Let’s not turn Parliament into the department of legislation

This post was written by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on March 25, 2010
Posted Under: Democracy

Ian Kennedy – the man in charge of overhauling the parliamentary expenses – has done a good job of encapsulating all that I dislike about post-expenses scandal attitudes. In a speech to the IPPR he suggested that parliamentary expenses are inflated by the house choosing “work its own idiosyncratic hours” and that costs could be slashed by a 9-5 regime.  This would save on bills for taxis and overnight stays.

There are certainly areas of the state in which a degree penny pinching might be justified. But the operation of our democracy is not one of them. The passing of legislation should be subject to long and extensive debate – going on into the night if necessary – by our elected representatives. The idea that this should be curtailed for the sake of saving a few thousand pounds really does treat Parliament as though it were just another civil service department.

Yet Kennedy’s proposal is fitting for an age in which the lines between government and management have been blurred, in which policy making has become just another discipline, and in which commentators – both left and right – like nothing more than to defer to experts, and go orgasmic at the mention of “evidence based policy”. If some people desire nothing more than parliament that is efficient, then current parliamentarians too must take some blame for doing all too little to demonstrate what is special about the supposed epicentre of our democracy.

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Reader Comments


Largely agree, but I don’t think evidence-based policy is a slippery slope to technocracy. Evidence absolutely *should* be the basis for policy (for example, the much-cited studies which indicate that more economically equal societies are healthier, happier etc should be a big part of the argument in favour of wealth redistribution). Parliament should debate what to do about the evidence it’s presented with, sure, but that’s not the same thing as rejecting evidence-based policy.

Written By Owen on March 26th, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

I do see where you are coming from, but would not go as far to say that evidence should be the “basis” for our policy. The basis for our policy should be what kind of society do we want and what kind of goals we want to achieve for our society and those who populate it. Which in a sense only differs semantically from what you said . But you must agree that the pedestal upon which evidence based policy has been placed does indeed take us beyound this approach. Hence people calling for an “evidence based drugs policy” but using this phrase as a byword for “listen to nutt and legalise weed”. In reality the available evidence in drugs as on mist issues can support diametrically opposed positions. You live on a boat.

Written By Reuben on March 26th, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

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