But let’s face it – reading through pages of House of Commons (or other assembly) debates online (or from a printed out PDF) is pretty dry stuff. Consequently, it isn’t surprising that many parliaments have been trying to make their online Debates pages more interesting and informative for the reader.

Innovations in Parliamentary Websites

As someone who regularly visits parliamentary websites — and by regularly, I mean several times a day, even on weekends — I can’t even begin to explain how deeply grateful I am for well-organized sites that allow to me easily navigate the site and quickly find whatever It is that I’m looking for. While many parliaments have put (and continue to put) a lot of effort into modernizing their web presence and trying to find the best ways to present the Parliament’s business, the truth of the matter is that a lot of parliamentary business tends to be rather static and dry. Much of the business of a legislature is debate, and yes, while it is great to be able […]

The Government has a duty to answer WPQs accurately and in full. It is unacceptable that some answers fall short of these standards, and the Government must reiterate these responsibilities both in guidance provided to officials and in the Ministerial Code.

Procedure Committee - Third Report Written Parliamentary Questions

On Written Questions

While most are quite familiar with Question Period or Question Time – the parliamentary proceeding during which MPs question government ministers – you  may not know that in addition to oral questions, MPs can ask government ministers questions in writing. These written questions are often used to obtain more detailed information about policies and statistics on the activities of government departments that would require too long an answer to be asked as an oral question during Question Period. Rules surrounding written questions vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, in the Canadian House of Commons, 48 hours notice is required before a written question is placed on the Order Paper. Each MP is allowed a maximum of four questions […]

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 […]

New committee chair elected

The UK House of Commons today elected a new Chair of the Select Committee on Health. Regular readers of this blog will know that chairs of select committees are elected by the whole House. This is a relatively new development – the reform was adopted at the end of the previous Parliament and implemented for the first time in May 2010, at the start of the current Parliament. By all accounts, it has proven to be a very positive change; select committees have gained a lot of respect and they are seen to be more beholden to the House rather than to party whips. Committee chairships are allocated among the three main parties roughly in proportion to their representation in […]

On reforming PMQs

The UK’s Hansard Society released a report examining public attitudes to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and asking whether PMQs is a ‘cue’ for their wider negative perceptions of Parliament. Some of the key findings include: 67% of respondents agree that ‘there is too much party political point-scoring instead of answering the question’ – 5% disagree 47% agree that PMQs ‘is too noisy and aggressive’ – 15% disagree 33% agree ‘it puts me off politics’ – 27% disagree 20% agree that ‘it’s exciting to watch’ – 44% disagree 16% agree that ‘MPs behave professionally’ at PMQs – 48% disagree 12% agree that PMQs ‘makes me proud of our Parliament’ – 45% disagree Reaction to the report in the UK has been […]