The Rt Hon Sir George Young MP then Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal
The 2010 General Election ushered in a political climate that sets profound challenges for both Government and Parliament. Against the backdrop of deep economic uncertainty, the coalition government in May embarked on a programme of 22 Bills, with key political and constitutional reform at its heart.
The Commons itself has a different feel; there is now only one main opposition party; inside Government itself, new structures reflect the fact that two political parties are working together in the national interest. And over a third of the newly elected House is made up of MPs who have been elected for the first time — new talent to reinvigorate Parliament’s reputation.
The current session, too, will be a long one, but the government is committed to legislating only where necessary. Our prize is more scrutiny, with fewer but better laws.
Already, we have pressed ahead to implement overdue changes to the way the House of Commons carries out its role at the heart of our democracy. It is part of wider efforts to rectify the damaging impact of the expenses scandal on its reputation.
In a landmark decision, the government has ceded power to backbenchers to determine the agenda in the House for one day a week. This is underpinned by select committees being elected by the whole House for the first time. But we’re not content to settle for the steps taken so far. Completion of the important reforms recommended by the Wright Committee in the last Parliament is the goal.
Legislation to introduce five-year, fixed-term Parliaments, a referendum on AV for elections to the House of Commons and reforms to bring about a wholly or mainly elected Upper House are proof that we recognise the need for change.
More than ever, it’s not possible to govern without the continued and popular consent of the people. If we’re to succeed in taking people with us on the difficult decisions in public spending, then that requires greater public involvement.
It means making Whitehall more open. It means that the actions and decisions of ministers have to be more transparent. And, not least, it requires Parliament to be more accountable.
These are the principles at the heart of our programme for government.