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?