Constitutional Change in the United Kingdom

By F. N. Forman | Go to book overview

Appendix 3

Modernisation of the House of Commons: main points of a Memorandum submitted by Robin Cook to the Modernisation Select Committee of the House of Commons on 12th December 2001
The Leader of the House, Robin Cook, submitted his reform programme for consultation on 12th December 2001. It was expected that the main elements would be considered and later implemented by the House of Commons during the 2001-6 Parliament. Many of the changes are likely to be introduced first on a provisional basis and then subsequently confirmed by further votes of the House. The test of success is whether modernisation 'increases the esteem of the public for their Parliament' and it was asserted at the outset that 'Ministers and backbenchers alike have a common interest in an effective House of Commons'.Work in hand
• It was noted that the Modernisation Select Committee has already begun an examination of how to give Select Committees more influence over their own destinies.
Scrutiny of the Executive
• Parliament could do more business if debates were generally shorter in length but greater in number - e.g. if the main debate of the day were occasionally limited to three hours instead of the traditional six hours - and MPs could make better use of their time if they knew in advance whether and when they would be called to speak.
• The notice period for Oral Questions to Ministers might be reduced to less than the current two weeks and there might be a separate entry on the Order Paper for Ministerial Statements and a separate entry for their publication in Hansard.
Scrutiny of Legislation
• More Government Bills should be made available in draft form for early scrutiny by the relevant Select Committees and sometimes by a devolved Assembly. Select Committees could also consider proposals for legislation on the basis of policy put forward by Government Departments.
• It should be possible for the scrutiny of a Bill to be carried over from one Session to the next, but on condition that all Bills complete all stages within a fixed period of months.
• Select Committees could also be involved in post-legislative scrutiny to see how new legislation has worked out in practice and to

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