Revisiting Rebuilding the House: the impact of the Wright reforms - Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Contents


1  Introduction

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF THE WRIGHT COMMITTEE

1.  The Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, which came to be known popularly as the Wright Committee after its Chair, Dr (now Professor) Tony Wright, was appointed by the House of Commons on 20 July 2009. It was asked to consider and report on four specified matters:

  • the appointment of members and chairmen of select committees;

  • the appointment of the Chairman and Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means;

  • scheduling business in the House, and

  • enabling the public to initiate debates and proceedings in the House and closely connected matters.

2.  The Wright Committee reported to the House on 4 November 2009.[1] It produced 50 recommendations and conclusions on three main subjects:

  • control of the Parliamentary agenda, on which it called for the establishment of two new committees, a Backbench Business Committee and a House Business Committee;

  • Select Committees, on which it recommended elections for chairs and members, and

  • public initiation of proceedings.

3.  The Report said that, "at a time when the House of Commons is going through a crisis of confidence not experienced in our lifetimes ... largely, but not exclusively, because of the revelations about Members' expenses ... both structural and cultural change" were required. The House voted on 22 February and 4 March 2010 to approve and in some cases give effect to many of the recommendations made in the Committee's Report, and in March 2010 the Committee published a second Report on the implementation of its recommendations.[2] This set out the Standing Orders framework necessary for the implementation of a key recommendation: the establishment of a Backbench Business Committee to start work as soon as practicable after the start of the new Parliament which would be elected later that year.

4.  The Backbench Business Committee was established in June 2010, just after the General Election of that year, and key changes recommended by Wright to select committees, notably the election of chairs and members, were implemented at around the same time.

5.  The questions we asked in this inquiry were:

  • To what extent have the Wright reforms succeeded in making the House of Commons matter more, increasing its vitality, and rebalancing its relationship with the Executive?

-  Which reforms have been most significant in this context?

  • To what extent have the Wright reforms succeeded in giving the public a greater voice in parliamentary proceedings?

  -  Which reforms have been most significant in this context?

  • Which reforms proposed by the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons have not yet been implemented?

  -  What is the reason for delay in implementation?

-  What impact would these reforms be likely to have on how the House of Commons functions and is perceived by the public?

OUR INQUIRY

6.  We held five sessions of oral evidence, hearing from 17 witnesses, and we received 30 written submissions. We are grateful to all those who have given evidence.

7.  Our inquiry has not been the only examination of the House's progress on these issues since Wright reported. As we note throughout this report, several other Committees have considered issues relevant to the Wright Committee's proposals; our own evidence, and our own conclusions, have tended to concentrate on select committees, the Backbench Business Committee and the proposal for a House Business Committee. We also took substantial evidence on public engagement, and particularly on petitions.



1   Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, First Report of Session 2008-09, Rebuilding the House, HC 1117 Back

2   Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, First Report of Session 2009-10, Rebuilding the House, Implementation, HC 372

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Prepared 18 July 2013