ON THE WRONG WAY TO ‘WRIGHT’ THE COMMONS – AND A SUGGESTED ‘WRIGHT’ WAY

The PCRC Report

Surprise, surprise.  The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s review of the 2009 ‘Wright Committee’ package of parliamentary reforms, published on July 18, endorses and continues the traditional incremental, pragmatic ad hoc approach to ‘strengthening’ the House of Commons.  It welcomes the various ‘Wright reforms’ that have been implemented in some form, and calls for the implementation of those which are still outstanding.  These include old favourites of the ‘Mark 2’ conventional parliamentary reform agenda, like select committee elections, business committees (backbench and wider), petitions and better legislative scrutiny.  As has now become almost a parliamentary convention, the report concludes with a call for its proposals to be implemented quickly to, in the words of the Committee’s press release, “maintain the momentum for reform.”  This was reinforced during the PCRC Chair’s statement to the House that day (immediately after the usual weekly ‘Business Questions’ farce where our representatives beg the Government to allow them to debate various important issues, including procedural changes discussed in the PCRC Report!)

Need for a broader approach to reform

All well and good, and no doubt the coterie of reform-minded parliamentarians, academics and commentators will welcome this further predictable reinforcement of their broad consensus.  But the report does nothing to tackle the fundamentals of radical change in the Commons, especially the need to provide a comprehensive principled framework for the operation of an effective and autonomous parliamentary body, one that can set its own parameters for doing its core democratic tasks, such as scrutinising government, and representing the public who elected it.

Ad hoc reform – whether at the initiative of ministers, academics or parliamentary committees – will do no more than, at best, improve matters at the margins.  Ministers, with the power of initiative over parliamentary business and time in the House, remain in overall control of any such change process.  Just look at the early paragraphs of the Wright Report itself on the delays by the Government in allowing it to be set up; what that report called ”the impotence of the House to find time to debate and decide its own internal affairs.”  When changes are made, the Executive can nobble them to suit its own interests – as with the disruption to the Backbench Business Committee and petitions proposals by unilaterally inserting its own e-petitions system into the mix.

A narrow focus on piecemeal procedural reform misses the two main areas of change required – the institutional and the cultural.  Both reports talk the talk on these essential aspects, but focus on procedural/structural changes, which, in the Wright Report’s own words, “we hope … will lead gradually to a change of culture.” The new report worries away at the conflicting evidence from its witnesses about whether Reform A or Reform B has ‘changed the culture’ or not.

When will it be realised at Westminster that this is the wrong way to go about meaningful and beneficial change?  Piecemeal reform cannot fundamentally change the culture of the Commons or sufficiently rebalance the Executive-Parliamentary relationship.  There needs to be a serious examination of what a modern parliament is for and about, and how – as the central democratic institution – it can be designed to operate effectively as the unique forum where the various actors like the Executive, the public and others come together in our governance.  The trend towards more ‘direct democracy’ via technological innovations and rise in public expectations makes this all the more urgent.  Without needing to resort to a US-style ‘separation of powers’ model, the ‘Westminster Model’ has the potential to provide a framework for democratic, accountable and effective governance, which appropriately involves the public as well as politicians and officials.  There are variants of the traditional Model around the world – even within the UK! – which deserve more than cursory examination (of the ‘having popped up to Holyrood for a day or so, I can say that procedure X or process Y does/does not work, and would/would not work at Westminster’ variety).

If the Commons developed a culture of institutional autonomy and a strong corporate identity that could, to some degree, challenge the dominance of party and of the closed Government-Opposition battle, and if this were based on coherent, comprehensive and robust principles against which any reform proposal or parliamentary action or conduct could be measured, then particular processes, rules and procedural reforms could be developed to flesh out that framework in a logical, consistent way, able to withstand knee-jerk ‘something must be done’ ministerial reactions or hysterical moralising from the media and others.

Remember the Wright Committee was set up in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal – a perfect example of the wrong sort of culture – not because of any particularly compelling demands for procedural change.  Similarly, this new report comes out a time when the focus is not on procedural change but on ethical issues like lobbying or ‘ethicalised’ issues like MPs’ pay and expenses.  Reforming select or legislative committees or the like will not be seen as obvious ways of addressing these supposedly priority issues.  Only changing the culture and the constitutional ‘place’ of the Commons can do both that and the necessary process stuff.

