Online Parliamentary Yearbook

Online Parliamentary Yearbook: The Parliamentary Yearbook is a valued reference book in our office. The format remains ‘user friendly’. Despite the alleged easy access of the internet, I still prefer to have hard copies and I keep a copy of the book next to my PC. It is so much easier to refer to than having to nip in and out of the computer. It is one ‘paper’ volume that I hope will be kept going.

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The Parliamentary Information Office last week reported on the discussions that took place at the European Council and the stance taken by the British Prime Minister. On Friday of last week, 23rd November 2012, President Van Rompuy issued a statement on the results of the bilateral negotiations

On the second day of European Council budget negotiations, Prime Minister David Cameron continued to call for more radical proposals to rein in EU spending.

Mr Cameron said:

“Well I don’t think there’s been enough progress so far.

“There really is a problem that there hasn’t been the progress in cutting back proposals for additional spending.

“It isn’t the time for tinkering. It isn’t the time for moving money from one part of the budget to another. We need unaffordable spending, cut. That’s what’s happening at home and that’s what needs to happen here.”

Then following the finish of the talks between the leaders and Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president – and summit chairman – Herman Van

Rompuy, Mr Van Rompuy issued the following statement:

“The European Council gives its President the mandate together with the President of the European Commission to continue the work and pursue consultations in the coming weeks to find a consensus among the 27 over the Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2014-2020.

“The bilateral talks yesterday and the constructive discussion within the European Council show a sufficient degree of potential convergence to make an agreement possible in the beginning of next year.

“We should be able to bridge existing divergences of views. A European budget is important for the cohesion of the Union and for jobs and growth in all our countries.

We discussed as I said the Multiannual Financial Framework. We must work on a moderation budget. The times call for it. Every euro must be carefully spent. That’s why we foresee more scrutiny and reporting. There is a certain number of things we want the Union to do for our countries and citizens and it must be able to do them.

“Everybody also agrees on another point: this must be a budget for growth. A budget that focuses on jobs, on innovation, on research. That’s why in my proposal the spending on competitiveness and jobs is more than 50% higher than in the period 2007-2013. Here  especially this budget is not a zero sum game. Growth in one country benefits all.

“Last week I circulated my first draft proposal. Yesterday I carefully listened to all the colleagues, and I put a new proposal on the table.

“Compared to the previous version, it keeps the budget’s overall total at a stable level. It’s 80 billion euro below the Commission proposal and a real cut compared to the 2007-2013 period. This is a first in EU budget talks.

“My proposal, compared again to the previous version, includes increases in agriculture and cohesion funds, with total figures for these headings still lower than in the Commission proposal. It compensates these shifts with cuts in other areas.

“We will need some more time to finalise this solution. This is the budget for the rest of the decade. And the next 7 years will be crucial, to put Europe back on the path of recovery and growth. So we must get it right.

“There’s no need to dramatise: these budget negotiations are so complex they generally take two goes. That was also the case last time around, in 2005, when negotiations were first chaired by Jean Claude Juncker and then finalized by the British Presidency.

“So the work will go on, as we said in the statement on which the European Council agreed. There are still existing divergences of views but there is still a sufficient degree of potential convergence to make an agreement possible in the beginning of next year.

The Parliamentary Information Office will continue to report on the progress of the EU Budget as we go through the months ahead



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New MPs’ expenses scandal: London homeowners pocket cash for rent

MPs were embroiled in a new expenses row today after it emerged that 27 are letting out London homes at the same time as claiming public money to rent in the city.

Former defence secretary Liam Fox, shadow ministers Andy Burnham, Jim Murphy and Chris Bryant, and Communities Minister Don Foster are among those listed as raking in income from properties while receiving up to £20,000 a year in expenses.

Although the practice does not break any rules, it will fuel concerns that politicians are still able to profit from Commons allowances.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s (Ipsa) blanket ban on MPs claiming mortgage interest came into effect this summer.

They are now only permitted to receive expenses for renting.

The move was intended to head off criticism after the scandal three years ago showed politicians had been using public money to build up property portfolios.

However, it also appears to have created an incentive for many to vacate homes they own.

Research by the Daily Telegraph identified Tory MPs David Amess and Peter Luff, and Liberal Democrat ex-defence minister Nick Harvey among those letting out properties in the capital while also claiming expenses for renting.

