Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 260 - 267)



Mr Trend

  260. Can I ask a final single question which has no relevance to our inquiry either. When I came to fill in the Census form which we had to do last year, I scratched my head over this question which asks "who employs you?" As a Member of Parliament when you have to fill in your national Census form every ten years, in 2001 it said "who is your employer?" As an MP asked "who is your employer?" what did you put?
  (Mr Benn) I cannot remember what I put. Was I still an MP at the Census?

  261. You would have been.
  (Mr Benn) I suppose I should have put "the people of Chesterfield".

  262. That is what I felt like putting but what is, strictly speaking, the correct answer?
  (Mr Benn) I think self-employed! Which is why people do not vote.

  263. I wonder if it was not that you were employed by the Queen?
  (Mr Benn) No, we are not employed by the Queen.

  264. Is it not her Parliament?
  (Mr Benn) No, no. Our own allegiance is in connection with our parliamentary work. If we were employed by the Queen the Chairman would regard the House of Commons as of guaranteed integrity.

  265. In theoretical terms, not in political terms?
  (Mr Benn) For tax purposes we were regarded as self-employed in the old days.

  266. That will do.
  (Mr Benn) That is where I got the idea from. I tried to be a servant to the people who elected me.

  267. I tried to address this question in a historical perspective, who does employ MPs and indeed peers as Members of Parliament?
  (Mr Benn) Peers are not employed by anybody. They are absolutely loose cannons, or loose bishops I should say in some cases, but they are employed by absolutely nobody and they are there for life. It is an outrage that people should have any say in passing the laws who have been chosen by one man and are accountable to nobody. I feel very, very strongly about that.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for that. We have to end but you have opened up, as we wanted you to do, some large themes for us to explore in the course of this inquiry and we are very grateful. We noted what you said when you left this place, that you wanted to devote more time to politics and clearly you are doing so. You are a great prophet to us all. Thank you very much.

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