A ‘Wright way forward?

How would such a comprehensive examination of parliamentary reform – encompassing the institutional, the procedural and the cultural – be constructed?  Well, how about starting with the Commons setting up some mechanism itself to monitor and, where appropriate, champion reform?  Rather than the usual impotent promises from select committees that they will revisit progress, or that they hope their successors will, what is stopping the House authorities, especially the Speaker and/or the HC Commission, setting something up themselves, distinct from conventional select committees, to test and contextualise reform proposals?

A cursory look at the Westminster website reveals an explosion in the number of bodies and groups established (by SOs, statute, Speaker or Commission etc.) to deal with particular aspects of House administration and activity.  Some even have non-MPs as members.  Indeed one of the problems with the current arrangements is that, not only do many of these important committees operate in virtual practical anonymity (despite varying degrees of online transparency), they also appear to exist within a rather byzantine governance ‘system’, (see the House ‘organogram’). What, if any, is the relationship between, say, the Speaker’s Advisory Council on Public Engagement (SACPE, with no current MPs on its membership);  Management Board (with 2 external members as well as the departmental heads); Administration Estimate Audit Committee (with 3 MPs and 3 external members); Finance & Services Committee; Administration Committee; HC Commission; Office of the Chief Executive; Speaker’s Office (interestingly, of these last three, only the Speaker’s Office appears to have no direct public contact details, with a request that enquirers contact the HC Information Office) etc etc?

Whatever impact this governance structure may have on the normal institutional running of the House, it seems hardly likely to foster a comprehensive, holistic approach to monitoring and responding to – never mind, initiating or evaluating – parliamentary reform policies or proposals, whether they come from the Government, external academics and organisations or internally via the Procedure Committee, Liaison Committee, PCRC etc (including those in the Lords, especially where there are, as is often the case, cross-House or Parliament-wide aspects)?  For example, is any procedural reform routinely ‘public engagement assessed’, eg by SACPE? Which of these bodies have an input into the work of IPSA (either directly or via yet another internal body, the Speaker’s Committee for IPSA, with a mixed membership of MPs and lay people) whose resourcing powers and functions are so crucial to the working of the House and its members, not least in relation to the public?

All this suggests that there is a need for some House-owned group to monitor ‘parliamentary reform’ in all its procedural, institutional and other aspects, with a broad overview remit to consider the wider implications of particular changes, or proposals for change, of procedure, policy, structure or operation, including any unintended or unexpected consequences for, as appropriate, public engagement, procedural effectiveness and efficiency and so on.  There is sufficient precedent for such a body to be set up internally, especially by or on behalf of the Speaker, and for its membership not to be confined to MPs or Commons officials. 

It would need some set of principles and objectives to measure any proposals against, similar in function and purpose to, say, the Scottish Parliament’s ‘founding principles’.  Whether this was, for example a variant of the existing published Strategy for the House of Commons Service – probably the nearest thing the House has to such a set of overarching principles of its role and purpose – or something newly drafted in some way, would be a matter for consideration.

If all the self-proclaimed reformers around, including the Speaker and the Chair of the PCRC, really want to ensure continuing meaningful improvement for the Commons, in line with the ambitious rhetoric of the Strategy, then this proposal for a dedicated group within the House may be something they should think about – and quickly.

MPs’ PAY: THE IPSA ALBATROSS AROUND PARLIAMENT’S NECK

1st July 2013

Remember the ‘good old days’ – I refer to 2009-10 – when transferring control of MPs’ pay and expenses from the Commons to an independent body, IPSA, was supposed to lance the boil of public outrage and usher in an era of smooth, rational and crisis-free regulation? Oh happy day!

As we begin the latest round of this sorry tale, perhaps some who supported the back-of-the-envelope ‘solution’ – of ceding parliamentary self-regulation as the perceived inevitable price of stemming the tsunami of the media/public frenzy over the expenses scandal that finally exploded in 2009 – will reflect a little. Not just on the practical need to reform a fundamentally flawed and unpopular system, but, as important, on the continuing harm it is doing to the Westminster Parliament’s reputation and standing with its public, and, thereby, its ability to operate effectively on their behalf.

