Sunday, 13 July 2014

Eyes wide shut

The referendum is, at its core, a debate around which parliamentary system is better suited to Scotland's needs.
A Yes vote is placing faith in a more proportionate parliament where everyone's vote matters and no party is assured power (meaning special interest groups have to influence more than just two parties to get their way). Yes also supports limiting the power of politicians by creating and introducing a new written constitution which will guarantee the rights of every citizen.

A no vote is leaving power at Westminster. This article will look at why that is a bad idea.
Many of the politicians in Westminster do their jobs with their eyes wide shut. Firstly, they protect the House of Lords, which has many appointed members who have a financial interest in the laws they are supposed to be scrutinising. Here are a few examples:
David John Maclean, also known as Baron Blencathra and Lord Blencathra, is a Conservative Party life peer. He joined the House of Lords in February 2011 following numerous years as an MP. During a press conference in April 2012 he stated:
"I work for the Cayman islands government in London not for the UK Government in Cayman." Lord Blencathra, 5th of April 2012
The reason this is important is because Lord Blencathra is a lobbyist for the Cayman Islands government receiving £14,000 per month from 'Two Lions' for his services, who was hired to 'get the message across' to UK government officials, and is entitled to vote on legislation affecting the tax treatment of money that is transferred between the UK and the Cayman Islands.

You may say that this is illegal however this arrangement was approved by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
"The FCO told the Bureau in April, following our investigation, that it had played ‘no role’ in the appointment.

However correspondence released under Freedom of Information shows the Minister for Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, approved Lord Bencathra taking the job despite looking at the potential for conflicts of interest arising from his role in the House of Lords." The Bureau Investigates, 2nd of October 2012
As a side note, when still an MP Lord Blencathra led the campaign to prevent MPs' expenses. We are certain this had nothing to do with the £20,902 he received in second home allowances for a property that was subsequently sold as his main residence (thus avoiding Capital Gains Tax).

But it is not just former MPs that hold outside interests in the House of Lords. It is estimated that 1 in 5 staff pass holders have links to lobby groups. Some may argue that this is fine as long as it is declared (the current list can be viewed here) but that isn't always the case.
"Undeclared interests: Peers fail to register business roles" was a headline from the Bureau Investigates from June 2012. It detailed failure to record interests from Lord Plumb and Lord St John of Bletso, as well as incomplete entries from other Lords.
But even declaring an interest doesn't prevent the Lords from voting on legislation that they have a financial stake in. 1 in 5 of those who voted on the UK Government's Health Bill had conflicted interests. This isn't restricted just to health. 16% of all Lords are paid by City firms with one, Lord Brittan, writing a white paper for David Cameron advocating the policies of a financial lobby group that he is a member of.

Whilst it is impossible to say whether the potential for profit altered the actions of any of those who voted, the mere fact that such an opportunity presents itself shows how vulnerable the Westminster system is to corruption. Yet the corruption is not just financial. The threatening of a female SNP MP, the widespread abuse of assistants by MPs, the loss of files on renditioning flights through Diego Garcia, and most worrying the paedophile ring operating out of Westminster involving at least 40 politicians have each required whistle blowers and individuals to speak out. That shouldn't be the case.
[Note: You can read more about how the paedophile ring is being treated here, here, here, here, here and here].
When corruption and wrong doing has taken place, too many within the Westminster system watch with their eyes wide shut. It is a system that doesn't deserve protecting. A Yes vote in September gives us the chance to enhance and control a much better, more democratic approach. We don't need unelected Lords influencing laws that they have financial interests in. We don't need a cosy club where everyone shields everyone else.

When you go to the polling station on the 18th of September, do so with your eyes wide open. Vote Yes and lets tackle the rampant corruption that is holding back our country.
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