Daily Archives: November 15, 2011

Jim Pickard

There was a moment earlier today when Nick Clegg appeared to draw the curtains on any imminent deal on party funding.

The deputy prime minister told the Commons: “This is not the right time to ask our hard-pressed taxpayers to pay out more to political parties at a time when they are having to deal with so many cuts and savings elsewhere.”

That is a strong signal given that extra state funding is the key to unlocking a deal between the three parties over the issue – which has foiled the efforts of some very bright people in recent years.

A key report is due next week which will signpost reform of the party political funding system; to be published by the “committee on standards in public life”. Its recommendations would mean the requirement of an extra £100m of state funding for political parties over a five-year term.

Interestingly, there is already disagreement within the committee with questions over whether there will be a unanimous report or a “majority” one, I’m told.

Leaks of the report suggest that there would be a £10,000-a-year cap on donations as well Read more

Elizabeth Rigby

Parliament’s long summer recess should be consigned to history and a November half-term break introduced permanently, as MPs on the procedure committee try to make life as an MP a little more family-friendly.

After months on consultation, the backbench committee which counts Jacob Rees-Mogg as a member has recommended that MPs cut short summer recess and instead add a half-term break to their calenders in  November or go for a more radical shake-up where Read more

Jim Pickard

Ministers have proposed increasing the threshold by which e-petitions have a chance of generating a Commons debate amid a flurry of high-profile campaigns.

The e-petition system was created last year by David Cameron to make politics more accessible to the public. There is now a common public assumption that any e-petition with over 100,000 signatures will generate a Parliamentary debate – like the one taking place right now over fuel duty.

In reality, however, a petition that receives more that 100,000 signatures is sent to the Commons’ backbench committee of MPs, which then decides whether or not to hold a debate on the issue.  But the committee can also schedule debates on any issue proposed by other MPs – with or without petitions.

Its two most high-profile debates so far have prompted big rebellions for Mr Cameron; one Read more

Jim Pickard

Ministers in the Home Office are under new pressure – this time over allegations that they published “highly selective” statistics on drug seizures.

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, has written to Damian Green, the immigration minister. Sir Michael asked for reassurance that the Home Office did not deliberately publish a press release suggesting a rise in seizures of Class A drugs to enhance the reputation of the UK Border Agency.

The letter says: “It was, I understand, produced without any involvement by, and without the knowledge of, the Department’s statisticians; and it is highly selective in its choice of statistics, in order, it seems, to show the UK Border Agency in a good light.”

Sir Michael suggests that if this was the case it would be “highly corrosive and damaging to public confidence in national statistics”.

This is the latest headache for Theresa May, home secretary, given the recent furore over immigration checks. Right now Brodie Clark, former head of the UK Border Force (part of the agency) – who resigned over the controversy – is facing the Home Affairs Select Committe.

Here is the letter to Damian Green:

Dear Mr Green

I am writing to express concern about the Home Office press release issued on 4 November 2011, copy enclosed, which contained statistical information on the volume of seizures of Class A drugs by the UK Border Agency. This press release was embargoed until 7 November, three days

 Read more

Nicholas Timmins

The private finance initiative – or at least the PFI as we know it – is dead. That’s what the fiercest critics will hope given the Treasury’s announcement of a “fundamental reassessment” of the model.

But don’t be too sure.

George Osborne, the chancellor, is looking for a model that “is cheaper, accesses a wider range of private sector financing sources, and strikes a better balance of risk between the private and public sectors.” Read more