Yet again, Parliament is seen to be on the sidelines when crucial issues affecting it are being discussed. As usual, the pundits’ first resort is not to ask ‘What can Parliament itself do to resolve this problem?’ but what can the PM and Government do about it! Just listen to Nick Robinson on BBC R4 this morning, for example. The culture of Executive dominance and initiative is so inbred that it does not seem to occur to the pundits – and sadly, not to many MPs themselves – that perhaps it is up to Parliament to try to reform itself (as part of an engagement with the public it serves), not to look always by default to Ministers for answers and action.

This is another ‘perfect storm’ of negativity for Parliament. Most of the blame, with (this time, self-imposed) none of the scope to defend itself. Many parliamentarians prefer this sort of political irresponsibility, leaving it to others to do their work for them. It’s what the Commons has been doing for decades. And this time, they have a cast-iron alibi, especially if and when they are ‘forced’ to take a large pay rise or whatever – ‘We cant do anything about it. IPSA has imposed it on us’.

As always, I doubt that the relevant internal authorities, from the Speaker, Chief Executive and HC Commission to the byzantine network of relevant committees within the Commons – such as the Speaker’s Committee on IPSA and the Members Expenses Committee – will have much of an input in all this, bar some reactive statements and maybe an ad hoc inquiry or two.

In written and oral evidence to the 2009 (Kelly) Committee on Standards in Public Life inquiry on the then system and its proposed reform, and in a couple of postings in late 2011 (here and here), I argued that what was needed was a modern form of parliamentary self-regulation, buttressed where necessary with appropriate external, independent elements, within a new culture of robust openness, transparency and public accountability. It was the ancient – and, in many respects, still flourishing – corrosive culture of privacy, entitlement and privilege that enabled the abuses to survive, and which made ‘old-style’ self-regulation both a political and practical no-no.

If out of this current mess, some form of genuine evidence-led and publicly inclusive review can propose a stable and acceptable system for regulating and operating the democratically crucial issue of effective and efficient parliamentary resourcing, then perhaps these 4 years of muddle will have been worthwhile.

MAKING TIME TO REFORM PARLIAMENTARY TIME

14th May 2013

All this talk of draft bills and Loyal Address amendments about an EU referendum raises several vital democratic issues of parliamentary process, not least that of the ways in which MPs, individually or collectively, can initiate debate or legislation on important topics of the moment.  At its heart, as always, lurks the core problem of Government control of House of Commons business and time.

Supporters of the ‘conventional wisdom’ parliamentary reform agenda over the last half century have justified the pace and route of reform as being incremental, evolutionary and practical, being the only way to achieve change in the face of the Government’s dominant position in the House of Commons.  Those more sceptical may choose to describe it more negatively, as being ad hoc, piecemeal, reactive, incoherent and devoid of any consistent guiding principle.

Some changes come not directly from demands from MPs or even the public, but from the initiative of the Government itself, and these, though dressed up as parliamentary reform to strengthen Parliament, often result in making life easier for Ministers.  Richard Crossman in the 1960s said there was a difference between parliamentary reform and modernisation, when he was distinguishing practical updating in infrastructure and facilities from procedural changes.  In the modern context, too often ‘modernisation’ has been the catchword for changes which assist the Government, or which can be absorbed by Ministers without serious inconvenience, whereas genuine ‘reform’, to make Parliament itself more powerful and effective, especially in relation to the Executive, has to take a back seat, awaiting Government permission and, worse, facilitation.

So it is with ‘parliamentary time’ and the control and order of business.  There have been some changes, especially to the scope for debate not initiated by Ministers, such as Westminster Hall.  There has been the innovation of the Backbench Business Committee, but that has been hobbled by the albatross of the Government’s e-petition wheeze around its shoulders.  Some ever-optimistic souls are still waiting in hope for the emergence of Government proposals for a ‘House Business Committee’ of some sort, originally promised for this year.

But we also wait in vain for fundamental change to issues like the current antiquated arrangements for backbench legislative initiative.  How different would the current ‘discussions’ of EU referendum legislation opportunities be if we didn’t have to rely on the various existing ‘private members bill’ processes, with its random ballot and limited scope for genuine progress of controversial bills, but if there were clear and efficient arrangements for the allocation of time for all types of parliamentary business, including scope for debates and legislative initiative by non-Governmental sources, such as backbenchers – getting rid of the unhelpful term ‘private member’ would be a small but symbolic reform – and committees.

