I then ventured to tell this House that its business
was not to govern, but to call to account those who govern. (Gladstone,
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 couldand
shouldbe. 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
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