A good year for Parliament?

Lord Norton

Mark D’Arcy of BBC Parliament blogs that he thinks that it has been a good year for Parliament.   One can see his argument.  The chairs and members of select committees in the Commons are now elected, the committees have continued to be productive, and two have recently gained a high public profile because of the ‘phone-hacking scandal.  New MPs have also begun to make a mark and are devoting a good deal of time to the chamber.  The Back-bench Business Committee has been established and is having an impact, enabling back-benchers to discuss issues that have not been included on the agenda by government. 

In the Lords, select committees have also been busy and producing reports that have attracted positive coverage.   The House has been kept busy in the detailed scrutiny of Bills.  The Government has now suffered twenty defeats in the House and has made significant concessions, not least on the Public Bodies Bill.

This constitutes the plus side of the ledger.  Is there a minus side?  The Government have carried the day in every division in the Commons – despite significant opposition on issues such as tuition fees – and the coalition forces in the Lords are normally under threat only if a large number of cross-benchers attend and vote with the Opposition.  The House is also having difficulty coping, physically, with the increase in numbers.

Are we, though, in a rare situation – rather like the start of the 1979 Parliament, when departmental select committees were established – where Parliament takes two steps forward against the Government’s one?  Or is the size of the Government’s boots such as to make little difference?

15 comments for “A good year for Parliament?

  1. MilesJSD
    02/08/2011 at 10:09 pm

    I think that for any governmental, environmental, or human-development Body to claim “a good year” is either false or blind

    if they have not published a Strategic Plan for quickly-reducing, instead of drastically-increasing, the “Global Economic including Social-Mobility Target” of increasing the present over-consumption namely of Two Earths-worth of Resources per year, to Three Earths-worths per year by 2050.


    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      09/08/2011 at 10:57 pm

      milesjsd: You may find it useful to read some of the publications of Parliament. You may be surprised.

  2. Gareth Howell
    03/08/2011 at 8:30 am

    What amazes me is the cavalcade of people who have passed through the two chambers during the course of the last 15 years.

    How many new non political peers there are I do not know but these added to new MPs, must add up to almost as many as the turnover of 97-99, when the hereditaries were booted out; A huge turnover of seats in 97. The ejection of hereditary peers may have been largely theoretical, that most did not turn up very often, unlike the new intake in the last year, who are apparently quite keen.

    Total turnover in 15 years? 2,500 perhaps??

    • ladytizzy
      03/08/2011 at 4:34 pm
      • maude elwes
        04/08/2011 at 11:31 am


        I salute you… If the tizzy you are in gives us this right to see, then it’s a tizzy that is worth being in.

        Well done you.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      09/08/2011 at 11:03 pm

      Gareth Howell: Good point. There has indeed been a remarkable turnover. In the Commons, the large swings of 1997 and 2010 have generated a substantial turnover. In the Lords, a combination of the House of Lords Act 1999 and the large number of creation since has also produced a major turnover. The difference between the two is that in the Lords the problem is now not so much turnover as additions and the turnover is spread over the years, whereas in the Commons it is primarily at each general election.

  3. ladytizzy
    03/08/2011 at 5:37 pm

    On the minus side: it is extremely disappointing to read that a fifth of MPs don’t think it should be necessary to provide a receipt in order to reclaim expenses; it would have been useful to know the split between new and returning MPs in that set.

    Also on the minus side is the lack of an opposition in the HoC. Stopping their Short money would help focus their attention. While I’m on the subject, given the amount of money being made by some retiring (and Life) Members on book deals, speaking circuits, senior positions on company boards, and similar, can we encourage them to donate more significant amounts to their party that enabled them to benefit so, rather than vanity projects that bear their name (invariably charitable, thus depriving the state of a fair chunk of tax)? After all, they claim their political careers were in the public service.

    Next up: public inquiries. Another bumper year in which the outcomes (whenever they may be) have already been decided. The cost of these things is way out of proportion to the public gain; few know or care (I mean, really care) and those that do only want to hear one outcome. It is quite apparent that they are used as handy devices to stave off the wolves, in the full knowledge that most of the semi-interested will have moved on by the time the inquiry reports.

    Other stuff, too, but having temporarily lived what Lord Blagger must go through on a daily basis, I need a lie down.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      09/08/2011 at 11:09 pm

      ladytizzy: Don’t encourage him, but then again there’s little evidence that he pays attention to anything anyone else says.

      On your substantive points, the problem with Opposition is arguably the limited amount of Short money. Mind you, to be fair, it tends to take time for a party that has been returned to opposition after a long period in government to get into its stride.

      On public inquiries, I rather agree. There may be a case for reviewing their effect and the length of time they take.

  4. Lord Blagger
    03/08/2011 at 8:34 pm

    On the minus side: it is extremely disappointing to read that a fifth of MPs don’t think it should be necessary to provide a receipt in order to reclaim expenses; it would have been useful to know the split between new and returning MPs in that set.

    Neither do the Peers. That’s why they changed it to an attendance allowance. Now you would have thought that you need a pass to gain access to the parliamentary estate, for fear of terrorism.

    Ask the question to the commons, and its absolutely clear, you need a pass.

    Then ask the lords for the number of working days a pass is used, and they will tell you. However, they know what the implications of this data is. So they start claiming that the commons are lying about access.

    Lots of Peers have been very very naughty when it comes to attendance allowances.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      04/08/2011 at 3:02 pm

      Lord Blagger: I have no idea what you talking about. Peers have passes exactly the same as MPs. We cannot get access without them. You cannot check on access through passes as not all entrances comprise electronically-controlled doors.

  5. Gar
    03/08/2011 at 10:14 pm

    Doing the counting is beyond me and by now it would take some research to arrive at exact figures for the number of people who have been members of either chamber between, just before the GE of 1997 and just after the general election of 2010.

    The main success of parliament this year has been both the strength and the weakness of the coalition.

    “hacking”? Say no more. oh! Baahh!

    • maude elwes
      04/08/2011 at 11:38 am


      And out of the closet we tumble. Ya Ha!

  6. maude elwes
    04/08/2011 at 4:40 pm

    A good thing to have happened with you this year, is the catalyst of appreciation for what open government may hold for us all.


    Yes. A great show to behold.


    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      09/08/2011 at 11:13 pm

      maude elwes: It is a useful innovation, but if it is to work – and to ensure people feel that Parliament is paying attention – then it has to be taken seriously by Parliament. Also, I regard it as a start but by itself not sufficient for MPs to have a good idea of what people think. We need to explore a range of means for hearing from people.

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