The current confused mess – which may, in many ways, be helpful to Ministers – further undermines the Commons’ reputation with the public as an effective, responsive and accountable representative assembly, able to address coherently important issues of public interest.  Time for real, principled and all-embracing reform!

TIME TO RECALL A SHELVED PARLIAMENTARY REFORM

The UK Parliament was recalled on 10 April to mark the death of the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. This post does not discuss whether recall was an appropriate response – personally, I do think it was – but considers how Parliament, especially the House of Commons, was recalled, as it is a good example of the wider, and fundamentally important, issue of the autonomy of Parliament, and its relationship with the Executive.

Parliament’s website announced the recall of both Houses. In respect of the Commons, it stated that “Standing Order 13 gives the Speaker the authority to recall the House of Commons when it stands adjourned, if he is satisfied it is within the public interest.” That sounds fair enough, in keeping with this core democratic body’s standing as the main representative forum of the people. But wait, what it didn’t say was that such a recall by the Speaker can only be done if triggered by the initiative of the Government. What the Standing Order actually says is:

“Whenever the House stands adjourned and it is represented to the Speaker by Her Majesty’s Ministers that the public interest requires that the House should meet at a time earlier than that to which the House stands adjourned, the Speaker, if he is satisfied that the public interest does so require, may give notice that, being so satisfied, he appoints a time for the House to meet, and the House shall accordingly meet at the time stated in such notice.” [S.O.no 13(1), emphasis added].

So, at least as regards initiating recall of the Commons, the Daily Telegraph headline “Margaret Thatcher: David Cameron recalls Parliament for ‘remarkable’ former British leader” was probably a more accurate statement. A report in the Guardian suggested that the recall “was the idea of the prime minister and involved him in a lengthy wrangle with the Speaker’s Office. John Bercow felt there was no need to recall parliament, and was taken aback by the request. His office thought the tributes could be paid next Monday in line with precedent for previous deaths of party leaders. At one point, Cameron had to enlist the support of Miliband to overcome the opposition, and Labour sources said they felt faced with a fait accompli and did not want to risk being seen as failing to show Thatcher due respect.”

A useful Parliamentary briefing paper issued on 9 April, discusses the procedural and practical aspects of the Commons recall process; looks at how it is handled (generally differently) in the Lords and in the devolved parliament/assemblies, and proposals for its reform, within and outwith Parliament, especially to make it a procedure in the hands of the House and its Speaker rather than subject to the instigation of Ministers.

In particular, it records such a proposal by the previous Labour Government, in its 2007 green paper, The governance of Britain, and the announcement of an inquiry into this and related issues by the then Modernisation Committee. Despite much trumpeting at the time that the Modernisation Committee was an effective way to get Parliamentary reform – especially because it was chaired by a Government minister, the Leader of the House (!!!) – the Committee never completed its inquiry or took oral evidence, though some of its written evidence was published.

It should also be noted that the 2009-2010 ‘Wright Committee’ on the reform of the Commons – whose work is currently the subject of an inquiry by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee – did not address various  “contentious issues” on the House’s sitting patterns, and had “no collective view” on recall, but it did make a more general point very strongly (para 101): ”But we do recommend that the House should at least decide for itself when it sits and does not sit.” [bold in original].

What a refreshingly democratic notion! How about doing something about it, dear representatives of the people?

IPSA, parliamentary reform and constitutional watchdogs

In a blog entry in October, I discussed the review by the HC Members Expenses Committee (MEC) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 and the operation of IPSA, concentrating in part on the complex issues of independence and accountability of public bodies such as IPSA, who have some form of a constitutional (especially parliamentary) watchdog role.  This is a subject the Constitution Unit has studied for a number of years, and the creation of IPSA has ignited a fascinating debate between IPSA on the one hand and the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) and elements of the House of Commons on the other over the legal and constitutional duties  and functions of such a watchdog.  My concern was that the MEC inquiry was too limited and ‘exclusive’ to examine these fundamental issues sufficiently thoroughly.

