Wot? No legislation

Lord Norton

Today is the first day of the committee stage of the Academies Bill.  The only other Government Bill starting in the Lords is the Local Government Bill.  As a result, time is being utilised to debate select committee reports and motions by back-benchers.  Some members look forward to more legislation coming forward in order to ensure it is effectively scrutinised.  I rather favour the existing situation.  

The tendency of government has been to legislate for the sake of legislating.  Bills have been rushed through in order to give the impression that action is being taken.  However, many ills cannot be solved by legislation.  Much legislation is drafted in haste and is not solidly evidence-based.   Each new senior minister wants to get his or her ‘big Bill’ on the statute book, with success being measured in terms of Royal Assent and not the actual effect of the measure. 

We need to engender a culture of legislative excellence, where the emphasis is on quality – well thought through and evidence-based Bills – rather than quantity.  Government should seek to take credit for the impact of its measures and not the number of measures on the statute book.   Letting ministers stay in post for longer may help.  So may the new Goverment’s declared intention of not having so many Bills subject to programme motions in the Commons.  We also need to make sure that the provisions of a Bill are actually needed – and not going to end up never brought into effect at all (see the earlier post on unimplemented legislation).  Perhaps each Bill should provide that any provisions not brought into effect within three years of enactment of the measure shall be deemed to be deleted.  In any event, we need a new view of legislation.

60 comments for “Wot? No legislation

  1. 21/06/2010 at 4:34 pm

    You’re starting to be converted Phillip.

    The solution is not government. It’s government that is the problem.

    Lord Blagger

    • 22/06/2010 at 6:59 am

      Are you hinting that statesperson Dorothy Green of Australia was right when she said (“) The role of a Good-Government is to make its Peoples self-governable(“) ?

      Or that the Media was right to report her as
      (‘)Ageing Dot Green sez The People are Totally Un-governable(‘) ?

      Or what, if you please ?

  2. 21/06/2010 at 4:35 pm

    As a follow up. How many Lords have turned up today, who aren’t in a committee.

    ie. How many are we paying to do no work?

    Lord Blagger

    • Lord Norton
      21/06/2010 at 10:38 pm

      Lord Blagger: Quite a lot actually. The House was full for Question Time. There were over sixty peers in the chamber for a statement on the European Union. Given that the committee stage of a Bill is usually attended by those with a very particular interest in the Bill there has been a good attendance for discussion of amendments to the Academies Bill, with plenty of contributions – which is why by 10.00 p.m. we had only got to Amemdment 4, and amendments grouped with it, rather than the target of Amendment 12.

      • Lord Blagger
        24/06/2010 at 10:03 pm

        All this legislation on a day for which you’ve posted “Wot? No legislation”

  3. Lord Norton
    21/06/2010 at 4:36 pm

    Lord Blagger: Hardly. I have been developing this point for a long time.

  4. Mark Butcher
    21/06/2010 at 6:56 pm

    Lord Norton, I have to say I couldn’t agree more. Less haste and more thought. I hope the new government will actually look through all the previous laws passed in the last few years – and kill the bad ones. Broadly, the ones that affect the ordinary citizen, such as the smoking ban that extends to pubs. When that law was passed, it was the first time I actually felt ‘governed’ and I hate it.

  5. Caratacus
    21/06/2010 at 7:05 pm

    A welcome blast of good sense my Lord. Is anyone in the Government listening to you? There are those of amongst the peasantry who would like to see our legislators recite your second paragraph each morning before cornflakes.

  6. 21/06/2010 at 7:12 pm

    So why not get rid of one whole part of government? It’s a start. Axe the Lords.

    Replace the Lords with the cheap option of referenda by proxy.

    People will vote for no tax rises, no new borrowing. That shrinks government by default.

    With no money large parts of government has to disappear.

    With referenda, politicians have to act with the majority of the population in agreement.

    What’s more democratic than that?

  7. 21/06/2010 at 7:12 pm

    By the way, why should we pay peers for today, unless they were on a committee?

  8. Troika21
    21/06/2010 at 8:32 pm

    I’m not all that fond of the coalition, but it seems to be doing everything right at the moment. No fanfare over the shootings in Cumbria, sensible European dealings.

    Thats just preception though, but if it can keep a low level of leglislation brought to the books, then it really would be doing something.

    Quality is another matter though.

  9. 21/06/2010 at 8:36 pm

    How about a Bill stating that any provisions in all Bills which have not been commenced within three years of enactment shall be deemed void? That would alter the status quo, and exemptions in subsequent legislation would each have to be fought for.

    I think the present situation is potentially quite worrying. Who knows when some department is going to dust off some obscure provision from decades, even centuries, ago and suddenly declare it commenced, with heaven knows what consequences?

    Besides which, it’s the principle of the thing. Parliament surely wants to be doing something and knowing what it’s doing, not producing notional legislation on the off-chance it’s to be implemented.

    Like you, I’m very pleased the House will be able to spend time on matters other than those specifically tabled by the Government, and it will be good to hear some back benchers’ motions and to air some select committee reports (IMHO, a much under-used resource).

    Evidence-based legislation – and less of it – will both be great advances.

  10. 21/06/2010 at 9:59 pm

    Again and again, it seems clear that what every one needs to see is a much more thorough Bill-Preparation, i.e. assembly of the facts and evidence, drafting the Bill’s first form, clarification, discussion, and scrutiny; before ever it gets allowed into the final competitive Debating and Voting stages.

    A new democratically Non-Legislative British House of Knowledge and Life-Experience, would have the Initial Task of successively
    (i) assembling the knowledge and
    (ii) assembling the life-experience ( & especially primary/secondary/tertiary evidence);
    relevant to any Issue.
    (iii) suggesting wordings for a Bill, and
    (iv) delivering all of that to the Legislature for the first stage of the Legislation Process itself to begin.

    No longer limitations on either amount and quality of legislation or on time-taken-in-progress, of any Bill, Review or other Question.

