Greens call for 'major overhaul' of Westminster parliament

By agency reporter
27 Nov 2010

The Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas MP, has published a new report outlining a vision for a more efficient, cost-effective and user-friendly Westminster Parliament.

The report, entitled The Case For Parliamentary Reform, seeks to "shine a light on some of the most archaic procedures and processes of the House of Commons – and outline the urgent need for reform through changes to the way Westminster works", say the Greens.

Dr Lucas, who was elected MP for Brighton Pavilion at the General Election on 6 May 2010, explained: “Since being elected to parliament six months ago, I have been deeply shocked by the inefficiency of the outdated systems at Westminster."

She continued: “At a time when the political process is struggling to achieve legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of the public, it is more vital than ever for Parliament to demonstrate that its work is efficient, transparent and accountable. Now is the time to shake off the image of the 'old boys’ club' – and move Westminster into the 21st century."

Dr Lucas declared: "The Government’s programme of severe spending cuts to reduce the deficit comes into force, the financial cost to the tax payer of time-wasting in Westminster takes on a new and more urgent significance. For example, an electronic voting system would make far better use of MPs’ time; just queuing up to vote accounts for around £30,000 a week in MPs’ salary costs."

"In the last Parliament there were over 1200 votes. Since it takes about 15 minutes per vote, that means an MP with an 85 per cent voting record would have spent over 250 hours queuing to vote – a huge waste of time and money,” she said.

Among the report’s proposals are:

* The introduction of electronic voting, which it is estimated could save 1.5 hours or more of MPs’ time a week, and thus for time wasted save around £30,000 salary costs per week.

* A systematic overhaul of Parliamentary language to make it self-explanatory, thus demystifying parliamentary processes, and increasing transparency and accountability.

* Measures to prevent the 'talking out' of Private Members’ Bills.

* Increase transparency so MPs (and constituents) know in advance if they have been selected to speak in a debate. Greater use by the Speaker on limits on backbench speaking time.

* An end to late night sittings to make MPs hours and those of parliamentary staff more family friendly.

Caroline Lucas commented: “The reforms outlined in my report would be straight-forward and cost-effective to achieve. Some build on previous proposals from the Wright Committee and from the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons. Some have been agreed in the past, but not implemented. Others were rejected by previous parliaments at a different time. Some are new proposals, drawn in particular from experience in other legislatures. A new parliament, in new circumstances, should examine them again.”

The full report can be read and downloaded here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file): http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/reports/The_Case_For_Parliamen...

Green Party in England and Wales: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/

Scottish Green Party: http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/

[Ekk/3]

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