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 […]

Fix That House?

Two of the CBC’s politics programmes – CBC Radio’s The House and Newsworld’s Power and Politics – are exploring ways to “fix” Parliament. The series is called “Fix that House” and people are being invited to send in via email or Twitter their ideas to improve Parliament. I have been reading through the list of at least some of the suggestions submitted thus far and have found a few recurring themes, as well as an unfortunate lack of understanding concerning how Parliament works and why some things are done the way they are. Consequently, I thought I would comment on some of the suggestions put forward. First of all, there are a fair number of calls for electoral reform – […]

A fascinating bit of history concerning ministerial statements in Canada

I have previously written about how, in my opinion, the UK House of Commons format for statements by ministers, or ministerial statements as they are also called, is superior to the procedure followed in the Canadian House of Commons. In that post, I explain how ministerial statements unfold in both Houses. The key differences between the two are: In the UK, ministers deliver statements to keep the House informed of on-going developments and government policy while in Canada, they are used primarily to mark commemorative events or to pay tribute to certain individuals; and In the UK, MPs have the opportunity to comment on the statement, and more importantly, ask questions of the minister to seek further information and better […]

Faint signs of democratic awakenings

I have written a number of posts on how whipped Canadian backbench MPs are when compared to their counterparts in other parliaments. In recent weeks, it would seem that some backbenchers have maybe had enough of this situation. One MP raised a question of privilege to argue that prevented by his party whip from delivering a statement in the House during “Statements by Members”, a 15-min period each day during which backbenchers can deliver one-minute statements on matters of international, national or local concern. As per the Standing Orders, any MP can be recognized by the Speaker to speak during this time, but, in practice, the Speaker is guided by lists provided by the respective party whips. The Member, Mr. […]

Proposal for elected Commons committee chairs

For the past three years now, this blog has explored some of the more interesting developments in parliamentary procedure in various jurisdictions (primarily the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Regular readers know that I am a big fan of many of the reforms introduced in the UK House of Commons in 2010, as per the recommendations of the Wright report. One of those reforms involved select committee chairs being elected by the whole House, as I’ve blogged about in detail in other posts. For example, back in April 2011, I wrote one of my Fixing Ottawa posts, this one focused on Committees, wherein I explained in detail how UK select committee chairs and members are now elected. In another […]

Procedure Committee Review of the Backbench Business Committee

Back in March, I wrote about a motion adopted by the UK House of Commons which changed how members of the Backbench Business Committee (BBCom) are elected: The current members of the Backbench Business Committee were elected by the entire membership of the House of Commons. Members of most of the other Select Committees were elected only by their own caucuses, meaning Labour MPs serving on a committee were elected only by Labour MPs, Conservative members of committees elected only by their fellow Conservative MPs, and the same for the Liberal Democrats (there are no members of smaller parties on any committees). Backbenchers argued strenuously that the BBBCom was different, and that it was right that its members be elected […]