Letter from Derek Wyatt MP to the Chairman
of the Committee
First of all congratulations on your work so
far. It is heading (at last) in the right direction provided of
course the Tories play ball and join us in wanting to modernise
the House. If they do not they will be seen as the party of the
dinosaur and will subsequently lose more seats at the next General
It seems to me there are two objectives we are
trying to fulfil:
(a) to better hold an increasingly rampant
Executive to account
(b) to modernise the practices of the House
They are not mutually exclusive but we need
to do more work on a) and maybe that could be the subject of a
fuller investigation by your committee in the very near future.
Let me respond where relevant by paragraph numbers.
Para 10. We should follow the House of Lords
practice and divide the time according to the number of MPs who
have requested to speak. The notice of speakers should be published
24 hours before a debate. Those who are not called or who are
unable to be present at the debate should be allowed to have a
short precis of no more than 150 words of their speech published
in Hansard (as they can do in Congress). Presentational and closing
speeches should be a maximum of ten minutes.
Para 15. Question Time has become a ritual. PPSs
do the rounds trying to place soft questions. This practice should
stop immediately. It demeans Parliament. Questions should be placed
on the Order Paper 48 hours beforehand. Questions should be able
to submitted electronically.
Para 17. Planted Questions should be called Statement
Questions and they should take place between 10.30am11.30am
before the main business of the House commences at 11.30am. Green
and White Papers should have to be submitted to Select Committees
Para 32. If a change of hours is anticipated
for Wednesday then it makes sense to include Monday and Tuesday
as well so we have a uniform week. Those MPs from the outer parts
of the UK wanting to speak on Monday QT could always fly down
on Sunday evening.
Para 44. Summer recess should start the third
week of July and finish the first week of September. The Conference
season is becoming more irrelevant to MPs. Conferences could start
the second week of September and be concertinaed into two weeks
with the three parties agreeing on dates for the next five years
so that they were not always the same pattern. Alternatively,
the Conference season could move to April (from 2003). Most elections
are held in the summer and an April season would create more media
I suspect the Conference issues are outside the
scope of this report, but currently as far as the Parliamentary
calendar is concerned they are a nuisance.
It makes no sense to come back in early September
and then adjourn for three weeks, a mere three weeks later. Better
to incorporate the new "reduced two week season" in
the first two weeks of September in which case Parliament would
come back during the third week of September (earlier if the Conferences
were moved to April).
Paras 49, 50, 52, 54, 55 and 56. Select Committees
need to be independent of the Whips Office. Committee chairmen
should be paid a Secretary of State's salary and members should
be paid a junior minister's salary. The clerking system will need
to be modified to give members more assistance. No chairman should
be able to serve more than one full term. No member should serve
more than two terms. The committees should be selected by all
members. Members seeking selection should be able to provide a
50 word CV and the opportunity to speak for five minutes in the
Chamber. Three days should be put aside for elections to committees.
Select Committees would meet at least twice a weekmore
when scrutinising pre legislative bills.
There is no internet strategy for the House that
accords with the practice of Government departments.
I would suggest:
Every committee room to be upgraded to take live
Internet coverage of Select Committees, Committee Stages for Bills
and Statutory Instruments.
Every Select Committee to receive evidence by
disk and for that evidence to be placed on its web site as soon
as possible thereafter.
For Select Committees to consider scanning photographs,
audio and video clips for their reports when placed on their Internet
For all Select Committee web sites to include
the real time audio or video coverage as a given.
By September 2003 all Select Committee reports
to be published only on the net.
Para 57. We need a Parliamentary Museum and
Art Gallery as a permanent fixture. There are five possible sitesthe
space to the side and east of the Speaker's residence currently
occupied by portakabins, the Victoria Gardens, the Green where
many television interviews take place, the Tower and the middle
of Parliament Square. I would suggest a committee is established
under the Speaker's aegis to evaluate these sites and bring forward
We need to give The Speaker more authority.
He should be able to issue yellow and red cards to Secretaries
of State who deliberately leak information, circumnavigate the
House or fail to come and make the appropriate Statement. A yellow
or red card system would apply to each "session" of
Parliament. If a Secretary of State received a red card, he would
be suspended by the House without pay for a minimum of one month.
We also need to be able to question the Executive
when in recess and we could do this be means of the Internet-based
Finally we must be able to find a device whereby
MPs can recall Parliament when there is a State of Emergency declared
or a matter of seriousness. The Government was most reluctant
to recall Parliament after 11 September 2001. Even when it did,
on 14 September it conspired to reduce the value of the recall
by restricting the time to 09301430.
29 January 2002