Public Administration CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Bruce Whitehead (PE 10)

EDMs, PQs and other token instruments of parliamentary legislation need to be reformed to give them a statutory right to be properly considered for inclusion in the government’s programme. If there is a sufficient percentage of crossbench support, regardless of numerical signatures, proposals should have a real opportunity for debate in the chamber.

Government needs to be more accountable; almost every news programme includes the phrase “...we asked for a government minister but no-one was available”. Downing Street’s censoring of coverage during a taxpayer-funded arms sales trip to the worst human rights offenders in the world this week breeds nothing but contempt from most voters.

The media needs to be far more curious, rigorous and better-resourced. That means putting strong pressure on newspaper groups like Gannet and Newsquest which distribute profits among directors and invest little in journalism. 

Government needs to legislate to levy a fee from highly lucrative internet service providers (ISPs) which could be used to fund the vast content provided by newspapers, journalists, campaigners, artists for free. This is an essential measure which might counter dwindling newspaper circulation by bolstering a free press, so essential to our democratic freedoms.

Too much decision making is short-term and designed to buy votes with populist policies which damage the environment, culture and education in the long term. People see through this and that’s why turnout is so low.

MPs still don’t respect ordinary people in their conduct. Dennis McShane blames the BNP for exposing his theft of public money, when his Blairite contempt for accountability down the years insulated him from proper scrutiny. Jonathan Dimbleby spent most of Any Questions trying to defend his actions as those of an underpaid politician! The depth of arrogance is unfathomable.

Whips are iniquitous and shouldn’t be needed. Freedom to vote is what the Houses of Parliament are for; constituents elect these people to serve their interests first and foremost, not to support policies promoted by corporate lobbyists with school and family connections to those in power.

Finally and most importantly ministers must stop all contacts with the Royal family. If we are to tolerate the benefits-funded monarchy, then they need to understand, and politicians need to remind them, that they have no constitutional right to interfere in democracy. If they wish to do so, they can resign their titles and become ordinary citizens.

November 2012

Prepared 31st May 2013