Examination of Witness (Questions 260
THURSDAY 11 APRIL 2002
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
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
265. In theoretical terms, not in political
(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
(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.