The names could only be deduced because Ipsa last night released partial postcodes of taxpayer-funded second homes – which could then be cross-referenced with the parliamentary register of interests.

The disclosure followed linked concerns that MPs are able to exploit a “loophole” in the rules to rent properties to colleagues, who then claim the costs on expenses.

It is understood that four MPs are currently renting from four other MPs – although there are no cases of home “swaps”.

Linda Riordan, the Labour MP for Halifax, lets her London flat to fellow Labour MP Iain McKenzie for £18,720 a year, according to the Daily Mail.

Mr McKenzie told the paper: “If I had known beforehand that the flat was owned by an MP then I probably wouldn’t have taken it.

“You’ve got to apply the test of how it looks to the man in the street, regardless of whether it’s above board or not.”

Yesterday, Commons Speaker John Bercow was accused of trying to suppress details of the matter after warning Ipsa that revealing the identities of politicians’ landlords would be a “security risk”.

The watchdog had been due to disclose the material in response to another Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

However, the process has now been put on hold in the wake of Mr Bercow’s intervention.

In a letter to Ipsa, Mr Bercow insisted there was a “very real danger” that MPs’ residential addresses could be discovered as a result of the planned publication.

Responding to the Speaker’s letter last night, Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of Ipsa, insisted the authority “would not, under any circumstances, release the full address” of an MP.

But he added: “The policy also makes clear that we would release, on request, the names of landlords and other suppliers of goods and services where this was in support of a claim made under the scheme for business costs and expenses.”

Sir Ian said all affected MPs had been contacted, asking if they had concerns about the release of their landlord’s details.

However, only a third – 110 – replied. Some 60 have indicated they have no problems with the disclosure, and 50 expressed reservations.

“We are therefore delaying our response to the FOI request and will be writing to those MPs concerned to give them a further two weeks to respond,” he said.

Tory Sarah Wollaston said she had grave concerns about revealing MPs’ addresses, having had her London flat and constituency home broken into.

The Totnes MP said she agreed with the need for transparency, but was worried about a tiny minority of people, including activists, using the information maliciously.

Dr Wollaston said: “I am very happy for everyone to know that I have no connection with my landlord in my London address – I have never met them and I don’t think they even live in this country.

“But if they (Ipsa) publish politicians’ home addresses then you are exposing them (MPs) to very difficult situations.”

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “If MPs are again found to have exploited the expenses system, it will be another stain on the reputation of Parliament.

“It was the cry that ‘it’s all within the rules’ combined with attempts to suppress the publication of claims that made the MPs’ expenses crisis three years ago so toxic. Whilst the rules may not technically prevent MPs from renting properties to one another, it is certainly against the spirit of those rules.

“The public’s faith was left in tatters in 2009 and the latest allegations could endanger much of the work that has been done since then to restore public confidence in our politicians.

“It is vital that there is total transparency in all matters relating to MPs’ taxpayer-funded expenses and allowances.”

In a statement on his website, Mr Luff insisted that Ipsa’s rules had forced him to move out of his home and rent.

“In July 2009 I purchased, with a mortgage, a small London flat to live in when performing my parliamentary duties,” he said.

“I had hoped to be allowed to remain in this flat for as long as I remained an MP. Mortgage interest was claimed for this property for approximately eight months until the 2010 election.

“The new Ipsa expenses scheme did not allow MPs to claim the cost of mortgage interest.

“I could not, therefore, afford to live in my London flat and I had no choice but to sell it or to rent it out.

“Having only recently purchased it, I chose to rent it out and this information has been in the public domain for two years, it having been properly declared in the Register of Members’ Interests.

“Ipsa specified that when MPs are away from home they must live in rented property or stay in a hotel. When I am in London, I now therefore live in a rented flat.

“This is not my preference – I would have preferred to continue to live in the flat I own, but Ipsa’s well-meaning rules, designed to safeguard the taxpayers’ interests and promote transparency, oblige me to do so.

“Ironically, the costs to the taxpayer would have been lower had I been allowed to continue with my previous arrangements.”

A spokesman for Mr Burnham declined to comment on his arrangements.


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The Day Parliament Burned Down in real-time on Twitter

To mark the anniversary of a now little-remembered national catastrophe – the nineteenth-century fire which obliterated the UK Houses of Parliament – Oxford University Press and author Caroline Shenton will reconstruct the events of that fateful day and night in a real-time Twitter campaign.


