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Three crafty Musketeers

Mark D'Arcy | 13:07 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

For those Tory MPs who crave the red meat of populist right wing legislation, relief is at hand.

An alternative Queen's Speech crafted by Christopher Chope, Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone - the Three Thatcherite Musketeers of the Conservative backbenchers - will emerge on Monday's order paper.

Now the winners of the private members' bill ballot have presented their proposed legislation, the Private Bill Office is now open to receive presentation bills - bills which have no debating time allocated, but which can get discussed if a suitable opening in the Commons agenda appears.

The three quietly occupied the office in relay overnight to ensure they were first in the queue when it opened this morning - and the fruits of their endeavour are 28 presentation bills to gladden the heart of true-blue Tories...

The list includes:

* The EU Membership (Referendum) Bill.
* The BBC Licence Fee (Abolition) Bill
* The National Service Bill
* The Asylum Seekers (Repatriation to Safe Countries) Bill
* The Apprehension of Burglars (Protection from Prosecution) Bill
* The Taxation Freedom Day (Celebration) Bill
* The EU Bill of Rights (Repeal) Bill
* The Snow Clearance (Protection from Prosecution) Bill

...and much, much more, mostly on subjects that won't delight Coalition ministers and Cameroon Tory reformers.

But as the former Labour MP Andrew Dismore demonstrated in the last Parliament, a smart backbencher can get debates and even actual legislation through Parliament if they are fast on their feet and understand the rules of the Commons.

The Three Musketeers are attempting to slip a whole phalanx of unwelcome subjects onto the agenda, and they may well succeed in goading both the forces of socialism and the Coalition whips offices into near apoplexy in the process.

Phillip Hollobone (who also has a private member's bill on banning face-covering garments - eg burkas - in public places) says insouciantly that he and the other Musketeers are simply trying to advance debate on important subjects and he would be disappointed if at least some of these bills are not debated in the Commons. And on sheer entertainment grounds, it would be fun if some of them made it onto the floor of the Commons.

It's also worth remembering how the late lamented Eric Forth led a backbench guerrilla operation against New Labour in the 1997-2001 Parliament. Maybe a new guerrilla army is about to raise a backbench insurgency....The original Musketeers were not much more bellicose that this lot.


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