    Instead we shall all be in-the-know and be either responsible or response-able, costs of non-legislative preparation and legislative processing would go down, time taken per Bill would reduce, and quality and water-tightness of the eventual Act would rise.

    And pre-legislation, during-legislation and post-legislation, every level of The People could be in-the-know, ‘connected’, partners-in-ownership, of a true and at last really resilient Democracy.

  11. djb13
    21/06/2010 at 11:13 pm

    Could the Lords play a more productive role in reducing the ammount of unessercary legislation? I strain to think of a practical suggestion. For instance, could the HoL set up an annual committee examining the House’s work, with a note towards indicating that the government is legislating too much (or, indeed, too little). Just to kill two birds with one stone, I think that such a committee would also be well placed to help communicate the role that the Lords plays, helping to create a little more public support for the House, especially if it were a little scathing in it’s critique of the government’s approach to legislation, showing that the Lords will stand up (in a productive manner) to the government, and it’s client House down the corridor.

  12. Twm O'r Nant
    22/06/2010 at 6:12 am

    Lord Norton’s opinion and advice on these things is very valuable and perhaps taken in evidence by that place again before long.

    • 22/06/2010 at 8:27 pm

      “Lord Norton’s opinion and advice on these (Legislation) things is very valuable [ and perhaps taken as evidence by “That Place” before long ]; we are told. (see Twm O’r Nant’s original comment 0612 a.m. today Tuesday 22 June 10).

      Then it’s time to start saying “God Help us” all over again;
      for the existing legislatory situation that Lord Norton says he “rather favours” has long been failing most shabbily in the Commons; hugely failed scrutiny stages, massively ‘dumped’ upon the Upper House…
      and therefore could not be a watertight and torpedo proof success in the Lords either.

      [Call to Any-of The-People or Knowledgables looking-in: Where are our People’s advisers and advocates for this kind of seemingly closed-ranks, agenda-cornering, ‘covert oligarchy’, ‘top-down one-way directivism’; please ? ]

      (Obediently yours, my Lords of the Blog),

  13. 22/06/2010 at 8:38 am

    There were over sixty peers in the chamber for a statement on the European Union.


    On average 400 turn up each day.

    So what were the other 340 doing when there is no legislation to handle? There certainly were not 340 sitting in committees.

    ie. You’ve proved the point. Vast numbers turn up, cost us over 2000 pounds, and do not do anything visible when it comes to legistlation.

    It’s a club for old and failed political hacks.

    Lord Blagger

    • Lord Norton
      22/06/2010 at 10:47 am

      Lord Blagger: The parliamentary day is not confined to the maximum forty minutes when a statement is taken. During a seven or eight hour sitting, peers do not spend all their time in the chamber. Amazingly enough, correspondence doesn’t answer itself. Amazingly enough, people from different bodies ask for meetings with peers. Amazingly enough, there is more to being a member of a committee than simply attending meetings. I have a meeting of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee this afternoon. There is a mass of SIs and explanatory material that has to be read in preparation for the meeting. And preparing material for debates – going through the provisions of Bills and a mass of briefing documents – is time consuming.

      In other words, the actual work is not simply being ‘visible’. Indeed, if we all sat in the chamber all the time, we would not be doing the mass of detailed work that needs doing. Being in the chamber and participating is in essence the tip of the iceberg.

      • Lord Blagger
        24/06/2010 at 10:07 pm

        That’s why you need to look at who’s in commitees. The other work. Plus written questions.

        Since we aren’t allowed to have a go at others, perhaps you can come and tell us what you’ve been up to.

        I’ve gone through your written questions, and your oral questions from Hansard. Not much there for 125 days a year.

        So I’ll ask you directly, given that’s the only evidence I have as to what you achieve, what are these other things you get up to.

        You keep posting, that peers do other things, but so far you haven’t said what those other things are.

        Unless you can put something on the table for discussion as to what they are up to, all 400 of them, what conclusion can we draw about what’s going on. It’s not legislating is it.

        Lord Blagger

  14. 22/06/2010 at 11:03 am

    Well Phillip you raised the issue when you were claiming a success that 60 peers were in the chamber on a day when there is no legistlation.

    340 other peers to find.

    Perhaps I’ll put another FOI request in for who was in committees yesterday, the day in question.

    Do you think we will find 340 hidding in committees? I doubt it.

    ie. The evidence we have for the productivity of the lords is as follows.

    1. Expenses. (Productivity is production / cost)
    2. Attendence
    3. Hansard.
    4. TV.

    That’s about it. Even on the ammendment front, you don’t present a view of amendments for the public in an easy form. In particular there is a need to separate out government amending its own mistakes from amendments coming from non governmental sources. The first doesn’t need the lords at all.

    Lord Blagger

    • Lord Norton
      24/06/2010 at 5:47 pm

      Lord Blagger: You really do need to get a grip on reality. Why do you need to put in an FOI for information that is on the public record? And I was not saying there were 60 peers in on a day when there was no legislation. I was pointing to the fact that there were sixty peers present at one particular moment during the course of the day’s proceedings. The functions of the House extend beyond legislative scrutiny and one cannot measure effectiveness in terms solely of the number of amendments considered and passed. There is a qualitative dimension – something completely absent from your considerations, which are based on crude and essentially deficient measures.

      • Lord Blagger
        24/06/2010 at 10:12 pm

        I’ve repeatedly posted the number 60. In other cases you’ve pooh poohed the number. However, here you’ve agreed with it. 60 in the chamber.

        How many people were in commitee on this day?

        How many were not in committees or in the house?

        It may or may not be a deficient measure. However, I’ll put you on a challenge.

        What is a good measure of effiency?

        You’re convinced the HoL is a good thing. However, you’re lacking completely when it comes to saying what good it achieves, what bad it achieves, and what it costs for that effect.

        e.g. You’ve passed laws that enable imprisonment without trial. You’ve not kept a check on the government when it comes to finances and we now have a massive debt. Are you going to keep a check on the government defaulting on pensions? After all raising the retirement age by 1 year means 5,000 taking from future pensioners.

        As part of the legistlature, you have to take responsibility for any failures as well as successes.

