House of Commons Reform

After 1997 the main reform concerned the departmental select committees of the House of Commons. These committees of backbench MPs which scrutinise the work of government departments are becoming more important in status. In 2004, the chairs of the committees were awarded additional salaries to raise their status. In 2010, one of the last acts of the outgoing Labour government was to introduce a system for electing members of the select committees. Before the reform they had been largely selected by party leaders. Election of members (by other MPs) has increased their independence of mind and action.

There were modest changes to Prime Minister’s Question Time and the working hours of the Commons.

Gordon Brown’s 2010 ‘Governance of Britain’ Green Paper aimed to limit the powers of the executive and make it more accountable to parliament. The recommendations of the 2009 Reform of the House of Commons Committee, chaired by Tony Wright, came into force after the 2010 general election.

■ chairs of select committees to be elected by backbenchers

■ a backbench business committee to determine the business of the

House of Commons for 1 day each week

■ a petitions committee to select issues for debate that have been

suggested by the public via e-petitions

But Wright's recommendation that the business of Parliament i.e. the timetabling of bills, should be controlled by Parliament and not the government- was rejected.


Tony Wright MP on Reforming Parliament