Blunkett frustrated by backbench MPs

Labour conference: Legislation
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David Blunkett launched a scathing attack yesterday on backbench MPs who frustrate government plans and try to block the progress of Bills through Parliament.

In candid comments on the Labour conference fringe, the Home Secretary said that in his four years as a minister the worst threat had come from "elected politicians".

"What the hell's the point of being a backbench MP [if it is] in order to stop things and slow them down or presuming they are for all the wrong purposes," he said at a meeting hosted by the think-tank Demos. "The biggest problem I have found was getting things done rather than being stopped." The Home Secretary suggested that Parliament should be reformed to address the problem of legislation being delayed.

His comments are bound to infuriate democracy campaigners who regard the right of MPs and the Opposition to question government actions as sacrosanct. They have called for a thorough debate among MPs about proposed changes in the law, to protect the rights of ordinary people.

The Home Secretary said that there needed to be checks and balances and an independent judiciary, but not at the price of crippling progress. He said: "Parliament itself needs to address how it checks and scrutinises what we do".

He also revealed that, as the Secretary of State for Education, he felt he had "failed" to make teachers feel as though they were central players in his school reforms. "I failed substantially with teachers to engage them, to persuade them that it was their task, rather than men and ministers doing it from the centre," he said.