  15. 22/06/2010 at 12:50 pm

    In other words, the actual work is not simply being ‘visible’. Indeed, if we all sat in the chamber all the time, we would not be doing the mass of detailed work that needs doing. Being in the chamber and participating is in essence the tip of the iceberg.


    Then you are going the way of the Dodo. People like me will carry on pointing out that for 2,000 plus pounds a day, we are getting diddly squat in return.

    It’s the same in any business. Unless you can show that you are productive, you’re going to get the can. Particularly when it comes to public money.

    That’s why things like the COINS database were giving Sir Humphrey apoplexy. Imaging having the plebs going over how much we are spending on wine, silver, …

    The same is happening over your productivity. It’s none existant. 60 peers out of 400 in the chamber. I agree with your figures. When ever I channel flick past the Lords debates, I stop, and have a count up. 60 is a pretty good maximum estimate.

    Likewise when it comes to amendments. 2,500 a year, and almost entirely they come from the government correcting their own mistakes. That could be done with a committee of MPs, and save us 115 million a year. The cost of the Lords generated amendments.

    Say 500 from the Lords. 230,000 per amendment. Are the amendments worth the cost?


    Lord Blagger

    • Lord Norton
      22/06/2010 at 2:58 pm

      Lord Blagger: Do you realise your comments can actually be read by other people? Your comments are so obviously drivel that it is difficult to know where to start. (There’s actually a good reason not to bother – an old Chinese proverb comes to mind.) Productivity is not measured in terms of time spent in the chamber. Indeed, I suspect everyone bar you recognises that if we sat in the chamber all the time it would be a grossly unproductive use of time. Amendments are only a part of the work of the House, albeit a key part, and a great many amendments tabled by ministers do not originate with Government but with back-benchers. Actually identifying the genesis of amendments is a difficult task, as J. A. G. Griffith found in his major work on the parliamentary scrutiny of government bills, and his methodology and application were somewhat more rigorous (and reliable) than yours. To say that productivity in the House is non-existent is palpable nonsense. You keep going on about time spent in committees, but then exclude them from your analysis (I use the term loosely). Your methodology, like so much else you write, is (to use a modern phrase) pants.

      • 22/06/2010 at 3:44 pm

        Well when you say its difficult, I agree. That’s why I’ve been constantly going on about it.

        You have no evidence of productivity. I haven’t ignored committees either, as you will see from my posts.

        When one of your fellow peers said, ah, they are all in committees, I submitted an FOI request for that day. A handful were in commitee.

        400 turning up.

        60 in the chamber.

        So what you are basically saying is that you haven’t got a clue as to efficiency in the Lords.

        1. No idea about Lords versus government amendments.

        2. No idea what members do when they attend.

        3. No idea if they check in, check out, collect the expenses.

        Unless you can come up with a reasonable measure, I’m afraid Phillip, its you who are deluded.

        Let me propose a measure.

        1. The good for nothings. Any peer who has claimed expenses but not spoken in a committee or in the chamber.

        2. The redundant. Those who haven’t spoken or attended.

        3. For the rest. Take the number of days they attend, and pro rata that against the cost of the lords. Then look at the number of days they speak, to give a ranking of how expensive they are.

        eg. attend 130 days, speak on 10.

        120 * 2000 * 10 = 24,000 pounds for opening their mouths.

        Based on hard facts. Gives a nice little ranking of all the peers.

        Based on evidence and not on any hearsay.

        What would you say for that?

        Where do you think you would come in the ranking? You spoke on about 10 days last session. How many days did you claim for?

        Lord Blagger.

      • Senex
        22/06/2010 at 5:43 pm

        Blagger had a cool thought, iceberg. But does he represent the one tenth above water or the nine tenths out of his depth? Perhaps we should nominate him for the role of Parliamentary spending Czar; anybody willing to second this?

      • 22/06/2010 at 10:56 pm

        One can visualise a quite efficient and more productive Shift timetable, my lord, whereby at least cushioned-quorums could meet, say in
        four hour shifts with a main meal break and two cuppas-breaks ?

        Thus even 24/7 would no longer be an ‘impossibility” ?

        • Lord Norton
          24/06/2010 at 5:50 pm

          Lord Blagger: No, people like you won’t keep pointing it out because there is no one else like you. It is just you. Others appear to have a more measured way of measuring productivity.

          • 25/06/2010 at 7:39 am

            Steady on, ladies and gentlemen, please:

            there’re Ad Hominen attacks virus-ing their way into this Collective Co-Communication: the daily old fashioned fallacy of “You’re the only one grousing/grumbling/complaining/attacking-my-own-perfectly-reasonable-submissions/rubbishing others/sniping-at-The Establishment … …

            Collaborative win-win-win conflict resolution has a 6-step process very similar to the 5-step Friendly Method III win-win-win Cooperative Problem Solving process that has been described in other blogs on LOTB; and since a Conflict is a considerably worse escalation beyond the Problem stage, Cornelius & Faire (“Every-One Can Win” – Fair-Play) added a shortlist of “Fouls” as follows:
            (1) Name-calling
            (2) Put-downs
            (3) Sneering – Blaming
            (4) Threats – Hitting
            (5) Bringing up the past
            (6) Making excuses
            (7) Not listening
            (8) Getting even .

            I beg (after a breakfast-break or perhaps a day-or-two of deliberation) that the above be moved to be ruled-in as pre-requisite to White, Black, Blue, Yellow and Green thinking-processes and inter-actions on this kind of site (the ‘thinking-hat’ exception being the Red).
            [Please see previous entries or “Six Thinking Hats” by Dr Edward de Bono (Englishman) for more details].

            (JSDM 0735F25June10).

    • djb13
      22/06/2010 at 7:25 pm

      Lord Blagger: You say that in any bussiness, that if you can’t prove your worth, you’re out. That’s simply not true. P.R. men, branding experts and non-executive officers contribute vast ammounts to a bussiness, yet if you asked them what they actually contributed, they could point to almost nothing physical. Much of the work of the House of Lords is invisible, like the work of the ad men.

