhett Butler and Ian McLeod. 00:11:49:17 - 00:12:05:10 People used to say in the eighties. I mean, there's always this implication that the previous incarnation of the party you opposed was nicer than the one you're facing now. And people used to say it about the Labour Party. Well, this is not the Labour Party of that nice Tony Blair, said people who always hated Tony Blair and all his works when he was in office. 00:12:05:14 - 00:12:40:08 Yeah, well, shall we come on to Liz Truss? Yeah, let's. Because I have to say, there's been a lot of commentary about Lee Anderson this week, the former deputy chair of the Conservative Party who's lost the whip for his comments about the mayor of London. But I actually think longer term, the thing that bothers me most about this week was Liz Truss's appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in in America and what it says about a member of the British parliament and a former prime minister appearing on a platform like that with the people she appeared with. 00:12:40:08 - 00:13:06:07 So Stephen Bannon and what it says about respect for the rule of law, respect for parliamentary democracy, a commitment to parliamentary democracy. Now, let's be clear. The Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual event. Part of the Republican Party calendar. It was where Ronald Reagan sort of set out his vision for for Reagan Republicanism back in the 1970s, this sort of whole shining city on a hill. 00:13:06:09 - 00:13:36:18 It's the stage that kickstarted Trump's career in the Republican Party. Fine. Lots of politicians on the right wing in America and in Europe attended. But what was different this time is she appeared on a platform being interviewed by Stephen Bannon. Now, this is the guy who's the former White House chief strategist, adviser to Trump, but he's also the person charged by grand jury in the United States with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. 00:13:36:20 - 00:14:01:10 He was suspended from Twitter or X or whatever we call it, for during the pandemic, calling for the execution, the execution of the chief scientist in America, Anthony Fauci, and the head of the FBI. He's been charged on counts of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. But most importantly, from our perspective, when you think about this, is a British parliamentarian and prime minister. 00:14:01:12 - 00:14:28:14 He's been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear before a select committee of Congress that was investigating the attempt overthrow of the last American election and the attack on the Congress on January 6, 2021. He's been indicted by a grand jury and had a trial, A jury trial. So, you know, peer group of his American peers have looked at the case and found him guilty. 00:14:28:16 - 00:14:44:19 And he's been sentenced to four months in prison and quite a large fine for it. Now, he's appealing that. So he hasn't actually gone to prison, is my understanding at the moment. But is this seriously the guy that a former British prime minister should be appearing on a platform with? I don’t know what is going through her head? It's quite a rap sheet. 00:14:44:19 - 00:15:07:16 And former prime ministers are normally pretty careful where they appear and what they do. And it doesn't seem to have been quite the case on this occasion. But I think even more alarming for Rishi Sunak will have been the exchanges she had with Steve Bannon about how he ought to come over and help set the British Conservative Party to rights and how Nigel Farage ought to be enlisted into the Conservative Party to set it on a new course. 00:15:07:21 - 00:15:33:08 And again, we're coming back to the jibe that Keir Starmer made at Prime Minister's questions. This is about remaking the Conservative Party into something with a very different kind of template that will be something that will be used in evidence against Liz Truss and the Conservatives in general, and also will cause a lot of internal queasiness from the remaining members of the sort of one Nation wing of the Conservatives. 00:15:33:08 - 00:15:58:00 And I suspect that people like Alex Chalk, the Lord Chancellor, may find themselves being asked in various for particular questions and so forth whether they fancy running in a Farage stroke Steve Bannon designed Conservative Party. But also, what is it that she's actually proposing? Because in this speech she talks about conservatives operating both in Britain and in America in what she describes as a hostile environment. 00:15:58:02 - 00:16:16:24 I mean, they've been in power for the last 14 years, so it's not that hostile. But anyway, wait till she discovers he's been in charge. Yeah. And she says we essentially need a bigger bazooka in order to be able to deliver. And I think we have got to challenge the institutions. Well, what on earth does that mean and what institutions is she talking about? 00:16:16:24 - 00:16:33:22 Surely we've got to challenge the system itself. I think we need to draw inspiration from popular democracy movements. And then extraordinarily, she goes on and says, the founding fathers and the Chartists, the people who wanted to make sure the will of the people was delivered in their country. It used to be a Tony Benn riff about the Chartists, as I recall. 00:16:33:24 - 00:17:01:15 Yeah, I mean, she's talking about sort of the attacks on democracy. She's talking about Anglo-American values. We hold dear Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, the American Constitution are being questioned. Yeah. By the guy sat next to you, Steve Bannon. I mean, just none of it adds up. It was an extraordinary moment. And I think you're right. It will resound for quite a while to come, at least inside the Conservative Party where people will be digesting this stuff. 00:17:01:17 - 00:17:22:17 But there's also this idea that there's an evil deep state out there that works to frustrate the moves of people like Liz Truss. Now, you can look at that in both ways. Maybe sometimes it's infuriating to have civil servants saying, No minister, this won't work, or you've got to deal with this set of environmental regulations or that set of human rights considerations. 00:17:22:22 - 00:17:43:10 And I suspect a lot of governments find themselves very hedged about, well, the rules and regulations that they in previous governments have set up. That's called the rule of law. At the same time, there's always the possibility that your brilliant scheme to save the world is actually a nitwit idea that will unravel disastrously. They mean no particular budgets. 