This 2006 collection of essays and commentaries is a follow-up to Members Only? Parliament in the Public Eye, the May 2005 report of the Hansard Society Commission on the Communication of Parliamentary Democracy, chaired by David Puttnam. The 2006 report reviewed developments since publication of the original report and identified what remained to be done.
The follow-up report aimed to promote discussion of the Commission’s report and highlight the need to continue to pursue its recommendations.
David Puttnam - the Chair of the original Commission - introduced the collection, highlighting the changes that had taken place since publication of the Commission’s report, and what he would like to see happen next.
Clare Ettinghausen considered the Commission’s findings in relation to the administration of Parliament, and the way in which this impacts on communications. Patricia Hodgson discussed the ways in which a co-ordinated strategy would improve parliamentary communication, while Virginia Gibbons looked at the role of the media. Jackie Ashley contributed her own overview of changes since the Commission reported.
Each of these essays is followed by a comment from a leading practitioner with intimate knowledge of the issues involved: Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Leader of the House of Commons; Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons; John Pullinger, House of Commons Librarian; and Greg Hurst, political correspondent of The Times and Honorary Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
At the end of the collection, an audit analysed progress on each of the Commission’s 39 recommendations.
Banner image: ‘Bokeh Parliament’, by Luiz Filipe Carneiro Machado.
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The end of the transition period is likely to expose even more fully the scope of the policy-making that the government can carry out via Statutory Instruments, as it uses its new powers to develop post-Brexit law. However, there are few signs yet of a wish to reform delegated legislation scrutiny, on the part of government or the necessary coalition of MPs.
Parliament’s role around the end of the Brexit transition and conclusion of the EU future relationship treaty is a constitutional failure to properly scrutinise the executive and the law. As the UK moves to do things differently after 1 January, MPs must do more to ensure they can better discharge their responsibilities regarding the making of UK treaties.
The EU (Future Relationship) Bill is to be considered by both Houses in just one sitting day. How unusual is such an expedited timetable and how much time will parliamentarians really have to look at the Bill? How will MPs participate in proceedings given Covid-19 restrictions? And how will proceedings, particularly the amendment process, work on the day?
The debate about remote participation in House of Commons proceedings raises critical questions about what constitutes a ‘good parliamentarian’, what ‘fair’ participation looks like, and who gets to decide. As things stand, the exclusion from much parliamentary business of pregnant women, among others, undermines equality of political representation.
The Coronavirus pandemic has added to the questions surrounding the nature of the Parliament that should emerge from the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal programme. But, with concerns over the programme’s governance and public engagement rising, the report arising from the current review of the programme will not now be published this year.
Disputed parliamentary election results – often taking months to resolve – were a frequent feature of English political culture before the reforms of the 19th century. But how could defeated candidates protest the result of an election, and how were such disputes resolved?