Thursday 7 January 2010

Graham Allen's Question

Further to the post about Graham Allen's question set down for PMQ's - he did get the opportunity to ask it. This is the Hansard report of the exchanges.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): What recent representations he has received on bringing forward proposals arising from the report of the Select Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister: The Leader of the House has written to representatives of the other parties on this issue. The Government are keen to proceed on a consensual basis.

Mr. Allen: UK politics has become ever more the private playground of Governments and the media, and this place, Parliament, an ever more tatty backdrop, with little independence. Will the Prime Minister take the powers that he has to bring forward to our agenda-not for debate, but for decision-the proposals to reform this House? Will he please do that in the next few weeks?

The Prime Minister: It is in all our interests to say that both the standard of debate in this House and what is discussed in this House should reflect the views and values of the people of this whole country. All of us want in this new year to make sure that the House is discussing the issues that matter to people.

We welcome the Select Committee report. I know that my hon. Friend has taken a long- standing interest in these institutional reforms. The creation of a Back-Bench committee, a business committee and party ballots-all these are being looked at in detail. The Leader of the House has made it clear that we will have an opportunity to debate them in due course and to discuss the recommendations.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): In due course? We have been waiting for weeks. Is that not typical of this Government and this Prime Minister? He made a big announcement on 10 June last year that we were to have urgent reform of the House of Commons, but when it comes to action the Government act with all the dispatch of a particularly arthritic slug on its way to its own funeral. Will he tell us whether he is still committed to urgent action on reforming this ineffective and incompetent House, or are there people on his own Benches who are stopping that from happening?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman gives me a great deal of hope that the consensual approach will work! I think that he is part of the talks. The talks are taking place. The issues about the creation of a business committee, party ballots for Select Committee membership and ballots of the whole House for Select Committee chairmanship were recommended by the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright). We are now discussing these issues, and they will form the subject of a debate and decisions by this House.