00:17:43:12 - 00:18:05:01 Maybe, just maybe, people might start to admit the possibility that they got things catastrophically wrong rather than trying to pretend that it was the Deep State woke campaigners. At one point, apparently she was blaming trans activists in the civil service or something or other. Maybe sometimes you just have to consider just possibly they got something wrong. Yeah, although it is interesting. 00:18:05:01 - 00:18:29:08 I mean, quite strong in her words, against Joe Biden, which when you think from, you know, as you said earlier, former prime ministers are generally quite careful in how they behave and how they speak in tonight's extraordinary. And it did strike me, she sort of almost smarting from Biden's intervention during the economic crisis after her budget. You know, she talks about the IMF intervened and even President Biden intervened to have a go at my policies. 00:18:29:10 - 00:18:55:12 Can you imagine being attacked on your economic policies by the inventor of Bidenomics? Talk about offensive. She's clearly still smarting from it, but it's pretty extraordinary breaking a lot of norms to be talking out of turn on an international stage in a country that is having an election this year, basically pushing a position that is against the current incumbent in the White House. 00:18:55:12 - 00:19:20:13 Normally these things are done very, very carefully. You avoid any possibility of a former prime minister being seen to speak out or take sides. Yeah, and that hasn't happened this time. But maybe what we're witnessing is a bonfire of the norms. Maybe that's all terribly fuddy duddy eighties nineties aughties. It occurred that is now being abandoned and as political debate becomes much more rough and tumble. 00:19:20:16 - 00:19:54:06 Yeah well let's talk to about the precaution exclusion scheme. This is something we've spoken about a bit on this podcast before. Now there is enormous concern that MPs who've been accused of things like sexual assault or sexual harassment offenses and who are under investigation for them still have an unfettered right to roam the corridors of Westminster. You know, the nightmare scenario is that a complainant might find themselves stuck in one of those very small House of Commons lifts, along with the person they're making the complaint about. 00:19:54:08 - 00:20:24:07 So there's developed this idea of a precautionary exclusion scheme in which the MP could vote by proxy but couldn't actually attend either. The Parliament three offices in Westminster or come into the chamber itself so that they could be excluded from the parliamentary estate. Yeah, there's I mean there's a prior bit. So as I understand it, if the police have basically arrested an MP and are investigating them for quite a serious or violent offense, then the speaker would be informed and the panel would look at the case. 00:20:24:09 - 00:20:49:00 They wouldn't be told the identity of the MP, so they'd simply be look at the circumstances, the nature of the offense and do a risk based assessment. And then depending upon that, yeah, the option is worst case scenario is if, if it's considered serious enough, they could be excluded. And that potentially leads to quite a long period when a particular MP can't get into the chamber, can't do the job. 00:20:49:05 - 00:21:08:21 Yeah. Or at least the parliamentary end of the job, they can still have advice, surgeries in their constituency. They can still do a number of other parliamentary activities. But the key bit of which involves being in one is forbidden to them. Yeah, and of course that's what we've seen with some of the cases that have been currently being investigated by the police or that being some of them that are being investigated by the party. 00:21:08:21 - 00:21:32:20 What we've got at the moment is a voluntary arrangement where with agreement with the whips, the MPs don't come on to the estate, but that's not sort of publicly known exactly who those are. There's no official policing of that. It's sort of an unofficial private agreement with the Whips Office run on for a couple of years. In the case of Andrew Rosindell, the MP who's just come back after the Metropolitan Police decided there was no case for him to answer. 00:21:32:21 - 00:21:52:17 Yeah. Now this has already sort of gone through the House of Commons Commission. As you say, the Procedure Committee has looked at it. They had an attempt, I think, in scheduling a vote a while ago. There was unhappiness among MPs, typically some backbench Conservative MPs, about what the implications of this would be, and it went back to the Commission. 00:21:52:19 - 00:22:19:05 It was scheduled for debate next Monday and we've just been listening before we came into the studio to business questions and Penny Mordaunt basically said it's not going to happen next Monday. Now, she wasn't entirely clear about why that is. She talked about the sort of the current climate, not the right time for a discussion on this, but you look at the future business paper and there are over a dozen amendments down from backbench Conservative MPs. 00:22:19:05 - 00:22:40:12 So I suspect she has realized that this is going to kick off as and when they they schedule the debate and she's buying some time now. Her explanation was a bit opaque, to put it mildly. Yeah, the government gave time to this debate and we want it debated. I'm part of the commission. I want it debated and resolved in this House. 00:22:40:14 - 00:23:09:19 But I think given the current climate and also concerns that honorable members have raised since it was tabled, some serious questions in particular from learned colleagues, I think there will be a better opportunity to debate this in the House and I hope that will be soon. So where does that leave us at the moment? There's clearly a great deal of concern about the idea that MPs can be stopped from coming into Parliament and it is very high powered constitutional stuff. 00:23:09:21 - 00:23:35:20 The orders that MPs pass at the beginning of a session always include a requirement that employees have unfettered access to Westminster and that very thing is being curtailed here. And you can imagine a situation in which maybe the numbers in the next parliament are very tight, where votes could be swung as if a given number of MPs aren't available to vote in a particular way because they're excluded under the terms of the scheme. 