      However, to take a larger point, if you fundamentally disagree with the appointment of peers to our Parliament (a view I can understand, I used to be of that opinion), then might I suggest that arguing against the efficiency of the House as constituted is not the best way of going about it. I would never argue against making the House more efficient with it’s work, and I very much doubt Lord Norton would either. Do I think the House could do more? Of course. Pointing to the inefficiency of the chamber only makes me want to improve it, not to change it. Do we point to the House of Commons, and the great hulking masses of inefficiency and uselessness, and argue that a democratic chamber is therefore a void and invalid concept? Instead, we argue that we need to improve the chamber, and make it better.

      • 22/06/2010 at 10:58 pm

        I’m not sure that ‘change’ is the solution.

        They have exhibited all the self control of the average 3 year old given they keys to a sweet shop.

        So showing just what a rampage they have been on with other people’s money, al la expenses, brings them into disrepute and does result in two things.

        1. The Lords clamping down on information. The prime example here is the making a state secret the investigation into Lords expense but the person with the responsibility to manage the expenses system is a bit odd. Hence no reply from any Lord as to what’s going on in dealing with expenses.

        2. Making a complete laughing stock of there pretentions also has the same effect. If you bring their misdemeanors into light, it makes it more difficult for them to claim a valid existance.

        The more interesting question, is does one replace the Lords with something else, and if so what, or does one just abolish it.

        The place to start is with the requirements and not with what is wrong with the Lords.

        My view is this.

        At some point in the proceedings of any bill you need oversight. Doesn’t have to be the Lords, could be the commons.

        You need democratic legitimacy. The Lords fails completely as its currently set up. The Commons fails because its not about issues, its about which bum sits on the bench and troughs. Voting on issues revitalises democracy. The lack is cause of the growth of special interests and the lack of interest in voting.

        Lots more on this line and a far more relevant discussion.

        However, the plebs on this site aren’t allowed to raise issues. Its for the Lords to tell us what they do.

        Lord Blagger

      • 23/06/2010 at 12:47 am

        One minute djb13 is claiming categorically that the House of Lords is efficient, both constitutionally and in-practice, and the next he’s likewise superiorly arguing that he and his stakeholder-set needs to improve the chamber; and then to go on to make it ‘better’.

        Why don’t you use a simple Web on the LOTB site, to distinguish different factors from each other until a reality-oriented overall Mind-Map can be constructed, and the discussion debating and Billdrafting be begun (in that order, of course)?

        Surely there would enough unpaid-volunteers willing to carry out such a graphic support-service ?

        • djb13
          23/06/2010 at 1:47 pm

          JDSM: I don’t think I claimed catagorically that the Lords is efficient. However, if at some point in my life, I did, let me clarify. As the only, or one of the only, Houses of expertise in the world, there’s little, if anything, to compare it to in terms of efficiency. To clarify my message. The House is not as inefficient as Lord Blagger says, but it is not as efficient as it could be (because no legislative House ever is, anywhere).

          Also, I don’t understand your latter paragraph.

          • 23/06/2010 at 6:47 pm

            That is very resilient of you, djb13.

            Nevertheless it is quite difficult to match the House of Lords as ‘the only House of expertise in the world’ against various Bodies in Academia around the world; and I hasten to say that a Legislative House of Parliament has the Task of Advocating the Peoples’ needs and hows, using knowledge, and expertise provided by or gleaned from Outside sources (such as Academia and Trawls of the Public’s life-experiences).

            That is why a submission has been made for a Non-legislative British House of Knowledge and Life-Experience, independent of our two Legislative Houses ( as is the Judiciary) but with the Duty of gathering and submitting relevant material upon Issues and for Bills, to the Legislatural Two Houses..

            I read most of Lord Blagger’s inputs as one would the quick sketches of a battlefield war-correspondent; efficiency versus inefficiency, for instance is an impossible grey-scale, wouldn’t you agree ?

            Even leading planet-saving scientists make solid statements such as “coal is only 8% efficient, whilst tidal-energy is 13% efficient (my fictional figures).
            That leaves us already dangling from a fast-flying airplane, as it were, before another expert-school or House adds to our predicament the quite big Factor of of ‘Inefficiency’: “How inefficient is Coal compared or contrasted with Tidal energy ?”
            The mathematical-workings of this latter are not as straightforward as (100 – 8 = 92% inefficient):(100 – 13 = 87% inefficient); because one ‘hidden’ factor would be, Coal filthies up the environment, whereas Tidal power is ‘clean’.

            (We can hear a million voices saying at this point: “I knew that”; can’t we ?)

            My last two paragraphs simply call for graphics-capable scribes to be brought to the LOTB site (and/or to a serious TV Governance-For-and-By-The People channel) to provide quick snapshots of The-Discussion-So-Far.

            ‘A picture speaks clearer than a thousand words’.

          • 23/06/2010 at 8:00 pm

            The House is not as inefficient as Lord Blagger says, but it is not as efficient as it could be (because no legislative House ever is, anywhere).

            That implies you have some measure of making a comparison between different legislative houses, and/or that you have identified the inefficiencies.

            1. What’s the measure used to compare?

            2. What are the inficiencies?

  16. 22/06/2010 at 3:53 pm

    By the way too, with your little diatribe, you haven’t said why we should be paying people for days like yesterday when there is no legistlation.

    If your position is correct, then there is plenty of time on other days to do other work – private paid work or letters

    By the way on letters, do you mean the sort of letter that Lord Oxburgh wrote on Lords paper, but when an FOI request goes in, its not official business. Isn’t using Lord’s stationary for non official business against the rules?

    Lord Blagger

    • Lord Norton
      24/06/2010 at 5:53 pm

      Lord Blagger: Because there is more to Lords than legislation. Sorry to have to repeat a statement of the obvious.

