Cromwell, Disraeli, Churchill, Macmillan would not have allowed that. They believed in the power and supremacy not of Government, but of Parliament. It is our inheritance and our duty to take radical steps to preserve and enhance that primacy.

James Gray, MP

Winds of change? Ideas for parliamentary revival

There is much speculation and — dare I say it — hope among Canadian political observers that we might see a sort of reboot of Parliament — which wouldn’t be that difficult to achieve, given how bad things got during the 41st Parliament. Over the past few days, two articles and one report dealing with ways to make Ottawa better came to my attention, and I would like to briefly touch on each. The Public Policy Forum released a report entitled Time for a Reboot: Nine Ways to Restore Trust in Canada’s Public Institutions, which you can download from this page (PDF). Most of it does not deal with proceedings in the House of Commons, but larger governance issues, and […]

What we have today is a grubby piece of schoolboy intrigue that Michael Dobbs would have been ashamed to have dreamt up for one of his novels. These are matters for the House to deliberate on properly and initiate, not the Executive. These are matters of due process and due thought.

Mr Gordon Marsden, MP

Procedural Passion

In a 2010 speech to the Oxford Union Society, UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow stated: “I appreciate that the words “parliamentary procedure” are not necessarily the most exciting in the English language. Yet, as I have indicated, parliamentary procedure matters.” Speaker Bercow is not the only Member of the House of Commons who feels that way; two of the most passionate debates in the UK Commons in recent months occurred over proposed changes to the House’s Standing Orders. Contrary to what one British journalist believes, the Standing Orders are not “an obscure parliamentary procedure“, rather, the Standing Orders are the rules which guide procedure in parliament. And on two occasions recently, the first on the very last sitting day […]


Baby steps on parliamentary reform

The Liberal Party of Canada released a plan for political and parliamentary reform this week and many, if not most political commentators seemed quite enthusiastic about much of what the party proposed. I must admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed. The proposals for parliamentary reform were at best minor tinkering. Maclean’s Aaron Wherry provides a much more comprehensive overview of parliamentary and political reforms that have been, or could be, proposed. It’s much more interesting. The Liberals’ proposals for parliamentary reform address Question Period, Committees, prorogation and omnibus bills, free votes and changes to financial procedures. I’m going to focus on only on the first four. Question Period The Liberals propose to restore relevance to Question Period by establishing a […]

UK Houses of Parliament

Un-reforming Parliament?

BBC Parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy’s (@DArcyTiP) latest column discusses the possibility that should the May 2015 general election result in a single-party majority government, either Conservative or Labour, the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act is likely to be repealed. I fully understand why the major parties in the UK would be inclined to repeal this Act. Unlike similar legislation here in Canada, the UK Act fixed the duration of the parliament at five years, rather than the more usual four year duration of a majority parliament. The five-year term was the subject of much puzzlement and a fair bit of disagreement during the various hearings on the bill. However, some have come to appreciate the five-year fixed-term as it allows politicians and […]

The vast majority of British voters have zero interest in Prime Minister’s Questions. Nor, once the initial novelty had worn off, would they have any more interest in watching People’s Questions. It’s only politicians who think the weekly interrogation of politicians is of major national significance.

Dan Hodge

Do we need a Peoples’ PMQs?

UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband recently floated the idea of a weekly “public question time” where an audience representative of the country would question the prime minister on any issue of the day. Miliband was a bit short on details regarding how this would work. Apart from stating that the audience should be representative of the country, the only other details he provided was that the public PMQs should be held in parliament at least every two weeks, but preferably weekly. On the surface, it’s an interesting idea, but it also raises a number of questions. First of all, how would these people – representative of the country – be selected? Would it be a completely random process, you […]

More on electing committee chairs

In my previous post, I wrote about the recent election of the new chair of the Select Committee on Health which occurred last week in the UK House of Commons. Dr. Sarah Wollaston was elected by her fellow MPs, winning on the fourth count over four other contenders for the post. The BBC’s Parliamentary correspondent, Mark D’Arcy’s recent column warns that some Conservative MPs aren’t too happy that Dr. Wollaston won the election. Ms. Wollaston, he explains, “has never been an identikit party trooper.” She was the first Conservative MP chosen via open primary, and has always been very independent as an MP. In fact, she was highly critical of her Government’s original NHS reforms as proposed in the Heath […]