00:23:35:22 - 00:23:56:21 So it's, you know, it's dangerous territory. Yeah, I mean the stuff the trade unions have written to, I think all MP setting out their concerns that this vote now appears to have been at least delayed if not scrapped and expressing concern that, you know, this is a security concern for staff on the estate and in any other workplace. 00:23:56:21 - 00:24:14:17 This would be dealt with in a different way. I'm making the point that the staff don't really have a voice in this, or at least, you know, as a substantive voice, because ultimately it's going to be decided by MPs on the floor of the House and in another workplace. The concerns and considerations of the staff would be treated in a different way. 00:24:14:22 - 00:24:32:05 But this isn't any other workplace and this is the problem, isn't it? This is the constitutional challenge that we keep coming back to with all of these cases. I mean, I completely respect those concerns. No rational being would want to be in a situation where someone you've accused of abuses, of bearing at you across a lift or something like that. 00:24:32:07 - 00:24:53:13 So that's, you know, a horrible situation to have. There's also the constitutional point. These are the elected representatives of the people sent to make laws. There should surely be, if there are going to be rules stopping them from coming in to do their job, they should surely be a pretty stringent process around that. And it also looks like it's not a process that's easily going to be agreed. 00:24:53:13 - 00:25:25:17 People like Sir Christopher Chope, the Conservative backbencher, have been concerned about this for a very long time. First time ever heard about the genesis of the scheme was actually from Sir Christopher saying, Have you seen this? This is an outrage. I think we should stress the concerns of backbenchers like him or not, that they don't care about her absolute she's not that they're not concerned about security of staff and people on the estate, but it is a genuine constitutional concern that if measures are put in place that then the political parties have some degree of control over this. 00:25:25:17 - 00:25:48:18 And you know, the information that's circulating around these cases and the knowledge that people have about them, but that can be open to abuse and they're worried about the processes and procedures by which it is decided that an MP who's under investigation can be excluded. You don't know what the basis for the inquiry with the police is and the investigation is, you know, is it trumped up? 00:25:48:18 - 00:26:07:05 Is it does it open the way for people to make spurious accusations that the process being supported by the police? Yeah. So these are sort of extreme scenarios, but we know in the political culture we've got that there are risks around that at the moment. The things in limbo. Penny Mordaunt was saying she hopes there will be a vote on this pretty soon. 00:26:07:05 - 00:26:25:09 She hopes to get it all approved, but that requires some kind of agreement to be hammered out with those who find this very worrying. Yeah, and it would not surprise me if we get to the end of this Parliament. They just haven't been able to reach agreement. Yeah, it wouldn't surprise me either if it's one of those things that just gets kicked over to the next lot with that march. 00:26:25:09 - 00:26:44:06 We take a short break. Yeah, come back in a minute. If you're enjoying the pot and think like Mark and I do, that Parliament matters. Why not join the Hansard Society? This year we celebrate our 80th anniversary and throughout the year we'll have a number of special events to mark this important milestone for as little as a cup of coffee Each month. 00:26:44:08 - 00:27:00:13 You can join us and follow in the footsteps of our first members, Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee. And if you're enjoying the issues that we're talking about on the pod, you'll also be getting our special members only Despatch Box newsletter. Each week we bring together the best news and stories about parliaments here in the UK and around the world. 00:27:00:15 - 00:27:28:10 You can join by going to hansardsociety.org.uk/membership. Well Ruth and I have come into the corridors of the House of Lords in a little meeting room just next door to the Bishop's robing room, a few yards from the Chamber of the Lords to talk to two peers concerned with the Jo Cox Commission for Civility in Politics, an effort to try and rebuild sensible grown up political dialogue in Britain. 00:27:28:10 - 00:27:51:22 They are Baroness Bertin, Gabby Bertin, conservative peer, and Vernon Coaker, Lord Coaker, a Labour peer and first of all, I just wanted to ask you whether or not you feel that the kind of current tone of politics is driving the kind of people politics needs in it away. Gabby I'm afraid I think it is. Yes. It's the absolutely honest answer. 00:27:51:22 - 00:28:12:09 And I've certainly had countless, very talented, particularly girlfriends say to me they would never consider going into politics because of the implications for their private lives, for the exposure their families would get, and also for the just the abuse they would have to put up with. And I just think that's such a huge shame and such a big problem for democracy. 00:28:12:13 - 00:28:33:05 Vernon Coaker, politics is famously a rough old game. Is it worse now than it used to be? I think it is worse now than it used to be. I think things have changed. I think social media has been one of the reasons for that. It's not the only reason, but certainly it's worse now. You can only look at the level of threats, the number of threats, the severity of those threats. 00:28:33:07 - 00:28:54:16 And of course, we've seen the murder of two MPs in recent times, which is horrific. And so there's no question that things are worse now. It's not only a national level, of course, it's a local level. Local politicians as well are receiving abuse, and we had a lot of representations for that for the commission. But at all levels there is an increase in the levels of abuse, intimidation and just basic nastiness. 00:28:54:18 - 00:29:13:06 What do you think? Having looked at the research during the Commission's work, what do you think is the biggest driver? Is it social media? Is it changes in society, sort of lack of deference towards politicians that perhaps existed in the past? Is it extremist threats? What are the biggest drivers? I think it's a mixture of of all of those things. 