Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Good and Bad Sides of Commons Modernisation

The House of Commons Modernisation Committee has made three recommendations today, one of which I fully support, one of which I fully oppose and one of which I am indifferent to. They are...
  • Allowing MPs to check emails while in the chamber as long as it doesn't interfere with the business of the Commons
  • The final 10 minutes of departmental question times each day will be set aside for "open questions". This will be like prime minister's questions, where no notice is given of what is to be asked.
  • There will be a three week gap between a general election and Parliament re-starting, to allow new MPs time to learn the ropes

Now, your task over the next hour is to decide which I agree with, which I don't and which I'm indifferent to. And let me have your views too, as they say in Radioland. At least here you don't have to text!

UPDATE: I am totally against allowing MPs to check emails in the chamber, totally in favour of open questions and indifferent to the three week gap for inducting new MPs. But then, most of you guessed that. In the words of Elaine Paige, you know me so well!

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that you would be in favour of a three week holiday, when the buggers put so little work in through the rest of the year.

And would the 'newbies' spend three weeks 'getting to know the ropes' ?

Would they heck ! If it was me I'd spend two and a half weeks exploring London's hostelries, restaurants and massage parlours, with a quick bit of cramming in the last three days...

Mostly Ordinary said...

So I think you agree with the open questions, disagree with the email and don't care about the three weeks running in time.

Can't believe they want MPs to have smartphones in the chamber - just goes to show not many of them ever had real jobs or they would know that they are a distraction during any meeting.

Anonymous said...

So a new government is elected and has to sit in limbo for three weeks?

Sounds daft to me, especially since the renewal rate of MPs is low. Surely senior MPs could tutor newcomers, act as mentors etc?

Curly said...

Yes I agree you cannot possibly agree to more holidays!

Chuck them all in at the deep end!

Alan Douglas said...

I suspect you are FOR the open questions.

Against emails, what a permission for disrespect, and neutral on the weaning period.

Alan Douglas

Nothos said...

I think the 3 weeks idea is rather a good one. I should imagine it is rather daunting just being thrown into the commons with little idea of what to do.

Bagehot said...

and that is why anonymous (7:30) you would not be an MP .....

Bagehot said...

and that is why anonymous (7:30) you would not be an MP ......

Rumbold said...

Checking e-mails in the Chamber? Disgusting. I hope that is the one you oppose.

PJP said...

You like letting MP's check e-mails, do not like the three week gap and you are indifferent to 10min questions.

verity said...

I think you're indifferent about whether they check their emails.

I think you would think that the three-week interim for new MPS would be a counterproductive waste of time and would oppose it.

I think you like openness and would be in favour of an "open questions" time.

Anonymous said...

You support the change to Question Time, oppose MPs' checking e-mails in the chamber, and are indifferent to the three-week gap beetween election and Parliament sitting.

Or possibly not.

Jamie [http://mypoliticalweb.com] said...

first one: against.

Second one: for

Third one: indifferent

the first is because they should be paying attention to what is going on. after all, if they want to be answering e-mails, they should be at their desks, and if they want to vote on stuff, they should pay attention to the arguments for and against.

the second is because it would allow more time for individual questions. assuming that is, that they're not all checking e-mails.

the third is because although it would be a good idea for newbies, what are the rest of the MPs going to do for 3 weeks?

or at least, that's my thinking. i'd be interested to hear your thoughts Ian...

Richard Patient said...

Check emails - agree.

10 minute PM question time style - fully oppose.

Three week gap - indifferent.

Hawthorne said...

Personally I am indifferent to 1, agree with 2 and am not happy about 3. Not so bothered about you.

Mr Picky said...

Numbering the bullet points would make answering a bit simpler. In fact, if you had listed them with A.B or C and given your preferences as 1,2, or 3, it would be really easy!

Adrian Windisch said...

Check emails sounds a good idea, it can be done quietly while listening to whats happening.

Open questions could be good, as PMQs is entertaining.

3 week gap, waste of time as anon says. 1 week maybe. Most new MPs will have spent years preparing for office, how will 3 weeks help? Learning to make expense claims can be done on the job.

Richard Holloway said...

