This website was established while I served as a Member of Parliament
for North East Milton Keynes from 1997 to 2005. Unfortunately I was one
of the casualties of 5th May 2005. It has now been modified to reflect
my new circumstances.
Any enquiries relating to the Member of Parliament for North East Milton
Keynes should be directed to the new MP who can be contacted on 0207 219
3000 or about political issues to the
Milton Keynes Labour Party
Public Administration; Regulatory Reform; Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
Brian is one of a select few who have seen their Private Members Bill enacted Ė the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 requires the Government annually to set out how they are reaching the climate change targets they have agreed to, allocated £60m for renewable energy projects, set out a way to rationalise the fuel poverty programs of local and central Government and required the Regulator to carry out Environmental Impact assessment when making their decision. This required negotiating with 2 Energy Ministers, 3 Opposition spokespersons and with 4 Government Departments. In the end the Bill scraped through the Commons with 30 seconds to spare following an interesting and fraught passage through the Commons during which time the Committee had to be suspended to allow further negotiations with the Minister and officials because all the Committee members except the Minister were prepared to vote for a particular clause.
Other Key Acts on which Brian sat on the committee stage include
Data Protection 1998
Brian said there were many highlights during his time in Parliament. From going into the Chamber on the first day in 1997 and having the opportunity to make his maiden speech on that first day to the Government conceding an Energy Efficiency commitment following one of his last speeches and a four year campaign. He managed to speak on the first day of every Parliamentary Session during the time he was there.
"I was particularly pleased that we passed the Minimum Wage Act and finally abolished the remaining death penalty statutes with the Human Rights Act."
Iraq and other terrorist debates dominated a lot of Parliamentary time there and he found himself in the awkward position of agreeing the Governments objectives but questioning the effectiveness of some of their details which he felt were storing up trouble for ourselves. A particular point was the Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act 2001 which he spent a lot of time working with fellow MPs, Ministers, civil servants and police to turn the secondary legislation into something workable. Brian is particularly scathing of those MPs who would rather get a press story rather than a result. As he said " I found that dealing with the officials was far more productive than futile gestures in the Chamber either in speeches or votes".
Constituency interests and work always came first and there were 2 occasions where this came to a head. In 2000 it was proposed to stop printing Acts of Parliament on vellum and instead put them on CD-ROMís. As a technologist he was in favour of using new technology but, as Brian pointed out "given the company which produced vellum was in Newport Pagnell and was the only one left in this country I could not allow its principal income stream to disappear particularly as the ability of the company to provide parchment repairs for our ancient manuscripts in museums and libraries was based on the profitability of this contract". As a result of campaigning against the combined weight of the Government and Opposition frontbench plus the whole Liberal Democrat Party he was able to persuade enough MPs to rebel to defeat them and keep this industry in existence.
The second occasion was more painful. In the 2001 election the Government had opposed tuition fees yet only a few months later were proposing them as part of the Higher Education reforms. Brian tried to point out to Margaret Hodge and Charles Clarke that there was a problem for part time students and the Open University in particular. He remembers "For most of the year I was dismissed by officials as not properly understanding the issue but eventually with the new Minister Alan Johnson they recognised I had a point. In the run up to the Second Reading vote I was negotiating with Ministers a way forward for the OU. The day before the vote I got assurances in writing that the OU management were happy with and despite my misgivings about other aspects of the Bill I felt I had to honour the agreement and support the Government. It is a pity that DfES officials have subsequently found ways to avoid their side of the deal and I suspect that this cost me a few hundred votes in the General Election."
Select Committee work was always enjoyable and ever a glutton for work he had to sit on 3 committees. In particular it was a privilege to question the wide variety of people who appeared before the Public Admin committee, which was described by somebody from Canadian High Commission as the "best and most informative free show in London" following the joint evidence of Tony Benn and William Hague. To have Lord Hutton and Lord Butler give evidence on their enquiry process followed by the Head of the Civil Service revealing the paucity of legal advice in the run up to Iraq war decision was fascinating. To have Alistair Campbell give evidence following our committees recommendation that led to his resignation and the establishment of the Phillis review into Government communications was a delight. Or to hear Billy Bragg lecture MPs on reform of the House of Lords. The Public Admin Committee led the way in having new ways of holding the executive to account, including drafting its own Bill and after 2 years of trying to secure the agreement of the Prime Minister to appear before a Select Committee was a major step forward.
Having seen every bit of secondary legislation for seven years on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Brian led the efforts of the committee, as it started to challenge them on grounds of plain English and understandability to the people who have to use then rather the lawyers who draft our legislation. "I hope that process, which has only just started, will carry on. "
One of the key ways in which MPs can make a real difference is through All Party Groups and the PLP Departmental Backbench committees. Brian chaired the Cabinet Office backbench committee. he was a member of a lot of groups some to forward individual constituents issues, some because of their relevance to MK but most because they were the areas he was interested in. "I was in involved in the technology groups and was Treasurer of PITCOM (Parliamentary ICT Committee) and an officer of EURIM, All Party Mobile Phone Group and the All Party Internet Group because it was an area where I was able to effect real change albeit working quietly in the background rather than grandstanding.". During this time the Groups held a number of investigations and produced reports on the Mobile Phone Masts planning system, Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act which is what the authorities are now using as their prime weapon against terrorists, the Computer Misuse Act and one on Spam Ė which was followed up by visiting the US Congress getting the US and UK Governments to take the issue seriously has led to an international agreement between the US, UK and China to take effective anti spam actions.
Brian reflects that "Most people only see the Chamber but to me this was the least important aspect of my work and I shall not miss the pantomime of Prime Ministers Question Time. The work that MPís do in holding Ministers and officials to account on committees, in All Party Groups and in lobbying Ministers and officials on behalf of their constituents is much more important and rewarding. "
You can check Brian's speeches in the Parliament from the Hansard online
Earlier Articles by Brian:
Online article: Views from Westminster.- Internet Regulation.
Kick-starting Progress (Energy)
Pushing the Digital Economy.
Should English Regions have Regional Assemblies?
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