Monday, 21 September 2009

Grand Committee Meeting Sparks Democratic Debate

Last Monday the Grand Committee of South East England met at Reading Town Hall.

All the regional MPs were invited, but only 14 (of 59) Conservatives, nine (of 18) Labour and four (of 6) LibDems turned up.

Reading Chronicle describes the '25' as representing a good attendance in comparison to similar events in other parts of the country, referring to concerns that the 17 required to form a quorum would not be achieved.

BBC's regional political correspondant Peter Henley reports regional economic and infrastructure issues were on the agenda, including jobs, roads and housebuilding.

You can read the eight oral questions posed to the minister here.

He also asks whether the away day for MPs was a practical method 'to burst the Westminster bubble' and bring a new perspective to the political process, or whether it was only good for 'grandstanding'.

Clearly it depends on the behaviour of the individuals.

Despite his misgivings about the 'balkanisation' of national government (though not of counties, eh?) and decentralised decision-making, Wokingham's John Redwood was there.

He took the opportunity to criticise his chance to hold the minister to account, called the Grand Committee a quango, compared the affair to a Soviet press conference and called for an end to regional government

Mr Redwood had obviously forgotten that SEERA (the South East England Regional Assembly) was dissolved earlier this year, as he argued against the government's regional accountability plan - which forms part of the 'Strengthening Local Democracy' policy for greater devolution of powers - and opposed the modernisation of parliamentary procedures.

Meanwhile Jane Griffiths was on SalterWatch duty, reversing her initial suggestion that the Reading West MP didn't attend the local event, to note he made a flying visit in order to get a photo opportunity with regional Minister Jonathan Shaw MP.

Oranjepan asks:
Is democracy for the people, or for the politicians?

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  1. it depends whether you ask a politician or a normal person.

  2. I only counted 25! Chris Huhne turned up right at the end, making it 26. They were nipping in and out so much it made it hard to get an accurate headcount!
    Who was the fourth Lib Dem MP, apart from Gidley and Harris?

  3. Hi Adam, Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South) chaired the meeting according to this

  4. that's not what I said, Oranjepan: I noted that Mr Salter had been seen in the New Directions building in Reading East having his picture taken with Jonathan Shaw, and that Mr Salter was not one of the MPs who cared enough to table a public question for the minister, also that Jonathan Shaw told Mr Salter to piss off when Salter asked him to prevent houses being built in Berkshire

  5. That answers me in a stroke, oranjepan! Didn't think to count the chair. Silly me.

  6. No probs Adam, I had to read the list three times to confirm Peter Henley's count.


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