Sunday, 24 January 2010

Lawmakers - politicians still have little business experience

The Industry & Parliamentary Trust's December 2009 paper "PPCs’ Business Backgrounds: An Analysis - Prospective Parliamentary Candidates standing at the next General Election: An analysis" is interesting reading given that the UK elections are due this year.

Key findings:

  • "Less than half the PPCs surveyed (48%) can demonstrate Business Management or Financial Services (BMFS) experience;
  • PPCs standing in the next General Election have more BMFS experience than current MPs (as surveyed in April 2008);
  • In comparison to the current House of Commons, there are a higher proportion of female PPCs standing for the three main political parties;
  • The average age of a PPC standing in the next General Election is 43;
  • Across the three main parties, Business Management or Financial Services roles dominate over current employment in other sectors."

From the summary (emphasis added):

"In August 2009, the IPT commissioned research into the political backgrounds and outside ‘real-world’ experience of the prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) standing for election in the more marginal parliamentary seats. The aim of this research was to create a clearer picture of the next generation of MPs. This research builds on the joint IPT-ComRes report, Do Our Lawmakers Understand Business? (April 2008). The report considered two questions:

· “How suitable is the law-making system, in general, when it comes to matters of business or finance?”

· “How do the six legislatures relevant to the UK compare to each other in terms of their business friendliness?”

It demonstrated that the vast majority of MPs across all six legislatures (the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the National Assembly of Wales, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the European Parliament) had little or no substantial business experience. Across all six legislatures, just 13% of politicians could demonstrate five years or more practical experience of Business Management or Financial Services. In the House of Commons the figure was 21%.

The research underlined the fact that many of the politicians who make decisions having a major impact on UK businesses have very limited personal experience of the sort of challenges that those businesses face.

Furthermore, surveys carried out within industry or commerce showed that business leaders feel that, ‘too few of our politicians have business experience’ and 86% of those surveyed agreed that ‘too often legislation is passed with insufficient regard to its impact on business’.

This latest report focuses on the backgrounds and experiences of PPCs, with the aim of drawing comparisons between their demographics as a group against those of MPs currently in the House of Commons."

Little change, one might say - the 2008 report commissioned by the IPT, "Do Our Lawmakers Understand Business?", had already "exposed a worrying, if unsurprising, trend: more of our MPs are entering politics with little or no experience of the business world."

At least there are more female candidates and this bunch of candidates seems to have more real life real world experience than the current lot.

I'm increasingly a fan of the House of Lords, who although unelected seem to have done a lot of good in terms of making sensible laws, e.g. currently with trying to get improvements through on the Digital Economy Bill.

A perceptive friend of mine once suggested a plausible reason for their generally more common sense approach and and longer-term view of things. Lords are appointed for life, so they are much more likely to look at the bigger picture for the whole country over a period of some years, rather than MPs who (admittedly putting this somewhat simplistically) just care about the next few handful of years. I think there's something in that.

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