Hansard Society (M32)


1. Introduction: The Hansard Society is an independent, non-partisan organisation that works to strengthen parliamentary democracy and encourage greater public involvement in politics. We undertake research to stimulate reform of political institutions and the parliamentary process and provide a forum for discussion of these issues.

We welcome the decision of the Modernisation Committee to conduct inquiries on specific aspects of the Government's Green Paper on constitutional reform, The Governance of Britain, including proposals to change the procedures for recall and dissolution of Parliament. The Hansard Society's evidence to this inquiry looks at the subject of the recall of Parliament and is based on the evidence submitted to the Government's consultation process on the Green Paper.

2. Strengthening Parliament: The Hansard Society has consistently advocated that Parliament's powers should be strengthened and that it should achieve a more equitable and influential relationship with the executive. As the central, sovereign body at the heart of our representative democracy, Parliament's independence and effectiveness is the benchmark by which the health of our political system should be judged. We have identified a number of specific areas that require reform. The fact that there is no mechanism by which Parliament can recall itself has long been a cause of concern.


3. Recall of Parliament: The Hansard Society has proposed that the procedure for the recall of Parliament should be reformed. The Hansard Society Commission on Parliamentary Scrutiny (2001), chaired by Lord Newton of Braintree, recommended that Parliament should be able to recall itself, especially in times of emergency. The Commission argued that 'Parliament as an institution must be able to respond to issues as they arise. If Parliament is to be an effective forum in times of crisis, and retain its significance to political debate, there must be an alternative mechanism for the recall of Parliament.'[1] The Commission proposed that the Speaker of the Commons should adjudicate the request for a recall, in conjunction with the leaders of the main political parties, following instigation by an MP or a group of MPs.


4. Conclusion: It is essential that an independent Parliament should be able to convene itself without having to obtain the permission of the executive. Changes to the recall procedure should be placed firmly within moves to allow Parliament to exercise more control and autonomy over the organisation of its own business.


November 2007


[1] The Challenge for Parliament; Making Government Accountable, Report of the Hansard Society Commission on Parliamentary Scrutiny, chaired by Lord Newton of Braintree, (2001).