The MEC has now reported (to a deafening silence, the political classes and media being almost exclusively focused on the PM’s Commons statement on the Eurozone summit/’veto’), and it does address these issues among the more substantive (and probably more newsworthy) issues of the nuts and bolts of MPs expenses.  Not surprisingly, it comes down in favour of the view that, in effect, that IPSA’s statutory duty merely to have regard to ‘supporting MPs efficiently, cost-effectively and transparently in carrying out their parliamentary functions’ should be upgraded from one to which it merely has to “have regard” into becoming its ”prime directive’.  IPSA’s claim that, as a self-proclaimed regulator, its primary duty is to “the public interest” has, rightly, been given short shrift.  This emphasises the importance of efficient delivery of functions – even where its purposes are, as the Committee criticises here, not made explicit in the founding statute because of legislation in haste – over a more lofty claim by a watchdog of being custodians of the public interest to which all else must be subservient.  What will Parliament (and the courts?) make of all this, both in any amendment of the IPSA legislation and in the establishment or reform of constitutional watchdogs generally?

On the specific problem of institutional design of a Members resourcing system that is both effective and maintains public confidence, the Committee has tried to steer a careful, apparently logical if (intentionally?) opaque line, proposing reforms designed to appear sensible and practical, without provoking a media and public backlash that politicians are grabbing back the control they were forced to cede in the 2009 crisis.  Its proposed structure supports retention of independent determination and regulation of the payments system for MPs’ costs, but suggests that “IPSA’s current administrative role should be carried out by a separate body, so that IPSA is not regulating itself, and the Act should be amended to permit this,” and that this separate administrative body “be within the House of Commons Service.”

Though presumably intended to be much narrower in function and responsibility – but what is IPSA’s purely ‘administrative’ role that can be severed safely? – will this new body not risk being regarded publicly as the return of the Fees Office, and, by implication, of the ‘bad old days’ pre-2009?  The Committee appears to have recognised the warnings given to it and CSPL about inappropriate mixing of regulatory and other other related functions, and their impact on independence and accountability, and it believes that its new ‘semi in-House’ system will be better than the pre-IPSA one because “independent regulation by IPSA and transparency would ensure that it did not replicate the deficiencies of the old expenses system.”  Really?

The Committee has recognised what some of us said to CSPL in 2009 about the loss of necessary expertise and understanding of the unique, ‘politicised’ world of parliamentary resourcing implicit in the creation of an ‘independent’ extra-parliamentary body like IPSA, and its proposal is presumably designed to remedy this, and thereby remove the running sore between Members and IPSA.  But structure isn’t everything – in such an environment, culture and ethos are as, if not more, important for the proper operation of parliamentary resourcing that does not become more in the interests of MPs as individuals rather than as the public’s elected representatives.

The fatal flaw of the ‘bad old days’ was not self-regulation per se, but the corrosive, exclusive and self-interested culture nurtured by decades, even centuries, of an irresponsible absence of effective accountability.  The Committee were clearly not keen on my submission that what was required was “”a system of modern parliamentary self-regulation, buttressed by an independent element to ensure that it was being operated transparently and responsibly and was not being abused”, describing it as going further than the views of its other witnesses (para 74).  However, the Committee does not seem to regard self-regulation in the area of parliamentary resourcing as inherently wrong, merely, presumably, undeliverable in the post-2009 climate.  In the same paragraph, it cites with implicit approval CSPL’s view that enhanced self-regulation could be retained at Holyrood and Cardiff Bay because “neither … has suffered a crisis of trust remotely comparable to that which has affected Westminster.”

This is a rather sad, defeatist attitude on whether and how Parliament can fundamentally reform itself, and in ways beyond questions of resourcing.  Without a fundamental culture change, the Committee’s proposed semi self-regulation ‘solution’ will be hard to make work both effectively and in a way that gains and retains public trust.  In fact it risks making things worse by reigniting public fury without ‘solving’ MPs’ discontent with IPSA, or, more fundamentally, without achieving its stated aim of providing an effective Members’ resourcing system (quoting with apparent approval my submission that ““the proper resourcing of the people’s elected representatives is a necessary precondition for a modern representative parliamentary democracy” (para 8)).

So, two cheers to the Committee for seeing the problems and sensing what the direction of reform should be.  But the third cheer must be withheld because of its failure to propose more fundamental cultural reform that would enable its proposals to succeed.  But this is typical of how parliamentary reform is done (or not) in Westminster – and Whitehall.

What Sir George Young will not say to the Constitution Unit on Wednesday

“This talk is entitled ‘Parliamentary Reform: Year One Report.’  I hope you will find what I have to say a little less dry than that may imply.

