Only that most small c conservative of instititions, Parliament, could see John Bercow’s proposals for ‘reform’ as radical. I am writing to Speaker Bercow to suggest that one key way of increasing participation in Parliament is to engage more with local government. Councillors should be invited and/or be able to request opportunities to make brief contributions in debates about very local issues, as many of the adjournment debates are. Councillors should be invited to participate as ex officio members of select committees from time to time. Councillors should certainly have been involved in the new regional select committees. Councillors could help form a new revised second chamber if it is not to be fully elected. On a wider level, and beyond the role of Speaker, but certainly something he could help push, we want to see a new constitutional settlement between central and local government. As part of that, there would be a ‘subsidiarity safeguard’, to check that decisions are being made closest to communities. This would be monitored by a joint committee of parliamentarians and councillors who would consider legislation and report on implications of legislation on local government, commenting on issues such as new burdens, but also fundamentally questioning the necessity of parliamentary legislation, as opposed to local discretion. Real localism, with a rebalancing of power, should lead to a reduction in the extent to which Parliament seeks to legislate for matters that should be left to local councils. This would greatly assist Bercow’s pledge to free up more time for topical debates and more time for backbench initiated legislation, which I fully support.
On a related point, all this playground style nonsense about who likes who and who voted for who has to stop. It does MPs no credit at a time when there is an urgent need to restore credibility and trust in Parliament.