Quote of the day

“Anyone who campaigns for proportional representation but rules out a coalition in any circumstances is suffering from a serious logic deficit.” – Lord Holme, Liberal Democrat campaign manager 1997, as quoted in V. Bogdanor’s The Coalition and the Constitution Related Posts:No Related Posts

Collective ministerial responsibility and Coalition Government

There appears to be significant interest in the issue of collective ministerial responsibility during Coalition government. For what follows, I will be largely quoting or paraphrasing Vernon Bogdanor’s The Coalition and the Constitution. Following the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in May 2010, the Coalition issued its Programme for Government which outlined in detail a full range of policy aims for the new government. It also provided for the explicit abandonment of the doctrine of collective responsibility on one issue in particular – the referendum on the Alternative Vote. The two parties would be whipped to get the Bill implementing the referendum through the House of Commons, but would be free to campaign on opposite sides during the referendum […]

Consolidating the Canadian Ministry

The Canadian Ministry (cabinet) is one of the largest, if not the largest executive councils of any modern democracy. The current Ministry is comprised of 39 ministers (including the Prime Minister). Compare this to the UK, where the Cabinet consists of 22 paid ministers and one unpaid minister unpaid minister appointed to Cabinet, and six other invited ministers and peers (including the PM), Australia has a Ministry of 22 (including the PM), New Zealand has a Cabinet of 20 ministers with an additional 4 ministers outside of Cabinet (including the PM), and the US Cabinet consists of 16 members (including the Vice-President but not counting the President). I have previously explained that there is a tradition in Canada of ensuring that […]

Some notable parliamentary traditions

Parliamentary traditions and procedure in Canada and the United Kingdom are very similar, which is not at all surprising since Canada largely adopted the same form of parliamentary government, with slight modifications to better accommodate the realities of a federation. While some of these conventions and traditions might strike many as quaint and anachronistic, they are still practiced out of homage to the long fight for Parliament’s independence from the Crown. For example, the tradition that a newly-elected Speaker should “resist” being led up to the Speaker’s Chair is simply an acknowledgement to the past, when the role of Speaker was often a very dangerous one. Indeed, several Speakers were executed by the Monarch for being bearers of news the […]

Has the Backbench Business Committee been too successful?

Previously, I wrote a post in response to search queries from people wondering if the Backbench Business Committee (or BBBCom) has been a success. In that post, I noted that it was a bit difficult to answer that question because I wasn’t certain how one would measure  – or even define – success in this context. Recent events in the UK House of Commons are perhaps a greater indication that indeed, the BBBCom has been a success. So much so that perhaps the Government felt a need to try to curtail it to a degree – or at least, that is what some think might be going on. On Monday, 12 March 2012, the Government moved a motion that would […]

On irrelevance

One of the fundamental principles of parliamentary procedure is that debate in the House must lead to a decision within a reasonable period of time. Over time, the business of government became more complex, and legislatures had increasingly limited time available to them to consider this business. It was therefore essential to do so as efficiently as possible. Requiring that speeches (as well as questions and comments) remain relevant to the matter being debated allows the House to reach decisions without needless obstruction and excludes discussions that aren’t conducive to that end. The practice of restraining debate that is either repetitious or irrelevant to the matter under discussion dates back to the earliest days of the English House of Commons. […]