Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oaten makes a good point

I see Mark Oaten has raised the valid point via a motion that the new Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Lord Mandelson, being in the Lords, cannot be held to account by the Commons for his department.
That this House notes the appointment of a new Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to the House of Lords; further notes that the lead Minister for this Department will therefore not appear in the House of Commons; and calls on the Government to bring forward proposals to ensure that all Government Ministers who are members of the House of Lords be required to attend departmental Questions and make Ministerial Statements in the House of Commons so that the elected House can hold them to account.
I have no idea what or how you could have a Lord answer questions in the Commons. How has this sort of thing worked in the past?

P.S. Am loving this motion about Skull Spliter ale.

12 comments:

Norfolk Blogger said...

WAsn't Lord Young Minister for the DTI under the Tories ?

Bob Piper said...

Ministers deal with the questions.

Anonymous said...

How has it worked in the past? Lord Young was a (disastrous - and I'm a Tory!) Tory Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1987 - 89.

He had, I think - I'm doing this without access to papers - 3 junior ministers at Minister of State level - each with a title like "Minister for Whatever" - and three or so Parliamentary Under Secretaries. Parliamentary Questions from Commons members continued as normal - I think they were addressed to the Ministers of State - but of course PQs to the SoS were only rarely answered by him when he was in the commons, anyway: they were mostly passed to the apprprite Min or PUS for reply, anyway.

I'll have to check this - I'm not sure, in particular, how PQs relating to the SoS's general departmental responsibilities were dealt with.

While I've a lot of time for the Lords and how they work my experience is that for all sorts of reasons it does not make sense to have the head of a politically important Dept sitting there.

Barnacle Bill said...

Or is this a cynical move so that our glorious unelected Leader's performance at the Dispatch Box are not over shadowed by Mandy?
But it does raise the issue of accountability, which I feel is just another example of the Tony Wots His Name / Bottler approach to Parliament as a whole.

Mostly Ordinary said...

I thought they did a number of things:

1. had a junior minster answer those questions in the House
2. ask them in committee
3. write to him
4. visit him and ask him

I've never seen any sensible question and answers in Parliament anyway.

Alex said...

A junior minister would answer questions. The same thing happened under the Conservatives (remember Lord Young).

dizzy said...

I'm not sure why people are bringing up Lord Young*, Oaten would still have a point were the motion raised then. Sending a junior minister along to answer on behalf of the Secretary of State seems a little weak to me, irrespective of what party they are in.

* Were I to be cynical I would be thinking that this was a "oh look you did it too" type comment, thankfully I still think it's off.

John said...

Normal practice has previously been for the No.2 minister to answer the questions in the commones, but in this case, aren't ALL the BERR ministers in the lords?

Anonymous said...

At Commons DBERR questions the questions will be answered by the DBERR ministers who are MPs.

The only major difference would be if a statement was made to Parliament by DBERR it would be made to the Lords first by Mandelson and then repeated in the Commons.

There's no reason why a Secretary of State shouldn't sit the Lords. There always have done (Baroness Amos for DFID, Lord Young for Employment and Lord Carrington for Defence and FCO etc) although it been less common recently.

There's no legal reason or convention that Secretaries of State have to appear before the Commons to be held to account. In fact I think it's only convention that means that they are a Lord or an MP, there's no legal reason why they have to be either.

As far as I know no party has called for any changes on this.

Geoffers said...

It's childish I know, but the juxtaposition of "Oaten" and "motions" still has me sniggering like Muttley from Wacky Races,

quentin letts said...

The answer is Pat McFadden MP.

Niccolo Machiavelli said...

There is no reason why a Secretary of State has to be a member of the House of Commons, or indeed a Peer.