00:29:13:11 - 00:29:39:21 I do think social media is one of the biggest drivers. I know some people shrug their shoulders at that, but it's definitely the truth, the ability of people to put out there straight away opinions, views, attacks, all of those sorts of things via X is now via Facebook, on Instagram. All of those things have I'm very quickly all sorts of messages and intimidatory threats can be put out there. 00:29:39:21 - 00:29:59:16 And then and very quickly it can be amplified. But also alongside that, there does seem to be a greater willingness of people to go and demonstrate in a way that they wouldn't have done before. And I think there's a need for us to reassert the I know everyone says we're everyone's right. It's a process. Of course they have, But we're going to have to do something about the fact that a line has been crossed. 00:29:59:22 - 00:30:20:09 You've seen that around Parliament, BBC across the country. There is definitely now more intimidatory behavior and we have to deal with that. We are there just so nothing can be done. We recognize there is a real problem. We say in a thriving democracy, something needs to be done. And that was the point of the report. Is there a set of events that have perhaps set things on a worse track? 00:30:20:09 - 00:30:47:06 Is it Brexit? Is it COVID? Is it just a general dissatisfaction that people are more willing to express? I mean, once upon a time British people were famously stoical about bad service. These days, the Furious Complainers is it part of that phenomenon as well? Well, I wouldn't expenses into that the beginning of that problem, because I think that the combination of people getting much more vocal, much less respectful to politicians and of course I'm all for holding politicians to account. 00:30:47:06 - 00:31:08:21 I'm all for calling out when when politicians do bad things. And of course, you know, from time to time they do. But there seems to be no absolutely no back up with saying actually, when politicians do do good things, there's always a race to assume the absolute worst of all, our elected politicians. And I think that is pretty dangerous for then you were an MP for many years before you came into the House of Lords. 00:31:09:00 - 00:31:27:10 Looking back at your experience, did you have any sort of personal experience in your constituency or at Westminster of the kinds of anything like the kinds of threats we we're now seeing, not the level of threats and the number of threats, but certainly I had threats. I mean, a dispute that was very difficult was obviously the feud dispute right at the beginning of the year. 00:31:27:11 - 00:31:49:11 I mean, that was very difficult. People had no actual people shouting abuse them in the street. And that was in 2000, 2001. We then went on, we had the Iraq war, things like that, obviously, where people were demonstrating. I got abuse with respect to that. As Gabby's just mentioned, the expenses scandal, people showing the cross shots and all of those things and you can go on through. 00:31:49:13 - 00:32:06:09 I voted in 2016 for the bombing of Syria. I got abuse of that. I pint over my office in Brexit, got accused of the treacherous being. I should be taken out and hung because I you know, the sort of things that I was I was pro-Europe, I was traced to my own country, all of those. So I've got all of that. 00:32:06:15 - 00:32:27:03 But it's something it's the amount of abuse that they can place that's changed and feeling. And I think it's a really important point that they're going to be starting to get to, is this feeling that people it gets really complicated, but there is a confidence in democracy in terms of trust in politicians, a belief that there be people are being listened to, all of those things. 00:32:27:03 - 00:32:51:01 That's no excuse for what we see taking place. But all of this is going on at a time when we have very difficult issues. Whatever you feel, Brexit, whatever your goals or whatever your view on all of these things is very difficult issues and some of it is causing some of the tension. Having said that, as I say, there's no excuse for what we see, but it is a difficult environment within which politics is taking place. 00:32:51:03 - 00:33:12:21 And we talked a little bit about people being put off entering politics in the first place. What sort of effects do you think it's having on people who are in political jobs now? The MPs, the councilors, the peers? I think it's having a big effect and we're seeing quite a bit attrition rate. People are deciding to leave their roles as MPs because they just think, well, you know, I can't really do this anymore, my family through it. 00:33:12:23 - 00:33:35:10 And I think with that in mind, I think we do have to largely what the Commission has recommended, we do have to put some proper kind of safeguards and proper rules around how we report the abuse, how we advise employers to escalate things. I listened with interest to Annalise Dodd's reaction to being taunted in a totally unacceptable way the other day, and she sort of shrugged it off. 00:33:35:10 - 00:33:50:12 Now, you know, in one sense, you know, well done her. And she's got a thick skin. But actually, I'm not sure that is the right approach. I don't think you should just shrug it off. And I think that we really should be calling it out and saying this is just not acceptable, even if you yourself as an individual are fine with it. 00:33:50:14 - 00:34:09:20 It really is casting a very long shadow on others who quite understandably wouldn't be fine with it. If we can move onto the Commission's recommendations. I think one of the things that both Mark and I was struck by when we were reading the report is that we've had the murder, the assassination of both Jo Cox and subsequently David Amess. 00:34:09:22 - 00:34:31:21 And yet one of your core recommendations is there needs to be sort of more central monitoring management of this issue in terms of providing security support policy legislation and so on to address the threat centrally. One of things that struck me as a surprise there wasn't more of that already, given that we've already had two MPs that have been killed. 