At 6:30am 16 October 1834, two workmen kindled small fires in the furnaces below the Houses of Parliament. At 6.30pm, to the surprise and horror of bystanders, a gigantic volume of flame burst from the frontage of the House of Lords. The flames spread rapidly, soon creating a blaze so enormous it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor. By morning, the 800 year-old building and its contents were no more. None of the hundreds of thousands of Londoners who witnessed the event would ever forget it.



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British Banks Face Heat From on High

BISHOP AUCKLAND, U.K.—The beleaguered British banking industry has faced angry politicians, regulators and consumers. This fall, a new player has joined the inquisition: a bespectacled bishop wearing a cross made of nails.

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, is grilling top bankers as part of a new parliamentary inquiry into “banking standards” that represents the U.K. government’s latest attempt to shake up the industry. The inquiry was established in July on the heels of news that several banks allegedly sought to rig interest rates such as the London interbank lending rate, known as Libor.

Bishop Welby, a former oil executive who sits in Britain’s House of Lords, has joined nine other lawmakers in assembling a report that will consider new rules on everything from corporate governance to conflicts of interest. The inquiry also involves a series of public hearings already under way.

Sitting in a castle in his diocese in northern England, Bishop Welby said the inquiry isn’t about digging into the details of banks’ alleged failings in the Libor scandal and other matters. Rather, it is an attempt to determine more broadly the future role of the industry.

“It’s an existential question,” he said. “It’s about why the banking industry is here.”

The arrival of one of the Church of England’s most respected bishops into the debate underscores the depth of British banks’ problems, according to industry experts.

“The issue of public trust is something that the banks are going to continue to struggle with,” said Tony Smith, global head of financial services at market-research company Ipsos. “There are going to be many more skeletons in the cupboard.” The appointment of a bishop to an investigative panel could serve to “inject ethical and moral standards to rein in the industry,” he added.

Since the British government bailed out Royal Bank of Scotland Group RBS.LN +0.23% PLC and Lloyds Banking Group LLOY.LN -0.59% PLC in 2008 and 2009, there have been a number of government reviews and reports. The fallout has seen bankers fined, fired and even stripped of a knighthood, as was the case with former RBS chief Fred Goodwin. Meanwhile, the British economy remains stagnant and bank lending soft.

Bishop Welby, who before he accepted consulted the archbishop of Canterbury about the political ramifications of joining the panel, brings both an ethical and business perspective to the inquiry. He spent 11 years in the oil industry, working both in Paris, for French oil company Elf Aquitaine and London as a specialist in West African and North Sea projects. In 1984 he became the group treasurer of oil exploration company Enterprise Oil PLC.

The bishop quit the oil industry in 1987, when he says he heard a calling from God to be ordained. The decision had nothing to do with any ethical qualms about what he did for a living, he says. He joined the church as a curate near Coventry and worked in some of the country’s most deprived areas, along the way climbing the ranks to become dean of Liverpool in northwest England. It was during this journey that he acquired a cross made of nails from Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed during World War II.

Last year he was named bishop of Durham, the Church of England’s fourth-most senior bishop. Some observers say he could be in line to be the next archbishop of Canterbury—the top job in the Church of England. He declined to comment on the possibility.

His background in business still elicits surprise. During a speech in May at the House of Lords, Bishop Welby mentioned that he traded derivatives at Enterprise Oil. “There was this rustle round the chamber,” he recalls. A former chancellor of the Exchequer stood up and said, “That is the first time that I have ever heard a bishop come out…as a derivatives trader,” the bishop said.

His time in the oil business could prove useful. During his oil days, he dealt with foreign-exchange trading and insurance, and became familiar with the workings of Libor.

On a recent day, after a Eucharist service in Auckland Castle, a dark-stoned building that has housed the bishops of Durham for around 800 years, Bishop Welby explored ideas for changing what he calls the “most concentrated and cartelized banking industry in Europe.”

“Coming from a Christian point of view on human sinfulness and failure, the efficient market system doesn’t work,” the 57-year-old says. “People don’t make rational decisions in markets more than anywhere else.”

He says customers have to be put back into the heart of U.K. banking but that issuing a lot of new rules isn’t the answer. Instead, Bishop Welby says he would like to see the creation of new banks, hoping that more competition would force them all to lend more and deploy their services across more communities.

