Between the start of a session and the following Easter recess, Thursdays in the House are given over to debates on topics chosen by the parties (or cross-benchers) or individual peers. The motions in the names of the individual peers are chosen by ballot. On Thursdays reserved for these motions, two are selected, each being debated for up to two-and-a-half hours. The numbers entering the ballot are relatively small. I enter each year and have had quite a good success rate, obtaining debates on topics such as parliamentary reform, the burden of bureaucracy on universities, constitutional developments, and the case for putting standard-setting agencies on a statutory basis.
I shall be putting down a motion for inclusion in the ballot at the start of the new session. Given the very helpful responses to my earlier post on enhancing parliamentary transparency, it will be on the need to enhance Parliament’s ability to communicate with citizens. It is clear there is a need to utilise modern technology to ensure people can track what is happening, not least when legislation is going through, and be able to comment.
I may also put down a Question for Short Debate (QSD). These are questions that can be debated for either sixty minutes (if taken as dinner-hour business) or ninety minutes (if taken as the last business of the day). They need to have a narrower focus than those for general debate, so I may put one down that deals solely with legislation or the website. These are not chosen by ballot and if tabled early enough at the start of a session one has a reasonable chance of getting a debate.
In the meantime, if anyone has further suggestions for how Parliament may strengthen its means of reaching and engaging with those with an interest in what it is doing, please feel free to let me know.