Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I can just hear Liberty's heartbeat

Further to my post about the attempt to stifle the ability of MEPs to put Parliamentary Questions to the Council and Commission by Richard Corbett I can say that the patient is not quite dead. I spoke to Mr Corbett last night, he was hanging around outside a pub watching the Man U match through the window with a hatted Charles Tannock. The bar staff were considering demanding that they buy a drink or sod off. After all,
"This is a pub, not a TV shop, we pay for the TV, the cable subscription, not for our own benefit, but to increase custom. If people loiter outside like that the police will come by and tell us off for creating a public nuisance, don't those people have the decency to come in and buy a drink if they want to watch the game, or would they feel out of place in a crowd of people who like each other's company?"
Anyhow I had heard that he was minded to drop his amendment that would restrict MEPs to three non-priority questions a month due to some pretty voluble complaints in Committee from the UKIP and other non attached (British) MEPs. Indeed so restricted to the UK members was the complaint that the Committee Chairman, Joe Lienen made a throw away comment , "It's always nice to hear what Brits have to argue amongst themselves - particularly when you don't live in the country" - a not too subtle dig at Corbett's ex-pat existence. It was revealing though of the Continental mindset that the other countries should not involve themselves in what was obviously an internal British matter - MEPs from other countries apparently are happy to chew the cud and restrict their own ability to hold the executive to account

Anyhow I went outside to find out this change of heart was indeed the case. I can report that it is, sort of.

Corbett told me, and I paraphrase,

"Yes I am considering withdrawing the amendment, if the other amendment giving the President (or his designated Vice-President who I understand might have this role as their key task - a sort of Vice-President for access to the high authorities) the power to block what he or she feels are frivolous questions".
He also told me that there are only three or four MEPs who use up this allotment (that is one oral, one priority and three non Priority questions per month). Which is a tosh argument anyway. So if you average out in a year there are only three or four MEPs who ask 60 questions a year. OK, so the workload problem isn't a problem at all then. And anyhow, if a MEP has a slew of issues that come, as they always do, in convoy like London omnibuses, he has to spread the questions out over a number of months, praying that no more issues come along in the meantime.

Then it all became clear. This is all about Killroy-Silk. The former UKIP/Vanitas wandering ego has a novel approach to Parliamentary work. Any letter/email/pigeon post/brain spasm or whatever that lands in his in tray is immediately cut and pasted into a Parliamentary question and pinged off to the tabling office. It doesn't matter if it his driver asking for directions to get to his house in Spain, off goes the PQ. He then feels he can turn round and say, "Look at all the questions I have asked - that proves how hard I am working". The fact that 90% of his questions could be answered by a minute looking on google is neither here nor there. Indeed in Corbett's defence the fact that he wrote 66 questions in February alone rather makes his point, questions like this,

How can the EU ever have a common policy when Member States cannot even agree on recognising Kosovo?
and this,

What steps does the Commission propose to take to make the citizens of Member States identify with the EU, and how much will it cost?
and this,

What is the Commission’s attitude to the racist and violent videos on social websites like youtube?
and over the past 3 1/2 years 1,074 others.

But the point is is that you must not make the rules to deal with a single idiot, you deal with them individually. Tannock backed up Corbett's point, he too didn't think that frivolous questions should be allowed.

But Richard, but Charles, freedom has the downside that people are allowed to be idiots. Is he doing any harm? Not really. He is costing the taxpayer way more than he should, but it is unlikely that he will be back after 2009. Indeed if the general estimate of 2,500 quid per question in admin costs is anything to go by he is a bloody expensive luxury we could do without. Should he have resigned his seat when he left UKIP, yes he should he was elected on a list, and as such when he left the party he should resign the seat, but that is an argument that can be made against all MEPs who jump ship.

I repeat you must not make laws to deal with individuals. Is the system generally being abused? No. Then there is no need to fix it. And this method of fixing is despotic.


JO said...

Can you explain more about Corbetts "ex-pat existence" please. As one of his "constituents" I'd be interested to know.

Gawain Towler AKA Elaib Harvey said...

It is generally believed that Richard Corbett lives in Antwerp. I cannot confirm that, not knowing the facts, but that is what is understood here.