By Ann Higgins
Little to report of note in Parliament over the last month as our hardworking representatives were in recess for virtually the entire period between our March and April editions. As well as their long holiday they also had a nice Easter present of a salary increase of 2.9%, bringing the salary of a backbench MP up from £84,144 to £86,584 as from 1 April 2023. This contrasts with the increase in the state pension which, though in percentage terms is rising by 10.1%, in practical terms gives pensioners an extra £15 per week compared with £47 per week for MPs. Worth remembering perhaps when we are being told that the government cannot afford the pay rises being sought by certain groups of striking workers.
Instead, I thought that I would make a list of all the enquiries for which we are waiting to learn the result and what else may be in the PM’s in-tray in the next few weeks:
- The report following the enquiry by Adam Heppenstall KC into the appointment of Richard Sharp as BBC Chair is said to make “grim reading” according to the FT, while a report by the Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport found that he made “significant errors of judgement” by acting as a go-between to help then PM Boris Johnson obtain a loan guarantee rumoured to have been for £800,000. This he then failed to disclose to the appointments board who recommended his appointment to Johnson who appointed him. Strange that his twin sister, Lady Justice Victoria Sharp, President of the King’s Bench Division of the High Court, didn’t explain the concepts of “conflict of interest” or “full and frank disclosure” to him.
- The report by Adam Tolley KC on the allegations of bullying by Deputy PM Dominic Raab is also eagerly awaited, though possibly not by him. It has been suggested that the report will not make any recommendations but only lay out the evidence, leaving it to Rishi Sunak to make a decision as to whether the ministerial code has been breached and if so how serious a breach it was. If the number of people who are queuing up for his job is any gauge of the outcome, it would appear that things look grim for Dom too.
- And still we wait for the report of the Privileges Committee on whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament and if so, what penalty, if any, should be imposed. Its recommendations would then go before the House of Commons for a vote which Rishi Sunak has so far said will be a free vote for Tory MPs. Should he be suspended from the House for 10 days or more, a recall petition and possibility of a by-election then loom. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming local elections that may or may not bode well for his future Parliamentary career.
- Lastly, news is still awaited about the fate of the REUL Bill which was pulled from the House of Lords schedule just after Easter because of widespread disquiet about it, not least by a group of Tory peers who have threatened to join a cross party revolt in the Lords if substantial amendments are not made. There was a brief rumour that the report stage had been tabled for 15 May but that proved to be inaccurate and it is believed that the government is waiting until after the local elections to make any further announcements.
- *Stop Press: Sunak regains his “non – Dom” status!*