Saturday, May 22, 2010

Political reform and Backbenchers: the UK approach

The coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Demcrats in the UK contains this undertaking:
We will bring forward the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of backbench business. A House Business Committee, to consider government business, will be established by the third year of the Parliament.
For those interested in parliamentary reform in Canada, there is a lot of meat in the Wright Committee proposals for reforming the UK parliament.

Ignatieff, if he gives more than a passing glance to Andrew Coyne's suggesting that he differentiate the Liberal Party from Harper's Tories by having a strong plank of political and electoral reform in the LPC's policies, should take a gander at the Wright Committee Report.

The report starts with this wonderful quote of the mood of the British electorate:
The public are sullen, some even mutinous.
(Sir Robert Worcester, June 2009)
The Cat thinks there are many proposals in that report which, if we adopted them (why not have the three opposition parties agree on some and pass them into legislation, even if Harper is unwilling to do so?), would measurably revitalize our parliament.

The report sets out the 'key principle' of the reforms it advocates:
 The key principle that guides our recommendations is that Government should get its business, the House should get its scrutiny and the public should get listened to. Everything within this report can be measured against that simple proposition.
For example, take these:
  • the Chairs of departmental and similar select committees should directly elected by secret ballot of the House using the alternative vote.
  • members of departmental and similar committees should be elected from within party groups by secret ballot.
  • some form of "agenda initiative" which might enable the public to ensure that a given issue is debated in the House, at national level, drawing on local and international experience, and
  • concludes that the opportunities should be seized for nourishing representative democracy by the exploration of other democratic possibilities.
The UK coalition agrement aims to implement some Wright Committee recommendations this way:

Ensure petitions with more than 100,000 signatures eligible for full debate in Parliament - petition with most signatures will allow public to table a bill. Introduce "public reading" stage when bills go through Parliament, with public comments debated by committees handling the legislation.
Now let's see if the opposition MPs will step up to the plate and give our parliament back to us, the people.

1 comment :

  1. I have thought for years now that if the Liberals really wanted to regain the support they once had and rid this country of the scourge of the Harper regime, they needed to bring forward a real and significant reform package that would take transparency and accountability seriously. Not more window dressing but something real. This would actually distinguish them from the Conservative who everyday demonstrate that they are not interesting in accountability, transparency, democracy, or the people.

    But will the Liberals do anything. Since they have done nothing to this point, I see no reason to believe that they are suddenly going to have a revelation now.


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