Splits over Commons reforms

One of the standard rules of parliamentary reform is that there is an inverse relationship between the importance of any reform and the amount of media coverage it attracts. The decision to allow MPs to make a point of order during a division without wearing a hat attracted considerable media coverage; the introduction of automatic programming of legislation – which has had real consequences for the scrutiny of bills – came into being without almost any external discussion. So it was on 1 November 2006, when MPs voted on a series of reforms to the legislative process and to members’ allowances. Many of the changes were passed without any discussion (or even mention) at all outside the House, including the wider use of the Special Standing Committee procedure for the consideration of Government bills, a reform which could do more to improve the quality of parliamentary scrutiny of bills than any other reform in the last twenty years.

Several of the changes – including the wider use of SSCs – passed without a vote. But in addition, MPs divided on four other issues, summarised in this short briefing paper (pdf, 44k).