Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons First Report


Parliament makes the law, determines the government, holds the executive to account and is the national forum for political debate and decision. It depends on the efforts of all of its Members to discharge its functions. This report makes recommendations to improve the process by which Members learn and develop their careers. It also seeks to build on past reforms by improving the topicality of the Chamber, the engagement of Members and the use of non-legislative time.

The House Authorities and the political parties need to work together to ensure that new Members receive the best possible welcome when they join the House. We believe that extending the period between the election and the first meeting of a Parliament should help to address some of the difficulties new Members face and give them the time to take part in a more co-ordinated induction programme. We recommend that the political parties review their mentoring arrangements and work with the House authorities to address Members' continuing development needs.

There is no neat job description for a Member of Parliament. The job comprises a number of different but interconnected roles; sometimes mutually reinforcing and sometimes conflicting. Balancing the roles can be difficult and we make recommendations to ensure the Chamber is more topical and relevant to the interests of Members and their constituents. We tackle some of the barriers to participation and propose greater incentives for Members to engage in the work of the House.

If implemented our recommendations would mean:

  • extending the period between a General Election and the date of the first sitting of the House;
  • allocating part of most question times to topical questions;
  • extra debates on topical matters on a weekly basis;
  • shorter debates on most general issues and some legislation;
  • a weekly half-hour slot for debating Select Committee Reports in Westminster Hall;
  • more comprehensible motions including consideration of more debates on substantive motions;
  • shorter speeches, including from front benchers;
  • greater flexibility on time limits on speeches in debates to allow more Members to take part; and
  • the reintroduction, on a trial basis, of Private Members' Motions, in Westminster Hall.

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Prepared 20 June 2007