A new Parliament dawns


As an anticipant sun climbs over Westminster Palace, Members of Parliament flock to the capital and take up their seats for the new session of Parliament opening today. The mini-session before the summer recess saw the Government move quickly, issuing the Emergency Budget as a start on deficit reduction and passing the (mainly) excellent Academies Act. We at the Adam Smith Institute are hopeful that this session will be greeted with a similar flurry of reforming activity. In particular, we wish to see Parliament approve the following this session:

  • Welfare Reform: Ian Duncan Smith seems to have the right idea; ensuring that work always pays by tapering away benefits at a constant rate. Whilst we recommend a more localist approach, a simplified system infinitely improves upon the status quo.
  • The Great Repeal Bill: The scrappage: of ID cards, Contact Point database and restrictive business regulation, amongst other things, is to be welcomed by all of a socially liberal stripe. Yet, let’s just hope that the final text more represents the unofficial wiki-site than the botched ‘Your Freedom’ consultation.
  • A Budget that reconsiders the role, and appropriate size, of the state: 2011-2012 will be a crucial year for setting Britain’s public finances on a sustainable trajectory. As we’ve argued before, our huge budget deficit requires us to comprehensively review all public expenditure with the aim of shrinking the state from its current, unsustainable 52.5% of GDP. This much seems likely, but ideally Parliament should pressure the Coalition to abandon its ring-fencing of Health and Foreign Development. Savings are possible in both of these departments.
  • Further devolution: Although the Calman Commissions’ proposals were, as my colleague delicately put it at the time, “a bit of a dog’s breakfast”, giving Scotland greater fiscal autonomy is a step in the right direction and at least does away with the Barnett formula. Giving Wales greater powers in the devolved areas is also a good proposal. However, as I have blogged recently, these proposals do nothing to address the West Lothian question; we need an English Parliament.
  • Election of local police chiefs: Currently, constables are upwardly accountable to Whitehall, spending far too much of their time jumping through mandarin hoops and chasing central targets. We’d like to see a return to community led policing, where officers are responsive to those they serve. It seems the surest way to avoid ‘Ciggybusters’ MK II.
  • The Public Bodies (Reform) Bill: Finally, a bonfire of the quangos! This Bill promises to scrap many quangos and make the remaining more accountable to ministers. Although we prefer parliamentary accountability, any clamp down on these blights to productive activity is welcome. The bonfire could also be improved by using consumer protection agencies as fuel.

Although we’ll push further for reforms in this vein, any parliamentary session that approves all of them would be great by recent standards. Let’s hope that it is this one.