Too easy...
I can't think you'd care about emails, it's not like they're paying much attention in most debates anyway

I'm thinking you'd be wholeheartedly in favour of open questions. Any chance to probe, query, and hold to account or MPs has got to be a good thing.

And the three week gap would be your red rag to a bull idea. It's not like they give themselves enough time off as it is. What are they going to teach the new recruits? How to jump the queue to get their lunch?

Adrian Yalland said...

Well, personally, I would be oppossed to downloading emails in the chamber, as it demeans what is a very special and very important place, but in favour of open departemental questions, and think that the new kids on the block would ake a damn site longer than three weeks to learn the ropes, so thorw the buggers in the deep end - and sink or swim!

beachfreak said...

The email idea makes you go cold for lots of reasons, mainly because you know the ‘no interference with business’ clause will be ignored by certain elements aka the piss-taking monkey scum.

The open questions idea makes you yawn.

And the three week gap idea is so good it makes you hot and bothered, but I can’t work out why. Although I agree with you. It just doesn’t make me hot and bothered.

tachybaptus said...

I'd be against the email idea. You can't use your Blackberry yourself while involved in debate, but you can have someone in the doughnut behind you doing instant messaging to a team of hacks behind the scenes providing you with points and statistics and whispering into your ear. If the use of any kind of communication device is allowed, it is hard to see how this abuse could be avoided.

wonderfulforhisage said...

Sod emails, what about mobile phones?

Perhaps there could be television microphones dotted around picking up phone conversations. A lot more interesting than listening to whip orchestrated sock puppetry.

"Any messages?"
"I'm in the Chamber"
"I'm on the Job"
"Fancy just the one?"
"You should have seen the size of her...."

"ORDER! ORDER!"

I can't wait.

Nigel said...

The three week gap is a very, very, very bad idea. I can't believe no-one has made the democratic point. So we vote, elect our representatives to Parliament to speak and vote on our behalf, and most importantly, to hold the Government to account - but they are prevented from doing that for nearly a month? Crazy. The people have spoken - so let's ignore them for a bit.

The most dangerous time for democracy is the few weeks after an election with a new Government, an uncritical press and a demoralised and marginalised Opposition. And we want to make this WORSE?

Glyn Davies said...

In the Welsh Assembly, there is a screen and keyboard at every seat - so communicating with members own offices and each other as well as checking emails in the debating chamber is part of normal proceedings. Recently, one of the Ministers, Brian Gibbons was observed trying to buy a suit on-line during an important debate.

Anonymous said...

Andrian Windisch wonders why there is a need for a three-week gap between election and Parliament sitting: 'Most new MPs will have spent years preparing for office, how will 3 weeks help?'

Er, no. Most new MPs have spent years campaigning to get elected. Very few know much about Parliament and how to utilise effectively its procedures. They are generally not interested in being given sessions about Parliament prior to an election. It is only once elected they start to think about what being an MP entails. At the moment, there is some induction - much better than it used to be - but it is still not adequate to the task. The result is that new MPs still rely too much on guidance from the whips. A three-week gap would allow time for them to briefed on how to navigate Parliament and its procedures, how to engage in forensic questioning in select committees, how to pursue a campaign in Parliament, and so on. It could also be used to brief longer-serving Members, many of whom could with a refresher course, not least on new developments (such as ICT). There is no point Parliament rushing to sit if Members are not fully able to fulfil their tasks effectively.

Anonymous said...

Nigel (12.06) makes a similar mistake to Adrian Windisch. A three-week gap after an election would be useful not only to new MPs but to the 'demoralised' opposition. A party new to opposition (as with the Conservatives in 1997) needs time to regroup and come to terms with being in opposition. Rushing into a sitting of Parliament does not deliver that many obvious benefits and does not particularly constrain a new government, which itself is just getting to grips with its responsibilities. Ministers are receiving briefings from their officials. Should not MPs have the same opportunity to be prepared?

Chuck Unsworth said...

@ Glyn Davies "Recently, one of the Ministers, Brian Gibbons was observed trying to buy a suit on-line during an important debate"

Good God, man. Are you saying that there are no decent tailors in Wales?

Personally I nip into Gloucester when I need a decent suit.