Pick of the Parliamentary week

Here are the big moments, best speeches and a few lighter moments from parliament over the past few days.

In full: Emergency debate on phone hacking

Labour’s Chris Bryant successfully lobbied Commons Speaker John Bercow to grant an emergency debate on how to respond to the continuing allegations of phone hacking by journalists.

Mr Bryant opened the debate with condemnation of former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.

He also denounced Assistant Commissioner John Yates, calling for his resignation over allegations that he misled Parliament.

Another Labour MP, Tom Watson, referred to the allegations that the voicemails of victims of terrible crimes – and those of their family members – had been targeted. “In the world of Rebekah Brooks no one can grieve in private; no one can cry their tears without surveillance,” he told MPs.

Mr Watson also declared that he believed News Corporation chief executive James Murdoch should be suspended from his post.

For Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, rank-and-file police officers were at fault too. He drew a comparison with the fallout from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, in which the Metropolitan police was branded “institutionally racist”, and more recent allegations that police officers had been paid for information.

And Labour’s Paul Farrelly pointed the finger at the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven.

But Conservative backbencher Zac Goldsmith added MPs to his list of guilty parties for failing to find their “backbones” earlier and stand up to the press.

Members’ allowances debate

The scandal which rocked the parliamentary world in recent years was, of course, MPs expenses. The revelations of how many MPs had abused the right to self-authorise expenses payments led to a completely new system being brought in, run by an independent body, Ipsa. Unfortunately MPs are not happy with how the system is operating and they have been getting increasingly forceful in their criticism of it. On Thursday MPs gave themselves the go ahead to review the laws covering their new expenses system.

Congestion charge logo

A long-standing diplomatic row resurfaced in the Lords this week, as Labour’s Lord Faulkner of Worcester demanded to know how the government would coax £5m of unpaid congestion charge penalties from the US embassy in London.

Transport spokesman Earl Attlee confirmed that the US ambassador maintains that diplomatic immunity meant there was no need to pay, before revealing that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had spoken personally to US President Barack Obama in a bid to resolve the spat.

He “did not get very far”, the minister rued. But the US is not the only country refusing to pay, and diplomatic pressure was having more effect on other delegations. “I am pleased to say that we have had some success with Kazakhstan, which has managed to regularise its overdue parking fines,” Earl Attlee exclaimed.

A car being driven at high speed on Top Gear

Meanwhile MEPs have heard that legislation designed to crack down on drivers who break the law in another EU member state could enable UK drivers to use European roads as “racing circuits” with impunity.

The European Parliament was debating the Cross Border Enforcement Directive – a draft law that would allow EU states to share information on motorists to help identify and fine foreign drivers who commit offences in other member states.

The UK, Ireland and Denmark all came under fire for opting out of the agreement.

The usually unflappable former Bletchley Park code-breaker and Conservative peer Baroness Trumpington was flummoxed by some detailed discussion of thorium reactors on Thursday.

“Please forgive my ignorance,” she implored her peers, “but what is thorium?”

Energy Minister Lord Marland provided a rigorous and enlightening response, before revealing that he had gleaned much of the information from Wikipedia.

David Cameron and Desmond Swayne Mr Swayne is David Cameron’s Parliamentary Private Secretary and occasional jogging partner

Ordinarily, the presentation of a petition to Parliament is a perfunctory affair. Debate on the subject is severely constrained by parliamentary procedure, so MPs tend merely to read the text of the petition onto the record at the end of the day’s business.

But Conservative backbencher Desmond Swayne broke the mould on Tuesday, delivering his petition with such verve and panache that his fellow MPs emitted rapturous cheers.

The perennially sprightly Tory MP Peter Bone, whose lot it was to present the next petition, lamented: “To follow that is impossible.”

Baroness Knight of Collingtree demanded on Wednesday to know why the government was planning to allow some prisoners to vote in general elections, yet had no plans to allow peers of the realm the same right.

Opinion is divided in the upper chamber about whether peers, who are able to amend legislation and grill government ministers, also need representation in the lower house.

But Justice Minister Lord McNally responded cryptically: “You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses.”

Phone hacking was the focus of Prime Minister David Cameron’s weekly question session, with Opposition Leader Ed Miliband accusing the PM of showing a lack of leadership in his handling of the affair.

And members of the National Assembly for Wales agreed to re-instate a colleague who had been disqualified for being a member of an organisation from which AMs are banned.

In a packed week at the European Parliament highlights included the Polish PM urging EU members to reject nationalism while Denmark’s decision to step up border controls received criticism. New laws on food labelling were agreed and the UK’s attitude to a host of EU home affairs issues was covered during a committee hearing with Home Secretary Theresa May.

Compiled by Democracy Live’s Ed Lowther



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