Sunday, 13 February 2011

Just a thought...


What follows isn't to take sides in the debate (such as it is) about Sarah Wollaston's alleged criticisms of Tory Whips. Although I would find it difficult to support Mrs Wollaston given how she voted on this occasion. However, her criticism of the whips - or rather the Observer's probably partisan reporting of the event - raises an interesting question:

The Observer has learned that last Monday Wollaston told a closed meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that when she asked to sit on the committee that will scrutinise the health and social care bill she was informed by a government minister that she could only do so if she remained completely loyal. She told this newspaper: "It is made very clear to you that if you are on a bill committee you support the government. I was not prepared to accept that."

It is understood that Wollaston wanted to table a range of amendments to the bill, which will hand GPs responsibility for commissioning NHS services, in the biggest shakeup in its history. But she was warned that the only changes she would be able to put forward were ones suggested by, and acceptable to, the government.

Now in one respect, Mrs Wollaston is a member of a club - one that got her elected as an MP - and has to play by that club's rules. Which means that, if they don't want to put her on a particular committee, they don't have to. And frankly, why should they want to put someone on a committee scrutinising the Government's Bill who wants to change it?

In another respect, this illustrates the problem with the whip system and with the independence of MPs. Mrs Wollaston, may still have to opportunity to influence the progress of the bill - either through supporting cross-party efforts or through later stages. I appreciate - and understand - her frustration.

However, I wanted to return to a related nonsense - the barring of councillors from contributing to debates on the basis of "interests". Assuming that Mrs Wollaston still practices as a doctor, it would not be possible for her to contribute at all to discussions about these matters were she a councillor and the decision within the remit of a local council on which she served.

For my part, I'd rather have input from those with real knowledge even where (as is so in this case) the individual has a direct personal interest in the outcome. An interest that could potentially affect that individual's financial circumstances.



Conand said...

I agree, and I'm not a Councillor, so I don't have an interest.

Clarissa said...

Frankly it is no surprise to see a doctor voting for a relaxation of the smoking ban given that they (sweeping generalisation coming up) all seem to be preach the no smoking, no drinking etc line. Hypocritical really as they are also some of the worst smokers and drinkers.