Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Dr Brian Iddon MP to the Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing in response to publication of "A Reform Programme for Consultation" on 12 December 2001. I have the following points to make:

  1.  I have sat hours in the Chamber waiting to speak, particularly in Second Reading Debates, and failed, which is extremely frustrating and annoying. Very often considerable preparation is involved in preparing for such speeches. Therefore, I believe that it would be useful to know whether a Member has been included on the Speaker's list and in what order. Those who are on the list but who are not called could be invited to submit their speech for publication in a new section of The Record, providing that they have actually prepared one.

  2.  I have never believed that two weeks are required between putting down a PQ and its answer in the Chamber.

  3.  I am fully supportive of pre-legislative scrutiny of Bills and their carry-over from one Session of Parliament to another. Once legislation is enacted I would be in favour also of monitoring it to make sure that it works effectively. I cite just one example of poor legislation that was well-intentioned, The Child Support Act, that has caused so much misery to so many individuals and families.

  4.  I have supported a 11.30 am start on Thursdays which allows most Members to get up the same evening to their Constituencies. However, I am opposed to the same start time on Wednesdays. Can we compromise and start at 12.30 pm or even 1.30 pm, preferably the former?

  The Parliamentary week is becoming very squeezed for all other activities. Tuesdays and Wednesdays have become extremely hyperactive! Please remember that we have to give outside organisations room to lobby us and allow Members to attend many outside engagements in London relevant to their Parliamentary work. Then many Committees of the House meet in the mornings. I believe that meeting earlier on Wednesdays would further restrict access to the Line of Route, which is very popular. To meet the current closure time for the Line of Route my constituents have to leave Bolton by coach not later than 5.00 am!!

  As your Report indicates, there would be some interference with Westminster Hall debates if the proposed early-start on Wednesdays proposal is accepted.

  5.  I wouldn't be against the House meeting earlier than 2.30 pm to hear Minister's Statements on Mon-Wed inclusive. However, this suggestion might not be a good one for the media coverage. It would be preferable, however, to Statements being made on the Today programme!

  6.  I am all in favour of fixing a Parliamentary timetable so that we can all use the recesses effectively, and arrange our constituency engagements well in advance. I would have no objection to returning to Parliament in September.

  7.  I have always supported electronic voting. Personally I would prefer Britain to have a modern Chamber, with designated seating available for all Members and with access to electronic voting in the seat, as in the chambers of many other countries. Now, that would truly be modernisation of Parliament!! I am not a great advocate of deferred voting, especially on contentious issues of the day. I think we carry tradition a bit too far in our Parliamentary system—the public sometimes wonder which century we are living in!

  8.  I agree with a more modern presentation of Select Committee Reports.

  9.  The appearance of a visitors' centre, to be opened soon, is strongly welcomed by me—that will bring us into this century—and any other attempts to re-engage the general public in our work will be strongly supported by me.

  Finally, I congratulate your Committee for the work that they have done since 1997. Many of the ideas already implemented have changed things for the better. It is important to keep going.

  But, what about a discussion on how long the British Parliament can continue to meet in the Chamber as it is presently arranged?

1 January 2002

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