  17. tory boy
    22/06/2010 at 5:02 pm

    I totally agree with you Lord Norton not only is Lord Blagger massively misinformed and very ignorant, it seems that his blogs come out of his rear-end. My Lords I beg to move that Lord Blagger be no longer heard

    • 22/06/2010 at 11:13 pm

      People, I move that our own Non-legislative House of the People do now, and until further notice by our House, sit In Private excluding all Monarchy, members of Parliaments, members of Government, and tornboytoadies thereto, but including by individual invitation any Lord of the Blog whom we deem to be of sound mind, body, spirit and win-win-win cooperatively-participatory communicability;

      (This message was interrupted by a strange power).

  18. 22/06/2010 at 11:13 pm

    Lord Blagger: You say that in any bussiness, that if you can’t prove your worth, you’re out. That’s simply not true. P.R. men, branding experts and non-executive officers contribute vast ammounts to a bussiness, yet if you asked them what they actually contributed, they could point to almost nothing physical. Much of the work of the House of Lords is invisible, like the work of the ad men.


    Not true. Ad men, you can see what their output is.

    Here we have a body appointed by neoptism and patronage.

    We have a body where there is no control over spending.

    We have a body that doesn’t monitor their output.

    A body where there is no control over employees, when they turn up and leave.

    Can you imagine any private sector organisation that doens’t have a government approved monopoly working in the same way and surviving? I can’t. Customers wouldn’t stand for it. Rivals would start and win.

    ie. The Lords are not fit for purpose.

    Lord Blagger

  19. Gareth Howell
    23/06/2010 at 9:15 am

    “We need to engender a culture of legislative excellence, where the emphasis is on quality – well thought through and evidence-based Bills – rather than quantity”

    Lord Norton’s ideal is a worthy one but if we look back through historic legislation can it be verified that there have been times of “legislative excellence” and other times of “legislative paucity”?

    Legislation is so much a matter of opinion in any event, but even carving it up in to parliaments, can you say such a date to such a date was very clearly a parliamentary session of legislative excellence for which we should be grateful to the members of that time?

    I doubt it and the statement of noble Lord Norton is more a statement of political ideal, which he would like us to follow, than
    any one of any real hope of achieving such an end!

    The ignoble Lord Blagger is certainly making you all talk, and provided he does not start blaspheming or other crude things, perhaps he should just be ignored when he makes perceived crass remarks, rather than replied to!

    Unanimity, or at least consensus, is needed to obtain any sense that real value has been provided by a particular government’s decisions. I have not heard a single word against the coalition from any member of the public, but does that mean an excellent government has been installed?

    The same may apply to “legislative excellence”. Everybody might be silent or vocal in approving it, and yet it may be sweet no good at all in the long run.

    I fear that Lord Norton’s stress on “legislative excellence” is as always a political platform of a certain radical right order, and not
    with any real idea of achieving such a thing, surrounded by democratic chambers, to which many if not most, members of the HoL have never subscribed by membership at all.

    • 23/06/2010 at 9:53 am

      Which crass remarks? I think you are confusing me with some of Phillips comments about ignorance or Tory Boys little diatribe.

      Phillip, there is one thing I’m ignorant about, as are all the rest of us here. Perhaps you can remedy it.

      What’s in the Clerk of Parliament’s report into Lord’s expenses?

      Do you think we should know what Lords have been doing with our cash?

      Also, what’s so important about the number of items handled by the post room that you need to ask a question? Can you let us know what the reply is. It’s one of the flaws of Hansard’s site, in that I can’t find the answer.

      Lord Blagger

      • Lord Norton
        24/06/2010 at 5:54 pm

        LOrd Blagger: All answers to written questions are published in Hansard.

        • Lord Blagger
          24/06/2010 at 9:14 pm

          So where is the report by the clerk of parliament.

          Can you do this?

          Ask a written question for it to be published in Hansard, then we can all read it.

          It would get your batting average up.

          So if you are correct, the question as to what a large number of Lords have been up to with expenses will be known to all.

          That its been made a state secret leads to the obvious conclusions.

          You could be the person to put that conclusion to bed, or confirm it


    • 23/06/2010 at 5:42 pm

      CS Bernard of Yesminster sez:
      Dear Gareth,
      You can’t have ‘perceived’ crass remarks, only ‘judgementally-supposed’ ones.
      (Check in “Conscious Seeing” by Roberto Kaplan (2002) Glossary “Consciousness: realized awareness, perception that is known to oneself”. (Not ‘imagined’ or ‘hallucinated’).
      Only the remark is perceived, by the ear or the eye. “Crass-ness” within it can thereafter be presumed, but not perceived nor ‘perceived’.
      Before “unanimity or at least consensus (being needed to obtain sense that real value has been provided by a government’s decisions)” can be reliably arrived at, a process-and-content that People can comprehend and take scrutinative or constructive part in needs to be designed and implemented for All.

      You haven’t heard a single word from any member of the public because either
      (a) no member of the public* has enough confidence in (your) purpose to bother speaking to any of you; or
      (b) The Public either closed-ranks-edly trusts this cooperative (if compromising) brand-new form of ‘coalition’ government; or People know they have no further choice nor influence, and are back to the ‘norm’ of ‘waiting to see’.
      (Also, keeping one’s mouth shut can be such a great personal-energy saver, people do believe; and even save one’s life these terror-ful days).

      Every post, comment and reply I have read shows me that no participant has exemplary confidence, none has a truly sound win-win-win comprehension and problem-solving basis upon which to build and deliver good-governance, good-citizenship and good-relationships with Other Countries.

      Evidently also is it that any ‘old book’ has been superceded (but nobody is saying by what, and everybody turns away from them as irrelevant.
      (Except for billions of folk deeply hooked to various Holy books such as The Bible).

      A further instance, to the ‘old’ books already given in other comments and replies, of a neglected or clean-forgotten ‘old’ book might be relevant here:
      “I’m Right – You’re Wrong” by Dr Edward de Bono (an Englishman).

      Now who’d care to join me in wondering which of the Six Thinking Hats we might glimpse being waved back at any of this ?