00:34:31:23 - 00:34:47:04 Well, I think it's a bit to my previous point. There has been a I'm not saying have any disrespect to my elected colleagues across the way, but there has been a little bit of a reluctance to want to be uniform about it and to report centrally because of course fund central reasons and then know about this much more. 00:34:47:04 - 00:35:16:14 Having been an MP, you don't necessarily want to prosecute a member of your constituency. I think we do need to do a better job explaining to people that, as I said, it casts a long shadow and now we're getting to a point where it really isn't acceptable. So, I mean, I really do push this commission and the report and the recommendations and and urge the government whether it's the Conservatives or the Labour government in due course, to look at them carefully and put them in place, and not just to allow to gather dust and burn. 00:35:16:14 - 00:35:44:23 And what would a central policy to deal with threats to elected representatives would look like? What would be done under that policy that isn't being done already? Well, it's like an emphasis the coordinating function to give it that sense of purpose, that sense of direction, but also the urgency that's now required. And you saw today, as we talk about this, between us, we see today the government announcing additional money for policing, which is about trying to address the increased threat. 00:35:45:00 - 00:36:24:15 And I think what the report seeks to through a central unit is a proper collection of all of the data, a proper understanding of all that's going on, and then what is actually being done to address all of that systematically, not just in London but across the whole of the country. And also just to understand the relationship between intelligence, which many of us won't see, and also then the actions of individual officers with respect to individual police forces and individual members of parliament or indeed peers or indeed councilors, where there's a particular threat or a particular need for there to be that policing, that central coordination that's recommended in the report, that central unit is 00:36:24:15 - 00:36:58:02 to try and ensure that we have that general oversight of what is going on and what needs to take place. One of the most important things, which I know you're passionate about, Vernon, is the political literacy side of it, really trying to get to the causes rather than I mean, obviously we've got to address the sort of terrible end whereby MPs and politicians need protection, but really one of the sort of very important recommendations is trying to explain to people, to young people and generally what it is that politicians are doing, why they do it, what they stand for, what they represent, what they can do, what they can't do, and also making sure that 00:36:58:02 - 00:37:25:16 and we talked about social media earlier, you know, really trying to get Ofcom and the social media companies to take very seriously the important role that democratically elected politicians have and to sort of knock on the head as quickly as possible the kind of abuse that can really fuel hate and bigger problems down the road. Is there a thought here that the social media companies, maybe even the police, kind of shrug their shoulders and say, well, a bit of nastiness comes with the territory. 00:37:25:16 - 00:37:46:08 You should have thicker skin? Well, I think it's with all these things, it's a judgment. I think there is obviously absolutely the right to call out and to hold your politicians to account. But I do think we have to still use judgment about when that tips into a different place and not be sort of worried about saying that this isn't right and that something should be done about that. 00:37:46:11 - 00:38:05:00 And somehow the blowback to that saying, well, this is my right to do this, my right to say this, it's not your right to post pwoo through someone's letterbox. It's your right to threaten to rape an MP on social media. Full stop, I think on the part of social media companies, I think they could do more. I don't think there's any question about that. 00:38:05:06 - 00:38:24:05 Some of the things that stay up online and some of the abuse is just unacceptable and they should sort it out, whether there's any doubt about that. So I think as far as police and intelligence services and other security personnel are concerned, I think they recognize how important this is and they're doing everything they can to protect people. 00:38:24:05 - 00:38:52:20 As far as they can within the context of saying we are a democracy, we value the rights of protest, but we aren't also going to stand idly by and watch some of the intimidation and abuse that we see on social media. You know, they have very, very deep pockets and the sort of nuance that perhaps is needed to look at the kind of abuse, you know, whether it's legitimate, I wouldn't say legitimate abuse and any abuse is legitimate, but legitimate sort of pushback and sort of democratic debate whether actually it's tipped into abuse. 00:38:52:20 - 00:39:11:18 And you do have to have moderators who really understand the sort of nuance, the context. It can't just be a sort of algorithm or a blunt instrument. It has to be done in a very sort of measured and thoughtful way, particularly in the run up to either local elections or national elections, which we're going to see obviously across the pond. 00:39:11:18 - 00:39:39:18 And and this country almost at the same time, it will be a huge, huge focus. Now, the whole October, the seventh Gaza ramifications of it, since your commission started working. And far as that runs things up. Well, it clearly has an any question about that, that it's made a difficult situation even more difficult. Our recommendations deal with both the short term, the medium term, but also some of the longer term. 00:39:39:24 - 00:40:02:02 I mean, some of the immediate response to that will have to be through policing, through security. That's not the short term way of saying we we need a further report or political literacy. We'll deal with the immediate problem. So the immediate problem has to be dealt with. But alongside that, what we're saying is this is a longer term issue as well for our parliament, for our democracy, both at a local and the national level. 00:40:02:02 - 00:40:25:14 And therefore we need things like political literacy to emphasize the need for that in schools. Many politicians visit a number of institutions, schools. That's a really effective way of getting that message across, but alongside that, a more general public awareness campaign so that the broader public have a greater understanding of what's going on. All of us here works in Parliament, know Parliament well. 00:40:25:20 - 00:40:46:20 The number of times that members of the public come here and say, I didn't know that or I didn't know this, and how interesting find to actually find out about it. And so I wish they knew more about the decision making is difficult. Decision making requires a lot of thought. Sometimes people may not like the outcome and that but at the same time genuinely held views. 