This year the University of Bedfordshire has begun a series of public policy lectures with prominent invited speakers. I presume that driving this is the influence of the newish vice chancellor former Labour MP and government minister Bill Rammell.
Last month the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, spoke about parliamentary reform. He talked about how the House of Commons had seen a revival in recent years and highlighted the importance of the Parliamentary Committee on Banking Reform.
You can watch the lecture in the video below. You might want to skip the introductory stuff. The lecture doesn’t really get going until 13 minutes in.
Bercow argues that the expenses scandal was an “adapt or die moment” for the Commons. Since that moment three things have happened that created the conditions for a revival in the importance of the Commons as an institution:
- The 2010 package of procedural reforms which he argues are the most significant reform since the Parliament Act of 1911.
- The new intake of MPs after the 2010 election who, across all parties, are less prepared to act merely as lobby fodder.
- The creation of the Coalition Government.
These three things form the background to an “under-recognised revolution”. The key features of which are:
- Ministers spending more time in the Commons being held to account, especially through the use of the Urgent Question.
- The democratisation of select committees — no longer under the control of the whips.
- And the commons itself having greater control over the parliamentary timetable through the Backbench Business Committee.
On the Parliamentary Committee on Banking Reform, Bercow says this has broken new ground in working methods. It provides a template for parliament to grapple with future difficult issues. He also notes that this template, combined with the role of the Backbench Business Committee, means that now the Commons doesn’t have to wait for the Government to set up such an enquiry, it can do so itself.