      *(except myself but only in writing so far; and I wouldn’t count, even in pre-legislative preparations, because (i) I’m not in any of your recognised Circles (ii) I’m not a paid-up member of any recognised Party or Club (iii) my pay-grade is far too low (iv) I am insufficiently qualified (v) I’m too old, and retired, and past-it (vi) (and I could think of more).
      Warm regards,

  20. Chris K
    23/06/2010 at 10:19 am

    I remember reading in a colour supplement in an edition of the Spectator a couple of months ago of what an incoming Conservative (!) government should do.

    One suggestion was a “Failure of New Labour (1997-2010) Bill” which repealed all legislation passed during that period unless both House of Parliament specifically and actively saved a piece.

    We could do much worse, couldn’t we? What a shame it can’t extend to European legislation.

  21. 23/06/2010 at 11:16 am

    Lord Norton et al;
    In your original Wot! post you said (“)… We need to engender a culture of legislative excellence -where emphasis is on quality rather than quantity… Bills have been rushed through… but many ills can not be solved by legislation… Government should take (be given ?) credit for the Impact of its measures not for the quantity of them… Letting ministers stay longer… reducing the quantity of Bills… and ensuring that every part of a Bill is both necessary and implemented… may help… but for certain we need a new view of legislation (“).

    I beg to now use the Six Thinking Hats method, because that should harmlessly show why different kinds of thinking are necessary* and how each particular colour chosen can help to clarify, speed-up, and resolve any problem as we come to it.
    1. (Blue hats, alternating with White and Black, and intermittently by Green, please):
    (a) a quick scan through Lord Norton’s Post shows a deeply serious and very urgent Issue over the Parliaments’ Legislative Duty and Process, summarisable as
    (i) The existing system wrongly mounts far too much legislation
    (ii) Within such there are un-necessary provisions and un-implement-ed/able) provisions & inadequate time-effective follow-up provisions.
    (iii) Many Bills receive such insufficiency of process particularly of Scrutiny as to render them ill-advised, unsafe and should never have gone to the Monarch (but if so and Assented, should have been sent back to Parliament by the Judiciary before they became enforceable Acts).
    (iv) a new view of legislation (not excluding of our Processes and possibly of the Legislature itself) is needed, by all of us.
    (v) Lord Norton favours the existing system (NB This looks like a grave error).
    (vi) Bills need to be well thought through, fewer in quantity but watertight in quality; & need every provision to be necessary, implementable, and post-legislatively supervisable and quickly-reviewable.
    (vii) Solution components might include Ministers staying longer, raising fewer Bills & increasing fast-tracking thereof,and the Government taking full credit for the “impact” of its Bills
    (viii) A report-component in Lord Norton’s opening paragraph needs considerable clarification and clear re-writing: “Some members look forward to more legislation coming forward in order to ensure it is effectively scrutinised. [NB Lord Norton’s ‘personal-choice’ statement immediately follows, possibly contrasts, and closes the paragraph “I rather favour the existing system”].

    (b) I donn the Black hat to “Government should (seek to) take credit for the impact of its measures” (Bills) (“)and for reducing the quantity of them(“) .
    The main necessity is the non-legislative Preparation of the facts, factors, figures and real-life evidences, assembled and delivered to the Legislature.
    Bills should have ‘effectivenesses’, not ‘impacts’ (the latter term is aggressively ambiguous).
    (White hat) Although a very unsettling quantity of reading-between-the-lines is required in this Matter and in this Post (and therefore probably in Comments and Replies thereto)there appear to be many clear facts, factors, figures and life-experience evidences present that so far have remained hidden.
    At this stage therefore one can only donn each hat in turn and see what results:
    Blue (the ‘next item’ order-of-this-meeting) Begin with White (Data/Facts), then Green (constructive possibilities), then Black (risks and ‘no-no’s), then Red (emotionals), then Yellow (clear Positives), finish the round with Blue hat ((what shall we do next and how ?).
    White (the Facts): Sufficient indicators present to formulate an Issue;
    totally insufficient to even begin discussion let alone competitive debating and ‘Bill-drafting’.
    Scrutiny, however, should have already begun, and majorly so.
    Green (creative-possibilities):
    Sufficiently-versed cross-sections of Lords, Professionals, and People appear to be available to form Preparatory thinking-tanks;
    and possibly to select group-scribes to report their results into LOTB;
    and the LOTBs possibly have the capability to act as the Plenum Scribe and maintain publication of this Cooperatively-Participatory Thinking-process.

    Thereafter, either the Government or the Media might be ready, willing and able to publish that overall-so-far Plenum Result to the British Nation.
    (It is assumed that every onlooker as well as each participant has a sufficiency of secure-participation-places, healthgiving-food & drinking water, and a totally-quiet resting place).

    Black (risks): Although Urgency of better Governance and Citizenship is now equal with Importance of British Nation-State Matters, since within this one blog alone so much contention and conflict could arise, it is necessary to glimpse the Green hat for an instant and Recommend that the Friendly Method III of Needs & Hows recognition and win-win-win cooperatively participative problem solving be the first resort for solving/resolving needs, hows and problems herein.

    Red (emotions): It is evident that at times emotions displace calm and constructive reasoning; e.g. ‘when the new smoking law was passed I hated it’; ‘Lord N’s advice is very valuable and should be approved by the committee’; ‘that was a welcome blast of good sense’; ‘it’s a club for old and failed politicians’; ‘Your comments are so obviously drivel’; ‘the People paying £2000 a day but getting diddly squat in return’; ‘The House is efficient, but the House certainly needs to be made more so’; [this latter whilst being inconsistent logic is probably riding upon a hidden unrequited emotional-issue]; ‘you’re theonly one complaining; everyone else is thinking straight; you should take early retirement and save us money that way then’;
    {[( Overheard during the break in a nearby bar, where the young bartender does not like a certain well-groomed older Member who’s just come in for his usual pint: “Piss off, you bloody blag-head!” “Is it ? I’ll have a lager then”. )]}
    END of Emotional-thinking (Red hat) sub-section.

