British parliament has big intake of rookies

Officials in white bow ties and waistcoats are ready to induct the largest number of new parliamentarians Britain has seen in decades.

British parliament has big intake of rookies

Officials in white bow ties and waistcoats are ready to induct the largest number of new parliamentarians Britain has seen in decades, after an election characterised in part by disgust at politicians.

Many members of the old parliament did not stand again in Thursday's poll, partly due to a scandal over inflated expense claims. But the new parliament will require steady hands to act decisively on Britain's record budget deficit.

A large green welcome sign at the Palace of Westminster, the huge neo-gothic building that includes the Big Ben clocktower and Houses of Parliament, will guide new members of parliament to registration desks akin to those for pupils at a new school.

Justin Fisher, politics professor at Brunel University, said it was unlikely that lawmaking would be bogged down by new MPs still learning the ropes, and that parliament was also less likely to be distracted by internal party struggles.

"There are enough people with experience in the parties ... People new to parliament tend to be much more loyal ... and tend to behave much more predictably," he said.

Parliamentary officials did not yet have an exact count of new members, but were prepared to welcome up to 300 new faces to the 650-seat parliament.

Only hours after results were announced, guides were already waiting in ceremonial attire -- even if there was no sign of any new MPs, most of whom were certainly exhausted after counting went on through the night.

A frenetic period of talks is expected as the Conservatives, the outgoing Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats plan their next moves in a parliament where none of them has an outright majority.

A major change for new and returning MPs is parliament's new expense system, for which training is now mandatory.

A scandal last year over inflated expense claims for items as trivial as dog food and moat cleaning disgusted the voting public.

"Everybody involved in government politics realised that things needed to change. We needed to have a clean break with the past and to have an independent system that was more open and accountable," said a spokesman for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), a body set up in May last year to assess all expense claims.

The scandal dominated the media for months, with the public, still reeling from a financial crisis that saw many people lose their jobs, shocked at claims that ran from the trivial, such as money for a bathplug, to thousands of pounds to improve homes that MPs rarely used and sold on for a profit.

"If you need a bathplug, you'll have to pay for it yourself," said an IPSA spokeswoman.

Reuters

Last Mod: 08 Mayıs 2010, 00:10
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