Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons First Report

5  Conclusion

127. This Report proposes changes to make Parliament more topical, engaging and stronger on scrutiny and accountability. Some of the changes we recommend represent a trade-off between topicality and predictability. Sir Alan Haselhurst said, 'We have to accept there is some inconvenience in this work if we really want to be on the button on a particular matter'.[223]

128. Parliament fulfils its core tasks of sustaining a government, holding that government to account, giving assent to the legislation put before it, and acting as an essential forum for debate and decision on topical issues of concern to the public. But it could do some of these things more effectively. It is probably true that Parliament is more effective at sustaining an executive than holding it to account. There is clearly an inherent tension between these roles and it is inevitably difficult to sustain a perfect balance. A strong government needs a strong Parliament; and good scrutiny makes for good governance; and so does a more demanding, less deferential citizenry with higher aspirations for themselves and their families. In the final analysis, the strength and vitality of the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole depends upon the efforts and behaviour of its Members and the emphasis they place on their scrutiny and accountability role. It is ultimately up to individual Members to make the changes we propose in this Report effective and those we recommended last year to improve the legislative process work. There must be the political will to make any changes work—it is down to back bench Members to strengthen themselves.

129. Some of our recommendations will require additional resources. These include permitting the use of advanced technology in the Chamber and an expanded induction programme for new Members. We recommend that any debate on the proposals contained in this report should be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum that sets out the resource implications, as far as these can be known or estimated.

130. 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.

131. In the final analysis it is up to Members how they carry out their duties and the strength of Parliament rests upon their individual efforts.

223   Q 198 Back

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