Letter from Sir George Young MP to the
I would like to respond to the leader's memorandum
"Modernisation of the House of Commons: a Reform Programme
Para 9. I agree that Westminster Hall has proved
its usefulness and should be put on a permanent basis. I do not
agree that the provision for deferred divisions should be made
permanent; divorcing debate from division reinforces the views
of the cynics about the political process.
Para 11. I agree that there should be more shorter
debates; and more shorter speeches. Front benchers could be briefer
than they are; and I believe that, with self-discipline, most
Members could convey their views on the subject for debate within
a maxiumum of 15 minutes.
Para 12. I agree that there should be a published
list of those who wish to speak in a debate. However, if the list
is too long, the Speaker should retain total discretion on whom
to callfor example giving preference to those who have
not spoken for some time, or who have particular knowledge of
Para 13. The Prime Minister is able to field
questions on almost any subject with no notice, so I believe a
Departmental Minister should be able to do the same. I would go
further that what is proposed and reduce the period of notice
to two or three days; but have the last 15 minutes entirely open,
so long as the questions were relevant to that Department. This
would enable questions to be asked that were topical to that day
and give additional flexibility.
Para 14. I would "trade in" some of
the Opposition's Opposition Days for the right to demand statements
that the Government is unwilling to volunteer. I believe this
would make more effective use of Opposition time; enable it better
to hold the Government to account and make Parliament more topical
Para 21. I agree with the proposition that there
should be more carry-over of Bills; but this should be balanced
by other measures that prevent the Government overloading Parliament.
There must be some measure of disipline to replace the current
Para 23. I agree that Select Committees should
be more involved in pre-legislative scrutiny, and in post legislative
scrutiny. But they will need to ensure that their agenda is not,
as a result, determined by the Government.
Para 34. I am concerned that, if normal business
on a Wednesday stopped at 7 pm, and there continued to be light
Whipping on Thursdayswhen we often debate subjects on the
adjournmentwe will be accused of stopping work even earlier
in the week; and Thursdays may be marginalised.
Para 50. I am cautious about tabling questions
by email because of the scope for abuse; but I do not believe
the same argument need apply to tabling amendents.
I agree that we should make better use of information
technology; so I am submitting this by email.
8 January 2002