Lords may stop Brown's anti-sleaze legislation getting onto the Statute Book by summer recess

Gordon Brown, who appears to have finally realised that the Government's reputation is even more tarnished than that of other parties in the wake of the expenses scandal, has made it clear that he wants the new anti-sleaze rules - which will introduce new rules governing what constitutes acceptable behaviour among MPs - to be in place in time for the summer recess which starts in just two weeks. The Conservatives and LibDems agree.

"Oi thank 'ee koindly, good sar. 'At penny'll pay fer moi 'ip replacement." Sometimes, the Lords are on our side.

Although MPs will continue working in their constituencies (and no doubt enjoying a
junket or two in many cases), the Prime Minister is doubtless well aware that if the row is simply left for the two and a half months until their return without any obvious moves to bring an end to the widespread abuse we have all been made aware of in recent weeks, he is likely to find the public seething with discontent on his return. But rushed, desperate legislation is liable to be full of loopholes and overlooked mistakes.

Last week, we wrote:
"However, hurriedly cobbled-together legislation such as this, designed to be rushed through and entered into the statute book in time for the summer recess, is not the way ahead. Haste, according to the old proverb, makes waste - this new bill must be carefully and intelligently thought through in order for the public and MPs alike to be certain that it contains no loopholes and will be effective in preventing the widespread abuse of expenses and other Parliamentary systems that we have seen in recent months."

A 12-strong Lords committee now says: "
We are wholly unpersuaded by the government's case for this bill to be fast-tracked. There is an undoubted need to restore public confidence in the parliamentary system. It is not, however, clear to us that a cobbled together bill rushed through parliament will help rebuild public trust; on the contrary, if parliament cannot be seen to be scrutinising proposals with the thoroughness they deserve, public confidence in parliamentarians is likely to be further undermined. Governments should find the strength to resist falling into a temptation simply to see something done, which is no substitute for properly prepared policy and legislation." Sounds familiar, doesn't it - could it be Acid Rabbi has an aristocratic fan or two?

"It appears that the key driver for the bill is public perception, rather than any specific policy outcome,"
say the committee. The Lords seem to be more in tune with the commoners than the Commons these days. We do want something to be done, of course, but we want it done properly. Mr. Brown needs to start making the necessary changes immediately - in doing so, he'll prove to us that he really does mean to sort this mess out. Then, when the Commons returns, he can take a bit of time and ensure the job gets done correctly (and he'd better - a day may be a long time in politics, but two and a half months will most definitely not be long enough for the electorate to forget all about this). One way to really show he means it would be to abandon the recess, as some have suggested, this year; to realise that this is the biggest and most damaging scandal in British politics in a very long time, to recognise the emergency and importance of the situation and have all MPs continue working through the summer to get their House in order.

In these days of fast food, fast travel and soundbites we all tend to expect a quick solution. Sometimes, however, a problem requires care, attention and time if it is to be properly dealt with once and for all so that it never comes back. Mr. Brown can be certain that now the public understand the full extent and utter shamelessness of the abuse carried out by our Parliamentary representatives, we will be keeping a very close eye on claims made in the future. If there's a loophole and we catch even a sniff of someone taking advantage for their own personal ends, we'll be down on them like the proverbial ton of bricks - and Brown will be seen to have utterly failed.

If, on the other hand, he gets it right and prevents anything like this from ever happening again, he might just end up being considered one of the great Prime Ministers after all.

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