Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Following Westminster

If your interest lies in following what is done in the UK Parliament - this is my guide to useful resources -

As with Congress, original resources from Parliament are the best way to follow activities, without the filters that the media put on. [I am NOT criticising the Media - their job is to take the raw material to present it to the public in a manageable form, and to explain what is happening - and I am a BIG user of the media myself!]

The Parliamentary website is http://www.parliament.uk

A snapshot of forthcoming business can be found here. We are currently on a short recess.

As I suggested in my previous post on Congress, the best way to discover the vast amount of available information is to explore the website tab by tab. Parliamentary Business is subdivided into sections on each House (Commons : Lords) ; What's On; Bills & Legislation (from this and previous Parliaments); Committees, Publications and Records and ParliamentTV - which provides live feeds (and recordings) of proceedings in the Chambers and committees.

The Links that I find most useful to use are -

1 To see what is coming up.

Commons Business Papers - If you click on 'Summary Agenda and Order of Business' (I have not linked - as it changes for each specific sitting day) - you can select 'Order Paper' [as a PDF, my preferred option - or you can choose a webpage with links to the various parts]. The PDF gives a summary of business and approximate timings. On subsequent pages there is much more detail - such as the questions set down for Question Time; subjects and relevant motions for the main part of the day; and the subject of the daily adjournment debate. If Westminster Hall is being used - details of the debates there are listed. Committee meetings - their location and subject (and witnesses) are listed. Future business is also listed.

Lords Business Papers - Click on 'House of Lords Business'. Again there is a choice of a webpage or a PDF. The style is very different - and the key things to read are the text of the 4 oral questions; and Business of the House (for that date). Future business is also set out. Many a Washminster post has been planned as a result of reading through this document (green in the printed edition). This is followed by a list of motions - which may or not be taken (most will be balloted for). There are also notice of Questions for Written Answer - the answers will eventually appear in the Lords Hansard. (I also like the practice of shaming Government Departments who have failed to give a response within 10 working days - the list follows the Written Questions). Bills in Progress (and their type) are listed on a subsequent page. Secondary legislation in the pipeline is also listed. Details of upcoming committee meetings are set out - and 'Minutes of Proceedings' of the previous meeting of the House are recorded. Finally papers and secondary legislation published since the last edition of the Business papers are listed. Peers can collect them from an office near the chamber, but they are generally available to the rest of us on other websites. I will post about accessing these in a future post.

2 To read what has been said

Hansard is the record of what is said in the Chambers (and also Westminster Hall [Commons] and the Moses Room [Committee stages of bills held out of the Lords Chamber]).

A useful gateway to Hansard is available at https://hansard.parliament.uk

3 To watch the Chamber or committees

ParliamentTV  or view BBC Parliament - on TV or via the  website

4 To follow the work of the Select Committees

Each committee has its own website - access through http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/

The BBC gives excellent coverage of Parliament - particularly through 'Today in Parliament' - and also through The Week in Westminster and the Westminster Hour on the radio. BBC Parliament is a mini-C-SPAN for the UK.