Friday, April 27, 2007

“Think of the poor whiting, Bill”

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrat News. As it turned out, Maclean's bill was not debated today but will reappear next month. The Guardian explains the machinations behind this.

I knew I should have written more about fish.

Dodgy questions

Last Thursday’s environment questions provided a chance to catch up with the career of Ben Bradshaw. And the bad news for Bradshaw watchers is that he is still the Minister for Fish.

You imagine him cornering the prime minister in the lobby and talking about his ambitions for the Treasury or the Foreign Office. And Tony Blair says: “Er, it’s Bill isn’t it? We need you at Fish, Bill. I can’t change things at the moment. Not when the haddock negotiations are at such a delicate stage.”

Which is why Bradshaw finds himself still answering questions on long-lining off Lowestoft and the by-catch regulations for skate and dogfish.

Will he do any better under Gordon Brown. With the Firth of Forth filling up with raw sewage, I doubt it. “Think of the poor whiting, Bill.”


The next day saw Norman Baker and Simon Hughes thwart David Maclean’s attempt to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act by talking until it ran out of time and went to the back to the queue.

Except there was no queue. Remarkably, the authorities decided that no other private member’s bill was ready to go before the House. The result is that if you get your Lib Dem News on Friday morning Norman and Simon may be doing it all over again even as you read this.

Some might say that Simon will still be speaking if you are reading this on Monday afternoon, but you won’t find cheap cracks like that in this column.

Maclean, of course, is a former Tory minister, but it was notable how many prominent Labour MPs supported him, including Tessa Jowell and both Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s bag-carriers.

This is typical of Labour. In their long years in opposition they became intellectually converted to what you might call the Charter 88 agenda - devolution, proportional representation, freedom of information - but they soon got cold feet in power.

Devolution went through, but Labour promised not to use its extra taxation powers in Scotland. PR was forgotten as soon as they saw the size of their majority.

Now they are having doubts about freedom of information. A backbench bill does not get this far without government approval.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

My ancient mother remembers (just) selling headless cod at 4/6 a stone (for the young: 4 shillings and 6 pence, 22 and a half pence in today's coinage, for 14 pounds weight, 6.4 kilos in today's other coinage). Those were the days when a Yorkshire fish fryer would not fry anything less than haddock, and they fried it in dripping.