New Clause 7 — Variation in limit of number of holders of Ministerial offices

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 25th October 2010.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 9:00 pm, 25th October 2010

I wish to speak very briefly in favour of the new clause. There is a long history in this House of Members challenging the ever increasing power of the Executive. We heard recently from the Leader of the House, who is not currently in his place:

"The terms of the trade between Government and Parliament have shifted too far in the executive's favour. That is not good for Parliament; but neither does it lead to better government."

The Prime Minister also highlighted those concerns in February, saying:

"We'd want to reduce the power of the executive and increase the power of Parliament even if politics hadn't fallen into disrepute."

We also heard from the Deputy Prime Minister before the election, which he described as

"an opportunity to turn the page on decades of relentless centralisation within government."

He argued for a dispersal of power away from the centre and a cut in the number of Ministers and Government Whips, saying:

"The rules of the game at Westminster are stacked in favour of the ruling party; parliament is rendered largely impotent to hold ministers to account."

We have heard over the past few days and weeks very strong arguments for equalising the size of constituencies and reducing the number of MPs, but to do that without also reducing the number of Ministers would profoundly undermine the authority of Parliament. The proposal is not radical, or even a solution to the problem that so many hon. Members have identified. It would neither minimise the power of the Executive nor increase that of the legislature. It merely calls for a reduction in the size of Government in line with the planned cuts to the number of Members of Parliament. In effect, it will do no more than prevent trends from getting worse.

If the Government are truly committed to decentralisation, they can demonstrate that today by backing the new clause. I strongly urge them to do that.