The next working day at the House of Commons, Tuesday, will see the DE Bill passed unamended, passed amended or put off until the next parliament. I’ve blogposted about his below, and it’s obviously the case that the Bill should ideally be fully exposed to the formal scrutiny of the Committee Stage and then a Third Reading. Arguments that the thing has been scrutinised in the Lords and that’s enough are daft, frankly, or what would ever be the point of bills going through the Commons (i.e. that old elected bit)?
As far as amendments are concerned, the disconnection clause is a no-brainer. Yet while there seem to be good arguments about other parts, much of the stuff I see on Twitter is mainly sloganising amongst and between folk who are pretty much subject-matter experts. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, but it’s simply a fact that with most MP’s thinking about the election (bear in mind the Bill will be competing with a likely General Election announcement that day) and not necessarily prioritising the DE Bill anyway, sloganising will simply be ignored by most. I’ve seen folk on Twitter complaining that they’ve had formulaic letters from some MPs, but if they’re a reply to formulaic complaints (and I’m not saying everyone has sent formulaic letters!) then you can really can’t blame the MP. MPs get a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff and we tend to concentrate our efforts on issues where constituents have contacted us and placed their concerns into their own localised context. I appreciate that it might seem odd to suggest that the DE Bill should be seen in a localised way, but MPs start with their constituents’ concerns then generalise out to how these concerns interact with legislation. That’s really the essence of our job.
IMHO, if people want their concerns heard properly, a petition on the Downing Street website, or formulaic tweets, really aren’t going to do it. Although reasoned tweets are certainly worthwhile and can be sent here to any MP. People really need to contact their local MP and follow through on Tuesday morning. Decent MP’s will realise folk deserve a fast answer to something which is imminent that day. But more important than an answer is a chance to influence how they’re thinking. Most MPs will be sensitive to the lack of scrutiny of such a huge bill in the Commons if constituents raise it with them. It’s obviously also worth raising your concerns about a specific clause. Crucially, ask them to attend and make an intervention during the Second Reading and make their concerns known in advance.
Potentially, there’s a lot of support for either a significant amendment (I’ve flagged the disconnection clause above) or for a delay altogether. But party politics will now, of course, come into it big style. The Lib Dems have, opportunistically at this late stage, decided to oppose the bill although it’s not clear what changes they want. Labour and the Tories want it to pass. In the latter case, it’s because most of the bill is necessary and fine and we all know problems can be revisited using Statutory Instruments (SIs, see my post below). But of course for anything significant to change at all it needs MPs of all parties (most still don’t tweet, remember) to be alerted to the strength of feeling about the bill.
I’m going to send a note to all of my colleagues for Tuesday morning and follow up with as many conversations during the day as I can. There are quite a few sympathetic MPs already. Then there’s the Second Reading itself. But the more folk who contact their own MP the better. So it’s pretty much up to you all in that respect.
This is a pretty long post – better to get it out than spend more time making it shorter, I reckon.
There it is.
Thanks to Sinister from flikr for the piccy.