At the start of the 21st century, MPs faced increasing demands on their time and skills, both at Westminster and in the constituency, and higher public and regulatory expectations and levels of scrutiny. In this 2000 report, expert contributors reviewed the practicalities of an MP’s life and made proposals for reform.
In his introduction to the report, Greg Power, the then-Director of the Hansard Society’s Parliament and Government Programme, said:
“The workload of the MP is greater at the beginning of the 21st century than at any time in the hisotry of the House of Commons. Public expectations of our elected representatives have also grown. Yet this increased pressure has not been matched by concomitant improvements to facilities, hours or procedures. In order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Parliament, and its Members, tangible reform is required. The alternative is a growing disparity between expectation and reality, which can only lead to a further erosion of support for Parliament.”
In this innovative report, expert contributors reviewed the practicalities of an MP’s life - including working and sitting hours, procedures, training, staffing and stress - and put forward practical reform proposals.
Table of contents
- Reinventing the member of Parliament: A rational approach to the MP’s work Anne Campbell MP
- Learning to be a Member of Parliament: The induction process Michael Rush and Philip Giddings
- Party politics vs. people politics: Balancing Westminster and constituency Greg Power
- Stress and the Politician Dr Ashley Weinberg
- Caught in the middle: Training MPs in dispute resolution Bernadette Coleman, Stephen Coleman, Ernesto Spinelli and Freddie Strasser
*NB: The quality of the electronic version of this report, available to download top right, is poor**
Banner image: ‘The Father of the House of Commons joins the Yeoman Usher’, by UK Parliament
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Lord Frost’s appointment as Minister of State in the Cabinet Office to lead on UK-EU relations brings some welcome clarity about future government arrangements in this area. However, it also raises challenges for parliamentary scrutiny, above all with respect to his status as a Member of the House of Lords.
There was controversy on 9 February over whether the government had used procedural trickery to swerve a backbench rebellion in the House of Commons on a clause inserted in the Trade Bill by the House of Lords. Apparently, it was something to do with ‘packaging’. What does that mean, and was it true? The answer is all about ‘ping-pong’.
The contrasting post-Brexit fates of the two Houses’ EU-focused select committees have come about through processes in the Lords and the Commons that so far have differed markedly. This difference reflects the distinction between government control of business in the Commons, and the largely self-governing nature of the Lords.
Before Brexit, mechanisms for inter-parliamentary relations and scrutiny of inter-governmental relations in the UK were unsatisfactory. Post-Brexit, the need for reform has become urgent. There should be a formal inter-parliamentary body, drawn from all five of the UK’s legislative chambers, with responsibility for scrutiny of inter-governmental working.
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.