Harman attacked over Commons reform

Written By: Tribune web editor
Published: February 12, 2010 Last modified: February 11, 2010

by René Lavanchy

House of Commons leader Harriet Harman defended her proposals for giving MPs greater control over Parliament this week, as she was accused by MPs of all parties of denying Parliament a chance to express its views.

MPs on the Commons reform committee last year presented a list of proposals, including setting up a “house business committee” to schedule government bills and the election of select committee chairs and members. Parliamentary business is currently controlled by the government and party whips.

But there was anger after Ms Harman announced she would not allow MPs to vote on the committee’s recommendations as a whole, and would instead table a series of “motions” to write 16 of the committee’s recommendations into Parliament’s standing orders. Such motions can be defeated by a single MP shouting “object”.

The Government supports elections for select committees and a committee to schedule backbench business, but refuses to surrender control of its own legislation.

Ms Harman told the committee: “What I want to see is those changes made, not a resolution of general approval.”

But Labour MP Chris Mullin said: “The biggest ticket item [a house business committee] is not on the agenda, and both yourself and the Conservatives agree to keep it off the agenda. The best way to gauge the views of members would be to put down something on which members can vote.”