Sunday, 12 July 2009

The week in Parliament

This week is of course the last full week in Parliament before recess, although we're back on the following Monday and Tuesday and then I'm heading up to Norwich to do my bit in the by-election campaign. Gordon is making a statement at 3.30pm tomorrow on the G8 summit, and then we have the remaining stages of the Political Parties and Elections Bill. There's been a bit of debate about an amendment that's coming to us from the Lords, on whether people who don't pay tax in the UK - but are British citizens and are entitled to vote here - should be allowed to make donations to UK political parties.

Under the current legislation, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000, donation from foreign nationals are banned, which put an end to the Greek shipping tycoons funding the Tory party. The amendment coming from the Lords is being dubbed the 'Ashcroft' amendment, as it would either mean he'd have to stop bankrolling the Tories or start paying tax in the UK. Ashcroft has of course previously pledged to start doing so, and Cameron and Osborne's line is something along the lines of 'they have no reason to believe he hasn't started to do so'.

As I said, there's genuine debate about this, because on the one hand someone who uses tax havens or goes into tax exile could be seen to have 'opted out' of the UK and thus renounced some of the rights and responsibilites that go with that, but if they are still free to vote here, free to come and go as they please, free even to sit in the House of Lords and legislate on the UK's behalf, why shouldn't they be allowed to make donations to political parties? Of course although this is seen as being targeted as Ashcroft - and again, I'd stress, it's coming from the Lords rather than the Government although Jack Straw has now signalled the Government won't seek to reverse it - there are others who will be caught by it, such as Sir Sean Connery who gives money to the SNP but whose patriotism doesn't actually extend as far as living in Scotland.

As for the rest of the parliamentary session, we've got the remaining stages of the Borders and Citizenship Bill on Tuesday, and Opposition Day debates on Wednesday. The Tories at the moment are saying that the debates will be on NHS dentistry and caring for the elderly, but chances are they will swap at least one of the topics at the last moment, in favour of something more controversial. On Thursday it's a one-liner, with a debate on climate change and preparation for the Copenhagen summit. The week after it's the long-awaited Second Reading of the Child Poverty Bill, and then we get into whatever ping-ponging is still going on between the Commons and the Lords. I would very much have liked to have spoken in the Child Poverty Bill debate, and probably in the climate change debate too, but for the time being my interventions in the Commons are limited to reading things out from the Whips folder. All the more reason to blog, I suppose.

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