Annual Report 2008-09 - Information Committee Contents

CHAPTER 2: People and Parliament

Our inquiry

3.  In January 2009, we decided to conduct an inquiry to investigate how the House of Lords, in the context of Parliament, could relate better to the public. The inquiry had two aims:

  • to evaluate progress made since the reports of the House of Commons Modernisation Committee (Connecting Parliament with the public, June 2004), the 'Puttnam Commission' (Members Only? Parliament in the Public Eye, Hansard Society Commission, May 2005), and the consequent first business plan of Parliament's Group on Information for the Public (2006); and
  • to consider improvements as to how the House of Lords/Parliament can engage with the public and enable members of the public to communicate with it.

4.  We focused our inquiry on three issues:

(1)  outreach;

(2)  online communication and engagement, including and channels such as social media sites; and

(3)  press, media and broadcasting.

5.  We held six public meetings between March and June, hearing from 39 people. In addition, we canvassed comments from people via the internet, by using a web forum on the parliamentary website and the Lordsoftheblog website. Furthermore, we were the first parliamentary committee to allow members of the public to submit their views on video via YouTube. Our experience of these online communication tools was positive: they enabled us to hear from a wider range of people, and those views helped us in our inquiry.

6.  In July, we published our report Are the Lords listening? Creating connections between people and Parliament.[3] The report included recommendations on education, outreach, press and media, broadcasting, parliamentary data and online communication and engagement. The list of our recommendations, together with identification of who is taking them forward, is set out in Appendix 2 to this report.

The Government's response

7.  In the House of Lords on 3 June, the Leader of the House, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, responding to a question about the newly-formed National Council for Democratic Renewal, said that the Government must "engage with the public. That is where the gap is and it is where we have been failing in our duty to date".[4]

8.  The Government has responded in writing to those recommendations which we addressed to them, and we publish their response in Appendix 1 to this report.

9.  We welcome the Government's response and acknowledge the similarities that exist between the themes that emerge from the Government's response and from the Government's approach more generally to digital communications. We refer in particular to the Government's report entitled Digital Britain (published in June 2009) and to the Power of Information Task Force Report (published in February 2009). We look forward to seeing the Government's commitment contained in the response being translated into a robust and costed action plan with a timetable for delivery, to which all interested bodies are committed. Without that, there is a risk of losing an important opportunity for change for the better.

Actions the Committee has taken since we published our report

10.  Since we published our report, we have:

  • written to the Controller of BBC Parliament to invite him to bring forward proposals for the House to maximise synergies with the BBC's 'Democracy Live' website (paragraph 44);
  • written to broadcasters to invite them to propose how footage of House of Lords proceedings could be made more engaging for viewers (paragraph 83);
  • written to the Chairman of the Press Gallery to propose that the House of Lords offers information sessions to members of the press gallery (paragraph 99);
  • tabled a motion for a debate in the House of Lords Chamber on the language and terminology used in the House (paragraph 104);
  • tabled a motion for a debate in the House of Lords Chamber on the impact of the ceremonial aspects of the House on public understanding of its work (paragraph 109); and
  • examined the case for the House producing an accurate and impartial summary of debates (paragraph 111).

3   First Report of Session 2008-09, published 15 July 2009 (HL Paper 138). Back

4   HL Deb., 3 June 2009, col. 217. Back

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