00:40:46:23 - 00:41:09:11 Sometimes these are very genuinely held differences of opinion and we have to understand that and see how those decisions are arrived at. A striking Reading room report, this focus on the sort of the longer term possibilities that might come about to address this issue as a result of citizenship, education, improvements in political literacy. One of the reasons I was struck is the Hansard Society was founded 80 years ago. 00:41:09:11 - 00:41:37:14 That was one of the reasons for it to promote education and understanding about Parliament. We used to have an award winning citizenship education program. It disappeared. And in 2010, after that, because a lot of the funding was sort of part of the austerity, the Department of Education and Cabinet Office and so on. But even then it was a drop in the ocean and you talk about in the report about MPs, you know, needing to visit educational institutions and schools and so on, I don't know. 00:41:37:14 - 00:42:00:00 An MP doesn't already do that. So what is it going to take? It really seems to me it needs to be part of the curriculum in schools and therefore it needs teacher training and support and resourcing for them to deliver that. But also because it's politics, they've got to be able to deliver it confidently. Teachers are always worried about sort of party politics and not wanting to get into parties. 00:42:00:06 - 00:42:28:22 We see that with Parliament. So in education programs, brilliant educations and a brilliant education programs, but kind of slightly removed from parties, what is it going to take? I think that's a very good point. And I would certainly be all for, you know, there's lots to go on the curriculum and teachers are under a lot of pressure. But I do think this is becoming increasingly important and it is something that I would definitely urge the Department of Education to really think very seriously about, because otherwise I think we might find that not much changes. 00:42:28:24 - 00:42:59:05 And I think now that we have such strong influence with know, as we've discussed, the sort of online pressures and all the things that are coming in to us on a daily basis, that needs to be a sort of very proper and thought through program. And we've got a general election coming up. One of the things that you talk about extensively in this report is that leaders of the political parties in particular have a huge responsibility to make sure there's good behavior and implicitly to stamp on bad behavior by their own side. 00:42:59:07 - 00:43:22:07 And we've just seen a prime minister's Question time, which largely consisted of each side shouting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at one another. It doesn't seem to be happening at the moment, as the party leaders seem to be getting down in the mud. Well, yes. I mean, I think that we have a duty, particularly as a governing party, not to inflame any kind of tensions amongst countries. 00:43:22:07 - 00:43:48:17 I mean, sometimes you're going to upset people, but I think you've got to stamp on inflammatory language, which is why the prime minister, I think, you know, took action as he did. But as the report says, if we don't behave in a way that is correct, then that is not setting a good example. I think everyone's going to have to reflect on on what our responsibilities are in order to ensure that we keep things as calm as we possibly can. 00:43:48:22 - 00:44:08:24 I think the other thing to say is nobody's against robust debate. Nobody's against that clash of opinion. Nobody's against the clash of view. There are very deep differences that legitimately people hold. But we need to reflect on how do we let those opinions clash in a way which doesn't cause problems. And that's the responsibility that we're trying to draw attention to. 00:44:08:24 - 00:44:31:01 I've been a member of the House of Commons and have been there when people are raging at each other. And there's a difference between that. And sometimes other sorts of behavior. And that's what we need to reflect on. But we're not trying anesthetize politics here. But what we are trying to say is that we all have a responsibility to reflect on how we might ensure that we have the sort of political climate that we want. 00:44:31:03 - 00:44:49:20 And how is the commission and the Jo Cox Foundation going to now try and ensure that people sign up to this sort of pledge for better conduct and behavior during the election? How are you going to try and take forward your recommendations? What's the next steps? Well, I think we'll point to a bit of good old fashioned lobbying and try and get it into manifestos. 00:44:49:20 - 00:45:16:10 And I think unfortunately, sometimes situations have to get very bad before people start taking any kind of notice. And good God, I'm not downplaying at all two murders of two MPs. You know, the situation is bad. But I think the point about how this particular situation that we're seeing has obviously drawn in, you know, even constitutional issues, I think is a sort of, dare I say, an opportunity for all parties to really reflect. 00:45:16:12 - 00:45:38:11 I certainly hope that these many of these recommendations will be taken forward. Have you, for example, Vernon talked to anyone in the Home Office or Home Office Minister, the Home Secretary? Those are part of the things that we are going to do because interestingly, we've ensured that this has gone to everyone. We have high level representation from across the political parties, including government ministers and shadow ministers. 00:45:38:13 - 00:46:09:21 At the recent launch. We're going to ask people to make pledges of support. We're going to look at asking individual candidates to sign up to a pledge to march in a way which is consistent with the report. We've got the power of the Jo Cox Commission behind this, which is a really important body and certainly what we're determined to do is both with the Home Office, but with politicians of all parties at all levels, in all parts of the UK to ensure that they understand that these recommendations are not something where we will say that was a good report, it's put on the shelf and left there. 