Letter from Sandra Gidley MP to the Committee
Please note the following comments on the consultation
Numbers refer to the paragraph number in the
original consultation document:
8. States that "programming Bills has
made the hours of scrutiny more predictable, and has enabled the
House, including Government backbenchers to focus on the main
issues for debate"
This is fine as far as it goes but programming
and timetabling must be sensible and take into account the fact
that MPs often focus on one or two policy areas. If you take health
as an example it was not sensible to timetable debate on Health
Reform Bill on a day when the Health Select Committe sat. It also
acts against the interests of smaller parties if two health team
bills are in committee at the same time when a larger chunk of
the year is free of committee activity in this department.
10. Agree that procedure looks antiquated
and wordy. Would be in favour of more time limiting of speeches
as it would force Members to be concise and not ramble.
11. The word "occasionally" in
line 5 is open to wide interpretation. Would not be in favour
of regular use of three hour debates in the Chamber but would
agree that even greater use should be made of Westminster Hall.
Paper does not say how "topics of interest to members"
will be chosen.
12. Agree. Would also ask for fairer proportion
of debate to be allocated to third party!
13. Question Time. Why not have 40 minutes
of questions that are timetabled two weeks ahead with 20 minutes
for shorter notice questions. Three days should be more than enough
time to provide briefings as most are recycled with regular monotony
anyway. If you wanted it to be really exciting you could have
a short slot that was run along the lines of PMQs when there is
no notice of the question. Most MPs aren't that original and would
either come up with a hot current issue or rehash their pet subject
so it shouldn't be too difficult for Ministers to keep roughly
on top of things.
14. Define "Major" please as again
this is a weasel word that means different things to different
people. Would argue that less significant ministerial announcements
are not made by written answerMPs usually learn about them
by listening to the morning news. It is this practise that is
18. This sounds good in practice but Select
Committees already have a significant scrutiny role and this additional
role would take a lot of time and energy and Government could
"divert" Select Committees attention from a hot issue
by issuing a draft bill. Would be more in favour of greater use
of Special Select committees with unlimited scope for enquiry.
Membership could comprise part of the relevant departmental Select
Committee plus MPs who had an interest/expertise in the field.
This is only one option and doubtless others will come up with
other suggestions but there is a need for greater discussion around
19. "Government will seek to continue
to produce more legislation in draft"I am relatively
new and may have missed it but am not sure which Bills have previously
been produced in this form.
20. and 21. Very sensibleprobably
too sensible for this place!
23. Againthis is one of those proposals
that sounds very good but see comment on 18 (above). There is
little real detail here and the cynic could suggest that this
is yet another cunning plan to keep back bench MPs occupied so
that they can ultimately be less trouble!
24. Agree that there must be a more robust
system of scrutinising SIs subject to negative procedure.
28. This is the biggest red herring going
and ignores the fact that being an MP is not a 40 hour a week
job. How, exactly, would finishing earlier in the evening help
the majority of MPs spend more time with their families? Many
MPs have families based in the constituency and would not be able
to travel back easily. In factspeaking as an MP who lives
1.52 hours away a 7 o'clock finish would be a disaster.
By the time I have voted and arrived in the constituency most
events will be winding up and there would be little left of the
evening to spend with the family. Whereas, currently, if there
is a pressing constituency engagement I can usually put in an
early appearance and be back to vote at 10.
I have no problem with starting earlier and
packing more into the parliamentary day. Indeed there is a good
case for an earlier start which would mean that the media could
divert more attention to questions and any Ministerial statements.
This would have the knock on benefit of a greater section of the
public having an awareness of what we are doing.
32. It would also do very little to help
MPs with constituencies further away.
33. Agree. And this could be achieved if
we adopted something like a 11-9 day on Mon-Thur.
34. This is a bit contradictory. In 32 you
are saying that more local MPs could go home to their families
etc. but here you are saying that we could do some Friday work
and more scrutiny work. Or is the plan to have scrutiny by MPs
from further afield and not those people from the SE!!!
37. Support but need to consider potential
clashes with standing committees etc.
40. Oh yes please!!!! Welcome to the real
world and an acknowledgement that we have a right to be treated
like grown ups.
42. This will not be much of a problem if
we can commit to the rolling programme of legislation.
44. Would it not be more sensible to introduce
this as a temporary measureand in the long term move the
party conference season forward to early Sep so that we can return
end Sep/beginning Oct.
45. Would suggest that more could be done
but this is not the place for that discussion.
47. In favour but question the assertion
that it would free up much more time for debate because the vast
majority of votes take place after 10.
48. Support change.
53. Who would work up the communication
strategy? Agree that one is needed.
54. The cynic in me says that the timing
of release of written answers will not make a jot of difference
55. Too trueSelect Committee reports
reinforce the impression that we are stuck in a timewarp.
58. Very keen to support young people but
wouldn't it be more exciting for them to see Parliament in Session
(although I concede you would want them to see something relatively
60. It is a big concern of mine that inadequate
attention is paid to the scutiny of legislation from the European
Parliament. We are in danger of looking like the poor earthlings
in Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy who didn't realise that the
Vogons were really in control . . .
To sum up I think this document is very timely
and would acknowledge the recent EOC findings that said that Parliament
should adapt working times/practices. Interestingly, the working
times argument was put forward less frequently by those candidates
who were subsequently elected.
If I am to spend half my week in Westminster
I want to make the most of my time here and would strongly urge
that there were not too many early finishes. Thursdays are currently
lightly whipped. If we finish early and potentially finish at
7 on a Wednesday many MPs will be tempted to go home. The press
will quickly pick this up and the stock of politicians will diminish
further as we will be perceived as a bigger lot of shirkers than
ever.By the same token there is merit in starting earlier as this
will help put paid to the perception that we are all busy earning
our second living in the morning. If we are seen to work harder
here AND be out and about in our constituencies on Friday (at
the very least) then this will help the public to see that most
of us do work rather hard and take our job very seriously.
On the IT frontplease consider letting
us use electronic devices in committee at the very least!
23 January 2001