    Yellow (positives): Despite differences, contrast, and the dangerous lack of data and evidence, every participant appears to be not just able and willing to take reasonable part, but soberly capable, too.
    There are many soundly constructive inputs; both the various workstations and the communication-channels between them via the LOTB site appear to be reliable for the foreseeable future.
    All wars and acts of terrorism are at present elsewhere in the World;
    Despite financial and economic difficulties, Britain is well enough supplied within, and is generally at peace for the foreseeable future.
    Bottles of clean drinking water are at hand.

    Blue: What next ? Moved that the meeting adjourn for refreshments, and re-assemble in 30 minutes by which time the scribe(s) will have printed out the notes-so-far and the meeting will read them.
    Agreed. (“).
    * necessary: qua Logic ‘sufficient and/or necessary (cause)’.
    End of 6 Thinking Hats submission.

    My Lords JSDM has a relevant real-life current instance of failing but unspotted legislation and budgeting (not of the British Isles), short enough for one submission; but too long to add here; so he begs special leave to submit that evidence separately, touching Legislation, Budgeting, and Healthy Citizenship; and in that would remain cogent and appreciative.

  22. 23/06/2010 at 2:15 pm

    JDSM. The 2,000 plus a day is the real cost to us. End result, 2,500 amendments, of which it’s likely the majority is the government correcting its own acts. That’s not efficient.

    There are things that can be done to make it more efficient.

    Set up a website for each bill. In effect a giant board with the ability to comment on each clause, and discuss the comments.

    A section is also need for discussing the missing parts of the bill.

    Links to white papers etc.

    That would be the basics. That enables anyone to discuss a particular bill. No need for the Lords is needed, but just like anyone else they would be welcome to comment. If they have particular expertise, they can. They can even do this from home, and save on costs.

    Then, as it is at the moment, its down to the government to accept or reject. This gets around a restriction that Phillip has mentioned. Too many Lords to be pratical for them to speak on these matters within the time available.

    It also enables people with experience who aren’t in the Lords to get their voice heard.

    However, it still misses out on major issues.

    1. How to measure the success or failure of a bill?

    2. What to do if a bill fails to achieve its aims?

    My view is the the success failure has to be a feature of any bill, and if it fails to meet those criteria, it is automatically revoked.

    3. The structure of bills.

    Read through some of them. Lots of the detail is meta information. eg. Setting up a particular quango or equivalent. That gets repeated and tweaked all over the place in different places. Far better to have a meta bill for government organisations. Then any bill requiring an organisation references the meta bill.

    So for example, if the government wants to cap salaries in quangos, it changes the meta bill. ie. Make it an offence to accept a bribe to change legislation for any government department – change the meta bill.

    Other examples along the same lines would be fines. It’s done at the moment. Fine of level C. However, here I would personally make the fine indexed linked. If you want to increase it above inflation its a change to legislation.

    Dictatorship clauses should be outlawed (enabling acts)

    • 24/06/2010 at 10:58 pm

      D’accord, Lord Blagger;
      even further, by awarding a priority to meeting whatever (additional) costs of such Non-Legislative pre- , during-, and post- legislative Participatory Democracy would arise;

      in fact I have strongly-suggested on The Budget blog today a ‘British National Emergency Compulsory-Borrowing Trust’, by The State from every level of the Citizenry (and Residencies); exponentially-tapered to borrow most from the Rich and least from the Poor.

      I might think, however, that any participation by Legislators in the kind of cooperative-discussion Citizenry Participatory Democracy you are suggesting should be subject to a few additional rules, or be required to be vetted by a Peoples Committee before being allowed into any sort of Competitive publication arena or place (?)
      After all, they are the very, very few who will be cutting it into Legislation form.

      Other relevancies probably could be applied complementarily, from other submissions.
      (jsdm 2252Th26).

  23. Gareth Howell
    23/06/2010 at 7:45 pm

    I wonder whether noble lord Norton can tell us what happened to the Gracious viscount Waltham Forest? We’ve heard no more of him and there was such hope that he would create a scenario of legislative excellence if he got elected by the hereditary peers.

    As thy say in Scotland:

    “The best laid plans of mice and men doon gang aglay” (do go astray).

    This may equally apply to Bills which hope to be legislatively excellent!

    I’m sure the loquacious JSDM agrees.

    • 24/06/2010 at 9:00 am

      D’accord, GH: the ‘licorice’ JSDM says “Name not taken to be taken in vain; I beg to agree

      (that (1) we All need a geniuses’ Mind-Map of legislative excellence
      (2) regardless of who ‘gets’ elected
      (3) many best-laid plans are led astray
      (4) every Bill should not only hope but be detarmined to be legislatively-excellent pre-legislation, during-legislation, and post-legislation; and should be writ to need to be implementably excellent after the Judiciary has put their (excellent) stamp upon it.
      (5) we never again confuse pent-up facts, factors, figures, life-experiences, formal-argumentation, moral-reasoning, constructive-submissioning, whistleblowing, low low pay-grade, or simple old age, with mere jawing. )

      : – ) jsdm.

  24. Twm O'r Nant
    23/06/2010 at 7:47 pm

    I have to say that this is one of the most amusing threads I have read for some time!!

    Serious issues too!!

    • 24/06/2010 at 11:03 pm

      Pray what would you consider to be ‘serious’ material, then, Twm O’r Nant ?

  25. Gareth Howell
    24/06/2010 at 7:41 pm

    Apologies to Blagger for the “Crass” remarks

    I was thinking rather more of the name “Blagger”, when I used the word!

    LN knows his stuff, and is difficult to prove wrong, although we all know perfectly well he is!!!!

    It’s the democracy thing that worries me about the HofL. I like democracy!

  26. Lord Blagger
    24/06/2010 at 8:38 pm

    So answers are in Hansard.

    How come answers aren’t answered here.

    For example, why is the number of items received in the Lords post room so constitutionally important that we need constitutional ‘experts’ on hand every working day to ask such critically important questions.

    Unless we get some answers as to what Lords get up to for the 2000 a day, it looks like its just a rip off of public money for failed political hacks.

    Lord Blagger.

