In an earlier post, I looked at the position of Deputy Prime Minister, specifically in Canada and the UK, contrasting the tradtional role of DPM with the very high profile role assigned to Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, in the coalition government.
This post simply updates the previous. On 3 June 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron issued a written ministerial statement detailing departmental reorganisation. When the coalition was formed, Clegg was put in charge of political and constitutional reform. The ministerial statement outlines what that means in practice. The Deputy Prime Minister will be responsible for introducing fixed-term Parliaments and legislating for a referendum on changing the voting system; legislating to create fewer and more equal-sized constituencies, supporting people with disabilities to become MPs and introducing a power for voters to recall their MP. He will also oversee developing proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber. During his first Prime Minister’s Questions on 2 June, Cameron promised MPs they will get a vote on House of Lords reform in December of this year.
The Lib Dem leader will have powers to speed up the introduction of individual voter registration, a move aimed at combating electoral fraud. He will also introduce a statutory register of lobbyists, reform party funding and move forward with plans for more “all postal primaries” to choose election candidates.
He will also be in charge of considering the “West Lothian question” – the longstanding anomaly which sees Scottish MPs voting on matters affecting England, but not vice versa.
The deputy prime minister will also have policy responsibility for the Electoral Commission, Boundary Commission and Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which is setting up the new expenses regime for MPs and peers.
Many of these responsibilities will be transferred to Mr. Clegg from the Ministry of Justice.
It is an ambitious agenda for parliamentary and constitutional reform, which I at least will follow with great interest over the life of this government. And as stated in the earlier post, Mr. Clegg will have his own Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions once a month, where he will answer questions in the House of Commons, primarily on the issues mentioned above. For anyone interested, you can livestream the UK House of Commons here. Clegg’s first DPMQs will be on 22 June.