Comments are closed. The House of Commons is joining the 21st century. The best gentleman’s clubin London is recognising that it has members from both sexes, and needs to havethe same standards of professionalism as the civil society it legislates for,as well as terms and conditions of work that its electorate understands. Adaptation has come none too soon. The chamber is poorly attended, theinfrastructure of support for MPs is laughable, and its customs and practicesare rooted in the middle ages. But if Robin Cook, leader of the House ofCommons, is expecting unanimity from his proposals to reform the way thatparliament goes about its business, he should think again. Like any other organisation, the Commons has its traditionalists. Theproposals from Cook’s Commons modernisation committee encompass many of theprocedures, processes and practices of government. One suggestion – to shortenWestminster’s July to September summer break by a month – would have removedthe debate about whether the House should be recalled to discuss Iraq at astroke. It would already be sitting. Overall, the proposals are designed to make parliamentary life moreaccommodating for MPs and their families, and to reconnect parliament with theelectorate. Parliamentary business will begin earlier and conclude by 7pm onmost nights, for example, bringing an end to the traditional 10pm vote. Of allthe reforms, this one in particular will help towards professionalisingparliament. It will make a parliamentary career more accessible, creating better balancebetween men, women and different age groups. Shorter working hours also meandebates and votes can be held at times when they will be better attended andreported. The knock-on benefits for the senior civil service, who work longhours as a direct result of arcane parliamentary practices, should not beunderestimated. New Labour is proving to have stamina for change. Most thought that afterthe first flurry of constitutional reform, mainly manifesto commitmentsinherited from John Smith’s time, its appetite for change would evaporate.Instead, its planned reform of the House of Lords, together with Cook’s plansfor the House of Commons, will transform parliament more completely than anytime since the 1832 Reform Bill. Cook will face criticism from traditionalists trying to preserve theirprivileges; some members can only hold down their non-executive directorshipsand day jobs because they can vote in the Commons at 10pm. But the onlycriticism he should be prepared to listen to, is the one that criticises himfor not going far enough. By Will Hutton, Chief executive, The Work Foundation Reforms for Common man is long overdueOn 17 Sep 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.