  27. Lord Norton
    25/06/2010 at 11:35 am

    Lord Blagger: Questions are answered here. Most readers understand they have received answers. It is quite easy also to find out what the Lords does. There is quite a good literature on the House of Lords. There is also comparative literature on second chambers and legislatures generally, including comparative literature that seeks to assess the relative viscosity of legislatures.

  28. 25/06/2010 at 6:43 pm

    All of a sudden, the lyrics of Windmills of Your Mind make sense.

  29. Twm O'r Nant
    25/06/2010 at 7:39 pm

    “Pray what would you consider to be ’serious’ material, then, Twm O’r Nant ?”

    “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, of epitaphs.”

    • 27/06/2010 at 5:07 am

      Ah! talking of Graves; of Worms; of Epitaphs; is it ?
      Could become Political, Theologically-Medical, T.O.N; even ” legislatory”.
      Decades ago I was arguing for burial-at-sea to replace both cremation and burial-in-an-earth grave; on grounds including savings in cost of fuel; saving-of-land; saving of earth-worms (for proper feeding and farming in domestic worm-factories and special acreage worm-farms); saving of good wood, brass, satins, laces, other valuables; and not least, on the ground that sea-burial is more sustainworthy, more spiritually and theologically sound, and more ecolonomically* balancing within a major Planet Earth food-chain, by returning to a higher creature in God’s Creation than is our human-race, a substantially valuable and natural food, than ever cold be land-burial and cremation (and Legislators should be made to smell the one at Efford when the wind’s blowing their way).
      For sea-burial by boat, the body would be wrapped in a simple cotton cloth weighed down with large pebbles and delivered ‘back to the source from which it came’ namely into the Sea, from a boat (think of the fitnessing of young teams of male and female oarspersons, and the possible low-cost but highly profitable public-spectacular that could be mounted for the cameras and for ‘Public Wake Galleys’).

      I violently disagreed, at that time in New Zealand, with a law permitting burial-at-sea from helicopter only, which service was priced at tens of thousands of dollars such that only the very rich could afford it, my lady.
      Remember Robert Graves, an English poet-laureate, who wrote ‘The Greek Myths’ (see page 23 therein “True myth must be distinguished from: (he lists twelve other forms of writing the seventh of which is ‘Political propaganda’); legislators might be interested to include such sources in the Mandatory Reading appendices/annexures to certain Bills) ?

      Graves released to the Spectator (or New Statesman?) an autobiographical article concerning Resurrection from the Dead, and ‘did Jesus really die’ ?
      [ Possible mandatory reading for Religious and Education legislators ? ]

      Evidently Graves had been on active military service in ‘Mess-pot’ (Mesopotamia) where he’d been dropped in mid-desert by enemy fire and left for dead.
      As many as three days passed before a medical-orderly collecting name-tags by tugging each sharply off the corpse’s wrist came along
      But Robert’s mother had changed his army-issue simple piece of string for a solid steel chain, which broke the skin and revealed red blood slowly slowly; Being an actually fully qualified the medical orderly quickly rescued Graves, now no longer a corpse but either a wounded soldier or ‘one (Jesus-like) rising from the dead’.
      Another similar case was our English soldier Richard St Barbe Baker; who ‘rose from the dead’ too. He healed himself by hugging trees, and went on to be honoured worldwide as ‘The Man of the Trees’.
      Apart from helping Kenyans to ‘halt’ the advance of their part of the Sahara Desert, by planting trees successfully, one of Richard’s highest commissions was to advise the Australian Government about their policy towards Trees.
      He advised that (1) the Australian continent originally grew an almost unbroken canopy of tree-tops, and thus had very good rainfall. But firstly the Aborigines had reduced that great canopy by ‘burning’ , such that when the Europeans (British) arrived (over 100,000 years later) there was only 12% unbroken coverage left. The continent had been drying-out for thousands of years already.

      St Barbe Baker then advised that to survive as a life-supportive continent, Australia needs at least 33% unbroken tree-tops coverage;

      but the White-man had already reduced that meagre 12% to 3%, and still had a heavy-logging programme.
      He further advised that no more river dams should be built (because existing dams were already further depriving the continent of precious rainfall).

      As far as I have heard since repatriating myself to England in 2001 neither the logging of trees nor the building of more dams has been curtailed; and what’s probably worse, only volunteers have been attempting to plant more trees, in millions but still pitifully too few to reverse the White-man’s destructive and deeply legislated, even Constituted, mind-set towards their own and other life-forms’ Lifesupports. [ “Continent In Crisis” by Prof David Smith; recommended reading in full for legislators worlwide).

      Legislators might see some of the following as containing some relevancy towards better-legislation ?
      Want to talk about worms next ? Your turn, please:
      What was the Diet of Worms, and how could such help, or hinder, our Needs today ?
      Epitaphs ? I am in favour of them: we need to keep our minds, hands, and tools cave-man sharp … (even Chad must be wondering why: ‘Wot, no more Down Under?’ ).

      PS For National Illness Service legislators [Seen on the gravestone of good-humoured and well-loved English leader, well known for his part in the writing of the legislation that brought about the Downfall of Dictator Adolf Schickelgruber alias ‘Hitler’(“):

      “I told you I was ill, doctor” ].

    • 29/06/2010 at 7:42 pm

      Thank you; and I did try to talk about such;
      but I guess long ‘private’ conversation-ing falls outside of the rules.

      In brief, and more objectively, what I submitted was that “Graves (Robert)’s ‘ressurrection-from-the-dead’ might be a suitable sub-topic within the ambit of scientific, educational, and religious Lords.

      That “Worms” the two Diets of (in Germany high-religious politics between The Church and the Lutheran witbessing in favour of Christ, might be a sub-topic under Religious and Academies education ?

      And that (intimating that if our current Civilisation collapses which is not completely off-the-cards) honing up not only our epitaph but ‘Finished History’ scratching skills for cave-walls may also be a relevant sub-topic in some debate or other.

      Perhaps the above shortened version may pass the Moderators’ welcomely-watchful eye this time ?

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