Labour MPs urge Brown to “show us you’re serious about reform”

Two Labour MPs have have attacked “procedural manoeuvring” by Harriet Harman. And challenged Gordon Brown to "show us you're serious about reform" of Parliament.

Two Labour MPs have have attacked “procedural manoeuvring” by Harriet Harman on the Wright reforms to Parliamentary procedure, and challenged the Prime Minister to “show us you’re serious about reform.”

As reported on Left Foot Forward last week, progressive groups including the Fabian Society and Compass have pushed for faster progress on the reforms, which looked destined to fail after Harriet Harman announced that the proposals would be introduced through 21 separate ‘non-amenable’ resolutions which allow a single MP to block passage. A senior parliamentary reformer, who knows the process intimately, told this blog that he thought each proposal would be blocked.

Martin Salter MP writes on his Telegraph blog:

“The best way of ensuring implementation of the Wright Committee recommendations before the general election is clearly to offer MPs that same democratic opportunity to debate and amend the proposals. If this opportunity is not provided, on or soon after 23 February, the proposals may simply die.”

While Graham Allen MP says:

“Rather than invent procedural problems to stop effective decision making by Parliament on reform, it is quite simple for Government to put matters before the House for decision. I have tabled such Motions on the Order Paper to demonstrate how easy this would be. Government merely has to amend them to their taste and the House will be able to take a decision. The Prime Minister must will the means as well as the ends.”

A letter from Ruth Fox of the Hansard Society and Stuart Wilks-Heeg of Democratic Audit on behalf of seven organisations argues:

“The Prime Minister, yourself and other members of the Government have previously expressed support for the principles of reform enshrined in the Wright report. Members of the Select Committee worked expeditiously over the summer to deliver the proposals in time for implementation by the general election. Every effort should now be made to facilitate time for proper consideration of the proposals and if you do not change the procedure we therefore urge you to confirm that the House will consider any outstanding issues within a week of the 23 February debate.”

Left Foot Forward is waiting to hear from the office of Harriet Harman.

UPDATE 17.03:

At Business Questions today, Harriet Harman made the following remarks:

I have said at business questions that we hope the House will agree to more than 20 provisions in the report, and we intend to table them for approval after a full day’s debate on 22 February. If we can approve some, if not all, of the motions that I will table then, that will be a good start. I will bring back those that, because Members object to them, are not approved. We will lay amendable motions, and then the House will vote on them…

If there is an objection to them, they will come back to the House for decision, but we will not need to debate them all over again, because we will have done that. We will then get on with making decisions. At that point, the decision about what amendments are tabled will be in the hands of the House.

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