I am pleased to announce that the Government has been persuaded by those within and beyond Parliament that there is an urgent need for a fundamental reshaping of the relationship between Parliament and the Executive.  There can be no more appropriate proponent of this than my own Deputy, David Heath, who, until the last election led him into Government, consistently argued for such reform.

Just last year, in evidence to, and debates on, the Wright Committee, David described how ‘Executive control over the procedure of the House holds up the proper scrutiny and proper initiation of business’; that ‘Reform ought to be a tide coming in. …Reform of the House is necessary and urgent’ and ‘An Everest of reform is necessary if we are to bring this House and our politics generally up to speed – into the 21st century – and make it fit for purpose.’

More particularly, he argued that ‘It should not be for the Leader of the House – or the shadow Leader of the House, or me – to determine what will happen. It should not be for anyone to dictate to the House how we are to conduct our business’, and ’Standing Order 14 is the obstacle to this House behaving like a responsible, sensible, modern House of Commons… It has got to go. Until it goes, we will not be able to make the progress that I think the House wants.’

I, and the Government, now agree with this analysis, and we will do all we properly can to remedy this situation. Those steps which are in the Government’s own hands will be taken promptly, and for those which are properly matters for the House itself to decide, we will do all necessary to facilitate them (as where legislation or motions are required), and pledge not to use our inbuilt numerical or procedural control to impede or frustrate such discussion and decisions the House as a whole wishes to make.  My focus is the House of Commons, but I assume that change will impact directly or otherwise on the Upper House, and our new approach will apply to its different internal circumstances, and to relations between the two Houses.

1.         The House’s agenda and sittings will no longer be determined almost exclusively by the Government.  As the Wright Committee rightly said, the current system ‘infantilises Members and demonises Government.’  S.O. No. 14, and all other procedural rules and practices which entrench Executive control of the Commons calendar and agenda, need to be replaced at once. Some form of comprehensive Business Committee is required, and we now accept that there is no reason for this change not to be implemented, albeit on an interim basis, for the return of the House in January 2012 after the Christmas recess.

2.         The archaic and presumptuous title of ‘Leader of the House’ will be replaced by the more appropriate ‘Minister for Parliamentary Business’, where I and my Deputy will focus on the job of supporting the Government’s proper role within the House.

3.         The House of Commons Commission, which runs the institutional side of the House, should be reformed (a) to remove the front benches from membership, to ensure that it properly and effectively represents the whole House collectively, and not particular political parties or Governments or Oppositions, and (b) to enable it to manage the House, supported by a ‘fit-for-purpose’ staff organisation.  In a modern accountable democracy, we believe that that the public should have a direct role in the running of its own representative assembly, whether by direct membership or otherwise.

4.         We will support reforms to particular structures and procedures of the House that the House collectively wishes, including the extension of those which has evolved in specific areas over recent years, such as parity of membership between Government and Opposition in all committees; extension of the power beyond Ministers to initiate and pilot legislation; development of more effective methods of scrutiny of government and its policies, activities and conduct; inclusion of lay membership on appropriate internal House management and oversight bodies, and much wider public engagement in Parliament generally.

We are not laying down any details of particular reforms to structures, organisation, procedures or practice.  That is for the House to decide, and we hope that the Speaker, the Commission and relevant committees and staff will urgently discuss how to establish promptly that process.  We hope that this will be a fully open, transparent and evidence-based public process, with appropriate direct public engagement.  Its activities should not preclude immediate changes, such as those I have announced here, even those of an interim nature.  The Government, as a major participant in the operation and business of the House, will present its own proposals as appropriate, to be considered alongside those that emanate from all other sources within and beyond the House.

Parliament is the ultimate constitutional watchdog, because it scrutinises the Government of the country on behalf of the people.  It is wholly illogical, inefficient and constitutionally improper for the very body being scrutinised to have the dominant say in how its watchdog is structured and operates.  A more appropriate relationship between Parliament and Government – which also recognises the appropriate roles of Members individually and collectively, within political parties, House committees and otherwise – and, just as important, a more dynamic and meaningful relationship between these two institutions and the public they represent and serve, will be to the benefit of all.  Not least, it will provide the environment for a more mature, accountable and responsible Parliament, which can earn the trust and confidence of the public.

I commend this approach to Parliament and the public, and hope the Constitution Unit will play its full part in the process.  Thank you.”

More information: