Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Some welcome improvements

Parliament's triennial Review of Standing Orders was released today, and it contains a number of welcome, if minor, improvements. The ones that caught my are:

  • A move to encourage "pre-legislative engagement" - the government consulting widely on legislation before it is introduced - by promising easier passage (e.g. with shorter debates). As for why this is necessary, see my comments on the government's proposed OIA rewrite: the select committee stage isn't really "consultation", as it is too late to make any meaningful change there. Encouraging pre-legislative engagement means a better chance of real consultation on bills, with real public input (rather than the sham we get at the moment). Though I'd expect select committees to be vigorous in demanding real consultation, and not reward the government for conducting a sham or box-ticking exercise.
  • A specialist petitions committee to effectively screen petitions to Parliament. The petitions committee would deal with most personal grievance petitions, while forwarding those requiring real investigation and detailed knowledge to subject-matter committees.
  • Automatic introduction of Members Bills with majority support. At present members can support bills, but it is pretty meaningless. This provision would make it meaningful, and the government would be prevented from abusing it by excluding the support of Ministers and Under-secretaries.

When adopted, these moves should give us a slightly better Parliament next term. Though it will be interesting to see whether the pre-engagement and automatic introduction provisions actually get used.