Rebuilding the House - House of Commons Reform Committee Contents


    I then ventured to tell this House that its business was not to govern, but to call to account those who govern. (Gladstone, Feb 1855)[85]

290. Everything in this report is aimed at making the House of Commons matter more. It should sit, in fact and not just in name, 'at the apex of a system of accountability'. A flourishing representative democracy demands an effective and vital House of Commons, with strong government improved by strong accountability. This is also the best antidote to the political disengagement and anti-politics that characterises our age, and which is dangerous in its consequences.

291. It is our contention that, at present, the House of Commons is not as effective or vital as it could—and should—be. This was so long before the expenses scandal that has rocked it to its foundations and done so much damage to its reputation. The task of rebuilding confidence in the House, both within and without, is immense; but it is also urgent. Paradoxically, the present crisis has also presented an opportunity at least to begin this task.

292. This is not to suggest that a cultural problem (in this case, of standards and behaviour) can be resolved by a structural solution. Nor to deny that there may be political reforms needed that go beyond anything discussed in this report. Yet we have to start somewhere; and the changes we recommend in how the House works are designed to make an immediate and practical contribution to the enterprise of rebuilding trust in the ability of the House of Commons to act as the vigorous guardian of democratic accountability.

293. That is why we want the House to control more of its own business; boost the standing and authority of its select committees; and connect more strongly with public concerns. From these key changes could flow many associated opportunities for the House to work in new and innovative ways as other bodies are having to learn to do. This will only happen if Members are fully engaged and committed to the task. We believe that the public wants to see its House of Commons restored to robust health. The challenge for its Members, both present and future, is to ensure that this happens.

85   HC Deb, 23 February 1855, col 1826 Back

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