MPs should be better consulted on formation of next government

Committee calls for MPs to assemble five days after the election to begin negotiations

 

Parliament must be engaged sooner in deliberations over the formation of the next government if no party gains an overall majority at the election.

That’s the recommendation of the cross party Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in its report published today on the re-formation of the government after the election.

With polls indicating that at least two, and potentially more, parties will need to make some sort of deal to sustain the next government, the Committee is calling for newly elected members to assemble in the Commons on Monday 11 May. This is to ensure that parliament is ‘as involved as possible in any negotiations surrounding the formation of the new government.’

“It is important”, the report says, “that the House of Commons should be able to publicly debate important issues surrounding the formation of government at the earliest opportunity.”

It notes that this would provide an early opportunity for the House to ‘hold an early investiture vote to demonstrate its confidence in a new administration and to indicate the end of any caretaker period of government’.

In 2010, parliament did not return until almost two weeks after the election. However, following the precedence set by the Fixed Terms Parliament Bill, the Committee calls also for the return of parliament after the election to be put on a statutory footing, taking the power to reconvene out of the hands of the prime minister.

The report, designed to inform the public about the processes that would need to be followed in the event of a hung parliament, warns also that the public should expect negotiations over the formation of the next government to take longer than in 2010.

One of the ongoing sores within the current parliament has been the lack of proper consultation with Conservative and Labour backbenchers during the last set of negotiations, when compared with the processes adopted by the Liberal Democrats.

The report goes on therefore to

“welcome the fact that parties involved in negotiations in 2010 have made formal changes to their internal processes so that there can be greater consultation with Members of Parliament and, perhaps equally importantly, all three parties seem to acknowledge the need for consultation on any agreement to which their party wishes to commit them.”

Commenting on the report, the Committee’s Chairman Graham Allen MP explained:

“Parliament should be able to discuss the issues and compromises around the creation of a government and not be ‘parked’ while party leaders decide amongst themselves. We have produced this report as a ‘users guide’ so the electorate and the media have an authoritative view on the processes to be followed if there is not an overall majority for one party.”

Whilst a motion has today been tabled that would give effect to such a change on the date that the next parliament meets, it will not be voted on given insufficient parliamentary time.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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