“I am not in favor of knocking the banks—financial services are essential to recirculate excess funds to areas where they can be invested,” he says. However, banks need to focus on sustaining economic growth rather than returns, he adds.

Lenders also need to be more realistic about their businesses, he says. He praised Deutsche Bank AG’s DBK.XE +2.33% decision to cut its targets for return on equity, a measure of profitability—saying the new targets represented the “utility level” returns that should be expected from banks.

Some have questioned whether the commission into banking standards will have any impact. John Mann, a member of Parliament who isn’t part of the committee, says it will produce a “tame report,” noting in a recent speech that “Parliament remains timid and cowed by the bluster of investment banking.” Mr. Mann has set up his own inquiry.

Banks already are experiencing the bishop’s sharp questioning. He recently quizzed Barclays’s incoming chairman, David Walker, about issues ranging from risk to accounting principles.

“Whose risk appetite are you talking about?” said the cleric to the banker. “The country’s? Society’s? The central bank? Or the shareholders’?”


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A Boost For Local Enterprise

The Parliamentary Yearbook is currently gathering news items for major features on the regeneration of our urban landscape in the next edition and has been following the progress of Local Enterprise Partnerships since their launch in the Summer of 2010

The Government yesterday announced core funding for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to allow them to drive forward their growth priorities.

Local Enterprise Partnerships are central to the Government’s approach to driving local economic growth and for ensuring that every community is able to fulfil its potential. This offer of over £24million from Government could unlock up to £20million locally and will enable Local Enterprise Partnerships to deliver their local plans for growth.

LEPs are locally-owned partnerships between local authorities and businesses and play a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and the creation of local jobs. They are also a key vehicle in delivering Government objectives for economic growth and decentralisation, whilst also providing a means for local authorities to work together with business in order to quicken the economic recovery.

This is a key change in the approach to how local economic development happens – local authorities and central government used to ask business to comment on strategies that were developed but now the business community is in the driving seat.

Local Enterprise Partnerships now cover 94 per cent of all businesses in England. They represent 22 million employees or 95 per cent of the total workforce.

There are 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England. Each Local Enterprise Partnership is made up of local businesses working in partnership with a combination of local authorities. Each Local Enterprise Partnership is different – each one reflects the need of local businesses and the local economy. As Local Enterprise Partnerships are based on more meaningful economic areas, they are better placed to determine the needs of the local economy along with a greater ability to identify barriers to local economic growth.

Yesterday’s announcement means that an interim £5million funding package will be made available immediately for all Local Enterprise Partnerships to draw upon for the remainder of this financial year. This will be followed by up to £250,000 per Local Enterprise Partnership per year for the following two years. Where matched by funds locally the overall funding pot could equate up to £45million over this period. The central government funding will be provided on a 50/50 basis by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk said:

“Today’s £25million boost will give Local Enterprise Partnerships the financial stability they need going forward, to build on their early successes and tailor the support they offer to local needs. If matched by local support, this could mean that up to £45million will be available to help Local Enterprise Partnerships turn their plans into jobs and growth.”

Business and Enterprise Minister Michael Fallon, said:

“It is crucial we arm Local Enterprise Partnerships with the tools and resources they need to play a prominent role in delivering growth and jobs for their communities. This funding will help Local Enterprise Partnerships plan for the long term and ensure they can remain locally-led instead of dependent on central government support.

“We need to ensure Local Enterprise Partnerships remain voluntary business and civic partnerships so they are in the best possible position to deliver sustainable growth and job creation in their areas. Already we are seeing Local Enterprise Partnerships across England delivering innovative schemes in their communities. This financial support will help the partnerships to continue this work.”

Local Enterprise Partnerships will be invited to bid for matched funding for 2013/14 and 2014/15, setting out how they would be able to offer a cash match from public or private resources. Details of the scope of the match will be discussed with Local Enterprise Partnerships shortly.

The Government made £5million of core funding available to Local Enterprise Partnerships last year to help them start up and establish themselves through financial support for things such as board support, development of priorities and business engagement. This was followed by a further £4million to build capacity over a four year period.

For 2013/14 and 2014/15, matched funding will be offered of up to £250,000 per LEP per annum, with DCLG and BIS together contributing £10million per year. Local Enterprise Partnerships wishing to utilise this funding will be required to source match funding of equal value.

