Are the Lords listening? Creating connections between people and Parliament - Information Committee Contents



1.  Parliament's public reputation is at a low point. Media coverage about Peers' allowances and MPs' expenses and the suspension of two members of the House of Lords have had a negative impact on people's perception of Parliament. There has been a lot of consequent talk about constitutional reform, but many of the changes under discussion bear little direct relation to the problems that have been revealed. What is needed are reforms within Parliament. The need for Parliament to be open and transparent was apparent before the recent revelations and the need will remain.

2.  We have not produced this report as a consequence of the problems that have recently arisen. We decided in January 2009 to hold an inquiry into 'People and Parliament'. However, what we recommend in this report will contribute to making the House of Lords more open and transparent. We want to see better public appreciation of the role and work of the House of Lords. In our view, that can only be achieved once the House has taken further steps to increase public understanding of, and engagement with, the House.

3.  Our remit is to consider the information services of the House of Lords, which includes information for members and information for the public. Accordingly, our report focuses on the need for reforms of the House's practices and how the House makes information available, rather than on electoral or constitutional change. In a debate in the House of Lords on constitutional renewal on 11 June, Lord Bach, speaking for the Ministry of Justice, said that democratic reform "must principally be led by our engagement with the public."[1] We agree, and in this report we explore what further steps the House of Lords should take to engage with the public.

4.  In our inquiry, we set out to investigate how the House of Lords, could relate better to the public. The inquiry had two aims:

(1)  to evaluate progress made since the reports of the House of Commons Modernisation Committee (Connecting Parliament with the Public, June 2004),[2] the 'Puttnam Commission' (, Hansard Society Commission, May 2005),[3] and the consequent first business plan of Parliament's Group on Information for the Public (March 2006);[4] and

(2)  to consider improvements to how the House of Lords and Parliament as a whole can engage with the public and enable members of the public to communicate with it.

5.  The Committee's inquiry focused on three issues:[5]

  • outreach;
  • online communication and engagement, including and channels such as social media sites; and
    • press, media and broadcasting.

6.  Alongside our recommendations, our report includes a series of actions, in order to help readers to see what needs to be done to implement our recommendations. None of our recommendations require legislation.

7.  We recognise that some of our recommendations have budgetary implications, although we understand that some of these could be implemented through existing programmes or by re-prioritising existing resources. Furthermore, where a recommendation calls for additional expenditure, we believe that any costs "must be regarded as an investment in modern democracy, not a charge against it" (QQ 22, 225).

8.  We are keen to see our recommendations implemented. To this end, we call for changes to the governance arrangements for the House of Lords information services, with a view to increasing member involvement. We have asked the Director for Information Services to draw up an action plan against which progress implementing our recommendations can be measured, detailing the deliverable activities for each recommendation and showing who is responsible for delivering them and by what date.

9.  We consider the House of Lords to be an effective, value-for-money second chamber. It makes a substantial contribution to the law-making process; its members' expertise adds value to the process; and it complements the work of the House of Commons. However, it is not enough for the House to perform these functions. People must be able to see that the House performs this role, and our recommendations should help to achieve this end.

What would change if our recommendations were implemented?

10.  A common question when reading a committee report is 'what happens next?' To put it another way, 'what will change as a result of this report?' We would like to show at the start of our report what will change if our recommendations are implemented. We hope that seeing the following changes will make you want to read further.

11.  If our recommendations were implemented:


  • watch House of Lords proceedings on YouTube;
  • embed parliamentary proceedings on their websites;
  • watch video recordings of Lords proceedings and read Lords Hansard on the same screen and at the same time;
  • watch Lords divisions from inside the division lobbies;
  • participate in an online debate in parallel to a debate in the Lords Chamber;
  • analyse and re-use parliamentary data;
  • access more information online about Bills and see on the parliamentary website how a Bill has been amended by Parliament;
  • sign up to receive electronic alerts and updates about particular Bills or portions of Bills relevant to their interests;
  • access a list showing which Lords are expert on, or have a particular interest in, which subjects;
  • access parliamentary information in formats that are user-friendly for people with disabilities (including learning disabilities and mental health issues);


  • inform people and the media about their areas of expertise and interest;
  • access a more appropriate room for interviews;
  • see more clearly how a Bill amends previous Acts.


  • access a list of members who are willing to speak to the media on particular subjects;
  • attend information sessions on the House of Lords.


  • film in more areas within the House of Lords;
  • show more engaging footage of Lords proceedings;
  • access a list of members who are willing to speak to the media on particular subjects.

12.  We invite the House to debate this report.

1   Lords Hansard, 11 June 2009, column 792. Back

2   1st Report of Session 2003-04, HC 368. Back

3   Hansard Society Commission on the Communication of Parliamentary Democracy, Chaired by Lord Puttnam. Back

4   A full account of Parliament's public engagement work since 2006 can be found in the paper submitted to the Committee by the parliamentary Group on Information for the Public, a bicameral grouping of officials. Back

5   Further details are set out in the Committee's 'Call for evidence', which can be found in Appendix 3. Back

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