Monthly column: Standards in public life have slipped under Tory rule

(l-r) former Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Nadine Dorries. Image: Nadine Dorries/Twitter(X)
(l-r) former Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Nadine Dorries. Image: Nadine Dorries/Twitter(X)

I’ve been campaigning in Mid Bedfordshire ahead of one of the most captivating by-elections I can remember, which is taking place on 19 October.

I’ve had some great conversations but the big takeaway, other than residents looking forward to some normality back in their towns once the media circus moves on, is that residents want an honest, hardworking MP who will serve them with integrity and put their constituents ahead of their own career.

It’s not much to ask, is it?

But trust in politics and politicians is at an all-time low after the seemingly endless scandals over recent years. From cronyism over PPE contract VIP lanes to Partygate and blatant lying in Parliament.

Last month I raised my concerns about propriety in public life in Parliament over Nadine Dorries’ farcical three-month resignation, her failure to speak in Parliament for over a year and her years with no constituency office listed for people to make representations to.

It’s important, because the problem with MPs behaving badly, is that it denigrates the whole profession. This is bad for democracy, not least because it’s not true – there are many hardworking MPs in all parties in Parliament.

I often hear my constituents saying to me why can’t MPs of different parties just work together? Well, on Select Committees we do.

On the Levelling Up and Housing Committee (LUHC) and the Education Select Committee, both of which I’m a member of, we hear evidence from experts and the public on vital issues of the day and we present a cross-party evidence-based report to the Government with recommendations on how to improve matters.

It’s a vital component of healthy governance.

Yet this week the LUHC Committee published a special report which expresses ‘concern and disappointment’ at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for its persistent poor performance in the timeliness of Government responses to Committee reports.

The Committee’s report states that DLUHC has not responded to any of the Committee’s seven reports (in the Session 2022-23) within two months of publication.

This is despite the well-established convention that government departments should respond to all select committee reports within two months.

It makes a further mockery of the Government’s Levelling up agenda which was meant to be a priority for this Government.

The constant delays in my view show contempt for Parliament and to the public who want action on the critical issues impacting their lives. For instance, we published our Reforming the Private Rented Sector Report on 9 February 2023.

Despite our best efforts and promises from Secretary of State Michael Gove that the Government response would be published, we are yet to receive the Department’s response to this Report.

As the document outlines, the lack of any formal response to our Report is a persistent and unnecessary obstacle to us being able to pursue holistic and constructive scrutiny of Bills and the Government’s work in the related policy area.

It is an insult to Committee members, staff and all the stakeholders who contribute to reports, that the Government repeatedly refuses to respond to our important, collective work in a timely manner.

Standards in general have slipped a long way under this Government which sullies the work of all MPs. We are a parliamentary democracy – Parliament has supremacy, not the Executive and this Government would do well to remember that.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford & Kempston.
It is published unedited and does not
reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.

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