MPs demanding corporate crackdown

So far unreported in the mainstream media is the first serious backbench stirring over government legislation in the new parliamentary term.

Labour MPs have tabled a series of amendments to the seemingly obscure Company Law Reform Bill which goes through its final Commons stages next week.

If the media does notice this development they will no doubt write it up as being a backbench “rebellion” but it actually seems a slightly more subtle attempt to apply influence by MPs before they are put in the take-it-or-leave it position of voting Aye or Noe. The organisers have expressed the hope that the government is in “listening mode”.

Nor is this led by “the usual suspects”. The Daily has exclusively obtained the list of signatories due to appear tomorrow morning. The amendments’ sponsors include previously loyal MPs such as Patrick Hall and Sarah McCarthy-Fry, while others are tabled by the soft-left Compass MPs Jon Trickett and Colin Burgon.

Supporters include MPs from the new intake such as Helen Goodman, Jim McGovern and Emily Thornberry; former Ministers Tony Lloyd and Keith Vaz; Alan Keen, husband of Gordon Brown’s PPS Ann; Anne Snelgrove, a PPS herself; and perhaps most intriguingly of all, deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas.

Details of their case are available from Compass or War on Want. The government would be wise to engage with them. Better corporate accountability has public support and would present a dilemma to the Tories. We have written before on Cameron’s vulnerability on this issue, and it has become even more uncomfortable for them since.

If ministers gave their Bill some teeth it would enable Labour to unite around a sensible compromise – albeit that many want to go further; but Cameron would be forced to either back the government or stand up for (not to) his big business friends – the exact opposite of what he said he would do.  

It will be interesting to watch what happens this week and The Daily will keep you informed.

Opinion: There are those on the hard-line loyalist wing of the party who complain about MPs who have their own opinions. Ironically, we recall Sion Simon once saying that “rebels” was too positive a term and they should be known as “deserters”. No doubt Blair feels the same way about him.

But actually, Labour MPs are quite right to represent their constituents, scrutinise legislation and stand up for Labour values in the nation’s deliberative forum. They are doing their job.

The problem is in the way that they have often been frozen out of making policy, such that their only power is to vote against Bills in their final state. That happens when policy is handed down on tablets of stone, and if the front bench want the back bench to “behave” then it is they who need to change. We hope that new leadership will bring that change.


2 Responses to MPs demanding corporate crackdown

  1. Interesting update on this – the Labour backbench manouevres did actually bring about some progressive changes in the legislation, much to the outrage of the Tories and their big business puppet-masters, who don’t expect mere legislators to be allowed any say in making the law.

    This could become a model for the soft-left, working with a foot in Westminster and a foot outside. Watch this space.

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