This brief article summarises the situation as it stands today. We shall be adding to the article as there are further developments and any changes to the plans will be reflected in the content. The full report will be published in print and online in the next edition of the Parliamentary Yearbook.



18th September 2012

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Turning The Tide On Piracy

The Parliamentary Yearbook is currently gathering news items for major features in the next edition covering international measures to protect the world’s sea lanes against piracy and has been following closely the success of Operation Atalanta

In a report published earlier this monthThe House of Lords EU Committee for External Affairs has praised the success of Operation Atalanta in curbing piracy off the Somali coast. However, they say that the operation must be extended beyond its current end date of December 2014 if it is to make a lasting difference in combating the threat.

European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Operation Atalanta was launched by the European Union on 8 December 2008 and is conducted in accordance with United Nations Security Council’s resolutions. The Operation has been extended by the European Council until December 2014 and has the following objectives:

  • Protect vessels of the World Food Programme, Humanitarian aid and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) shipping
  • Help deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery.
  • Protect vulnerable shipping
  • Monitor fishing activities off the coast of Somalia

Operation Atalanta’s participation goes beyond EU Member States. Norway was the first non-EU country to contribute to the Operation with one warship, in 2009. Furthermore, Croatia and Ukraine have provided staff officers to the Operational Headquarters (OHQ). Additionally, offers by Montenegro and Serbia to contribute have been accepted and a Participation Agreement has been concluded to this effect, allowing the contribution of naval officers.

Also a considerable international military naval presence is now in the area, comprising the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), NATO and also units from China, India, Japan, Russia, Taiwan and others – all committed to Counter Piracy but to some extend with varying mandates and mission objectives. EU NAVFOR ATALANTA has permanent liaison with these forces to deconflict their operations in time and space in the mission area.

The funding of EU NAVFOR ATALANTA amounted to €8.4 million for 2010 and €8.05 million for 2011. A budget of €14.9 million is provided for the common costs of the prolonged mandate until December 2014.

The Committee say in their report that Operation Atalanta has made clear progress in reducing the number of ships pirated, with only 8 vessels and 215 hostages held in June 2012 compared to 23 vessels and 501 hostages in the same month in 2011.

Nonetheless the report makes clear that it is vital this effort is extended beyond 2014 to show the EU will not walk away from confronting piracy in the Indian Ocean. Otherwise organisations and individuals that organise piracy will simply wait out the operation before returning to their previous activities.

The report welcomes the increase in trials and imprisonment of pirates and particularly praises the role played by the Seychelles. However, the Committee do express concerns about the policy of transferring sentenced pirates back to Somalia for imprisonment and suggest there is a risk of breakouts. They call on the EU and UN to work together to monitor pirate prisons. They also say efforts should be made to ensure the imprisonment includes some efforts at rehabilitation as well as punishment, particularly for young pirates.

The findings in the report include:

  • Somali piracy will never be completely eradicated until the root causes of the problems in the country are addressed. The Committee welcome EU efforts to increase aid to the country and say that aid should be focused on providing alternative livelihoods for the Somali people to reduce the incentives to engage in piracy
  • The Committee have changed their view on the use of armed guards on ships since their original report on piracy and now support the initiative as the evidence showed that no ship with an armed guard has been pirated and the use of guards has not escalated violence
  • The report welcomes the high degree of international cooperation in tackling Somali piracy with national navies of Russia, China and India all playing a role. This should act as a model for military cooperation in other theatres including EU-NATO relations
  • The role of China in particular is welcome and evidence of its increasing cooperation with the international community

Commenting Lord Teverson, Chairman of the Lords EU Committee for External Affairs, said:

“Operation Atalanta has clearly made real progress in reducing the threat of Somali piracy. However if the situation is to continue to improve it is important the pirates know the international commitment to stop their activities is real and ongoing. To ensure this, Operation Atalanta should now have its remit extended beyond 2014.

“As we identified in our previous report reducing piracy requires reducing the incentive for Somalis to become pirates. As well as increasing the risk involved by improving detection and punishment of those engaged in piracy we also need viable alternatives for Somalis to provide for their families.

“Again the EU is making progress but it is important that aid is now focused on providing alternative forms of livelihood so people don’t resort to piracy.”

The Parliamentary Year book will continue to report on the progress of this and other anti-piracy measures as we go through the months ahead.



31st August 2012

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