1. This raises another point ie the relation of the executive to the legislature–so if there are large numbers on the government payroll sat in the House of Commons, how effective can be the control and accountability functions? How about the recall model for cases of “serious misconduct” of MPs? Many of these ideas meet with resistance and are difficult to put through in practice. How to get principled MPs in the first place? Training increasing awareness in the parties? Despite the slow nature of progress on parliamentary reform things have nevertheless changed significantly over the last years as mentioned above. Clearly more needs to be done

  2. A very interesting article,and you are spot on. We need more principled MPs like Frank Field and Douglas Carswell who are prepared to hold government to account. Too many put their own careers first, without thought to the national interest, and vote according to the party line. Until 1918, MPs who were promoted to the executive had to resign their seat and seek their constituents’ approval in a by-election first. Perhaps this custom should be revived.

  3. Pingback: Commons reform: are legislation committees the next frontier? | Constitution Unit Blog

  4. “Standards have increased but expectations too. That point was made by the Nolan committee in the 90s. So MPs are not worse but have to conform to professionalism.”

    Agreed. My point is not that things have got worse in Westminster, but that, like FoI, developments like a more activist mass media and new instruments of ‘direct democracy’ like social media, the growth of Parliament’s own ‘outreach’ and (to a limited degree) public engagement programmes may serve to highlight the existing failings, as well as feeding increased expectations. These programmes are necessary but not sufficient for a better, more effective parliament, if they do not lead to self-examination and a willingness to learn, change and improve. Westminster is catching up late on ‘transparency’ but still lags on ‘openness’, ‘responsiveness’, ‘accountability’ and true engagement. It’s still a ‘look but don’t touch’ culture, in the main.

    If the UK Parliament, as the central democratic and constitutional forum in our system of government, improved itself – in partnership with the people, the executive and its other actors – it would become something worth telling everyone about and getting them to participate in, and engagement/outreach would become part of a virtuous circle of self-improvement, not a potential contributor to a vicious circle of malaise and distrust.

  5. Parliamentary standards, codes of conduct and ethics can help improve the culture in legislatures (see OSCE Report on our Homepage), and it can help raise awareness and give people criteria by which to judge MPs. At least it seems in the UK that the parliamentarian concerned resigns the Whip until the case is looked into. That does not always happen elsewhere and MPs cling to their posts until the last. What you also need is a responsible press and ethics regime for the mass media. Many of the loopholes eg on expenses etc are blocked but there are always the black sheep that make it bad for the whole profession. Standards have increased but expectations too. That point was made by the Nolan committee in the 90s. So MPs are not worse but have to conform to professionalism

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