00:46:10:00 - 00:46:32:02 There are active the recommendations there. We want to see them through and we ourselves have got a meeting in the near future discussing to ensure that happens. Just a final thought then. There's obviously a general election coming up in the next few months. What are your hopes and what are your fears for that general election? Well, I think it's bound to be a very aggressive general election because it's a lot at stake. 00:46:32:05 - 00:46:53:07 Well, the polls might suggest it's not that close, but, you know, each side obviously will be fighting hard. But my hopes are that we will treat each other with respect, have robust debates then and says and also from time to time, you know, find agreements on certain policies. I mean, I do a lot in the area of violence against women and girls. 00:46:53:09 - 00:47:08:10 There's a lot where I think we can actually rise above politics, really work together to try and get some of these posts over the line rather than rather than sort of fighting each other on things that we basically agree with. I think that's absolutely right. And at the end of the day, I think there will be a nervousness about things. 00:47:08:10 - 00:47:25:15 But I think as well, an election, a general election, is an important part of democracy. I think the robust debate I spoke about needs to take place that clash of view in opinion. But let's hope that it's done within the context of the democratic society that we are. And at the end of it, come out stronger than in cocoa. 00:47:25:15 - 00:47:51:16 Gabby Bertin, thanks for joining me on the pod. Thank you very much. Thanks for having us. So, Mark, welcome back in the studio, There are a few issues that we've been talking about on the pod over the last few weeks that are still ticking away. And this week we had a really interesting discussion at the business committee. They had a five hour hearing into effectively the governance and culture of the post office. 00:47:51:16 - 00:48:10:17 Of course, this is a scandal that's been running and running for many, many years. But it's really come to a head and public attention as a result of the recent ITV drama. And of course, we spoke to Lord Arbuthnot on the pod a few weeks ago about his campaign in parliament to get compensation for the postmasters who suffered as a result of the scandal. 00:48:10:19 - 00:48:32:11 But the business committee, they will be talking to the chair who's recently sacked as chair of the Post Office Board by Kemi Badenoch, also to the chief executive and some of the other people in and around the sort of the managerial echelons of this scandal. And at the top of the post office, people who are responsible in the business department for sort of managing the compensation schemes and so on. 00:48:32:13 - 00:49:00:06 And I mean, it was jaw dropping. It was it was just horrendous that Henry Staunton, the sacked former chair, a lot to say about the culture at the top of the post office, which was not exactly a flattering picture of what's going on there and which might explain why things had gone so badly wrong. And M.P.s were responding to that later in the week by calling for a commissioner to be appointed to take over the whole compensation effort because they didn't think the post office could be trusted to run it. 00:49:00:11 - 00:49:33:24 Alistair Carmichael, senior Lib Dem was one of those who had a go on on that front. So this is a saga that is not going to dissolve any time soon and I suspect that it can be Badenoch may have to go back in front of the committee and have another go at explaining what went on because her outright full frontal attack on Henry Staunton has possibly led to more questions than it's answered now, she said when he talked about being told to slow down the compensation payments because the government basically wanted not to have to spend the money very quickly, she said that was a flat lie. 00:49:34:05 - 00:49:55:15 So plenty to explore for the committee there. And it's very high powered saying last week this is a scandal. The public has noticed. This is not some internal one tail chasing exercise which won't get outside of sort of page 95 of the interior pages of the Times or Guardian. This is something people really know about and really care about. 00:49:55:17 - 00:50:23:11 So it's potentially extremely toxic if it can't be defuzed by ministers. Yeah, we got what news on a couple of developments because the minister in the case of Kevin Hollinrake indicated that the anticipated bringing forward the legislation to overturn the convictions anticipated bringing that to Parliament in the next few weeks. They hope to overturn all the convictions by July as a result so that presumably is the timetable for the legislation that they hope to get it through by the summer recess. 00:50:23:11 - 00:50:41:21 And they've kind of overridden objections from a lot of people in the legal establishment who don't like the idea of, as it were, blanket amnesties. Yeah, I mean, he acknowledged in his statement to the House of Commons, he acknowledged this this legislation is unprecedented and constitutionally sensitive because it is the proper role of the courts, not Parliament, to quash convictions. 00:50:41:23 - 00:50:58:11 But he's always sort of said, we've always been clear some guilty people will be made innocent through the process because that's the other thing that, you know, how do you have a sort of blanket quashing of convictions and not risk the fact that actually maybe they will one or two, possibly a few more that were actually he had the hands in the till. 00:50:58:14 - 00:51:29:13 And it just gets incredibly difficult, doesn't it? The other development is we have another recall petition in Blackpool South, so the constituents there will be going to, we call it a poll, but it's the petition, between 12th of March and 22nd of April. So Scott, the MP for Blackpool South, of course he had a report against him by the Standards Commissioner and it's now been endorsed by the House that his behavior had been in relation to a lobbying scandal was unacceptable. 00:51:29:13 - 00:51:46:16 They proposed a suspension of 35 days, the House of Commons has approved that so we've not got so we're not got a recall. And this is a by election in a genuine marginal seat in a way that some of the recent by elections really haven't quite been. Blackpool South is one of those seats that Labour absolutely would have to win if it was going to be the next government. 