Reform is much discussed. It comes up at meetings to hear the views of the candidates for Speaker. What emerges when listening to them is that the role of Speaker is quite limited to push through reform, all the time the governemnt controls a strong majority and wishes to impede reforms which alow Parliament to challenge the executive more.
I would like Parliament to meet more often. At the very least we should have a September session, to interrupt the 80 day break from July to October. We need to hold the goverment to account in the summer as well as at other times of year. Too many regulations go through without debate during the recess. I doubt if any new Speaker will be able to insist on this. There should be more evenings when we can go on beyond 10 pm, if a bill needs more attention. There should be far fewer guillotines preventing debate.
I would like Ministers to have to tell Parliament first before telling others of their plans, so we can cross examine them on their intents with sufficient time to do so. A Speaker can urge and advise, but cannot demand, as the government has the votes. Will this government mend its ways for a new Speaker? Probably not.
I would like Parliament to have more time to debate laws and policies which are crucial. This year we lived through several months without a debate on the state of the banks and the economy. Week after week the government chooses for the topical debate a subject that is not central to the political controversies of the day. There are only the occasional exceptions when pressure builds up. Wy can’t opposition parties choose some of the topical debate subjects? This would not be the same as an Opposition day where we can table a critical motion, but a right to choose a general policy area for discussion.
Parliament needs to earn its keep. A strong Parliament will produce better government. Good Ministers relish Parliamentary scrutiny, because it can lead to sensible amendment of their plans. Bad Ministers leak and brief, try to avoid Parliament, and fail to answer the questions. For a good Minister Parliament is an opportunity to get things right by listening to other views and a platform to explain the policy. For a bad Minister it is a nightmare to be endured or circumvented.