Parliamentary reform would work

In a recent article, Don Lenihan argues that parliamentary reform won’t “force a government to engage in meaningful debate” and reverse the fact that Parliament is, in his words “broken”. Lenihan writes: MPs like Michael Chong and Nathan Cullen remain hopeful. They think that the right combination of rules and procedures can fix Parliament. Unfortunately, if “fixing” it means rekindling meaningful debate, they are wrong. House Speaker Andrew Scheer’s ruling on the F-35s last week inadvertently shows why. Scheer argues that a minister cannot be charged with misleading the House unless it can be proved that he/she intended to do so. Intentions, however, are slippery things. (…) Scheer’s point is that, when a minister declares that he/she is not lying, […]

Prorogation Ceremony

Canadians are used to thinking of prorogation of Parliament as something rather secretive, done behind closed doors. Because of this, it might be of interest to some to actually watch a prorogation ceremony as it recently unfolded in the UK House of Lords. Prorogation is the formal ending of a session of Parliament, either by a special ceremony held in the upper chamber or by the Queen’s or a Governor General’s proclamation to that effect. Prorogation also refers to the period of time a Parliament stands prorogued. Prorogation is a routine procedure. Some legislatures prorogue every year, others more infrequently. The UK Parliament prorogues in May because in 2010, following the general election held in May of that year, the […]

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 […]

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 […]

Why there won’t be a debate on the Drop the Health Bill e-petition

On 28 February 2012, the UK House of Commons Backbench Business Committee declined an application to hold a debate on an e-petition calling on Parliament to drop the Government’s bill to reform the National Health Service (NHS). The e-petition had received over 100,000 signatures, and the request for a debate was brought to the Committee by Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. The reasons why the debate was refused centred primarily on two important considerations: the bill had received, and would continue to receive, debate in Parliament, and the request for a debate on dropping the bill would be better suited to an Opposition day debate rather than a Backbench business debate. As explained on the […]

A video is worth a thousand words

I have written many posts about various procedural measures used in the British House of Commons that I think would be welcomed additions to the Canadian House of Commons. While I have attempted to describe these measures in detail, viewing them in action would probably be far more enlightening. The BBC’s Democracy Live website makes available clips of specific proceedings from the UK House of Commons (and Lords), making it quite easy for me to provide readers with clips of urgent questions, ministerial statements and other proceedings. Note – I don’t expect anyone to watch any of these in their entirely, but even if you watch them for only 10-15 minutes, you will gain a better sense of what is […]