A few days ago I suggested that a new Conservative government should increase the number of PPSs, while at the same time cutting the number of Ministers. Today I have another suggestion concerning the operation of the new Conservative parliamentary party.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s the party convened backbench committees who would shadow the work of each government department. They would meet once a week and membership would be open to any backbench member of the parliamentary party. PPSs, special advisers and CRD officials would also attend, and each group would have a Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary - all elected. The Secretary would be responsible for inviting a speaker each week. The officers would meet with the relevant Department's Ministers once every three months and advise them of any concerns among backbenchers, and the group's chairman would often get quite a lot of media coverage in the subject area concerned.
These groups served several purposes. Firstly, they allowed MPs with particular interests to join a relevant policy group, and secondly, they were quite helpful in coming up with new policies for the government to consider. Thirdly, it provided an opportunity for new MPs to make their mark and develop more expertise in particular policy areas.
The groups fell into abeyance in 1997 when the party went into opposition. I suggest that if we get back into government, they should be reformed with a clear mandate and objective.