On Brexit and parliamentary power plays

Following the victory of the “Leave” side in the referendum on the UK’s status in the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would resign as PM and leader of the Tory party in October — to give the party time to choose a new leader in time for their October Party Conference. For Canadians, if that seems like a really fast time frame in which to have a leadership change, they do party leadership properly — it’s largely in the hands of the party caucus. The party’s 1922 committee, a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs that meets weekly when the Commons is sitting,  will oversee the contest, most likely using the same rules used in the 2005 leadership […]

On Organizing House Business Sensibly

In the previous Canadian parliament, a question of privilege was raised concerning the then Government’s excessive recourse to time allocation and how these guillotine measures impacted Members from smaller parties. In the Canadian House of Commons, if a Member belongs to a party which has fewer than 12 elected members in the House, they do not have recognized party status and are treated as independents. Because virtually all procedures in the House of Commons are organized around parties (the officially recognized ones at least) rather than Members as the central agents, this means that the so-called “independent” MPs have extremely limited opportunities to participate in debates at the best of times. The recourse to time allocation on a bill more […]

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 […]

I know the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was far from perfect (as is the case for all governments), but for this politically despondent Canadian, it was inspiring. In fact, it was so inspiring, I started this blog. The new UK Parliament sat for the first time on 18 May to elect the Speaker. I started this blog that day and my first post appeared on May 21 2010.

Five years ago this month

Around this time five years ago, I was quite despondent about the state of politics here in Canada. I was finding it increasingly difficult to pay any attention to the news, simply because it would only further anger and frustrate me. Part my job requires that I follow parliamentary events in other jurisdictions, and so I was paying  nominal attention to the 2010 UK election campaign. I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, so relied on UK online media. My interest grew as talk of a “hung parliament” — words never heard here in Canada —  came to dominate. I was startled by the number of studies and opinion pieces in the press by Constitutional and political experts explaining government […]

Interestingly, we learn from the Government e-petitions site that around one in five of the e-petitions submitted attract fewer than three signatures, and as many as 42% fewer than six.

E-petition News

In May 2014, the UK House of Commons adopted a motion supporting the establishment, at the start of the next Parliament, of a collaborative e-petitions system, which enables members of the public to petition the House of Commons and press for action from Government. The motion called on the Procedure Committee to work with the Government and other interested parties on the development of detailed proposals. On 26 November 2014, the Procedure Committee released its report outlining an e-petitions system for the House of Commons. The Committee proposed that joint system be based on the existing Government e-petition site: redesigned and rebranded to show that it is owned by the House and the Government. To emphasise the Parliamentary oversight of […]

Is it commonplace for the Minister who has direct responsibility to be absent at the material moment? It is not, although, in fairness, it having happened now under this Government, I should point out that it did happen on one occasion under the last.

Speaker Bercow

“The Minister is not here!”

Proceedings in the UK House of Commons normally unfold in a very orderly, business-like way (PMQs notwithstanding). However, on rare occasions, things do not go to plan, and MPs are left in an uncharacteristic state of some confusion. Such an incident occurred yesterday (4 December 2014). The parliamentary day began normally, with oral answers to questions to the Department of Transport, followed by questions to the House of Commons Commission. Then the Leader of the House delivered the usual Thursday statement outlining the business of the House for the coming week. That was followed by another ministerial statement, this one from the Pensions Minister. Now, ministerial statements in the UK House of Commons tend to last, on average, about an […]