Letter from Mr Andrew Turner MP to the
Clerk of the Committee
I have the following comments on Robin Cook's
report Modernisation Of The House of Commons: A Reform Programme
For Consultation. The paragraph numbers quoted are those in
8. The provision for Deferred Divisions
has certainly widened the opportunities for Members to take part,
but that benefit is not outweighed by the disadvantage that they
are less well informed about the issues on which they are voting.
Programming bills may have made the hours of
scrutiny more predictable, enabling the House to focus on the
main issues for debate, but any further reform should address
the problem of some parts of measures remaining un-debated.
11. If front-benchers still take 45 minutes
plus each during debates, then the opportunity for proper debate
will remain limited.
13. The use of PNQs already provides the
opportunity for members to ask a "topical" and more
incisive question at very short notice; perhaps two or three a
day should be taken.
31. The new working hours on Thursday have
been a success primarily because members like to get home to the
constituency on a Friday. That is of course not the case on Wednesdays.
32. Introducing morning starts to the parliamentary
day on Wednesday may well help Members with families and constituencies
accessible from London, however it is of no benefit to the overwhelming
majority who would be unable to get home. If however it were introduced
it consideration could be given to using evenings for Private
Members Bills. On balance though I would prefer that the current
hours were kept so that visitors can attend questions from as
many parts as possible of the kingdom without an overnight stay
37. Alternatively (or additionally) statement
time could be added on to the end of any day's sitting thereby
meaning that any requirement for statements to be made would have
no effect on the time available for debates. 1.30 pm is not a
very good time to start statements as many Members may already
have engagements at that time.
39. No mention is made as to when an "Immediate
Statement" would be made, more details should be provided
on this issue. I believe these can already take place at 7 o'clock.
44. Any change in the Parliamentary calendar
should take into account the very valuable opportunity MPs have
in being able to visit schools within their constituency.
46. The traditional method of voting is
a valuable opportunity for back-bench MPs to take the opportunity
of meeting Ministers and Shadow Ministers to discuss important
issues of concern, and I see no need to move quickly to a new
method for the sake of modernity.
47. If you have to attend in person, there
is no advantage in voting electronically. Furthermore there is
a lack of transparency in that members cannot see what is going
onthis is why electronic voting may be widely distrusted.
48. I believe the views of the House still
favour the continuance of the present system. A compromise solution
would be to reduce the time for second and subsequent divisions
to 3 minutes.
50. Being able to table oral questions electronically
means that Members could conceivably not attend Parliament for
days on end, which is not something to be welcomed.
54. The possibility should certainly examine
how it can widen coverage of Parliament, and should push forward
plans for the release of written answers earlier in the day.
55. Any move to change the way that Select
Committee reports are presented should be resisted. The work done
in committees indeed provides a wide range of substance, which
is why there is no need to change the way in which it is presented.
The publications are read for their content, as opposed to the
way they are presented.
56. Any initiative such as http://www.parliamentlive.tv
whereby live coverage of public committee sittings are available
through the internet is to be welcomed.
58. It is not the role of the educational
service to invite schoolchildren to Parliament as part of a pro-active
education campaign. That function should remain with individual
14 February 2002