Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Charlotte Atkins MP

  I congratulate the Modernisation Committee for its Reform Programme and Robin Cook, the Modernisation Committee Chair, for the way he has taken the discussion of these reforms to so many organisations within the House.

  As the Report says, modernisation is not about making the life of an MP easier, but about making the MP more effective.

  In that context, I believe the Westminster Hall debates, programming motions and the changes in hours on a Thursday have been a great success and should be made permanent. I would also like to see business starting at 11.30am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

  I would welcome shorter, more topical debates with a time limit of 10, 12 or 15 minutes for backbench contributions. Linked with this, I think it is time we adopted the practice of publishing a list of speakers but, of course, those speakers would need to be present for the debate—or at least the opening and closing speeches. Then those not selected to speak could make points via short interventions.

  I support the proposals for greater scrutiny of legislation, particularly the role of Select Committees in looking at draft bills and monitoring the implementation of new laws.

  Anything that makes Parliamentary life more predictable is to be welcomed. This allows MPs to organise constituency visits more effectively and to plan family activities with confidence.

  It is about time we built on the progress made with new technology within the House by introducing electronic voting. I would support multiple divisions taking place at one time within the voting lobbies with the time of these votes being posted in advance. This would avoid MPs wasting a lot of time hanging around for votes and between votes when it is difficult to work effectively.

  It is vital that we excite the interest of young people in our democracy. A very limited educational service exists but it is totally inadequate. I am amazed that when MPs host student visits to the House of Commons they are rationed as to the number of booklets (six per member) they can hand out. These publications are also often out of print. If we are serious about education, then there must be adequate investment in it.

  Our young people often relate more enthusiastically to the video than the printed word. I would like to see a few basic videos produced, perhaps for a small charge, to schools and educational groups. I would support school visits on Fridays.

3 February 2002

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