00:51:46:18 - 00:52:08:05 Or as one working in the media said, we're having a general election in stages, it's seat by seat. But of course the big event coming up next week is, the budget on Wednesday, Jeremy Hunt's not potentially his final budget because there is talk there might yet be another fiscal event at some point this year if the election is delayed beyond May. 00:52:08:07 - 00:52:39:16 But this is a pretty significant moment because it's one of the few chances that the government has to do a sort of real reset, grabbed the attention of voters with some evidence of economic progress leading to tax cuts. And it's up to Jeremy Hunt to try and deliver that. But watch out as people keep saying the margin that chancellors have to play with in order to generate tax cuts or indeed more public spending is the difference between two very large numbers what the government spending and what it gets in in taxes and borrowing. 00:52:39:18 - 00:53:05:09 And if those fluctuate even slightly, all the calculations that have previously been are out of the window. So it only takes some quite minor statistical event to completely derail what a chancellor is attempting to do. And there are plenty of things that could generate such an event. Yeah, and away from the politics, of course, one of the sort of areas of interest for the Hansard society is how does Parliament handle scrutiny of these budgets? 00:53:05:09 - 00:53:38:12 Because how we raise money and how we spend it is critical to the purpose of parliaments. That's, you know, that's historically what they were created for. Parliament fought a civil war to assert its control over the purse strings, over King Charles the first. Yeah, so that's critically important. But actually it doesn't do it very effectively. One of the things we'll be looking at next week is how does Parliament consider the budget, the budget debates, you know, that will follow and will take up much of next week and the week after and if things go well, we hope to have a guest on next week to talk about that. 00:53:38:12 - 00:54:13:23 From the perspective of somebody who's been a minister in the Treasury, involved in the budget process and also been chair of the Treasury Select Committee. So stay tuned. So tune in for that. And in the meantime, of course, there are several levels of scrutiny. As you say, there's a budget debate that will extend into the week after the budget, where M.P.s will, in a sort of loosely themed series of days, discuss the different aspects of what the government's plan to do with taxation and indeed with public spending and they'll also be the traditional inquiry by the Treasury Committee where they will have Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation and Paul Johnson of the Institute for 00:54:13:23 - 00:54:32:20 Fiscal Studies, and which is now almost part of the dignified section of the Constitution. It's almost a ritual, and there are a couple of shibboleths there that they do worry about. One is what's called fiscal fiction, which is where you have essentially unaffordable tax cuts justified on the basis of completely unrealistic savings in public spending that will never be realized. 00:54:32:22 - 00:54:54:22 A Phenomenon that the Conservatives used to criticize Gordon Brown for, which they set up the Office for Budget Responsibility to try and counteract. And it'll be very interesting to watch the Office for Budget Responsibility and some of the other institutions out there that are supposed to act as a safeguard and make sure that the politicians calculations are honest enough that they don't lead to economic chaos. 00:54:54:22 - 00:55:14:05 So, again, a subject that we'll be talking about doubtless at some length next week, well, Mark shall we finish there and look forward to next week for that budget debate. But in the meantime, thanks for joining us and see you next week. See you then. 00:55:14:07 - 00:55:33:24 Well, that's all from us for this week's episode of Parliament Matters. Please hit the follow or subscribe button in your podcast app to get the next episode as soon as it lands and help us to make the podcast better. By leaving a rating or review on Apple or Spotify and sharing your feedback. Our Producer tells us it's important for the algorithm to give the show a boost. Mark, tell us more about the algorithm. 00:55:34:01 - 00:55:57:16 What do I know about algorithms? I write my scripts with a quill pen on vellum and then send it in by carrier pigeon. Well, before we go, a quick reminder also that you can send us your questions on all things Parliament by visiting hansardsociety.org.uk/pmuq. We'll be discussing them in future episodes, including our special Urgent Questions editions dedicated to what you want to know about Parliament. 00:55:57:21 - 00:56:15:06 And you can find us across social media @HansardSociety to get more content related to the show and the wider work of the Hansard Society. Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. For more information, visit hansardsociety.org.uk/pm or find us on social media @Hansard Society. Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society with the support of theJoseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

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Blog / Two Houses go to war: the Safety of Rwanda Bill and the origins of the Parliament Act

The Parliament Act is being bandied about in the media again in connection with the Rwanda Bill. This blogpost explains why the Parliament Act cannot be used in relation to the Rwanda Bill and looks at the origins and key features of the Act to place the current debate about the role of the House of Lords in its historical context.

25 Mar 2024
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Blog / Creeping ministerial powers: the example of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill

The Government’s flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill will ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2009. The genesis of the delegated powers in the Bill – dating back a decade - tells an important story about the way in which incomplete policy-making processes are used by Ministers to seek ‘holding’ powers in a Bill, only for that precedent to then be used to justify further, broader powers in subsequent Bills. This ‘creeping’ effect in the legislative process undermines parliamentary scrutiny of ministerial action.

15 Apr 2024
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